Scientists Find Our Microbiome Guides The Immune System To The Proper Balance.
"How Microbes Defend and Define Us" By Carl Zimmer; "The Co-option of Probiotics Has Begun" by Jon Barron; "Wild Fermentation" by Sandor Katz and "The Importance of a Normal Microbiome for Human Health" by Dr. Basil Williams
Date: 11/21/2010 4:46:08 AM ( 11 y ) ... viewed 20286 times
"Children who live on farms — where they can get a healthy dose of microbes from the soil — are less prone to getting autoimmune disorders than children who grow up in cities."
July 12, 2010 -
[Plus an informative update on Sept. 29, 2011 in brackets]
Dr. Alexander Khoruts had run out of options.
In 2008, Dr. Khoruts, a gastroenterologist at the University of Minnesota, took on a patient suffering from a vicious gut infection of Clostridium difficile. She was crippled by constant diarrhea, which had left her in a wheelchair wearing diapers. Dr. Khoruts treated her with an assortment of antibiotics, but nothing could stop the bacteria. His patient was wasting away, losing 60 pounds over the course of eight months. “She was just dwindling down the drain, and she probably would have died,” Dr. Khoruts said.
Dr. Khoruts decided his patient needed a transplant. But he didn’t give her a piece of someone else’s intestines, or a stomach, or any other organ. Instead, he gave her some of her husband’s bacteria.
Dr. Khoruts mixed a small sample of her husband’s stool with saline solution and delivered it into her colon. Writing in the Journal of Clinical Gastroenterology last month, Dr. Khoruts and his colleagues reported that her diarrhea vanished in a day. Her Clostridium difficile infection disappeared as well and has not returned since.
The procedure — known as bacteriotherapy or fecal transplantation — had been carried out a few times over the past few decades. But Dr. Khoruts and his colleagues were able to do something previous doctors could not: they took a genetic survey of the bacteria in her intestines before and after the transplant.
Before the transplant, they found, her gut flora was in a desperate state. “The normal bacteria just didn’t exist in her,” said Dr. Khoruts. “She was colonized by all sorts of misfits.”
Two weeks after the transplant, the scientists analyzed the microbes again. Her husband’s microbes had taken over. “That community was able to function and cure her disease in a matter of days,” said Janet Jansson, a microbial ecologist at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory and a co-author of the paper. “I didn’t expect it to work. The project blew me away.”
Scientists are regularly blown away by the complexity, power, and sheer number of microbes that live in our bodies. “We have over 10 times more microbes than human cells in our bodies,” said George Weinstock of Washington University in St. Louis. [However, according to Aajonus Vonderplanitz "Our bodies contain 150 bacterial genes to every 1 human gene. We are about 1/2% human and 99.5% bacterial. Since all forms of bacteria are healthful when not directly or indirectly industrially altered and are responsible for every bodily function from growing to breathing, to cleansing and healing, every unnatural destruction of bacteria in our food is detrimental to (our) bodies, health and well-being."] But the microbiome, as it’s known, remains mostly a mystery. “It’s as if we have these other organs, and yet these are parts of our bodies we know nothing about.”
Dr. Weinstock is part of an international effort to shed light on those puzzling organs. He and his colleagues are cataloging thousands of new microbe species by gathering their DNA sequences. Meanwhile, other scientists are running experiments to figure out what those microbes are actually doing. They’re finding that the microbiome does a lot to keep us in good health. Ultimately, researchers hope, they will learn enough about the microbiome to enlist it in the fight against diseases.
“In just the last year, it really went from a small cottage industry to the big time,” said David Relman of Stanford University.
The microbiome first came to light in the mid-1600s, when the Dutch lens-grinder Antonie van Leeuwenhoek scraped the scum off his teeth, placed it under a microscope and discovered that it contained swimming creatures. Later generations of microbiologists continued to study microbes from our bodies, but they could only study the ones that could survive in a laboratory. For many species, this exile meant death.
