Secret Insights From a Microbe
By Jack Tips, PhD, CCN
Scientific research on the lives and behaviors of intestinal bacteria (microbiome) quickly reveals several startling facts about how the human body expresses health. Many of the lessons are applicable to human society as the primitively functioning bacteria say, "Hey, treat me right, be kind to me, and I'll bring you the best health and longevity. Treat me poorly, you'll suffer with me and not have the best health. Treat me really badly, and hey, I'll take you down." Thus, we'll discover exactly how the intestinal microbiome's health is a prerequisite for whole body wellness and an obstacle to cure if it's not addressed and improved.
Here, Dr. Jack Tips interviews Mike Krobe, a B-fragilis bacterium residing in the jejunum, about some pivotal roles that intestinal microbes perform for human health.
JT: Hello Mike. First, thank you for all the health benefits you provide. Thanks for helping digest food and create nascent sugars, vitamins and fats for cellular energy and healing. Also, thanks for controlling pathogens and keeping the inflammation set-point low. And thanks for serving the anti-aging processes. [Massive applause.] I know many people are concerned about the fact that you can quickly mutate into a pathogen. What circumstances get you riled up and cause you to become virulent?
MK: Well, Dr. Tips, it's really not any different than it is with people. Friends can become offended and change overnight into enemies. I much prefer to be an asset and ally to my host. I love to provide fuel for human endeavor and help maintain a balanced immune system. I'm proud to provide a saccharide that protects the nerves from demyelinating diseases such as multiple sclerosis. I'm glad to serve to prevent allergies and protect intestinal stem cells that replenish the cells that kill those pesky pathogens. And it's an honor to serve the weaning process and prepare the child to assimilate to food instead of milk.
However, there are some major deal breakers such as: 1) too much sugar in the diet and high fructose corn sweetener drives me crazy into inflammatory overdrive; 2) antibiotics —I can quickly mutate and share genes with my friends, but when I do, I become mean and pass transcriptional proteins to the body to up-regulate inflammatory processes; 3) human stress alters my function via the cortisol hormone; 4) pesticides in my food supply disrupt my metabolic function; 5) genetically-modified corn tries to turn my genetics into making more pesticides, which damage my host's epigenetic expressions of health; and 6) environmental toxins such as mercury, cesium and lead excites inflammation. Please note that such confrontational behaviors are provoked. I do the best I can to adapt and survive.
JT: So, you operate under the same prime directives as your host. Adapt to survive. Also the same subdirective: Seek the most optimal health possible under the circumstances. Right?
MK: Correct. We can mutate quickly and survive the onslaught of antibiotics, but then so can those riff-raff staphylococcus aureus that soon learn to eat flesh and poison the entire body. Once we mutate, we share that information and I must admit it makes us all have a chip on our shoulders that can alarm the host's immune system into becoming chronically inflammatory.
JT: I've read scientific research studies that demonstrate that botanicals can control virulent bacteria species and not harm the probiotic species. Is that true?
MK: Yes, to a large extent. We probiotic species can adapt to the botanicals quicker and better than the pathogenic species, so the botanicals first affect the "bad guys" without doing much damage to us "good guys." Further botanicals can better penetrate the bad guys' biofilms and disrupt their colonies. Thus, botanicals selectively disrupt pathogens while we good guys can handle the purging and then re-seize those niches for a healthier microbiome.
JT: Why are you sometimes called "commensal" meaning that either you benefit the body but receive nothing in return, or the body benefits from you, but you receive nothing in return?
MK: Glad you asked. Commensalism is based on a lack of knowledge of the holistic model because everything affects the whole, and in the butterfly effect, there are consequences for even the most miniscule action. Every cause has effects. The host provides food, shelter, materials for protective biofilms and the immune system helps us out from time to time by eliminating pesky pathogens. So please stop calling me and other bacterial species "commensal" because I, and my fellow microbes, prefer mutualism and even symbiosis and synergism. Together, we create health!
JT: I heard a rumor from the lactobacilli that historically, the host-microbe relationship allows for a shorter GI tract and larger brain development because microbes provide the sugars and fats that the brain requires more efficiently than dietary sources alone.
MK: Yes, my ancestors helped free the human species from perpetual grazing and set the stage for the larger brain and life experience.
JT: Now, what's this rumor that you're involved with hosts having depression or anxiety?
MK: Sure. It's called the "gut/brain connection." We bacteria communicate directly with the host's brain via the enteric/vagus nervous systems and with molecular messengers such as transcriptional proteins. You might be familiar with the excitotoxins the host acquires from noxious chemicals such as aspartame and or mono-sodium glutamate (so cleverly disguised in commercial foods). Well, some pathogens excrete excitotoxin molecules and others zonulin — the molecule that opens the intestines tight junctions and allows inflammatory molecules and even pathogens to pass into the body — so the host has "leaky gut." Zonulin also opens the blood/brain barrier, so voila! — leaky gut, leaky brain. Inflammation in the gut scrambles the brain. We like to point out that "step one" to improve anxiety and depression is right here in the GI tract.
JT: I've heard that certain bacteria species and candida-fungus can "sulfate" and "methylate" mercury so it easily gains entrance to the body; even without a leaky gut. Then it can get into the brain and cause chronic inflammation and even autism.
MK: Sad, but true. Many people have 50% mercury in their so-called silver amalgam dental fillings. In the presence of acidic foods, that mercury releases and gets into my world in the intestines. If the terrain here is supportive of candida (sugar, pesticides, toxins), mercury is converted to an insidious poison and enters the body. In defense of my neighboring yeasts, they try to help the body by absorbing heavy metals and chemical pesticides, but unfortunately they mutate in a more virulent species; then the host kills them and often suffers Herxheimer reactions.
JT: What's the best plan for the host to reestablish a healthy relationship with the microbiome?
MK: First, knock down the over-proliferative bad guys plus any over-proliferative species in the small intestines with a botanical pathogen purge. We can handle it and they can't. With a little botanical help, we anaerobic species can take up the vacated niches. Then, please rebuild the intestinal integrity with nutrients that help the body heal leaky gut and lower inflammation. Finally re-seed with a variety of the beneficial lactobacilli and bifido species.
JT: That's a great plan. Thank you.
MK: Just remember, for the host, it's not "You are what you eat;" it's "You are what your microbiome eats." So today, please send me some organic broccoli, organic yogurt, some coconut oil and pumpkin seeds and for dessert, some organic blueberries with dark chocolate. I'm very expressive with gratuity!
Dr. Jack Tips is a clinician, author of 16 books and a licensed clinical nutritionist in New York. He is known internationally for his insights on solving thyroid dysfunction. You can view a free video presentation called The Hidden Diagnosis at www.NaturalHealthInsights.TV/video. More of his insights and free download articles are posted at www.OpenBookHealth.com.