In earlier blogs we introduced you as a Monarch of a large kingdom somewhere in the realm of 300 – 500 trillion subjects. Take that Queen Elizabeth! The elves, I mean bacteria, and other microorganisms making up your microbiome are your subjects. Like any benevolent ruler, you have a responsibility to your subjects. These subjects of yours are your protectors, farmers, merchants, and workers. They do all kinds of jobs for you; some nutritional, some housekeeping, and others mundane, all so that you can experience the larger adventure of living Life.
The smoother the relationship you have with your subjects, the happier the kingdom will be. Happy kingdom – Happy ruler! There comes a time for every ruler to decide if they want to take the responsibility to rule their kingdom, or allow themselves to be ruled by their subjects. Your actions in your everyday life determine how noble and strong a monarch you are. While you want to be a mindful ruler, it is not beneficial to micromanage your elves – they are highly trained, willing, and very capable. Your role as monarch is to create an environment for your subjects that they can thrive in, and in which they have a feeling of self-worth and accomplishment. But before we get into how to keep your kingdom happy, lets look deeper into what they do for you.
There are so many things that your elves do for you, that I am sure it will be years before we even start to understand half of them. However, in recent years, we have developed a deeper understanding of the interdependence of the various levels of our relationship with our microbiome.
One of the most amazing things we have come to understand is that not only do your friendly microorganisms keep your gut happy; they also keep your brain happy. Recent studies on mice have shown that when they were fed intestinal bacteria Lactobacillus rhamnosus, they behaved less anxiously. These behavioral changes were accompanied by differences in levels of a brain-chemical sensor and stress hormones.
According to a report from the National Academy of Sciences, bacteria send these brain-chemical and behavior-changing messages to the brain via the vagus nerve (A communication line that connects the brain stem to various internal organs).
While there have been several studies which show that behavior changes in both humans and other mammals depends on the content of gut microbiome; the study that this report refers to went further and looked at the physical changes that occur in the brain. It demonstrated that changes in the microbiome affect brain chemistry (in this case, levels of GABA) and receptor sites in various locations in the brain. The ingestion of the bacteria also resulted in significantly lower levels of the stress-induced hormone, corticosterone. Not only were there chemical changes, but also the mice became more adventurous than the ones that were fed a broth without the organisms in.
Some researchers have proposed, based on experiments in mice, that gut bacteria could play a role in a wide variety of brain and psychiatric disorders, such as depression, anxiety, autism and schizophrenia.
As stated earlier, the better the ecological balance in your kingdom, the smoother it will run.
Beneficial bacteria in the gut microbiome can be beneficial for your immune system, with over 70% of the immune system residing in the gut. We simply could not survive without this ecosystem. These microscopic allies are important components of your immune system. Our body has sophisticated mechanisms, enzymes, and cells to protect us from invading viruses and infections. I like to consider some of these microorganisms of our gut flora acting as a Secret Service force to assist our body’s natural defenses. Every ruler needs his or her own private security force, so of course you have one too! No matter how vigilant you are about taking care of yourselves in other areas, you need help from your private security force. You need your bacteria to be healthy, fresh, strong, and numerous, and they, in turn, need your body to run properly to ensure their own survival. We will discuss this area more in future blogs, but one of the best ways to do this is to regularly consume fermented foods as they keep our digestive tracts constantly supplied with reinforcements, and creates the kind of environment in which they can work efficiently and thrive.
In return for their services, working as a freelance security force, you, as their Monarch, provide them with safe room and board. Therefore, maintaining healthy levels of beneficial bacteria is not only incredibly important to help your security team function in the best way possible for you, but it is also part of your responsibility as a Monarch. Without sufficient numbers of beneficial bacteria in your gut, harmful bacteria can bloom and start to wreak havoc on your digestive tract and immune system, causing inflammation, and eventually negatively affecting other parts of your body.
Your immune system’s secret security force is responsible for the regulation of your responses, particularly of inflammation. Inflammation serves a protective role, responding to tissue injury or infection so that you can heal. However, if the numbers of your security force get too low from an imbalance in your intestinal flora, you can develop chronic inflammation. This can lead to the development of disabling conditions such as inflammatory bowel disease, arthritis, atherosclerosis, or psoriasis and other forms of autoimmune diseases. There have been numerous studies (across all age groups), which show that regular probiotic consumption (bolstering the numbers of your security force) enhances immunity. Enhanced immunity gives you the edge to perform better, have more energy, and stay healthy and positive.
As with any kingdom, the effectiveness and efficiency of the larger operations is entirely dependent on the functioning of the smaller details. For the larger kingdom of your body to work effectively and efficiently, you need to have the right number of secret service members, farmers, workers, merchants, and others –and they need to be able to accomplish their smaller-scale tasks unencumbered. Balance is everything. If you have too many of any one group, issues can develop amongst the factions. This can mean that elves that are normally good and helpful members of their society can turn restless and destructive if they are in the wrong place at the wrong time.
Next blog we will look at ways to balance the microbiome.