In recent years, scientists have started to survey the microbiome in a new way: by gathering DNA. They scrape the skin or take a cheek swab and pull out the genetic material. Getting the DNA is fairly easy. Sequencing and making sense of it is hard, however, because a single sample may yield millions of fragments of DNA from hundreds of different species.
A number of teams are working together to tackle this problem in a systematic way. Dr. Weinstock is part of the biggest of these initiatives, known as the Human Microbiome Project. The $150 million initiative was started in 2007 by the National Institutes of Health. The project team is gathering samples from 18 different sites on the bodies of 300 volunteers.
To make sense of the genes that they’re gathering, they are sequencing the entire genomes of some 900 species that have been cultivated in the lab. Before the project, scientists had only sequenced about 20 species in the microbiome. In May, the scientists published details on the first 178 genomes. They discovered 29,693 genes that are unlike any known genes. (The entire human genome contains only around 20,000 protein-coding genes.)
“This was quite surprising to us, because these are organisms that have been studied for a long time,” said Karen E. Nelson of the J. Craig Venter Institute in Rockville, Md.
The new surveys are helping scientists understand the many ecosystems our bodies offer microbes. In the mouth alone, Dr. Relman estimates, there are between 500 and 1,000 species. “It hasn’t reached a plateau yet: the more people you look at, the more species you get,” he said. The mouth in turn is divided up into smaller ecosystems, like the tongue, the gums, the teeth. Each tooth—and even each side of each tooth—has a different combination of species.
Scientists are even discovering ecosystems in our bodies where they weren’t supposed to exist. Lungs have traditionally been considered to be sterile because microbiologists have never been able to rear microbes from them. A team of scientists at Imperial College London recently went hunting for DNA instead. Analyzing lung samples from healthy volunteers, they discovered 128 species of bacteria. Every square centimeter of our lungs is home to 2,000 microbes.
Some microbes can only survive in one part of the body, while others are more cosmopolitan. And the species found in one person’s body may be missing from another’s. Out of the 500 to 1,000 species of microbes identified in people’s mouths, for example, only about 100 to 200 live in any one person’s mouth at any given moment. Only 13 percent of the species on two people’s hands are the same. Only 17 percent of the species living on one person’s left hand also live on the right one.
This variation means that the total number of genes in the human microbiome must be colossal. European and Chinese researchers recently catalogued all the microbial genes in stool samples they collected from 124 individuals. In March, they published a list of 3.3 million genes.
The variation in our microbiomes emerges the moment we are born.
“You have a sterile baby coming from a germ-free environment into the world,” said Maria Dominguez-Bello, a microbiologist at the University of Puerto Rico. Recently, she and her colleagues studied how sterile babies get colonized in a hospital in the Venezuelan city of Puerto Ayacucho. They took samples from the bodies of newborns within minutes of birth. They found that babies born vaginally were coated with microbes from their mothers’ birth canals. But babies born by Caesarean section were covered in microbes typically found on the skin of adults.
“Our bet was that the Caesarean section babies were sterile, but it’s like they’re magnets,” said Dr. Dominguez-Bello.
We continue to be colonized every day of our lives. “Surrounding us and infusing us is this cloud of microbes,” said Jeffrey Gordon of Washington University. We end up with different species, but those species generally carry out the same essential chemistry that we need to survive. One of those tasks is breaking down complex plant molecules. “We have a pathetic number of enzymes encoded in the human genome, whereas microbes have a large arsenal,” said Dr. Gordon.
In addition to helping us digest, the microbiome helps us in many other ways. The microbes in our nose, for example, make antibiotics that can kill the dangerous pathogens we sniff. Our bodies wait for signals from microbes in order to fully develop. When scientists rear mice without any germ in their bodies, the mice end up with stunted intestines.
In order to co-exist with our microbiome, our immune system has to be able to tolerate thousands of harmless species, while attacking pathogens. Scientists are finding that the microbiome itself guides the immune system to the proper balance.
