Just recently scientists announced that you can blame a number of your largest health issues, like depression or obesity, on the bacteria that is living inside your colon. Is your colon making you sick?
Scientists call the many interrelated bacteria species found in your colon a “microbiome.” Essentially you are a walking, talking body of microorganisms. A current Italian study projected around 37 trillion human cells in the body, but there are over 100 trillion bacteria in just your colon. Yes, that’s right – the bacteria in your colon outnumbers the entire number of cells in your body.
Most of the bacteria ought to be supplying helpful services that are needed. The correct ratio of microbes should be 85 beneficial to 15 bad. However, according to Steven Lamm, M.D., who is the author of No Guts, No Glory, and the Director of the Center for Men’s Health at New York University, most of us have actually a ratio that’s almost reversed.
It has only been in the last few years that scientists have started to pin down just what these tiny critters do for you. The effect of these microbes is believed to impact more every major system in your body not just your digestion. This is also why they are linked to your biggest medical problems that include heart disease, obesity, and depression. Let’s have a look.
#1 Heart Disease
According to a study recently released by the Cleveland Clinic, when you eat red meat, dairy or eggs, the bacteria that live in your intestine, converts the choline in these foods to a compound called trimethylamine N-oxide, or TMAO. Researchers found that high levels of TMAO result in an increase in the risk of a heart attack or stroke by as much as 253% in 4,000 people over a 3 year period.
The TMAO appears to elevate cholesterol and speed up artery-clogging plaque formation. However, this does not mean you should stop eating eggs and steak as they are a good source of protein.
Stanley Hazen, M.D., Ph.D and author of the study, says, “Choline is an essential nutrient and eliminating it can lead to a deficiency.”
If you eat more vegetables and fiber you can lower your choline levels, and it’s hoped that in the future targeted antibiotics will be able to get rid of the problematic bacteria and leave the good bacteria alone.
Antibiotic medications kill bacteria that makes a person sick; however, they can also hurt the good microbes that are living in your colon and preventing those harmful bacteria from taking over. That will leave you susceptible to catching nasty infections like Clostridium difficile, which leads to chronic diarrhea, and every year 14,000 Americans die from it.
This can result in the need for a fecal transplant, where a doctor will remove a small amount of stool from a healthy donor and transplant it into the ailing patient, which lets the re-forestation of their colon occur.
Scientists at the University of Calgary report they are having a 100% success rate in curing Clostridium difficile infections using a pill that contains the “purified” bacteria—so that’s a lot less invasive than a stool transplant.
Besides causing you to develop a bigger belly, your gut bacteria can also increase your risk of developing diabetes, which is one of the major health risks linked to obesity. Last year, a study published in the journal Nature, reported researchers in Sweden used a genome sequence to determine that those individuals with markers of poor glucose control had high levels of four Lactobacillus species, while those individuals with lower blood sugar had an abundance of five Clostridium species.
The relationship between bacteria and blood sugar exists in the study subjects that were both skinny and overweight, which indicates the presence of Clostridium might predict whether you are more likely to develop type 2 diabetes.
According to a study presented recently at an American Chemical Society meeting, the anti-inflammatory properties of chocolate are well known, and can aid in keeping your heart working well, depends on your colon’s microbes.
In a test tube study, the researchers at Louisiana State University found that Bifidobacterium along with other healthy bacteria take antioxidant compounds in chocolate like catechin, and then they ferment them until they are broken into a smaller form used by your body to counteract damage from free radicals.