The blog of Xeno, a slightly mad scientist
You’ve probably heard that about 80 percent of your immune system resides in your gut, and the next study underscores this fact. It also provides yet another clue as to the kind of constant pressure your gut bacteria is under to keep your immune system humming.
The study, featured in Genome Researchiii, looked at a common set of viruses linked to gut bacteria in humans. These viruses, which feed off bacteria, are called phages, and they pose a constant threat to the health of the bacterial community living in your gut.
Phages can actually outnumber bacteria 10 to 1, which in itself is a testament to the power of your beneficial gut bacteria (and by extension your immune system) to keep disease at bay. But it also helps explain why just a few days of careless eating can sometimes make you feel a bit listless, or why chronic poor health is at such epidemic levels.
Between chemical assaults, inadequate nutrition, excessive sugar consumption and an overabundance of natural viral “co-hosts,” your microflora has one heck of a job to maintain order and balance… And as soon as that balance is thrown off kilter, it will begin to reflect in your immune function.
Here, the scientists wondered how they might identify viruses that target gut microbiota; whether these viral communities differ between individuals and global populations; and how this might relate to human health and disease.
As reported by Medical News Todayiv:
“Israeli researchers decided to use coded information from a bacterial immune system to get to the bottom of these questions. They discovered a process… to identify and evaluate phages in European individual’s gut microbiota, discovering that almost 80 percent of phages are shared between two or more individuals. They then compared their data to samples they took previously from American and Japanese individuals and to their surprise, they also discovered phages that exist in their European data set.
According to [senior author Rotem] Sorek, this means that people’s gut microbiota are repeatedly infected with hundreds of virus’ types. “These viruses can kill some of our gut bacteria. It is therefore likely that these viruses can influence human health,” he said. The researchers highlight that it is of key importance to gain a better understanding of the amount of pressure that is placed on the ‘good’ bacteria, which is crucial to maintain health…
Scientists are now able to investigate how phage functions in the gut change over time and what impact this may have on diseases like inflammatory bowel disease, as well as finding more effective methods to treat these diseases.” [Emphasis mine] …
Maintaining optimal gut flora, and ‘reseeding’ your gut with fermented foods and probiotics when you’re taking an antibiotic, may be one of the most important steps you can take to improve your health. If you aren’t eating fermented foods, you most likely need to supplement with a probiotic on a regular basis, especially if you’re eating a lot of processed foods. Poor diet in general, and each course of antibiotics extols a heavy price, as it tends to wipe out the beneficial bacteria in your gut, giving pathogens free rein to proliferate unchecked.
Historically, people used to get large quantities of beneficial bacteria, i.e. probiotics, straight from their diet in the form of fermented or cultured foods, which were invented long before the advent of refrigeration and other forms of food preservation. As a result, they didn’t suffer the same kinds of problems with their gut health as so many do today.
It’s worth noting that each mouthful of fermented food can provide trillions of beneficial bacteria—far more than you can get from a probiotics supplement, which will typically provide you with colony-forming units in the billions. I thought this would be a good analysis, so I tested fermented vegetables produced with our probiotic starter culture to determine their probiotic potency and was astounded to discover they had 10 trillion colony-forming units of bacteria. Literally, one serving of vegetables was equal to an entire bottle of a high potency probiotic!
Fermented foods also give you a wider variety of beneficial bacteria, so all in all, it’s a more cost effective alternative. Fermenting your own foods can provide even greater savings, and is actually easier than you might think. To learn more, please listen to my interview with Caroline Barringer, a Nutritional Therapy Practitioner (NTP) who has been involved with nutrition for about 20 years. She’s now one of Dr. Campbell-McBride’s chief training partners, helping people understand the food preparation process….
“Examples of fermented foods include sauerkraut, kimchi, chutney, unpasteurized cheese, sour cream, pickles, yogurt, olives, buttermilk, kombucha, miso, tempeh and kefir. … It’s easy to make fermented foods – but there are a few things a beginner should watch out for (it’s easy to make a bad batch when you first start). Pick up your copy of Wild Fermentation, a book written by Sandor Ellix Katz. This author is dedicated to the discussion of fermentation and provides over 100 basic delicious recipes that are easy to make at home. www.wildfermentation.com is an excellent website that offers additional useful resources, including a fermentation support forum.