I don't have any digestive issues, but I like the idea of having as diverse a bacterial polyculture as possible in my gut if for no other reason than to (possibly?) offer resistance against food poisoning. Additionally, I routinely see people claiming that obesity etc. can be explained by gut bacterial differences between individuals. Thinking about it objectively, a fecal transplant makes perfect sense as far as introducing anaerobes into one's gut, but let's face it, most of us will never do this.
My understanding of the initial seeding of gut bacteria is that it originally occurred during birth and was historically aided by less hygienic conditions. People take probiotics, but I seem to recall reading that none of these species actually take root and that if there is a benefit, it's transitory and dependent upon the continued consumption of the supplement.
Are there probiotics that have been formulated from species that are known to inhabit the human gut and that would actually more or less permanently take root if ingested? There'd be the problem of laboratory strains being ill-suited for an individual's gut, but these populations evolve so quickly that I think it would take care of itself if given the chance.
Do these bacteria survive on their own? If I pick some wild berries and eat them, do I ever introduce new species into my gut or do the ones I want die when exposed to air or when they are not engaged in a symbiotic relationship with a host's gut? Do the bacteria I want ever form spores and chill out until I eat them? Did we used to get exposed to these bacteria via the butchery of other animals?
I'm mostly ignorant about this subject, so if any of you gut experts can weigh in at all, I'd appreciate it.
Edit: Reading that link offered by gydle below raises the important fact that bacteria non-sexually pass around genetic material at will and that it may not be an issue of having X# of species, but rather of having the proper genes in those species you have.
I have made fermented foods a part of my everyday diet.
Right now I have really delicious mango chutney feremnting. Oh, lord. This stuff is so good, you'd eat it even if it was bad for you. (I should be posting a recipe someday soon).
I regularly have either dill pickles, salsa, sauerkraut, chileo, or one of a few other fermented veggies in the fridge, and I started making my own yogurt. I sometimes have homemake goat's cheese.
I figure by eating having a regular supply from a wide variety, I've got it covered.
EDIT: I finally posted my mango chutney recipe with video. http://www.ruthsrealfood.com/2012/01/seriously-delicious-mango-chutney-with.html
I think this article by Ed Yong is a good summary of the gut microbiome with some research references:
particularly his comment:
"In Europe, generic, uncontaminated food presents a blockade to bacteria from the outside world, which means that Western gut communities have become gentrified. They lack genetic diversity, and they have few ways of increasing it."
The best way to get a good functional microbiome from the start is to be born vaginally and get breast milk for a good long while. I'm sure putting unhygienic things in our mouths as children from time to time can't hurt, either.
He writes more about the microbiome here (just click from one picture to the next... prepare to spend hours...) http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/notrocketscience/2010/08/08/an-introduction-to-the-microbiome/
The majority of the bacteria in the colon are anaerobic and die immediately in the presence of oxygen, thus the need for fecal transplants since they can't be put into a probiotic. It's not just how many kinds of bacteria we have, but where they are. A major problem for many people is too much bacteria in the upper gut, which ferment sugars and cause all kinds of problems (brain fog, fatigue, gut pain, etc). Having sufficient stomach acid is important to prevent overgrowth of these bacteria as well. Probably the best things we can do to create a diverse group of bacteria in our guts is to drink and eat fermented foods and to eat foods with prebiotics as mentioned in this article http://www.drmyhill.co.uk/wiki/Fermentation_in_the_gut_and_CFS. Probiotics can help people but it's not enough unless you have a diet high in prebiotics and low in sugar because they contain bacteria (in addition to the overgrowth you already may have) that ferment sugars, but you need to have a sufficient level of the ones that feed off of fiber and produce the short chain fatty acids your colon needs to repair itself.
My understanding of the whole deal is that after initial seeding at birth and breastfeeding, it is very environment dependent (as already aluded to). With over 1000 different gut species identified, the couple hundred in your gut depends on where you are, what/who you are exposed to and what you eat.
The species that you are more often exposed to are more likely to inhabit your gut, but you also need to feed them, and have a good gut environment in the first place. So taking a fecal transplant from someone with 'good' gut flora (??) but lives on the other side of the country probably wont work as you wont have the same diet, bacterial exposures, other external immune stimulants or detractors (such as parasites in a tropical environment.