One way the immune system fights pathogens is with inflammation. Too much inflammation can be harmful, so we have immune cells that produce inflammation-reducing signals. Last month, Sarkis Mazmanian and June L. Round at Caltech reported that mice reared without a microbiome can’t produce an inflammation-reducing molecule called IL-10.
The scientists then inoculated the mice with a single species of gut bacteria, known as Bacteroides fragilis. Once the bacteria began to breed in the guts of the mice, they produced a signal that was taken up by certain immune cells. In response to the signal, the cells developed the ability to produce IL-10.
Scientists are not just finding new links between the microbiome and our health. They’re also finding that many diseases are accompanied by dramatic changes in the makeup of our inner ecosystems. The Imperial College team that discovered microbes in the lungs, for example, also discovered that people with asthma have a different collection of microbes than healthy people. Obese people also have a different set of species in their guts than people of normal weight.
In some cases, new microbes may simply move into our bodies when disease alters the landscape. In other cases, however, the microbes may help give rise to the disease. Some surveys suggest that babies delivered by Caesarian section are more likely to get skin infections from methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus. It’s possible that they lack the defensive shield of microbes from their mother’s birth canal.
Caesarean sections have also been linked to an increase in asthma and allergies in children. So have the increased use of antibiotics in the United States and other developed countries. Children who live on farms — where they can get a healthy dose of microbes from the soil — are less prone to getting autoimmune disorders than children who grow up in cities.
Some scientists argue that these studies all point to the same conclusion: when children are deprived of their normal supply of microbes, their immune systems get a poor education. In some people, untutored immune cells become too eager to unleash a storm of inflammation. Instead of killing off invaders, they only damage the host’s own body.
A better understanding of the microbiome might give doctors a new way to fight some of these diseases. For more than a century, scientists have been investigating how to treat patients with beneficial bacteria. But probiotics, as they’re sometimes called, have only had limited success. The problem may lie in our ignorance of precisely how most microbes in our bodies affect our health.
Dr. Khoruts and his colleagues have carried out 15 more fecal transplants, 13 of which cured their patients. They’re now analyzing the microbiome of their patients to figure out precisely which species are wiping out the Clostridium difficile infections. Instead of a crude transplant, Dr. Khoruts hopes that eventually he can give his patients what he jokingly calls “God’s probiotic” — a pill containing microbes whose ability to fight infections has been scientifically validated.
Dr. Weinstock, however, warns that a deep understanding of the microbiome is a long way off.
“In terms of hard-boiled science, we’re falling short of the mark,” he said. A better picture of the microbiome will only emerge once scientists can use the genetic information Dr. Weinstock and his colleagues are gathering to run many more experiments.
“It’s just old-time science. There are no short-cuts around that,” he said.
Courtesy of Organic Pastures Dairy:
April 28th, 2015 - It appears that the article may have been moved at the new Organic Pastures website. I've sent a request asking for a new link.
You may also like to read the following at their Website -
Raw Milk Supports a Healthy Immune System:
A healthy immune system depends on a healthy gut, which hosts plentiful beneficial bacteria. Approximately 80% of our immune system is built on diverse bacteria. Raw milk has many of these bacteria, plus the nutrients to feed the bacteria. This results in a strong immune system.
Mark McAfee is the lead "talent" featured in "Raw Milk: the Whole Truth" along with Dale Jacobson (and his special brand of humor) as he interviews Mark for this broadcast quality DVD that I still have available!
"It has been estimated that the microbes in our bodies collectively make up to 100 trillion cells, tenfold the number of human cells, and suggested that they encode 100-fold more unique genes than our own genome. The majority of microbes reside in the gut, have a profound influence on human physiology and nutrition, and are crucial for human life. Furthermore, the gut microbes contribute to energy harvest from food, and changes of gut microbiome may be associated with bowel diseases or obesity":
Update July 8, 2012 -
When the statement above re: "... probiotics, ... have only had limited success" is seen in light of the following article, it reveals that "The problem (does) lie in our ignorance of precisely how most microbes in our bodies affect our health."
