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Could This “Secret Organ” Be Your Key to Ongoing Wellness?

Could This “Secret Organ” Be Your Key to Ongoing Wellness?

Did you know you have an “extra organ” that largely determines the level of health you enjoy?

Your gut microbiota is like a world of its own. It’s an ecosystem comprised of about 100 trillion bacteria that survive in the unique intestinal climate, including up to 1,000 specific types of bacteria.

Our gut microbiome changes constantly, based on diet, time of day, activity level, and more.

And although you have may heard a lot about the gut microbiome the past few years, scientists are still learning new things about the microbiome all the time.

In a Danish study just released on Dec. 26, 2022, we learn that your gut microbiome determines how much weight you’ll gain compared to those who seem to be able to eat indiscriminately and still never gain a pound. Or why two people may eat identically, yet one finds it significantly easier to control their weight than the other.

The study proves that being overweight might not strictly relate to how healthily you eat or how much exercise you get. It may also depend on the type, number, and strains of bacteria you have in your gut.

Your Second Brain

Understanding how the “second brain” – the part of the nervous system that exists in our gut – talks with our first brain is a question that scientists have been intrigued by for years.

New research shows that the gut-brain axis has bi-directional communication pathways. It uses specialized cells called enterochromaffin cells that produce and release hormones and neurotransmitters. These cells release most of the serotonin into our bodies. Scientists continue to study how our food stimulates the release of serotonin.[1]

It’s NOT Just a Weight Issue… It’s a Health Issue

A poor gut microbiome can produce a LOT of downstream negative health effects.

Research during recent years shows that an unhealthy gut biome is related to the following conditions, plus more:

1. Immune dysfunction.

Scientists have known for years that your gut is the seat of your immune system.

Your immune system plays a vital role in keeping you healthy by thwarting invading pathogens and maintaining healthy self-tissue. Your gut microbiota regulates this immune homeostasis.

It has recently become obvious that changes in gut microbial communities can cause immune dysfunction and lead to autoimmune disorders.

In autoimmune disorders, the role of self-tolerance fails. The immune system mistakenly attacks and destroy healthy self-tissue.[2]

2. Alzheimer’s, dementia, and cognition problems.

Science has also known for years that the gut and brain are interlinked.

A 2020 study showed altered gut microbiome composition in patients with Alzheimer’s disease, compared to those without neurodegenerative disease. The guts of Alzheimer’s patients lacked diversity. Certain bacteria were over-represented, with a corresponding decrease of other microbes.

Certain intestinal strains also correlate to amyloid plaques in the brain.

There’s also the fact of blood inflammation, which scientists suspect may be the go-between from the gut to the brain, linked to amyloid formation.[3]

Newer research (2022) points to a pathway that starts in the gut and ends with a potent pro-inflammatory toxin in brain cells that can trigger Alzheimer’s disease. This research hints at dietary solutions, especially increasing fiber consumption. (More on preventive strategies below.)

3. Obesity and diabetes.

Gut composition differs between obese and lean individuals. Obese individuals have a higher ratio of Firmicutes to Bacteroidetes bacteria in the gut.

Interestingly, vegetarian diets have been shown to upregulate Bacteroides bacteria and downregulate Acteroides, Bificobacterium, and E. coli, as well as Enterobacteriaceae and Firmicutes bacteria.

Older individuals generally have a less stable and less abundant intestinal microbiome.

Changes to the composition of gut microbiota relate to obesity – and even different levels of obesity.

Many studies also show that gut microbiota affects glucose metabolism, and certain species may even promote the progression of diabetes, while other strains inhibit diabetes progression.[4]

4. HIV

Many studies show that HIV-infected adults have gut microbiome with less bacterial richness and diversity than HIV-uninfected individuals.

The gut microbiome in HIV-infected adults has been shown to promote inflammation and immune activation, due to disrupted gut mucosal integrity. Multiple studies implicate these gut changes to ongoing pathogenesis of HIV infection.[5]

5. Moodiness, anxiety, and depression.

An unbalanced gut can have negative consequences for your mood.

The gut and brain are directly connected by the “highway” of the vagus nerve. This highway lets the brain and gut talk with each other, relaying important information.

Communication between gut and brain is bidirectional. However, messages from the gut to the brain are much stronger than those from the brain down.[6]

Therefore, the calmer and more balanced your gut life is, the more positive mental health outcomes are.

Additionally, a balanced gut fortifies the gut lining and protects you from inflammation and a leaky gut. Thus, it plays a key role in your mental wellbeing.

Stress also affects the intricate relationship between your gut and brain. A high-quality gut microbiome can reduce the neuroinflammatory changes created by stress.

