A previous newsletter, No Guts, No Glory, has dealt with the gut biome and health. The list of diseases it could help prevent is so long and diverse that it almost gives you the idea that it is a sales pitch for selling probiotics. The truth is that the gut biome is so crucial in maintaining health and preventing disease that we need to pay attention to it. This fact is so widely accepted in the medical field, that is it studied widely and intensely in the defense against all kinds of autoimmune diseases, obesity, depression, and even cardiac disease. This research resulted in an exponential increase in our understanding of this issue.
The purpose of this letter is to bring an update on what has been discovered recently regarding the importance and practical implication of these creatures on our guts.
We already know that the gut biome consists of a variety of bacteria strains. It is becoming more and more apparent that the functionality of the gut biome depends on the diversity of these communities. There is not a specific formula, as every individual has his or her own dynamic profile of strains. However, there is one group of bacteria which is crucial for our health, and that is the ‘Keystone Strain.’
To understand the importance of the Keystone strain, we must understand the relationship it has with the gut lining. While the gut bacteria live in the gut, it never has physical contact with the lining (epithelial layer) of the gut. It is separated from it by a mucosal layer because direct contact with the gut lining, will break down the epithelial layer. The epithelial layer is the guardian of nutrients that is allowed into the body, and toxins which should not enter the bloodstream to enter the rest of the body.
The mucosal layer is maintained by the Keystone strains itself. When we have a lack of diversity or absence of the Keystone strains, we get a breakdown of the mucosal layer. This causes the gut biome to get into direct contact with the epithelial layer and disrupt the permeability of it. This is called ‘Leaky Gut Syndrome,’ and the worst case of it is Celiac disease. Toxins can now easily flow into the rest of the body from the gut, causing the long list of illnesses referred to earlier.
One way for illness to develop, is when the immune system becomes overwhelmed by all the toxins. Apart from reacting to toxins it now also responds to all kinds of proteins in the diet; causing food sensitivities and low-grade inflammation. If the situation is not reversed, it becomes a chronic condition, the root cause of many of our modern-day diseases:
2. Chronic pain
4. Fibromyalgia and others
There is one substance which recent research identified to be a key culprit in other unexplained conditions. It is called Lipopolysaccharide (LPS), and under normal circumstances, it is present in our gut as it could not pass through the mucosal or epithelial layers. When the gut becomes leaky, LPS exits the GI tract only to cause havoc in the rest of the body. The following are ways in which this happen.
1. LPS makes us resistant to leptin, the hormone which tells our brain to stop eating when we are satiated. This is one explanation of the current obesity crisis with a cascade of diseases like hypertension, type II diabetes, and cardiovascular disease.
2. LPS also sits on dopamine receptors. Consequently, we could develop depression, addictions, brain fog, and constipation. All of these are modern day health concerns.
3. Another pathway LPS interferes with is the serotonin pathway. The diseases which could arise from this dysfunction are anxiety related disorders such as depression, eating disorders as well as some physical conditions.
When we understand the crucial role our gut health plays in the maintenance of health, we do need to know how to nourish this dynamic system. Apart from eating fermented foods rich in these bacteria, taking probiotic supplements and consuming fiber-rich vegetables to feed these creatures, there are a few other things we could do to promote specifically the Keystone strains.
1. Fasting promotes the growth of the Keystone strains
2. The following foods serve as nutrition for these strains – apples, grapes, pears, dark raw chocolate, red wine, coffee, and cherries.
To promote the health of the gut lining, you could consume the following:
1. Anti-oxidants to prevent inflammation, particularly carotenoids (the rainbow colors of the plant foods), L-carnitine (from red meat), and COQ10 (best taken as a supplement).
2. Omega 3 fatty acids from wild-type, cold water fish will ALSO reduce inflammation.
3. L-glutamine (from animal proteins and leafy greens) and zinc (oysters, nuts, seeds, legumes, and eggs) heals the gut endothelium.
4. Homemade bone broths
5. Soaked chia and flax seeds.