When reading the following article, be aware that Jon emphasizes his bias against the human consumption of virtually any form of dairy products. I have made an initial comment (below) about the genetically modified rodent study that he points to in support of his bias against dairy for humans.
"The Co-option of Probiotics Has Begun" by Jon Barron
Later - I just submitted the following comment at Jon's page:
With this information there certainly is plenty to follow-up on for inquiring minds!
One section that I would like to do my due diligence on is re: "Dairy Fats (&) Bacterial Changes ...". There are several things in the study mentioned here that get my attention and beg for more information. Firstly, I would like to know whether or not the "dairy fats" came from conventional dairy products or from the traditional dairy sources. I suspect that they came from commercial sources. I recommend avoiding virtually all of the commercial dairy products which typically has been pasteurized and homogenized.
Some of my blogs that explain the reasons for that are:
"Pasteurization and The 'Milk Problem'":
"A Real Life Story of The Two Milks":
and many more!
"The researchers found that diets high in certain dairy fats changed the way food was digested and encouraged the growth of harmful bacteria." That statement was made about mice, not humans! On top of that tremendous distinction there is the fact that the mice were "genetically modified" and "... were more likely to develop inflammatory bowel diseases." The intent in using these particular animals deserves considerable weight in the findings. So far we have no distinction made between the two main sources of dairy fat, no human subjects involved and animals that are genetically modified plus more likely to develop IBS. These are all very important facts for everyone to keep in mind when they are reading the headline findings!
"... those fed a diet high in saturated milk fats, which are used in many processed foods."
I imagine that the manufacturers of "many processed foods" are generally getting low quality dairy fats. In any case I certainly recommend avoiding "many processed foods"!
Let's see if I can find a source for cite #5. If so I will return!
Update July, 11, 2012 -
I did find the publishing source for the study and sent a message to the co-author designated for inquiries. We will see if I get a reply asking for information as to the source for the dairy fat they used in the study with the mice.
Also - Reading Chapter one of "Wild Fermentation" by Sandor Ellix Katz, who writes:
"Fermentation also creates new nutrients .. microbial cultures create B vitamins ..." except for B12! "... improved assaying techniques ... show that what had been identified as B12 in fermented soy and vegetables are actually inactive 'analogues'. B12 is only found in foods from animal sources, suggesting that a vegan diet is deficient in B12 without supplementation, the efficacy of which is controversial."
He also writes: "Humans are in mutually beneficial and mutually dependent relationships with ... many different microbes. We are symbiotic, inextricably woven together, in complex, in complex pattern far beyond our capacity to comprehend completely."
What a contrast between this view (shared by many) and the claims of those of a different "culture" where they cultivate and feed on the fears of people who are "terrified of germs and obsessed with hygiene."
I believe a virtual endless stream of new information plus new knowledge and understanding (in addition to all of the traditional wisdom) is ready to reveal the life-giving, life-supporting, true relationship that we have with the microbial world and that needs to be told now! Microbial life forms are in every breath we take and part of every move we make!
We also need a much better understanding of the true nature of the so called "pathogenic" microbials. Aajonus Vonderplanitz is one excellent source of information on that! Once we have the knowledge and understanding of the microbial world that we truly live in then we will be immune to the fear mongering tactics perpetuated by the center for disease, the food and drug administration and the like against live foods like raw grass-fed dairy.
January 8, 2015 -
How's your microbiome? Very well I hope! If you realize that you are what you digest and that microbes are vital to "our" ability to digest food then you can begin to appreciate the necessity for pre and probiotic foods to nourish our healthy and health-giving microbials. With this understanding you can further appreciate the nutritional aspect of how all the indigenous cultures that Dr. Weston A. Price studied were able to enjoy the many blessings of radiant health. Not only Weston Price but all the nature-cure physicians who knew that health begins in the gut and why certain foods could be used as medicine, like fresh farm milk and the same milk cultured (both naturally and with "inoculations" of other cultures).
