The Microbiome – another organ of our bodies
Explorations of how the microscopic communities that inhabit the human body might contribute to health or disease have moved from obscure to everyday over the past few years. In fact our bodies have about 10 trillion human cells and over 100 trillion bacteria both outside on the skin and inside on the mucosal linings of the respiratory and digestive tracks. These trillions of bacterial communities represent another organ of the body, reacting with our cells to help regulate, modify and enhance our immune systems and absorption of nutrients. Over the past five years, studies have linked our microbial settlers to conditions like autism, cancer, diabetes and the triggering of autoimmune diseases. Studies have been done demonstrating the reversal of autistic signs and symptoms, triggering of genetic mutations leading to cancer initiation, Alzheimer’s disease, diabetes and some forms of arthritis. Over 70% of the B and T cells of our immune systems originate in the gut. The structure of the mucosal lining contains lymphocytes from the fetal stage of life. The structure of the cellular lining of the digestive track contains the immune function of the gut. These cells produce mucosal IgA antibodies that, together with the microbiome of the gut, regulate everything from digestion to immune response, inflammation and healthy gut ecology. What goes wrong when there is chronic inflammation that causes a breakdown in the connective tissue of the intestinal wall is a breakdown in the normal barrier between inside and outside worlds. The breech in the integrity of the small intestine’s barrier can be caused by multiple vectors of stress including reaction to gluten, gastritis, overuse of antibiotics, Anorexia or severe nutritional deficiencies, infection, food poisoning as well as inherited tendencies to inflammation to name but a few. Inflammation of the mucosal celllar lining causes changes in the microbiome. Moreover, changes in the microbiome can cause more inflammation. These negative feedback loops can create a reverb chamber of inflammation leading to nutritional deficiencies even with a perfect diet as well as what is known as “leaky small intestine” or “leaky gut syndrome”. The absorption of partially digested food leads to immune system reactions which in turn can trigger such conditions as disease, Irritable Bowel Syndrome, Colitis, Celiac Disease and more systemic autoimmune reactions and conditions such as Psoriasis, Eczema, Rheumatoid Arthritis, Migraines and Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis. Here is a representation of the gut ecology and anatomy:
And here is a representation of the human gut’s ecology when there is inflammation: You will notice how the normal connective tissue between the cells lining the small intestine begin to break down causing a breechin the integrity of the intestinal lining and immune activation in response to leaking of partially digested foods into the blood stream. It is easy to image how this breech allows leads to malabsorption, allergies, auto immune reactions and also leaking of the microbiota into the blood stream. This is why this field of research in human biology is so important to unlocking possible tributaries of causation for many chronic degenerative illnesses.