Part 6 – Microbiome and disease

The differences between peoples’ microbiomes is one reason why we each have different susceptibility to different diseases.

Microbial imbalances are thought to contribute to disease through the cross-talk between the microbes, the chemical waste products they produce and our immune cells. When toxic, this drives an inflammatory response.










Dysbiosis is the name given to an imbalance between beneficial and unbeneficial microbes; typically too many “bad” ones and too few “good” ones. Research is currently unravelling which microbes are beneficial, which ones are neutral and which ones are harmful.

Dysbiosis causes bloating, cramps and abdominal pain as the microbes produce gas and other chemicals, which can distend and irritate the gut. Mild, sub-clinical gut disorders are increasingly common these days. Many people are living with tolerable, but uncomfortable, levels of bloating, gas, digestive disorders and irregular bowel movements. They are called functional disorders, like IBS, because the functionis affected but there is no pathology. While not life threatening, such disorders can be frustrating to live with and may be a sign that your microbiome needs some attention. It’s best not to ignore these symptoms for the long term; dealing with them sooner, rather than later, may help prevent more serious conditions developing years down the line.

There is considerable mounting evidence that dysbiosis in the gut is also associated diseases, both inside or outside the gut. Gut conditions like inflammatory bowel disease, ulcerative colitis, coeliac disease, colorectal cancer and non-gut conditions like allergy, asthma, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, obesity, autoimmune conditions and some neurological diseases. As yet, it is currently debated as to whether or not dysbiosis is a cause, or consequence, of a given disease.

Let’s look at some of these.

Weight gain and obesity

Refined carbohydrates and sugar are foods which feed the unfavourable microbes and yeasts, which then grow and multiply in our gut. A fungal overgrowth, like candida, can trigger more sugary food cravings and weight gain.

The unfavourable microbes make toxic compounds, some are called lipopolysaccharides (LPS). The LPS cause irritation and inflammation when they escape the gut and get into the bloodstream. The inflammation leads to insulin resistance, weight gain and type 2 diabetes.

Diabetics commonly lack the beneficial butyrate-producing bacteria. Among other things, these bacteria help to control blood sugar and insulin levels after a meal. Foods that help the butyrate-producing bacteria to multiply are typically high in resistant starch. Resistant starch is high in cooked and cooled rice, potato and pasta, also fibre from vegetables, oats and legumes. So enjoy your cooled “left-overs” straight from the fridge! Supplements high in resistant starch are inulin (please note spelling, that is inulin, not insulin!) and potato starch.

Obese people have been typically found to have a high number of Firmicutes species compared to low numbers of Bacteroidetes species. It is thought that the Firmicutes could be extracting more calories from the food and promoting more fat storage.


Researchers are finding more and more specific species of bacteria associated with certain cancers, for example helicobacter pylori with stomach cancer; Fusobacterium nucleatum and Escherichia coli with colon cancer; Chlamydia with cervical cancer; Clostridium with liver cancer, and other mouth bacteria associated with pancreatic cancer.This doesn’t mean to say that those bacteria are causing the cancer, they may just be taking advantage of the compromised cells. Research is ongoing.

This may mean that we might be able to detect a pro-cancerous environment years before cancer is detectable, by understanding what bacteria belong where and monitoring how they change over time.

As cancer rates are rising, microbial diversity is decreasing. Is there a connection to explore? Researchers have discovered that both people and mice with cancer who had been given antibiotics, tended to have poorer cancer outcomes to immunotherapy.

Autoimmune disorders

Diseases such as multiple sclerosis, lupus, Hashimoto’s (low thyroid), coeliac disease and rheumatoid arthritis develop because the immune system is overactive and making autoantibodies against particular groups of body cells.

The reason why the body makes autoantibodies is through the mechanism of mistaken identity. This means that the immune cells attack and kill our own cells that have certain markers on them (a bit like a birthmark or tattoo) that may look like a pathogen.

For example, Hashimoto’s is an autoimmune disorder whereby the body makes autoantibodies against the thyroid gland in the neck. This progressively damages the gland and its ability to function to regulate our energy. Symptoms of low thyroid are chronic tiredness, hair loss, IBS, panic attacks, weight gain and constipation. It’s now easy to get a full set of thyroid tests with an at-home finger-prick blood test that you submit through the post. If you would like a test, it’s quick, cheap and easy, just ask me and I’ll have a test sent out to you,

Neurological disorders

People with psychological disorders (anxiety, depression, autism, bi-polar, schizophrenia, Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s) have been shown to host specific species of gut bacteria, which are different to the microbial species of people with no neurological condition.

