In today’s testing profile, I’m going to give you an up-close and personal view of our microbiota, a.k.a the intestinal flora, probiotics, or, the “good bugs” as I tell my kiddos.
I’ve long been aware of some the health benefits of probiotics, but truthfully, it was a rather narrow understanding. I mostly took probiotic supplements to usurp the repeat yeast infections I would get each and every time I took an antibiotic (and I took antibiotics several times a year for decades to treat the symptoms of my chronic sinusitis), but I always made sure to have my daily plain Greek yogurt and a glass of plain Kefir blended with some fresh fruit. I made sure to never miss my daily servings of “good bugs.”
Everything changed a few months ago when I made the decision to go dairy/casein-free after my kids were discovered to have a casein intolerance, and all of a sudden I was without my favorite yogurt. Not to mention the fact that most probiotic supplements contain dairy, so it took some time to find dairy-free versions. Even then, while I was diligent in giving them to my kids, I was never consistent about taking them myself.
True blogger confession: I’m horrible when it comes to taking supplements on a regular basis, it’s no wonder I don’t reap the benefits!
Truthfully though, I had NO IDEA just how crucially vital healthy bacteria are to your overall health and wellbeing. And I do mean vital.
To give you a better understanding, I highly recommend watching the following 7 minute video from Dr. Mark Hyman:
To further drive home the points that Dr. Hyman made in the video, I would like to share the link to a comprehensive article written by Alessio Fasano, M.D., Director, Center for Celiac Research at The University of Maryland.
I urge you to download this article, read it, print it, and give a copy to your healthcare provider (as recently as this past November (2010), I discovered that my former board-certified gastroenterologist had never heard of zonulin, which was a rather clear indication to me that he does not read his gastroenterology journals and hence the reason (among others) that he is my *former* GI).
So what is zonulin? The following is taken directly from The Center for Celiac Research Website:
“Zonulin regulates the permeability of the intestines by controlling the opening and closing of specialized structures that act like gates between cells. When the body produces too much zonulin, these gates get stuck open for too long and allow undigested foodstuff, toxins and other bacterial and viral particles access to the immune system.”
Zonulin and Its Regulation of Intestinal Barrier Function: The Biological Door to Inflammation, Autoimmunity and Cancer Physiological Reviews, January 2011
I would like to point out the following statement from Dr. Fasano on page 157 of the above linked article (bold emphasis added):
“Among the several potential intestinal luminal stimuli that can trigger zonulin release, we identified small intestinal exposure to bacteria and gluten as the two more powerful triggers. Enteric infections have been implicated in the pathogenesis of several pathological conditions, including allergic, autoimmune and inflammatory diseases, by causing impairment of the intestinal barrier. We have generated evidence that small intestines exposed to enteric bacteria secreted zonulin.”
*For more information on zonulin, see Gliadin, zonulin and gut permeability: Effects on celiac and non-celiac intestinal mucosa and intestinal cell lines, Scandinavian Journal of Gastroenterology, April 2006
From the Metametrix website:
Gastrointestinal function is important for general health. The intestinal tract contains significant amounts of bacteria; some beneficial, some neutral, and some harmful. Balancing beneficial microbial flora in the gut is key to proper digestion, efficient nutrient usage, and ridding the body of waste and pathogens. Poor digestion and malabsorption can lead to immune dysfunction, nutritional insufficiencies, mental/emotional disorders, and autoimmune diseases.
Metametrix offers the Complete GI Effects profile for the most thorough look at the gut microbiome.
This is an amazingly informative test and I personally think it should be part of everyone’s annual checkup!
Since I am not someone who inherently understands how to interpret these tests, I will be sharing direct quotes taken from the Metametrix GI Effects Stool Profile Patient Interpretation Guide. The first thing you will need to understand is what Predominant Bacteria are:
Microorganisms in the GI tract perform a host of useful functions, such as fermenting unused energy substances, communicating with the immune system, preventing growth of harmful species, regulating the development of the gut, providing vitamins for the host (such as biotin and vitamin K) and producing hormones to direct the host to store fats.
Intestinal flora are also thought to have many beneficial local and systemic roles such as improving lactose intolerance, supplying short chain fatty acids (SFCA) as an energy substrate for the host, anti-tumor properties, neutralizing certain toxins, stimulating the intestinal immune system, reducing blood lipid levels and preventing obesity and type 2 diabetes.
