Not so long ago the function of the microbiata ( gut bacteria) in the intestines was largely unexplored territory. With the possibility of cheap large scale gene sequencing its been possible for science to gain a formidable amount of knowledge about gut bacteria and the way they interact with the metabolism and organism. This field of research is expanding so rapidly and creating such incredible insights, that many speak of a paradigm shift in medicine.
What has become apparent over the last 4 or 5 years is that the gut bacteria need to be viewed and studied like an extra organ.
4 points about the gut bacteria :
- The gut bacteria were here before the human system developed. In fact our system, which we largely share with other mammals, was developed over millions of years with and around and already existing pool of bacteria.
- In the human gut there are 100- 150.000 billion bacteria. That’s approximately 10 times the 10- 15.000 billion cells that the entire human body holds.
- The gut bacteria break down the biological material that we consume as food and generate a vast and varied amount of chemicals and complex molecules. These substances communicate with the metabolism through the blood stream and the intestinal wall, stimulating our hormone production, which in turn regulate our appetite.
- It means that the bacteria can be seen as an internal chemical factory that we depend upon. The factory responds to the input, – that is different classes of bacteria respond to different types of food.
Only in the most recent decades have people in general had abundant food, largely manufactured industrially from refined products like white flour, refined sugar, meat, vegetables and dairy products.
This western type diet change our gut bacteria significantly. A recent study found that African children in Burkino Faso feeding primarily on agrarian local products, had 50% prevotella bacteria in the gut while their West European piers had other bacteria, but only 5% prevotella.
Recently published studies show that the bacteria stimulate the intestine to produce hormones that interact with the vagus nerve as well as the brain stem signalling to the the parasympathetic system to induce hunger or satiety.
The bottom line is that the western type diet change the gut bacteria in a way which increase appetite, and which in terms of weight control is very harmful.
It is in this context that we see the world population is becoming alarmingly obese, and as a consequence we see a huge host of related illnesses the most significant being the diabetes pandemic, with 400 million type 2 diabetics and pre-diabetics in 2017,- expected to reach 600 million in less than 15 years.
The good news is that our gut bacteria can respond to a modified diet very quickly and can change back to the original state with prevotella as the dominant class of bacteria.