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The Microbes that Make Us

Taking care of your gut health is extremely important, as doctors have found that poor gut health could be the reason for an increasing number of health issues.

Your gut is full of healthy bacteria that helps protect your body from diseases and falling ill.

In fact, your body has 10 times more microbial cells than human cells.

How does your gut bacteria influence your health, mind and life?

Dr. Mike shares the importance of microbes in your body and how you can promote healthy gut bacteria.

RadioMD Presents:Healthy Talk | Original Air Date: June 10, 2015
Host: Michael Smith, MD

Anti-Aging and Disease Prevention Radio is right here on RadioMD. Here's author, blogger, lecturer and national medical media personality, Dr. Michael Smith, MD, with Healthy Talk.

DR MIKE: According to an article published in the journal Nature in 2007, we have about 10 times more microbes, bacteria, yeast species in our bodies than human cells.

So, there's more microbes than us in our bodies. This has prompted the question of exactly who we are. It's interesting, isn't it? Ten times more bacteria than your own cells. I know when you think of bacteria. what comes to mind? What images do you see? Probably swarming, filthy bacteria on an open sore or something like that. I don't know. Or maybe somebody coughing up phlegm or something like that. We just had the whole Ebola thing. When we think of microbes, bacteria, viruses, they are not even yeast species. Usually, the images are pretty bad, right? It's obviously a lot more complicated than that.

It's important to understand that yes, there are a lot of bad bacteria, yeast species and stuff out there but there are good ones. These healthy, good bacteria and yeast species are critical for us. We metabolize certain nutrients because of them. When you have a lot of these good guys in your system, you fight off the bad guys better. As a matter of fact, you have 10 times more of these good guys in your system than your own cells.

So, who are you? Who really are you? The human body can be compared to a city that contains 10,000's or more of these different living species. So, your body is like this city – a melting pot of just all kinds of different living species. The roles played by these life forms, both good and bad, are of growing interest to researchers, doctors like myself and even lay persons, just like my listeners.

We are learning more about probiotics. The microbiome. We are learning how devastating this thing called dysbiosis, which is where you have an imbalance of the normal, healthy gut flora. We are researching all this and more and we are finding some fascinating things. The National Institutes of Health Common Fund Human Microbiome Project – the government--has to come up with better ways of naming things.

The NIH Human Microbiome Project is sequencing the genes of these diverse microorganisms. The mission of the project is to analyze the role microbes have on human health and disease.

What they are coming up with is some fascinating stuff. Why are certain bacteria good for you? I know, as my listeners and listeners to RadioMD and the other great shows on this platform, if you've read any of the literature from Life Extension or any of the alternative websites and practitioners out there, you're hearing more and more about probiotics, right? You're hearing more and more. It's even making mainstream commercials with yogurt products.

People are understanding that we need these good bacteria. What do we mean by that? What is a good bacteria? Well, a good bacteria or bacteria that is good for you – I don't think the bacteria cares if its good or bad. It's just living in an environment and doing its thing whether it hurts you or benefits you, the bacteria itself could care less. There are some of those species that are good for us.

They help with digestion and absorption, they can prevent malnutrition, and they can prevent infection by just keeping out the bad guys. Bacteria fight. What's interesting is that the bacteria that are good for us, there are all kinds of different species. They love to live together. But the minute you introduce a bacteria that could cause some harm to that environment they are living in, they don't like it just like you don't like it. They fight them. They kick them out. There is even evidence that the composition of gut bacteria may play a role in reducing obesity.

If you have a nice balanced gut flora, that's just another way of saying a microbiome. It's just gut flora-- gut bacteria. If it's nice and balanced with even some good yeast species thrown in there ,you could reduce the risk of obesity. This was published in Microbiome – a nice journal – in 2015. So, a study in Microbiome 2015 looked at a study examining sewage--I know it sounds gross--from 71 U.S. cities. It was discovered that bacterial patterns in the sewage were able to detect if a population was lean or obese with up to 89% accuracy. So, they could look at human waste in the sewage and based on the microbes there, they could predict whether that population and the people feeding that part of the sewer were fat or thin.

That's amazing. Beneficial bacteria can also release hormones to help control appetite, modulate levels of inflammation which could play a role in metabolism and weight gain and all that kind of stuff. There's even examples of very specific species of bacteria – one in particular – lactobacillus reuteri 30242 (that's the species number) has been shown to lower cholesterol. We are using this species at Life Extension in a product that's helping people to improve their lipid profiles.

A bacteria! Other research involving this particular strain and even some other lactobacillus strains have been shown that they can help to produce and maintain levels of Vitamin D. This is just amazing, all of this new stuff, we are learning about the importance of bacteria in your gut. The problem, though, that we are facing today is we are having a lot of things going on in our environment, things that we are doing to our environment and to ourselves, that is really affecting the gut bacteria. The first thing that we are seeing is that we are overusing these antibiotics and we are developing these superbugs. It's not just antibiotics in humans.

We give antibiotics to livestock that produces output from the livestock, whether it be eggs or meat or whatever. Although antibiotics have obviously contributed significantly to modern medicine, what we are finding, because we are overusing them is that we are developing these very rare resistant bugs that are now starting to take over our gut bacteria. When that begins to happen, along with other things in the environment like toxins, plastics and all that kind of stuff, we now have an imbalance in our gut system called dysbiosis.

It's really important, in my opinion, to go ahead and replenish those healthy gut bacteria. I think the best thing you can do is take probiotics. Yogurt products are fine but we just don't know how many live species are in the yogurt and that's the problem with yogurt. There are some commercials out there for specific products that say all kinds of claims.

I don't believe that modern day yogurt is that loaded with these bacteria that you need so you really do need to take a supplement. The main thing that you have to look for is a probiotic supplement product that is balanced and has the right concentration of what are called CFU's (colony forming units). You want to make sure you have lactobacillus species in the product and bifidobacterium species. Lactobacillus and bifidobacterium – those are the most important averaging around 5-10 billion CFU's. Those are the best probiotics.

This is Healthy Talk on Radio M.D. I'm Dr. Mike. Stay well.