Knowing the foundation for health (verified by my own forty-four years of empirical research plus the backing of the right use of science) I am attracted to creating a center for healing that would support individuals in making peace with their body and the innate intelligence that resides throughout every cell including microbial! This "peace" is where healing begins and it will be attainable as of "day 1" in the center! My latest realization about this center is that it could possibly begin in-home! In fact I am attracted to the idea of co-creating an in-home "center" with a qualified home owner starting in California. The heart/hearth of the center is the kitchen and we would begin the healing/transformational process there. All of the food can become food-as-medicine in about 48 hours! The diet can then be all based right in that kitchen and without needing to go "out to eat". I have talked with 'health practitioners" including those who specialize in educating people about the importance of good digestion however their lives is so jam-packed that they have no time to prepare their own food and consequently are dependent on eating out. Do you think they eat out where they can get "food-as-medicine"? Maybe if the practitioner lives in Watertown, Wisconsin as I just found this article from a recent issue of "Edible Milwaukee":
Where else is "food-as-medicine" the standard bill of fare?
Here's a not too recent example of how scientists continue to study the microbiome and map out the vast variations in microbial profiles:
April 27th, 2015 -
The following is from an Anthroposohical Physician whom I've recently been introduced to through a new group that is bridging Biodynamics with Anthroposophical Medicine. The mission is exactly what my Cheeta vision is all about!
The Importance of a Normal Microbiome for Human Health
This term “microbiome” has come to the forefront in scientific research in the past few years. The meaning of “microbiome" describes the makeup of all the multitude of beneficial microorganisms that inhabit the body of human beings. It consists of bacteria, viruses and fungi that reside on the mucus membranes, the gut and on the skin. These beneficial microorganisms are of the greatest importance as natural barriers for preventing the growth of harmful, pathogenic bacteria, viruses and fungi. Yet, some aspects of this term “microbiome” were known in the later part of the 1800’s .
Louis Pasteur (1822-1895) was reported to have said on his “death bed”: “Bernard was right; the pathogen is nothing; the terrain is everything.” The fact that Louis Pasteur, often called the “Father of Microbiology”, would say this so late in his life demonstrated how important this concept was. Claude Bernard (1813-1878) became a pioneer in the development of the understanding that the body’s own bacterial flora or terrain was the first line of defense for warding off illnesses. Bernard was later considered by the medical community to be the “Father of Physiology”. Both Pasteur and Bernard would argue their points of view at the scientific meetings at that time. Bernard, in a moment of frustration, was even known to have grabbed a flask of a culture of Cholera (a deadly bacteria) from Pasteur and swallowed its content with seemly no ill effects. So, Pasteur finally gave credit to Bernard’s idea that the terrain was the most important factor at the very end of his life for preventing illnesses and not the bacterial pathogens (Sacks, O. 1983).
Rene’ Dubois’ (1901-1982), a renowned 20th century microbiologist, agreed with Bernard’s principle, “Most microbial diseases are caused by organisms present in the body of a normal individual. They become the cause of disease when a disturbance arises which upsets the equilibrium of the body.”
Rudolf Steiner presented a similar picture when he spoke to physicians in 1922 on the importance of developing the right “soil” or environment in the body to prevent illnesses. He also said in effect there needs to be the right soil or conditions in the human body for pathogenic bacteria to thrive and produce illnesses. He pointed out the following concerning pathogenic bacteria:
…but as regards the condition of disease they (pathogenic bacteria) have at best only the significance of indicators; enabling one to conclude that if this or that form of disease is present, the human organism thus affected offers appropriate soil for the growth of this or that interesting vegetable or animal microorganism (pathogenic bacteria) (Steiner, R. April 1920).
The development of a normal microbiome is Important for good health in the developing infant. By the time the young child reaches three years of age he or she will be colonized with trillions of microbial organisms acquired from his or her environment. Every surface of the body as well as the gastrointestinal (GI) track and mucus membranes will have it’s own particular kinds of microorganisms. The number of organisms that are estimated in and on the human body are 100 trillion and weighs about 3 pounds. Most of the micro-organisms live in the gut. This accounts for approximately fifty percent of the dry feces by weight. There are about 500-1000 different microbial species in the average gut flora (Connif, R. 2013).
