Science now proves that foreign contents found inside your digestive tract play a significant role in your metabolic function, cardiovascular health, energy level and body weight. And while it’s obviously not the only factor causing obesity and metabolic syndrome, it is a major contributor for those who are overweight, especially for someone who has trouble losing weight and keeping it off.
University researchers studied mice that were engineered to lack a common gene, Toll-like receptor 5 (TLR5), which is a gene that allows cells to recognize bacteria. Being TLR5-deficient caused these mice to experience increased appetite, blood pressure, cholesterol and triglyceride levels; develop insulin resistance and fatty liver disease; and be about 20% fatter than normal mice. These mice developed what many would say is an epidemic in America—metabolic syndrome—and also were at a greater risk of developing Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis.
Researchers discovered the source of the problem was the flora content, or gut microbiota. Being that the mice lacked TLR5, the wrong bacteria grew in their stomachs. The researchers even transferred this overgrown bacteria to normal mice, and afterward they also developed metabolic syndrome abnormalities, showing that the bacteria overgrowth caused obesity and stimulated the mice to have bad food cravings.
More than 1,000 different types of bacteria naturally occupy the digestive tract, but two main classes are Firmicutes and Bacteroidetes. Mice with TLR5 have abnormal Firmicute inhabitants, which are the problem causers.
Senior author Andrew Gewirtz, PhD, associate professor of pathology and laboratory medicine at Emory University School of Medicine, said our society assumes that a sedentary lifestyle and high-calorie foods being cheap and readily available are what’s led to the obesity epidemic in our society.
“However, our results suggest that excess caloric consumption is not only a result of undisciplined eating,” he said, “but that intestinal bacteria contribute to changes in appetite and metabolism.”
More Research on Firmicutes and Bacteroidetes
Animals that don’t make the leptin hormone, ob/ob animals, are excessive eaters and therefore become obese. They have a 50% reduction in the amount of Bacteroidetes as well as a proportional increase in Firmicutes, showing that obesity itself is a contributor to an excess amount of Firmicutes. After performing various experiments with genetically-altered mice, scientists are now in belief that excessive amounts of the wrong type of Firmicutes trigger enzymes, adipocytes, which encourage fat cells to store fat. This tells us that your gut’s activity has a direct impact on where the calories you intake go in your body. Firmicutes are considered gram-positive bacteria, which are mostly friendly and essential to digestion, like Lactobacillus. But other Firmicutes are members of the Streptococcus and Clostridium families that are liable for different infections people get. Chron’s Disease, Bacterial LPS and Obesity Back in 2010, a report was released by Chinese researchers on more than 3 million microbial genes that were obtained from fecal samples of more than 100 people from Europe. The gene set is roughly 150 times larger than the human genome, and more than 99% of the genes are bacterial, showing between 1,000 and 1,150 prevalent bacterial species. Also, each person has a minimum of 160 species, also largely shared. By analyzing the genes of each bacteria, the researchers created the first catalog of organisms found inside the human digestive tract.
Aside from helping with digestion, their preliminary work found gene signals associated with Crohn’s disease and obesity. Their research and findings show us that gene signals coming from gut bacteria populations have a direct interaction with human metabolism.
Another part of this problem is bacteria produces an endotoxin from the shedding of its cell wall, which is called lipopolysaccharide (LPS). This compound is commonly studied since it induces inflammation. Researchers have determined that bacterial
LPS from the gut enters a person’s bloodstream and directly triggers insulin resistance, especially resistance relating to the liver that tends to accompany type II diabetes. It’s also noteworthy that a chronic high-fat diet increases LPS two or three times its normal levels. LPS keeps leptin from properly entering the brain. LPS can raise blood levels of leptin, which induces leptin resistance, and it can raise the blood levels of triglycerides, a known cause of leptin resistance at the blood-brain barrier.
Common findings also elude to overweight and obese kids lacking friendly flora but having an excess amount of Firmicute Staphylococcus aureus. And women who are overweight are known for having an imbalanced microbiota with an excess amount of Firmicutes in the Clostridium and Staphylococcus families. Pregnancy aggravates this problem, thus causing a mother to gain more weight than normal, and then her microbiota pattern is often passed on to the child.
These and other studies collectively show there’s a clear path from the overgrowth of the wrong types of digestive bacteria to the production of leptin-resistant and insulin-resistant obesity, which over time puts you at greater risk for type II diabetes and heart disease.
Killing Firmicutes with antibiotics does reduce the metabolic problems of the TLR5-deficient mice. But in humans, it would just promote regrowth of Firmicutes that are just as bad if not worse while also promoting the overgrowth of candida albicans, another type of anti-metabolic occupants, which would make our societal problem of antibiotic resistance and new superbugs even worse than it already is.
So how do you defend against this problem?
You turn to safe, natural remedies—starting with a good diet. You need a daily diet that encourages balanced digestion, achieved by avoiding excess amounts of fat, refined sugar, junk food and alcohol. You can also promote the growth of friendly flora by taking probiotic and prebiotic supplements, and ingesting natural compounds like oregano oil to kill unfitting gram-positive bacteria inside your digestive tract.
Take the time to appropriately improve your digestive tract so you can have a positive impact on your metabolism, cardiovascular health and weight management.