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The Gut

A World of Unknowns & Mystery

The Gut Microbiome - Our Second Genome

The long held view has been that our bodies consist of 10 trillion cells, the products of the 23,000 genes found in the human genome. Recent research into the composition and role of the human microbiota or microbiome has revealed that we are home to considerably more cells dwelling inside us, mostly in our guts.

 The GI tracts of babies in the womb are sterile. We pick up an important first dose of bacteria as we pass through the birth canal out into the world.

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Pre & Post Natal Development

If you recall from the Gut Microbiome section, the guts of babies developing in the womb are sterile. They start acquiring their gut microbiota at birth.

There is evidence that the mother’s gut health during pregnancy affects both her and her developing child’s health. For example, a Finnish study found that mothers given probiotics during pregnancy ((Lactobacillus rhamnosus GG and Bifidobacterium lactis Bb12) had a lower incidence of gestational diabetes mellitus.

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Gut Symbiosis VS Dysbiosis

When the body and those pounds of non-human microbes living inside our guts (the gut microbiome), are in harmony, we are in SYMBIOSIS: a balanced, mutually beneficial relationship between us and those several hundred species of alien bugs. The gut, brain, and the rest of the body are in balance – in health, free from disease.

In return for a pleasant home, these friendly organisms in our guts (often referred to as our old friends) allow us to thrive by:

  • Absorbing and assimilating nutrients from the foods we eat

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Our Second Brain - The Gut Mind

During vertebrate embryonic development a single clump of fetal tissue divides to grow into the gut and the brain. One section becomes the central nervous system (the brain and spinal nerves) while another migrates lower in the body to create the enteric nervous system embedded in the sheaths of tissue lining the espohagus, stomach, small intestine and colon.

The two separate nervous systems connect via the vagus nerve running from the brain stem into the abdomen.

The Gut Brain Axis

The Gut-Brain Axis refers to the continuous feedback loop between sensory neurons in our gastrointestinal tracts (from lips to rectum) and motor responses generated in our central nervous systems.

 

This constant two-way communication has a profound influence on almost every aspect of our beings – from how the brain develops and functions, to GI disorders, how well our immune systems work, whether we develop conditions like heart disease or diabetes, what and how much we choose to eat, how sensitive we are to pain, whether we become depressed or anxious … and much more.

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Intriguing Facts About The Gut & Brain

On average, the human brain, the seat of all our thinking, contains 86 billion neurons (the building blocks of the nervous system) engaged in transmitting information to and from the body. (Randerson, 2012) The human enteric nervous system (the gut) contains 100 million neurons – about 1000th the number in the human brain and about equal to the number in the human spinal cord.

 

The digestive system is a complex chemical processing machine, breaking down food, absorbing nutrients and moving waste via muscular contraction down towards the anus for expulsion.

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Connect Your Brain & Gut Microbiome

As human animals we’re born as bodies with big powerful brains sitting up top in our heads. Our culture teaches us to value what goes on in the brain over what takes place in the rest of the body. Many of us learn to believe information generated by our brains and more or less ignore information available from the rest of the body – until something goes wrong down there.

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The American Gut Project

The importance of the project is clear. With this global information, we’ll learn more about the relationship between our health, diet and environment. It might also be possible to develop biomarkers to predict aspects of our gut health based on a spit sample or a swab from a palm. For example, it’s known that arterial plaque has microbes in common with the mouth but not with the gut. Perhaps dental plaque in the future will be used to look at our heart health.

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Mast Cells

Mast cells, located in our skin and mucosa, are an essential part of our immune defenses. These unique cells are tasked with activating our immune systems to defend us from harmful invaders. Mast cells commonly reside at the body’s various borders, where they act as goalies to defend us against pathogens trying to gain entry.

Mast cells also live in the linings of our stomachs and intestines, in connective tissues – including the skin, where they promote wound healing – and elsewhere in our bodies.

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The Vagus Nerve

“When immune cells of otherwise healthy individuals detect any peripheral infection, they release proinflammatory cytokines. Chemoreceptors of the sensory vagus nerve detect these localized proinflammatory cytokines, and send a signal to the brain to initiate sickness behavior. Sickness behavior is an involuntary response that includes fatigue, fever, myalgia, depression, and other symptoms that overlap with CFS.”

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Other Microbiomes

Mouth Microbiome

Thousands of studies have linked oral disease to systemic disease. Meaning, the health of your mouth, teeth and gums has a direct connection to health in the rest of your body. (Mercola, 8/27/2016)

Most of the billions of bacteria living in the mouth are harmless – even necessary for good health. Maintaining good oral health supports those good bacteria and enables the body’s natural defenses to keep bad bacteria under control. 

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Skin Microbiome

AO Biome, the brilliant skin microbiome company that’s bringing us the live, Ammonia-Oxidizing Bacterial spray AO+ Mist, is now beta-testing two new products especially formulated to be supportive to the live bacteria (Nitrosomonas) in their spray: A shampoo and a skin cleanser, both skin biome friendly.

Having signed up to be an early user of AO+ Mist, I’m one of the lucky people to have received free samples of their new shampoo and cleanser. Both arrived yesterday so I’m looking forward to testing them out.

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The Soil's Microbiome

It's hard to keep your immune system strong and yourself healthy if you’re consuming poor quality food.

Just as the human gut requires an array of microbes necessary to create good digestion and healthy interaction with the rest of the body, a plant’s root ball needs to absorb the proper microorganisms from the soil to grow nutrient-rich plants. If the soil is poor quality, any plants grown in it will be lacking in nutritional value for any animal eating them – including humans.

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