Therefore the fews strains in a supp are kinda useless compared to the hundreds you need for good diversity, and they are usually the same few strains based on dairy that may help you digest lactose/dairy for a while if you keep eating it. Food grown around where you live (local/fresh/organic (if possible)) will have the appropriate bacteria needed to digest that food and natural to YOUR environment. As long as you dont wash it and eat what you can raw, then you will be ingesting the bacteria. Then its a matter of feeding it with same or similar foods (which is what would naturally occur eating a local diet anyway). Eating raw is just so you dont kill any of the bacteria clinging to the food.
Fermenting your own food is great as the local bacteria on the food/in the air etc. goes into the solution, ferments/grows, and then you eat it. So you are getting a higher concentration of the wanted/appropriate bacteria. Again, prebiotics such as fermentable fibres will ensure a 'food' supply for the critters.
I think once you have a bigger diversity of local/generic bacteria then you will be in a much better place to fight of illness as the 'good' bacteria can starve/'drown out' the 'bad' bacteria, as well as prompting the rest of the immune system: "...different species of bacteria in the gut stimulate the development of different parts of the immune system, which develop in the lining of the gut..." (Dr. Ayers)
I also agree that its not the amount of units you can get at once, but the variety. So the companys selling supps that put more and more billions of bacteria (of the same strain) arent doing much at all, because as soon as you stop taking the supp, the condition of your gut and the amount/type of other species will change the balance anyway. Some bacteria may only survive or be created/transfered if others are present.
please correct me if I am wrong, I am really interested in the subject from an immune/allergy/gut health point of view (melissa??)
Art Ayers suggests that more biodiversity will come from a combo of consuming bacteria and eating different raw prebiotics to feed them (apples for pectin, bananas for inulin, carrots, resistant starch etc etc).
So perhaps something like raw milk kefir + prebiotic foods probably the least disgusting way to repopulate. Raw milk kefir reportedly can have anywhere from 30-50 different species of bacteria and the count can be in the trillions.
Ideal Bowel Support 299v contains a clinically documented human origin probiotic strain, L. plantarum 299v, that resists stomach acid and bile salts and demonstrated specific adherence properties for colonization of human intestinal mucosa. L. plantarum 299v has been used in human clinical studies for intestinal health and function.
Have not researched their claims, but it seems that they claim this particular strain would be able to colonize human gut as opposed to the other transient strains that require constant supplementation.
Agree with many of the answers offered regarding fermented products and prebiotics as perhaps preferable ways of facilitating certain bacterial species to bloom. There are perhaps a few issues that science needs to sort out. So whether or not once seeded with our bacteria in those early years (dependent on things like your route of entry into the world - vaginal birth vs c-section and your preferred early nutritional intake) our immune system starts to recognise those colonies as 'self' in some kind of immunologically-mediated homeostatic mechanism. Starting to 'supplement' at later stages in life... what effect might that have??? Also acknowledging that the gut is not only home to trillions of bacteria but also other things hence the discussions starting on the gut virome for example and how those viruses might influence health and disease and interact with one and another. End result: it's complicated.
Here is a list of shelf-stable probiotics that contain human origin strain bacteria:
wakunaga-kyolic, kyo-dophilus 9. http://www.iherb.com/Wakunaga-Kyolic-Kyo-Dophilus-9-90-Capsules/3954
Thorne Research, FloraMend Prime Probiotic http://www.iherb.com/Thorne-Research-FloraMend-Prime-Probiotic-30-Veggie-Caps/41208
Nature's Way, Primadophilus, Reuteri, Superior Probiotic http://www.iherb.com/Nature-s-Way-Primadophilus-Reuteri-Superior-Probiotic-5-oz-141-75-g/4676
Jarrow Formulas, Ideal Bowel Support http://www.iherb.com/Jarrow-Formulas-Ideal-Bowel-Support-299v-30-Veggie-Caps/23209
if you want it from iherb I have a coupon code for 5% off-- fuw548.
Hope that helps.
Anecdotally, the aboriginals in Taiwan consume the contents of the stomach and the intestinal tract of wild boar, mountain goat, flying squirrel and a miniature deer indigenous to the country. The feces is consumed raw immediately after the animal is killed during a hunt. This would be a great way to expose yourself to a whole bunch of bacteria...and probably a lot of parasites as well. They also eat the deer liver raw with some wasabi. I've been on hunts and seen it done but was never able to stomach it myself...no pun intended. I always carry my share home and cook it thoroughly.
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