Microscopic picture of Campylobacter jejuni, a microbial species often found in faeces. Source: De Wood and Chris Pooley, US Department of Agriculture
Our human body as a superorganism
The human body is a “superorganism” with thousands of distinct bacterial species interacting with their host. These microorganisms play incredible roles in the digestion of our food and live in complex and interconnected ecosystems within our gut. Most live mutualistically, meaning that the relationships between these bugs and their host (us) is mutually beneficial. The collection and diversity of these microbes, called the “microbiome”, is unique to each of us. Scientists have now been able to identify individual microbes that are hugely beneficial, others that are extremely harmful, and overall microbiome compositions that serve the processes of health and disease. We are, in fact, very interdependent with our miniscule tenants.
The link between IBD and the microbiome
Current evidence suggests that the adage, “You are what you eat,” could more accurately be, “Your microbes are what you eat.” In just the last decade, there is increasing scientific research into the microbial links to many conditions. They run the gamut: from obesity and heart disease to inflammatory bowel disease and asthma, to a host of other conditions which may even include disorders of the mind, like autism. American diets rich in refined sugar and white flours (absorbed too early in the digestive tract) appear to starve the healthy microbiome located primarily in lower intestinal areas where foods like nuts, fruits, vegetables, and healthy proteins are absorbed. I’ve taken distinctive note, too, that my Crohn’s. Disease symptoms are significantly reduced when I adhere to a diet that favors foods that support these “healthy gut” microbes.
Current evidence suggests without a doubt that there is critical bacterial involvement in both Crohn’s Disease and Ulcerative Colitis. A quick look on Pubmed reveals over 3,500 articles when one searches for the microbiome and Inflammatory Bowel Disease. A leading theory to the cause of Inflammatory Bowel Disease is the immune system’s over-response to inflammatory microbes. Additionally, emerging evidence suggests there are microbiological profiles of Inflammatory Bowel Disease suggesting that by examining the levels of certain bacteria can reveal itself as a useful marker to how treatments and lifestyle interventions are working.SSSS
Studies also suggest that a “fecal transplant,” could be promising in IBD given that the bacteria of a healthy donor is transferred to the patient. It seems that the procedure is more effective for Ulcerative Colitis but less effective for Crohn’s Disease.
At IBDCoach we always consider the microbiome as a critical factor in both understanding disease biology and exploring the evidence behind different treatments for IBD. To learn more about our program, click here.