When working well, your gut bacteria produce and regulate neurotransmitters such as serotonin – which makes happy chemicals for your body.

6. Cancer

Many studies are taking aim at the cancer-to-gut microbiome connection. Increasingly, studies show that the gut microbiome can determine how a distant tumor progresses… as well as influencing treatment side effects or the ability of the immune system to pick off cancer cells.

Gut microbiome balance in mice determines how they respond to immunotherapy. Improving the gut improves response.

Studies in humans show similar results. The presence or absence of certain key microbes in the gut affected the likelihood of a response.[7]

However, scientists don’t yet agree on which microbes are most important to cancer.

Epidemiological studies worldwide show that diet influences gut microbial profiles more than genes do.

Christine Spencer, lead author of a 2021 study showed that patients with melanoma who ate high-fiber diets responded more favorably to immunotherapy. Over-the-counter probiotics weren’t as good as fiber.[8]

7. Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS).

Recent evidence shows a correlation between dysbiosis and conditions such as CFS.

8. Heart disease.

Scientists have discovered that people with heart failure have less biodiversity in their gut and/or have elevated gut metabolites. Both are linked with more hospital visits and greater risk of death.[9]

However, heart failure patients who eat more dietary fiber tend to have healthier gut bacteria and reduced death risk.[10]

In 2022, two publications in Nature Medicine showed how heart disease patients (with myocardial infarction, angina, and/or heart failure) have major imbalances in their gut microbiome.

9. Chronic pain.

In 2019, researchers discovered alterations in the gut microbiome of fibromyalgia patients for the first time.[11] Fibromyalgia is mainly characterized by pain, along with fatigue, impaired sleep, and cognitive problems.

Research published on October 14, 2022, showed how pain neurons in the gut regulate pain. It turns out that pain-mediating nerves in the gut talk with nearby intestinal cells. Which suggests that the gut and nervous system interaction play a major role in pain sensation.[12]

A similar effect was found in the guts of people with sickle cell disease.[13]

10. Asthma and allergies.

A study published in Mucosal Immunology in 2022 found very strong evidence of a causal link between early childhood antibiotic exposure and the development of asthma and allergies. Not casual, but causal.

Early antibiotic use boosts long-term risks of asthma and allergies. An animal study gave 5-day-old mice one of two antibiotics, and later a common allergen from house dust mites. Mice that received either of the antibiotics had elevated immune responses. In other words, allergies.

11. Covid-19

People infected with COVID-19 suffer a wide range of symptoms – the most common being high fever and respiratory distress.

Autopsies and other studies also show that COVID-19 infection can also infect the liver, kidney, heart, spleen… and even the GI tract.

Many patients who are hospitalized with respiratory distress have co-infections of diarrhea, nausea, and vomiting… which suggests that when the virus hits the GI tract it increases disease severity.

Researchers now think that gut dysfunction exacerbates COVID-19 severity by giving the virus access to the GI surface. The gut surface has widespread ACE2 receptors – which is a major target of SARS-CoV-2.

It is well-known that people with underlying medical conditions and advanced age face higher risk of serious COVID-19 complications and risk of hospitalization… and both factors are linked to a less diverse and rich gut microbiome.

COVID-19 has also been linked to a weakening of beneficial bacterial species. Likewise for influenza A infection, with differences.

Scientists are still exploring the complexities involved.

12. Negative pregnancy outcomes.

The type of bacteria in the gut may be at least partially responsible for positive vs. negative pregnancy outcomes.[14] As well as type of delivery… vaginal vs. Caesarean.

10 Great Ways Improve Your Gut Microbial Community

Many factors can affect how well-balanced your microbiome remains – from genetics to diet, drugs to infections to your circadian rhythm.[15]  Subsequently, there are many strategies you can use to rebalance your gut to maximize good health and live life the way you want to.

1. Studies show that obese individuals have different gut populations from normal-weight individuals.[16] So losing a few pounds could make a big difference. (Easier said than done, of course.)

2. On a related note, sugar destroys gut microbiome diversity. Weaning yourself off sugar, soda, and desserts is a potent strategy. Do it for your health. You can thank me later. ?

3. Avoid antibiotics if at all possible. Taking antibiotics (or for that matter, eating foods of animals fed antibiotics) immediately impacts the diversity and gene expression of the gut.[17] Long-term antibiotics encourages antibiotic resistant genes and changes gut composition.[18] (And yes, when you eat antibiotic-laced animal products, you’re getting a “second-hand” dose.)

4. Try to stay healthy. Infections and illness dramatically disrupt gut microbiota.[19] This suggests the wisdom of nutritional supplements such as vitamin C, vitamin D3, quercetin, zinc, or a combination such as found in UltraDefense.