In recent years these complex ecosystems of microorganisms have been further studied and found to be directly beneficial in the growth and development of the human fetuses, newborn babies and developing young children. The human placenta, once thought to be sterile, has a microbiome of it’s own and it has been found to be necessary for development of a healthy immune system in the developing human fetus.
Recent research has also shown the beneficial effects of the gut microbes of breaking down food substances and providing vitamins, necessary amino acids and some essential fatty acids.
The unborn fetus does not host any bacteria. It takes years to colonize the baby’s body with normal bacteria, viruses and fungi. When the baby passes through the birth canal, he or she is colonized with the normal flora of the mother and this flora of microorganisms are necessary for the colonization of the gut of the baby for normal immunological development. Cesarian sectioned babies (May be necessary in some cases) who have not passed through the mother’s birth canal have been found to have immune difficulties. There is a need for a diverse microbial community that helps to develop the baby’s immune system. This healthy immune system is important in forming the growing fetal brain and providing a healthy digestive tract.
The microbiome is involved in the immune system as well as turning genes on and off as in epigenetics. A newborn animal study showed that with a lack of normal flora of the gut, there were disturbances in the central nervous systems and an abnormal level of serotonin in the adult animals’ brains. It is felt that this holds true for humans, as well (Conniff, R. 2013).
Antibiotics can alter the child’s microbiome and immune system -
Dr. Martin Blaser, formerly the president of Infectious Disease Society of America, an Infectious Disease Specialist, and director of the Human Microbiome Program of New York University School of Medicine is quoted to have said:
The typical child in the developed countries now receives between 10-20 courses of antibiotics by the age of 18. Antibiotics can change the microbiome of the body. You can’t have something this powerful and change something as fundamental as our microbiome, at a critical time in development and not have an effect (Conniff, R 2013).
He further exclaimed:
You have 10-12 diseases that are all going up dramatically, more or less in parallel-diabetes, obesity, asthma, food allergies, hay fever, eczema and celiac disease. They are not going up by 2-3%, they are doubling and quadrupling. Each one may have a different cause. Or there could be one cause that’s providing the fuel, and my hypothesis is that it’s the disappearing microbiota (Coniff, R. 2013)
Dr. Blaser and others have found the reduction of protective Helicobacter pylori or H. pylori (a bacteria) in the stomach region with the overuse of systemic antibiotics. This has contributed in the rise in allergies and asthma in recent years. Researchers have shown H. pylori that colonizes the gut in early life encourages the development of regulatory T-cells in the blood which help decrease allergic reactions. Everyone at one time harbored this protective microorganism. European researchers have shown that this organism in the gut of mice protected them from asthma and allergies.
The antibiotics’ attack on decreasing the microbiome diversity begins early in the life of the American child. Three courses of antibiotics are commonly given on average in the first two years of life. Then, eight more courses are given over the next eight years. Antibiotics cause harmful shifting in the normal microbial flora of the different areas of the body (Conniff, R. 2013). The U.S. uses 40% more antibiotics than Sweden. By the use of less antibiotics in Sweden, there has also been no increase in chronic illnesses. Dr Blaser explains further:
In Sweden, antibiotic use is 40 percent of ours at any age, with no increase in disease. We need to educate physicians and parents that antibiotics have costs. We need improved diagnostics. Is the infection caused by a virus or bacteria, and if bacteria, which one? Then we need narrow-spectrum antibiotics designed to knock out the pathogenic bacteria without disrupting the health-promoting ones. This will make it possible to treat serious infections with less collateral effect( Brody, J 2014).
