In the first part of this series we offered a tantalising glimpse into the dark and murky world of your intestines. Sounds gross! Only this grimy and slimy place can be more like a garden of Eden; a forest of earthly delights, long life, phenomenal health and even happiness. And we can even enjoy the odd temptation without causing too many problems.
An old familiar saying, ‘we are what we eat’ is only part of the story for you aren’t the only organism devouring the food that you consume.
The wonderful world of bacteria, protozoa, viruses and fungi living in those dark recesses live on the nutrients you feed it and they grow and die according to your diet. More and more each day, science is showing us the health-giving possibilities of changing the balance of the microbiome and how quickly we can affect certain changes is quite surprising. And how we can make these changes occur is delightfully easy, but that will be the subject for next week when we show you the absolute best ways to turn a swamp into a rain forest.
As we at Waetugo read and study this fascinating subject more and more we see a link between us and our guts that is more like two entities sharing the same body. Star Trek fans will know of a race of people called the Trill. The Trill are normal humanoid aliens who host a second creature, the symbiont, within them and they peacefully coexist, seemingly as one. This really seems to be how we live with our microbiome, communicating via the vagus nerve with our higher functioning brain.
It only takes a quick glance at the higher quality, scientific journals to see that links have been established between the balance of living stuff in your gut and physical health conditions. One such article illustrates clearly the relationship between your microbiome and several conditions we are better without. These conditions include psoriasis, obesity, reflux oesophagitis, asthma, colitis, functional bowel disease, colorectal carcinoma and cardiovascular disease. Other studies have suggested rheumatoid arthritis and mental health issues can also be hugely affected by the microbiome.
Other atopic illnesses including rhinitis, dermatitis and anaphylaxis might also be affected. It is now recognised that in certain parts of the world, children who live and grow up on farms and have a less ‘clinical’ childhood are far less prone to these conditions in later life, suggesting that a bacteria rich existence can be far healthier. No studies however, I am glad to say, suggest living in filth or not washing hands before eating if they are clearly soiled with certain unmentionables – not all bacteria is good for our gut – balance is the key here. Next week we will begin to explore how to improve the states of our intestines.
As our regular followers and participators will be aware, we are especially interested in the psychology of health and during our long and ‘illustrious’ careers we have been startled to see how many neurologists are now getting interested in the workings of your intestinal brains as well as the one we keep in our skulls, certain that our digestive systems affect our mood and behaviour. Of course, the science is in its infancy, but we can be reasonably sure that we can only improve our mental health by improving our gut health. One key article states categorically that depressive disorders are the leading cause of global disability and the gut – brain axis is of substantial importance. It seems that if we can understand our guts better we will get closer to even more effective treatments for psychological and mental health issues than we already have at our disposal.
So, our guts affect our brain. But could our brains also affect our guts? It is just possible that this is most definitely the case. Rats separated from their mothers in infancy have decreased diversity within their microbiomes than rats not separated early on and germ free mice, remember our farmers, had underdeveloped brains. One group of scientists gave a number of rodents a particular strain of bacteria and found that those creatures were less anxious than the control group in exploratory tests!
We could go on. In fact, we will. So, it seems that we have established a link between our gut microbiome, our physical health and our mental health. Next week we will share more information on your gut balance and obesity and what we can do to put things right. See you then.