People in updated cultures are facing a health disaster due to collapse of microbial diversity in gut microbiomes. Recent generations are visiting epidemics of those ailments. An argument made by Martin Blazer in his book ‘Missing Microbes’ is that at the root of the crisis is that we’re losing the diversity of species in our intestine microbiomes.
In actuality, since Louis Pasteur’s experiments supporting the germ theory of disease people have waged war. Initially that was through surface applications of antimicrobials to kill germs to prevent their spread; afterwards (1930s) sulfonamide drugs were created to kill germs within the body. In the 1940s penicillin was created to kill germs, and since then antibiotics are the principal weapons used by people to kill germs in the human body.
Most children born in the years following development of antibiotics were given series after series of antibiotics during childhood to control sore throats, ear infections and various childhood maladies. With each set of antibiotic treatments bacterial diversity in the gut microbiome has been lost. The reduction of diversity in the human intestine microbiome ought to be inconsequential if the human intestine acts only as a food digestive organ.
It now seems that this view of the human intestine isn’t correct or only partially accurate. In actuality, we now have proof that the human intestine, the largest organ in the body, might be seen as a’symbio-organ’, where symbiosis with germs is a vital element in its own functioning. The symbio-organ gut acts to digest food, supply exceptional vitamin nutritional supplements, detoxify phytochemicals, suppress pathogen virulence, modulate the nervous system, and equally important is its purpose to prime the immune system with continuous exposure to potential pathogens, maintaining the immune system focused on microbes instead of the body itself.
The human intestine symbio-organ is truly a complex organ with numerous functions that affect the body in several ways-and not in all the easy digestive tract which we first envisioned. What results stem from reduction of microbial diversity at the symbio-organ gut? Loss of microbial diversity also suggests that potential disease agents like Clostridium difficile that inhabit the gut may incite disease.
It appears clear that varied gut microbial communities have the capability to suppress virulence of possible pathogens in the gut. Precisely how microbes suppress virulence of different microbes isn’t clear-although some evidence points to amino acids (e.g., lactic acid, butyric acid, propionic acid) as probably virulence suppressors from the gut. Alterations in acid composition are often seen concurrent with cases of intestinal inflammation in irritable bowel disorders (IBD).
Butyric acid has been demonstrated to suppress inflammation in active outbreaks, and butyric acid producing bacteria are being examined as possible probiotics to control IBD and similar ailments. As a supplier of vitamins that the gut bacteria seem to be the principle source of vitamin and vitamin K, the two essential nutrients in our bodies.
Where can the gut microbiome come from? Generally, it’s thought that individuals inherit our microbiomes from our mothers. This is only partly true-but we all know that we can reestablish a microbiome when it’s damaged using mosquito transplants and probiotics of particular microbes. Additionally it is true that plants contain large populations of germs in their surfaces (as epiphytes) and embedded within their cells (as endophytes).
Good to know
Some of the plant germs are equal to those found in human gut communities. Endophytic and epiphytic microbes colonize all sections of plant leaves, stems, blossoms and seeds-but the many diverse communities are located on plant roots. The plant origin is basically another symbio-organ that partners with germs in a narrow zone (rhizosphere) around roots in the process of absorption of nutrients from soils. The plant origin is the equal to the gut concerning its absorptive function and close affiliation with a diverse community of germs.
A enormous diversity of microbes can enter our intestine microbiomes on those plant foods, particularly root crops. However, modern people cook plants and our processed foods are mainly sterilized and free of possible microbiome inhabitants. Due to this processing of plant foods that our consumption of germs from plants is very limited. Only highly resistant endopore formers (such as Bacillus or Clostridium) that may survive the cooking or sterilization procedure might enter our gut microbiomes.
What to do?
How can we cure the human microbiome? The solution for humankind is to radically alter what we eat and how we prepare it for consumption. Wherever possible we should consume plant foods (leaves, flowers, seeds, fruits, roots, tubers) raw and unpeeled to preserve diverse populations of microbes on them and inside them. We should consume plants grown organically to optimize microbe diversity.
We will need to change, not just what we eat, but in addition, what we feed our babies. Baby foods now come in perfectly sterile aliquots-but for’microbiome construction’ baby foods might have to be made up from new plants with bacteria intact, or freeze dried with microbes that are preserved. Currently, we also rely on cooking plants to soften and break down toxins-in the future new kinds of crops chosen for their raw edibility and high healthy varied populations of microbes could be developed.
Consumption of those new ‘probiotic crops’ can make it convenient for people to redevelop and maintain healthy microbiomes. The wonderful battle on our microbes need to end. Once we reacquire our varied gut microbiomes-our symbio-organ guts will start to function properly again and the epidemics of allergies, asthmas, intestinal disorders and other autoimmune problems may simply vanish.