Dr. Martin Blaser, wrote about the problems with antibiotics affecting the human microbiome in his book “Missing Microbes”. He felt the declining variety of microorganism within the microbiome is the direct cause of allergies, asthma, cardiac disease, type 1 diabetes, obesity, immune deficiencies and other illnesses. Further these chronic illnesses are increasing in developing countries with gastrointestinal ailments like Chron’s disease, ulcerative colitis and celiac diseases. Other illnesses are also on the increase like fatty liver disease, chronic esophageal reflux, and autoimmune diseases such as multiple sclerosis and rheumatoid arthritis. Antibiotics have saved many lives, but their judicious use must be carefully instituted. In fact there is now a need for stronger antibiotics because of recent resistance occurring in hospitalized patients. Antibiotics must be administered carefully for justified reasons ( Blazer, M. 2014)
Other causes of reduction in the normal microbiome –
Because of the over use of sanitization of our environment of beneficial bacteria and separation from microorganisms found in farm animals; human beings are being colonized more and more by microorganisms that do not contribute to a healthy human microbiome. Consequently, our immune systems have spiraled out of control because of the distortion of our microbiome. It has been shown from research studies that farm children who are exposed to more natural dirt and animals have less allergic symptoms. They are also exposed to bacterial endotoxins and good microbes from the soil. Contact with animal waste for growing children can be protective for their immune systems. It is as if the immune system is educated not to overreact to certain antigens and thus these children have less incidences of allergic illnesses. Scientists think early exposure to beneficial microbes found in farmyard dirt and animal waste may help the immune system to distinguish normal environmental antigens from harmful antigens like pathogenic bacteria (Conniff, R. 2013)
Cesarian section can effect the health of the baby –
A German study of almost 2,000 children, reported 80% were more likely to develop some form of gluten intolerance when delivered by C-section when compared to a vaginal delivery. The baby’s GI tracts are inhabited instead by the microflora of the mother’s skin and not the flora of the mothers vaginal tract. This abnormality can effect the infant’s metabolism and immune system. Researchers have found that with cesarian sections there was a 26% likelihood of being overweight as children and 22% more likely to be over weight as adults. Research studies also have shown there are differences in microbial flora in the gut of an obese person as compared with the gut flora of a person with normal weight (Hornef, M. June 2010)
Re-colonization of the normal flora of the gut is necessary for good health –
Necrotizing enterocolitis (NEC) is one of the leading cause of death of premature babies because of poor colonization of gut flora and one of the therapies is to introduce normal fecal flora into the baby’s gut. Microbes can also be our friends. Fecal implantation has also been successful for the treatment of resistant Clostridium difficile colitis. This form of colitis maybe a life threatening illness in the hospitalized patients treated with broad spectrum antibiotics.
Breast feeding Is healthier for the baby –
Research has found that 900 babies’ lives could be saved each year if 90% of mothers could only breast feed their children for 6 months. Also breast feedings in infants prevents stomach viruses, ear infections, asthma, allergies, juvenile diabetes, sudden death syndromes, childhood leukemia, and an unhealthy immune system. Other studies have shown that breast-feeding can be protective against acquiring gluten intolerances and allergies. Currently only 12% of mothers breast-feed their infants for 6 months (Beatrice, M 2010).
Therapy to restore a healthy Microbiome –
Probiotics (beneficial bacteria) are healthy for the immune system. This was demonstrated by research reported in a study in China with school age children. Children who received six months of probiotics daily had a significant reduction of cold symptoms (Saaveda,J. 2000). Another study showed a one-third reduction in respiratory infections when day care children were treated with three months of daily probiotics. There was a marked reduction in infectious diarrhea (Saaveda, J 2000)). Probiotic bacteria produce acids, hydrogen peroxide, and natural antibiotics (called bacteriocins and microcins) that inhibit the growth of potentially pathogenic bacteria. Probiotic bacteria also take up space and utilize nutrients as normal bacterial flora and thus prevent pathogenic bacteria and pathogenic yeast from growing in the gut. Commercial Probiotics usually provide the following beneficial bacteria:
Lactobacillus acidophilus, L.salivarius, L.casei, Bacillus bifidum, B. lactis and Streptococcus thermophilus.
