Fight disease with diversity

I firmly believe that the health of your GI tract plays a critical role in almost every major medical condition.

This fundamental principle has always served as one of the cornerstones of my practice as a doctor. And I’m thrilled to report that hard science has finally confirmed that–dare I say it–my “gut reaction” was right on point.

New data is showing that gut flora have a hand in your susceptibility to a long list of metabolic disorders. We’re talking about some of the deadliest, most costly, and most prevalent illnesses plaguing our society.

These findings could make the quest for better gut biodiversity one of the greatest public health issues of our time. But before I get ahead of myself, let me fill you in on some details.

This study is part of the European MetaHIT project. In the past five years, this team has broken new ground in mapping the human gut microbiome through DNA analysis.

In this investigation, the researchers genetically analyzed intestinal bacteria from 292 Danish people. They found that around a quarter of the samples yielded 40 percent fewer gut bacteria genes. This translated to a smaller overall bacterial population than average.

And as I’ve pointed out many times before, that is a very big problem.

For one thing, samples in these populations also showed a predominance of “bad” bacteria. And these bacteria trigger inflammation, both in your gut and throughout your whole body.

Lo and behold, blood samples confirmed as much. Results were consistent with chronic inflammation in these microbially challenged subjects. Which, once again, is also a very big problem.

That’s because chronic inflammation is the very factor that negatively impacts metabolism and leads directly to conditions like type 2 diabetes and heart disease.

So it’s no surprise that subjects suffering with “bacterial poverty” also struggled with more obesity, insulin resistance, dangerous lipid profiles, and higher levels of inflammation when compared to individuals with a richer bacterial population.

Accordingly, this study also revealed that subjects with less diverse bacterial populations were more likely to wind up with complications like heart disease and diabetes. This suggests that deficient flora functions in an entirely different way when compared to healthier gut microbiomes.

In fact, obese people with less diverse intestinal flora appeared to be at an even higher risk of serious disease than their equally obese, but more bacterially rich, counterparts.

I just love the way these pieces fell so nicely into place, don’t you? Because they illustrate such a vitally important point.

This is precisely the reason why it is so crucial to take a probiotic supplement that features multiple organisms. And just to be clear, it is the number of strains–NOT the total number of bugs–that dictates a human being’s health.

Bombing your body with billions of CFUs of bacteria–especially if you’re only taking one or two strains– will do little good in the end. The more strains the better, along with prebiotics, which essentially act as food for the beneficial bacteria. . This helps your body to grow its own bugs, without crowding them out.

So please, take a good probiotic every single day. One that has many different species and a prebiotic too.

In the meantime, stay tuned. This ongoing project is quite exciting. And it’s going to give us a lot more insight into the role that these bacteria inside us play in our health.

So I’ll be keeping you updated on any new findings as soon as I hear about them.

“Richness of human gut microbiome correlates with metabolic markers.” Nature. 2013 Aug 29;500(7464):541-6.