How Your Gut Microbiome Influences Your Mental and Physical Health

2. Human DNA Contains Microbial Genes


While the Human Genome Project (HGP) was expected to result in gene-based therapies to more or less rid us of disease, it actually revealed that your genetic makeup plays a much smaller role than anyone imagined.

Your genes, as it turns out, are only responsible for about 10 percent of diseases.1

The remaining 90 percent are induced by environmental factors, and researchers are now realizing that your microbiome may be among the most important factors, as genes are turned on and off depending on which microbes are present!

Emerging science also shows that your microbiome can be rapidly altered, for better or worse, based on factors such as diet, lifestyle, and chemical exposures.

This is a double-edged sword, no doubt, considering how many of our modern conveniences (such as processed foods, antibiotics, and pesticides) turn out to be extremely detrimental to our gut flora.

On the other hand, your diet is one of the easiest, fastest, and most effective ways to improve and optimize your microbiome. So the good news is that you have a great degree of control over your health destiny.

Remarkably, some of the most recent research suggests bacteria may even have played a role in the diversification and alteration of human DNA, by way of horizontal gene transfer.2 , 3

According to researchers, potentially hundreds of microbial genes have slipped into our DNA over the course of mankind’s history, including genes that help your immune system defend itself against infections. It’s possible other genes helped mankind adapt to changing diets and environmental conditions.

It seems not a month goes by without new revelations about how bacteria influence our lives. Here, I’ll review some of the most recent findings gaining more widespread acknowledgment.

How Gut Bacteria Influence Your Weight

Bacteria appear to influence human health and disease in two key ways. While an overabundance of certain bacteria have been linked to various diseases, other microbes appear to be actively involved in preventing certain disease states.

When they’re lacking, you end up losing this protection, which allows the disease process to set in.

For example, by eradicating four species of bacteria (Lactobacillus, Allobaculum, Rikenelleceae, and Candidatus arthromitus), researchers were able to trigger metabolic changes in lab animals that led to obesity.4

As time goes on, it seems increasingly reasonable to think that obesity is largely influenced by gut bacteria. This in no way changes the fact that certain foods will make you pack on the pounds, the bacteria just play a major role in facilitating that process.

The foods known to produce metabolic dysfunction and insulin resistance (such as processed foods, fructose/sugar, and artificial sweeteners) also decimate beneficial gut bacteria, and it may well be that this is a key mechanism by which these foods promote obesity.

Chemicals may also contribute to your weight problem by way of your gut microbiome.

For example, a study5 published in the July issue of Environmental Health Perspectives found that persistent organic pollutants (POPs) found in food altered the gut microbiome in mice, thereby contributing to the development of obesity and metabolic dysfunction.

Another study6,7 found that one microbe called Akkermansia muciniphila helps ward off obesity, diabetes, and heart disease by lowering blood sugar, improving insulin resistance, and promoting a healthier distribution of body fat.

A. muciniphila is associated with a fiber-rich diet, and fiber has long been recognized for its beneficial effects on health and weight. It’s still not known whether A. muciniphila produces these effects all on its own, or whether it helps promote other beneficial bacteria, however.

According to the authors:

“Our findings demonstrate the need for further investigation to ascertain the therapeutic applicability of A. muciniphila in the treatment of insulin resistance.

A. muciniphila may be identified as a diagnostic or prognostic tool to predict the potential success of dietary interventions.”