City Centre Chiropractic

Brisbane 3229 6993

header photo

Gut Reaction This article is an excerpt from the catalyst program Gut Reaction which is available to watch via ABC IView.

Food - it's a wonderful thing, yet an everyday thing. Who would have thought new discoveries about food would be getting scientists so excited? The remarkable new discoveries are telling us that our current eating habits could be making us sick. Very sick. Indeed, our food might be contributing to heart disease, cancer, asthma, allergies, arthritis, autism, depression, multiple sclerosis, diabetes, the list goes on.

Now, we've been hearing for years how we should be eating healthy food. But this research is different. It's all about the bacteria that live in our intestines. Eat good food, you end up with good bacteria. Eat badly and you get bad bacteria in your gut. Now, it turns out your gut bugs have an enormous influence on your health.

The gut bacteria story starts at the beginning of life. The association between gut bacteria and health has only been discovered in the last few years.
The surprise is we're home to many trillions of bugs. Living on us and inside of us are an enormous number of bacteria. In fact, the bacterial cells outnumber ours by 10 to 1. And if you're talking genes, the bacteria contribute a hundred times as many genes as our genomes do. So when you think about it, they're not really OUR bacteria, we're THEIR human.
Some scientists now say we're a supraorganism, like a termite colony or a beehive, where individuals are just part of a whole. An organism that's consisted of both human cells as well as microbial cells, all working together for perhaps the common good. Here's a quick biology lesson for you, in case you've forgotten since your school days. You eat your food, it goes down the oesophagus into the stomach, where it's pre-digested. From there, it's into the small intestine. Now, that runs for about 7m. Any food that's left over then gets into the large intestine - the bowel, this grey region. And that's where most of the gut bacteria are. Most of us think of bacteria as generally nasty bugs rather than friendly organisms. Even science held this view until recently. But people viewed microbes as these insidious little creatures. And so when people came along and wanted to study the health benefits of microbes, it was really very much on the fringes of science. And I think it's fair to say that there are many, many fascinating stories about how microbes can be beneficial that are just waiting to be discovered.
Most of the bacteria in our guts require an anaerobic - an oxygen-free - environment. So as soon as they're exposed to air, they die, which means they can't be cultured in a lab. The discoveries we're beginning to make about this microscopic world are the result of a revolution in technology.
About 10 years ago there was an explosion in technology that enabled us to sequence the DNA that's inside the bacteria. So for the first time ever we could start to understand the thousands of different types of bacteria inside us without having to culture them.
You break that now into 100 million pieces and put it on this chip. We know the human genome now. So everything else in there must be nonhuman. Most of its bacteria. So with the computing, we then assemble those sequences and we can actually figure out each individual bacterial DNA in the sample.

Because of this technology, we're learning why these bacteria are critical to our health. And one of the main reasons is they help educate the body's defences.
We now know that the bacteria inside us control a lot of our immune system. They produce molecules - small molecules - that regulate our immune response.
But why would gut bacteria educate the body's defences? Because the education process must involve the immune system coming into contact with bugs from the outside world. It’s mainly in the gut that the immune system learns what to and what not to attack. And our bacteria don't just affect physical health. They also have pathways to our brains.

Our gut bacteria change depending on what we eat. Eat bad food and you support bad communities of bacteria. And there seems to be one main bad food culprit - we're eating too many low-fibre meals these days. Indeed, a lot of research is now pointing to low fibre being largely responsible for that long list of diseases. The reason the modern diet is so unhealthy is it's drifted far from the diets we evolved to eat. An average person in the West, man or woman, is consuming less than 20g a day of dietary fibre. And to put that into an evolutionary perspective, six-month- to one-year-old Hadza kids are eating 50g to 200g of fibre a day, every day, and they do this throughout life. Just as the many species in this mangrove live together in harmony as an ecosystem, so do the species in our intestines. The gut ecosystem is called the microbiome and, like any ecosystem, it's tipped out of balance if the creatures in it don't get one of their fundamental foods. And for the bugs living here that's fibre. That's why the low-fibre food we eat these days can be so damaging. Using food as thy medicine is so simple yet so powerful... and open to all of us to put into practice.


For more information head to:

Go Back