Under normal homeostatic conditions, the intestinal microflora are of central importance in preventing colonization by pathogens, termed “colonization resistance.” Predominant bacteria are considered to be beneficial when they are in balance.
The following tests results are mine:
As you can see in the graph above, my predominant bacteria are not hanging out singing Kumbaya together! The bacteria I circled in red are too low and I need to work on increasing those numbers with probiotic supplements. Ideally, all the bacteria should be in a similar range (in balance), falling within the 3rd and 4th quintiles. If your beneficial bacteria are imbalanced, then you have a condition called Dysbiosis (related research article: Intestinal dysbiosis and reduced immunoglobulin-coated bacteria associated with coeliac disease in children).
I gave myself a star for no significant amounts of opportunistic bacteria, which are generally self-limiting and not normally considered pathogenic.
My husband’s results (his predominant bacteria aren’t happy either):
The following results belong to my 3 year old who has non-celiac gluten sensitivity. Luke fully recovered from severe eczema and cradle cap after we received some much needed expert guidance using Dr. Rodney Ford’s e-Clinic last summer and we consequentially discovered his IgG casein intolerance and IgE egg white protein allergy.
While his skin totally cleared up, he continued having unpleasant bowel movements that often resulted in raised welts and open wounds on his bottom. Not one of the several doctors we sought help from (his pediatrician, an allergist, a pediatric gastroenterologist and a dermatologist) ever suggested running a stool test on him. Instead, I was told to potty train him (at 11 months old) so his stool would not come in contact with his skin (in the diaper) and handed a prescription for Elidel Cream (have you ever tried to potty train an 11 month old boy? Needless to say, that didn’t happen!).
Luke’s entire test results had me on the verge of tears in Dr. Petersen’s office (there is much more to this test for Luke but I will save those findings until my next post). In addition to his predominant bacteria being out of whack, his E. Coli level is too high and he was positive for an opportunistic bacteria called Citrobacter.
The following results belong to my 7 year old celiac son. Sam has apparently inherited his mother’s uncommunicative immune system, because up until very recently, he has not complained of feeling poorly, in fact his disposition was energetic and happy. It wasn’t until we began to get a weekly occurrence of clogged toilets that we discovered he was again suffering from severe constipation, to the point that his GI said his bowel was distended (again), most likely due to Sam ‘witholding’ and prescribed for him to take 2 capfuls of Miralax a day for the next year. If that doesn’t work, he will need a colonic manometry, which I would like to avoid at all costs!
I just got a copy of Sam’s tests results yesterday (he didn’t take the test at the same time as the rest of us). Let me just say that it took me a while to pick my jaw up off the floor. Like Luke, Sam has several alarming underlying issues which I will be sharing sharing in my next post, but I have a strong feeling that we now know what is truly causing his constipation…and it’s not an issue with him ‘withholding!’
All of my guys are all being treated with stronger formulations of probiotics (dairy-free!) than they were taking previously.
To sum things up, here is more information from the Metametrix Gi Effects Profile Interpretation Guide:
Low Predominant Bacteria:
- Predominant bacteria should be present at normal levels in the healthy gut. Bacteroides sp. and Bifidobacter sp. should be present in the greatest amounts.
- Low levels of beneficial fecal bacteria such as Bifidobacter sp. and Lactobacillus sp. and E. Coli have been associated with irritable bowel syndrome, characterized by alternating diarrhea, cramps and food intolerance.
(related abstract from the Journal of Leukocyte Biology: Pivotal Advance: Bifidobacteria and Gram-negative bacteria differentially influence immune responses in the proinflammatory milieu of celiac disease).
- Low levels of predominant bacteria increase the likelihood of acquiring opportunistic and pathogenic organisms.
High Predominant Bacteria:
- Blood infections of Mycoplasma have been linked to chronic fatigue syndrome and fibromyalgia.
- Fusobacterium increases putrification in the colon.
- Overgrowth of Lactobacillus sp. could produce D-lactic aciduria in those with short bowel syndrome. Limit intake of carbohydrates.
- Overgrowth of certain Clostridia sp. clusters may play a certain role in autism.
- If Prevotella sp. is in the 5th quintile, suspect possible oral/throat infection.
Have you met your microbiota lately?
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