Probiotics are defined by the World Health Organization as “live Micro-organisms which when administrated in adequate amounts confer health on the host.” (Saaveda J. 2000) Research has shown that probiotics can help with diarrhea due to antibiotics, inflammatory bowel disease, irritable bowel syndrome, type 2 diabetes mellitus, allergies, and asthma.
Research on children who had taken antibiotics for a medical condition had 70 percent less diarrhea while on probiotic Lactobacillus GG than children who were not on probiotics (Albonico, H. 2005). Another research study found that probiotics limited the diarrhea in viral causes of diarrhea. (Jones,K 2010).
A healthy life style can strengthen the immune system –
In 1999 a study was reported by a Swedish Anthroposophic physician on allergies present within children from three public schools and one Waldorf School. His study of hair and blood samples of children showed a presence of allergies in 13% of the Waldorf students while there was a 25% presence of allergies in students of the other schools. The Swedish doctor concluded the difference in incidence of allergies was possible because the Waldorf children had received fewer antibiotics and fever depressants of their immune systems than children in the other schools. The Waldorf students were allowed to have normal childhood illnesses, had a healthier diet and were breast fed longer (Albonica, H. 2005). These studies have also been substantiated in more recent times from research by the scientific community at large (Conniff, R 2013).
Concluding Thoughts –
The importance of the normal flora on the mucus membranes and in the gut of the human being has been known from the very beginning of the field of microbiology with Pasteur and Bernard. Today, a whole new field “the microbiome” has been expanded into an understanding of the importance of microorganisms within and on the body are necessary for good health. A healthy microbiome was especially found to be important for the developing immune systems in fetuses, newborns, and young children. Even the placenta has its own microorganisms which contributes to the immunological development of the fetus. It has been found that a cesarian section was not as healthy for the newborn child because of the lack of exposure of the newborn to the mother’s vaginal flora. Breast-feeding is not only beneficial for the nutrient qualities of mother’s milk, but also provides certain beneficial bacteria for the newborn’s gut flora.
We have also learned how broad-spectrum antibiotics and even some medicines can interfere in the growth of the microbiome throughout the body. Antibiotics should be given only when it is absolutely necessary. Taking adequate doses of appropriate probiotics can be beneficial to restoring the normal flora especially in the mucus membranes and gut.
Dr. Basil Williams is an Osteopathic Physician Board Certified in the U.S. in Anthroposophic Medicine, Internal Medicine and Sub-Speciality Infectious Disease. He is Semi-retired and Lives in Ghent, NY.
End Notes –
Albonico, Harold, (2005)Allergies: Hypersensitive Boredom of the Immune System, Lilipoh, Spring 2005
Blaser, Martin (2014) Missing Microbes, Henry Holt and Co.
Brody, Jane (2014) A Bodies Bacterial Companion The New York Times July 115, 2014
Bartick, Melissa et al. (2010) “Breast Feeding Could Save Many Babies Lives and Billions of Dollars”, Journal of Pediatrics, April 5, 2010
Conniff, Richard,(2013) “An Overview of the Importance of Body Flora in Immunity and Health,” the journal Smithsonian, May 2013
Guarner, F.;Malaagelada, (2003) J.R. Gut flora in health and disease. The Lancet 2003, 360, 512-519.
Hornef, Marthias, et al. (2010) C-Section May Raise Celiac Disease Risk In Offsping” Pediatrics June 2010
Jones, Kathleen, (2010). “Probiotics Limited Diarrhea with Viral Etiologies”, Journal For Specialists in Pediatric Nursing” Volume 15 issue 2 pages 160-162 April 2010
Saaveda,J. (2000)“Probiotics and Infectious diarrhea.” Am J Gastroenterol 2000;95:S16-18
Sacks, Oliver (1983) Awakening page 2016 A Dutton Obelisk Paperback New York
Steiner, Rudolf Spiritual Science and Medicine (1920) Twenty Lectures Given In Dornach from 21st to 9th April 1920. Rudolf Steiner Press 35 Park Rd. London NW16XT
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