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6 Things to Know About the Microbiome and Your Health

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Brian Simpson writes at the Johns Hopkins School of Public Health:

Jotham Suez has a tough job.

He studies the microbiome—the universe of bacteria, viruses, fungi, and other microbes that each of us is home to. In sheer numbers, there are many of them as there are human cells in the body.

“We’re studying the whole complexity of the human body. We’re also studying the complexity of billions of microbes of hundreds of different species—each one of them with their own genes and their own proteins,” says Suez, PhD, MSc, an assistant professor in the W. Harry Feinstone Department of Molecular Microbiology and Immunology.

Why study the bugs in our gut, on our skin, behind our ears? Because science is increasingly revealing the massive influence they have on our health.

Below, Suez shares six things you need to know about the microbiome.

1. Your microbiome is like a biological fingerprint.

The collection of bacteria, viruses, and other bugs you have is unique to you. Researchers swabbed computer keyboards in an office for microbes and then swabbed fingertips of workers for a 2010 study. Then they were able to determine which keyboard was used by which person. These person-to-person differences in the microbes that we host can affect everything from our responses to diets and drugs, to disease risk, and even our behavior—they’re as important to our health as our own genes.

2. You have more than one microbiome.

Microbes find multiple ecological niches in and on your body. Your skin microbiome is distinct from your gut microbiome or oral microbiome. Each one has adapted to the conditions there, such as the lack of nutrients on the skin, the moisture or dryness of different areas of the armpit, or the acidity in the vagina.

In fact, while at the Weizmann Institute of Science in Israel, Suez worked with gastroenterology colleagues to sample from 18 different sites along the upper and lower gastrointestinal tract of 46 people. In two papers in the journal Cell (here and here), he found that each site had its own unique microbiome signature.

“When we’re trying to understand the mechanisms of how microbes cause disease or promote health, we need to make sure that we’re looking in the right place,” says Suez. “For example, if you’re interested in interactions between the microbiome and the immune system, you might learn more from studying the microbes in the small intestine, rather than the ones washed out in stool samples.”

3. Ask your microbiome what’s the best diet for you. 

Dietary advice is often based on the food’s calories or carbohydrate content rather than who eats the food. It assumes, for example, that if two people ate identical pieces of bread, the changes in the blood glucose would be roughly the same.

Not so.

Suez and his colleagues found that blood glucose levels spiked in some people but didn’t budge in others. In fact, they measured widely different glucose responses to any given food. The takeaway is that the same food or diet can be healthy for some but unhealthy for others.

Based on data collected from hundreds of participants, Suez and colleagues developed an algorithm that could predict glucose responses based on the microbiome alone. In follow up studies by his collaborators, the algorithm was able to recommend a diet that was healthier for individuals with type 1 diabetes or prediabetes than a traditional diet that excluded high-carbohydrate foods like bread altogether.

4. Your medications may soon be changed based on your microbiome. 

Doctors typically  . . .

Continue reading. (no paywall)

The big one, IMO, is No. 6:  Noncaloric artificial sweeteners may damage your microbiome–and your health.

Written by Leisureguy

25 September 2022 at 8:15 pm

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