What are bacteria?
These microscopic organisms are formed by a single cell with very simple internal anatomy. They have been on the planet longer than humans, dinosaurs, and plants and often congregate in massive colonies numbering in the millions.
These little microbes are as diverse as humans. They come in a variety of shapes ranging from rods to spirals, they can exist on their own or combine with neighbours to form clusters or pairs, and they can be found in some of the harshest conditions the planet has to offer.
When certain bacteria experience stressors such as dramatic shifts in climate, or the introduction to an environment that isn’t quite right for them, they have the ability to form endospores. These seed-like structures contain their genetic material and act as a way for the bacteria to go dormant until conditions improve.
They are incredibly resistant to states that would otherwise kill the active organism such as UV radiation, high temperatures, chemical breakdown, and others. Endospores can exist for decades and are often responsible for most food-related illness’ despite the best efforts of humans to ensure their food is decontaminated.
How can they affect humans?
Over time, some of these endospores would make their way into the bodies of early humans. They would survive the journey through our powerful jaws, make it past the acidity of the stomach, and finally settled into the gut. For some of our ancestors, this new resident left them at death’s door.
In others however, the bacteria and human body came to an accord that neither would end the life of the other. Over time, more and more of these tiny organisms would find their way into the body and create an ecosystem numbering in the trillions.
Researchers now describe this relationship as mutualism, one where both parties benefit. The bacteria have the ability to regulate the immune system, influence digestion, and moderate the impact of certain harmful pathogens while their human host provides them with nutrients and a relatively stable environment.
When this environment is destabilized via stress, antibiotics, or parasites, the bacteria can release certain chemicals that aggravate the gut or fail to perform their proper function.
What is the impact when the gut microbiota is thrown off?
Researchers have conducted countless studies where animals were pushed into a germ-free state by growing up in an environment devoid of any exposure to bacteria that would otherwise form a mutualistic relationship in their gut. These animals showed severe deficiencies in nutrient and vitamin absorption, increased susceptibility to infection of the gastrointestinal tract, and underdeveloped guts.
These bacteria also release waste products like any other organism which become especially prevalent when they are aggravated. They naturally produce gasses such as hydrogen or methane while they breakdown food, but these gasses can build up leading to bloating.
As seen in the animal studies, the lack of a healthy gut microbiome can lead to a slew of issues that contribute to weight gain. These organisms play a large role in vitamin synthesis, especially the B-vitamin family and vitamin K.
To give one example, vitamin B6 help break down fats and increases the amount of oxygen delivered to the tissues by hemoglobin, a component of red blood cells. So, if B6 is deficient, the fats will not be broken down and may instead be deposited in tissues around the body. Additionally, less oxygen is going to be delivered to cells which slows their activity as they try and preserve resources. This decreases their overall metabolic activity and can lead to weight gain.
What can I do?
Navigating the world of prebiotics and probiotics is the first step to understanding how to nourish your gut flora. Probiotics are the live and active bacteria found in foods that contribute to our overall gut health with their fellow gut bacteria.
Prebiotics however, are non-digestible sugar chains that feed the gut bacteria. Research has shown that those consuming both probiotics and prebiotics contributed to a significant decrease in body-mass index, weight, and fat mass.
Foods such as sauerkraut or whey are rich in L+ lactic acid, a prebiotic. When prebiotics are administered to nourish the residents of the gut, they have been shown to promote the activity of white blood cells and intestinal cells. By encouraging white blood cells such as macrophages, these defenders of the body are better able to face the threats that assault humans every day.
Within the intestines, the cells secrete a layer of mucus that can trap, slow, and even prevent pathogens from entering the body in the first place – a pretty impressive feat. Within that mucus layer are other defenders known as immunoglobulin A (IgA) that ‘tag’ intruders and make them easier to identify.
Additionally, certain herbs and plants are useful for improving digestion and encouraging the proper function of the gut. Boldocynara is a complex of artichoke, milk thistle, boldo, and dandelion.
- Milk thistle has been shown to be a potent liver protector, the responsibilities of which include metabolism of fats, proteins, and carbohydrates, activation of certain enzymes, and other critical functions.
- Artichoke has been shown to improve how well the body tolerates glucose, a simple sugar responsible for nourishing many of the cells throughout the body.
- Boldo has traditionally been used for complaints of the gastrointestinal tract and helps digestion by inducing bile secretion from the gallbladder. Bile helps to breakdown fats into smaller droplets that are easier to digest by the intestinal cells and gut microbes. Another study demonstrated that when bile levels are reduced, intestinal inflammation and bacterial overgrowth become rampant.
- Finally, dandelion shows a decrease in ‘bad’ fats present throughout the body as well as increasing ‘good’ fats.
Taken together in a mix like Boldocynara is an easy way to achieve these powerful benefits.