Have you ever looked up at the night sky and pondered the secrets of the universe, the great macrocosm up above? If so, what about your own personal inner space, the microcosm of life within? Just think about the complexities and mind-bending research scientists are now discovering about a whole ecosystem within your gut.
Here is a tiny peek into what current research has unveiled so far:
We house 100 times more bacteria in our gut
than the cells in our whole body
There are 1,000 times more bacteria in our microcosm
than stars in our galaxy
Our digestive tube contains 100,000 billion bacteria,
with a weight of 2 kilograms (surpassing our brain)
200 million neurons line the intestinal wall
We have more bacterial DNA (3.3 million genes)
than human DNA (24,000 genes)
Each individual is a walking microcosm with a bacterial fingerprint that’s created from your very first day in this world. This microcosm has everything to do with one’s microbiome. The microbiome exists from hosting bacteria, fungi, and viral organisms on the inner lining of the intestines. They digest and break down food particles that our bodies can’t so that nourishment may pass through the lining of the intestinal wall and travel via the blood stream. They synthesize vitamins and amino acids necessary for cellular function. MetaHIT (METAgenomics of the Human Intestinal Tract) a collaborative project, funded by the European Commission, also mentions, “they (microbes) protect us by educating the immune system to distinguish friends from foes.” Microbes, once seen as only the bad guys, can actually help us to thrive.
Did you know many different diseases originate from microbial disorders? In the documentary The Gut: Our Second Brain, Michel Neunlist, a leading expert on the enteric nervous system, affirms that, “By looking into the intestines, you’re opening a window to look into the brain.” By studying intestinal biopsies of Parkinson’s patients at the University Hospital of Nantes, he believes Parkinson’s disease can be diagnosed, and hopes similar diagnostic tests will be available for Alzheimers, Autism, and other degenerative pathologies in the future.
What about the big C? The American Cancer Society says it takes twenty years to develop cancer. Just imagine if these malignant cells could be diagnosed at the earliest stage possible, all by looking into the health of the microbiome.
According to the research scientists have done so far, I agree the gut can be considered a second brain, but what about the intelligence of the microbiome? Is there a third brain we are just now discovering?
Stephen Collins, a researcher at McMaster University in Hamilton, Canada studies the microbiome in mice and states that the microbiome does in fact influence the brain. He performed numerous studies where the microbiome of a calmer mouse was inserted into the system of a highly active mouse. The results showed the highly active mouse became calmer, milder-tempered, just like the host of the organic sample. When the microbiome of an aggressive mouse was inserted into a milder-tempered mouse, the calmness changed and it took on the rambunctious personality of the aggressive one.
If these findings are true, how much of our own food cravings and lifestyle habits are truly ours?
It is known that the gut communicates to the brain via the vagus nerve. They share a neurotransmitter language as they speak to one another…activating hormones, swapping gastrointestinal stories, remembering about the good ‘ole meals, without any awareness on our part. Can the gut really contribute to our way of thinking?
Enter: Akkermansia Muciniphila. Akkermansia is a bacterium that has recently been connected to our fat metabolism. The bigger and heavier you are, the less Akkermansia you have in your digestive system. The more active and fit you are, the more Akkermansia you host. Mind you, there are 300-500 different kinds of bacteria in your gut. Although I wouldn’t go around blaming this bacteria for your slow metabolism quite yet, scientists admit there is still so much we don’t know about the microbiome in general.
Keep in mind we do have to take responsibility for our overall health. Only we can create discipline to exercise and move on a regular basis. Only we can choose fresh produce over high-glycemic foods. And only we can understand our habits and addictions so that we can choose a better lifestyle and quality of life to live. Whether you’re feeling influence from these bacteria, marketing, peers, family, or your shadow voice…YOU have a choice!
So how can we create OM in our microbiOMe? When I speak of “OM” I’m referring to peace and balance, of course. Our bodies experience and react to changes every day, moment-to-moment. The more balance we can introduce into our inner ecosystem, the more centered and grounded we’ll be when life throws us a hard one. Creating OM for our microbiome goes much deeper than food alone. The inter-connected relationships of your physical, emotional, and subtle bodies play largely into the overall health of you as a whole, including your microbiome. These topics cannot be ignored, although it may be simpler to start with baby steps.
One easy step to take is to “Get the scoop on your poop.” Doron Reuven is co-founder of Organic Genetics, a microbiome analysis company in southern California. They take the guesswork out of where your body is at. Their specialized kits make it very easy for you to collect a swab sample of your saliva or stool, ship it back, and wait for the results, which take one month.
“We provide a DNA test for the digestive system. We give you a personalized report letting you know what kinds of bacteria are in your digestive system and the specific foods and lifestyle changes you can make to improve your immune system, skin health, energy levels, and metabolism. The body is all one system and a major component of that is the kinds of bacteria living in your gut. It’s these bacteria that, in large part, affect how your body digests nutrients from food and the healthy function of your immune and nervous systems. Everyone has unique bacteria and we help you to be healthier based on your unique flora.”
I recently took Organic Genetic’s microbiome test and I’m excited to see my results. In an upcoming blog, Create OM In Your MicrobiOMe, Part II, I will reveal some of my personal results and seven simple ways you can incorporate balance and OM into your gut.
Keeping it organic,
The Gut: Our Second Brain, directed by Cecile Denjean (Documentary)
Dr. Jensen’s Guide To Better Bowel Care: A Complete Program For Tissue Cleansing Through Bowel Management by Dr. Bernard Jensen