Researchers have proposed that the “bad” microbes indirectly alter brain function via inflammatory signalling molecules through the nerves that link the gut and the brain (gut-brain axis) and by directly crossing the blood brain barrier.

Specific probiotic strains have produced mixed, but promising results for improving symptoms of conditions such as anxiety, depression and memory. They have been called psychobiotics.

Heart disease

 There is a strong connection between gum disease and heart disease. Bacteria in the mouth enter the blood stream via the inflamed gums. Immune cells in the blood then mount an inflammatory response in the arteries. If this goes on for decades, it is believed this inflammation contributes to atherosclerosis and cardiovascular disease.

Trimethylamine N-oxidase (TMAO) is a compound made by the gut bacteria when we specifically eat animal foods – fish, red meat, eggs & dairy. TMAO seems to make our platelets stickier, which increases our risk of clots, leading to heart attacks and strokes.

Lactobacillus may help to reduce cholesterol when taken as a probiotic.

I hope you are enjoying this short series, learning about your microbiome and gut health. If you have any questions, or if you would like to have a private chat about your own health, head over to this page and send me a message and we’ll arrange a time to talk.

Coming up tomorrow, Part 7, all about the latest tests and treatments available. Keep an eye on your inbox!

2 thoughts on “Part 6 – Microbiome and disease

  1. Reblogged this on Mother Nature's Diet and commented:
    Part 6 – Your microbiome and the link to diseases.

    Moving in to the 2nd half of this 10-Part short series looking at the human microbiome and gut health, in this post today Dawn explains some of the connections scientists are unravelling between the microbiome, gut health, immune function and certain diseases.

    As this area of science is emerging and becoming clearly, it’s all quite fascinating and at the same time possibly quite worrying. Remember, it takes a long time for science to ‘prove’ things beyond doubt. One study will highlight a possible link, suggesting ‘more research is needed’ and that’s an open invitation for other scientists to run a study delving deeper..and then often we see ‘rinse and repeat’ of that process over and over. It takes years to conduct studies; time to design the research, raise the funding, recruit volunteers, conduct the research, analyse the results, write up the conclusions, put it through peer review and eventually publish it for the public, doctors and other academics to read. This is why it sometimes takes decades for research to make progress in certain areas.

    In the fields of human health and nutrition, some big areas that are emerging through this long-winded process now are genetics, the microbiome and gut health, links between our diet and disease, links between our lifestyle (alcohol, stress, sleep, etc.) and disease.

    Personally, after half a lifetime (28 years now…) studying, trying, experiencing, learning about these things for myself (ummm, using a ‘study population of n=1, namely me, myself and I) through trial and error, I am utterly certain that a vast amount of the chronic disease burden we are experiencing in the Western World today, could be alleviated, eased or reduced in some way by individuals adopting a healthier lifestyle, somewhat more in tune with the natural world we live in. What do I mean by that?
    – reduce the amount of processed foods we consume
    – eat a diet largely comprised of fresh whole foods
    – cut back on “additives” which means things like added refined sugar, and refined seed oils
    – move more, exercise every day in a variety of ways
    – healthy sleep: your bedroom should be dark, cool, and free from electronic devices!
    – drink more water (less fizzy drinks, alcohol, sugary drinks and juices and those damned energy drinks – do everything on this list and you won’t need energy drinks, you’ll have much more natural energy in the first place!)
    – get plenty of healthy natural daylight
    – minimise the amount of chemicals you come into contact with, things you spray around your home and breathe in, things you put on your skin, and things in your food (buy organic)

    You see, these are simple actions, nothing extreme, but I believe that over the next 40 years, science is going to show us that these kind of actions are a huge step in the right direction towards decreasing the international cancer burden, the heart disease burden, and the prevalence of auto-immune conditions.

    Of course, you know, this is all built in to the 12 Core Principles of Mother Nature’s Diet. Ha, like I needed to tell you that…

    Well, now read on to see what my friend Dawn has explained to us in Part 6, all about the links between your microbiome, gut health and diseases.

    To your very best health in 2019!
    – Karl

  2. Pingback: Living with coronavirus: your strategy in our new world, step by step | Mother Nature's Diet

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