5. Get sufficient sleep. Disturbing the feeding rhythm can lead to intestinal flora disturbance and triggers metabolic disorders, including obesity.[20]

6. Exercise. Recent studies suggest that even low-intensity exercise enhances the number of beneficial microbial species, enriches diversity, and improves commensal bacteria.[21]

7. Quit smoking. Accumulating evidence supports the view that smoking messes with your gut microbiome. Cigarette smoking increases intestinal pH, which lets harmful bacteria thrive and causes intestinal dysbiosis.[22]

8. Avoid genetically modified (GMO) foods, which disrupt gut health.

9. Eat more raw natural foods, especially high-fiber foods. They provide prebiotics and probiotics to your gut.

Good foods for gut health include almonds/walnuts, green tea, avocado, leafy greens, tomatoes, herbs/spices, and raw fermented foods like yogurt, sauerkraut, and kimchee. 

10. Consider taking a high-quality diverse prebiotic-probiotic nutritional supplement. Our podcast guest, Dr. Deanna Windham, doesn’t recommend depending on probiotics… due to the importance of these other strategies plus the presence of low-quality probiotics on the market. But a high-quality one could be a valuable adjunctive strategy.

Don’t Miss Today’s Podcast!

Today’s podcast guest is Dr. Deanna Windham, talking about the importance of your gut to your overall health and how to make it an important health ally.

Watch the full podcast here for maximum value.

If you’re time crunched, I get it. Watch the short version here. It’s only 2:28.

And if you prefer listening to an mp3 audio, here’s your link to that.

[1] https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2022/03/220323130316.htm 


[3] Université de Genève. “Link between Alzheimer’s disease and gut microbiota is confirmed.” ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 13 November 2020. .

[4] https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S075333222200066X 


[6] https://atlasbiomed.com/blog/stress-anxiety-depression-microbiome/

[7] https://www.nature.com/articles/d41586-022-01959-7#:~:text=Increasingly%2C%20research%20is%20showing%20that,to%20pick%20off%20cancer%20cells

[8] https://www.science.org/doi/10.1126/science.aaz7015

[9] https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2022/06/220620204901.htm 

[10] https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2019/05/190526135741.htm 

[11] https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2019/06/190620100043.htm 

[12] https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2022/10/221014135619.htm 

[13] https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2017/11/171107150710.htm 

[14] University of Alberta Faculty of Medicine & Dentistry. “C-sections and gut bacteria increase risk of childhood obesity.” ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 22 February 2018. .

[15] S. Lynch, O. Pedersen. The human intestinal microbiome in health and disease, N. Engl. J. Med., 375 (24) (2016), pp. 2369-2379

[16] S.F. Clarke, E.F. Murphy, K. Nilaweera, P.R. Ross, F. Shanahan, P.W. O’Toole, P.D. Cotter. The gut microbiota and its relationship to diet and obesity: new insights, Gut Microbes, 3 (3) (2012), pp. 186-

[17]I. Cho, S. Yamanishi, L. Cox, B.A. Methé, J. Zavadil, K. Li, Z. Gao, D. Mahana, K. Raju, I. Teitler, H. Li, A.V. Alekseyenko, M.J. Blaser

Antibiotics in early life alter the murine colonic microbiome and adiposity

[18][18] A. Hsiao, A.M. Ahmed, S. Subramanian, N.W. Griffin, L.L. Drewry, W.A. Petri Jr., R. Haque, T. Ahmed, J.I. Gordon. Members of the human gut microbiota involved in recovery from Vibrio cholerae infection, Nature, 515 (7527) (2014), pp. 423-426

[19] A. Hsiao, A.M. Ahmed, S. Subramanian, N.W. Griffin, L.L. Drewry, W.A. Petri Jr., R. Haque, T. Ahmed, J.I. Gordon. Members of the human gut microbiota involved in recovery from Vibrio cholerae infection, Nature, 515 (7527) (2014), pp. 423-426

[20] A. Hsiao, A.M. Ahmed, S. Subramanian, N.W. Griffin, L.L. Drewry, W.A. Petri Jr., R. Haque, T. Ahmed, J.I. Gordon. Members of the human gut microbiota involved in recovery from Vibrio cholerae infection, Nature, 515 (7527) (2014), pp. 423-426

[21] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5357536/#:~:text=Recent%20studies%20suggest%20that%20exercise,host%2C%20improving%20its%20health%20status.

[22] https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fphys.2021.673341/full 



Could This “Secret Organ” Be Your Key to Ongoing Wellness?

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