Saturday, 14 April 2018

FMT and Me: A bit on the side Gut Bacteria

This blog post is a little tag on to my series about the recent treatment I have been having and research I have been involved in. I hope to explain the basics of gut bacteria as a reference for my other blog posts on the subject of FMT.

Over the past few years, there has been a lot in the UK press about gut bacteria and why a healthy balance is just so vital to everyone's health. I was also introduced to focusing even more on it in relation to my condition(s) when my M.E. specialist asked me to take part in a research trial linked to ‘leaky gut’ and M.E.

I have done lots of research into all aspects of bacteria in our bodies and as I have built up a wealth of knowledge it makes sense for me to write a little bit about it. However, I keep getting so bogged down in so much of the science I have written and then scrapped multiple blog posts about it. In an effort to actually produce something I decided to break it down into a smaller post and focus on what exactly is gut bacteria, that can be used as a general reference to my pieces on here about gut bacteria and M.E.

What is gut bacteria?

Our human bodies have bacteria both on the inside and outside. There are many different species of these bacteria and they all have different jobs to help maintain and protect our bodies. By far the largest source of this bacteria is located in our guts, in the large intestine. To try and give you some perspective on just how huge it is, there is about a ratio of 1:3 bacteria to every human cell. The numbers are in the trillions, so it is really hard to envisage. Sounds scary, especially when in the western world, there is an impression that all bacteria is bad, but don’t worry it’s not.

Most bacteria in a healthy body affects us in a positive way, for example, keeping the immune system strong, manufacturing and processing hormones, such as serotonin, to give us a healthy, balanced emotional state, digestion, detoxifying matter that enters the stomach and keeping the lining of the gut wall thick and strong.

In relation to this you may have heard people refer to a healthy gut microbiome and this is simply the collective term for all the different types of microorganisms that essentially create a mini-ecosystem in the gut. It is important to understand that this awesome ecosystem also includes fungi and viruses, but most of the time, with a healthy lifestyle and strong immune system we are not vulnerable to them, especially if the balance of bacteria is right!

Everyone's gut has its own unique microbiome and a healthy body lies in the diversity and number of bacteria present in the large intestine. When we are born, our microbiome is formed from the bacteria present in our mother's vaginal passage and it is a powerful asset in developing a strong immune system. This is why babies born via caesarean section are given a swab of bacteria, taken from the mother, to try and give them the same immunity as a naturally born baby. After this, it is up to us to nurture the gut bacteria. This is done mostly through diet. This diet needs to be varied, as natural as possible and highly nutritious, which is not the common diet in our culture anymore. Unfortunately, refined foods, processed foods and foods with added ‘chemicals’ are being proven to seriously damage the microbiota. Often these foods are eaten over and above natural, healthy foods and this combination can seriously deplete colonies of beneficial bacteria. Also, the high usage of antibiotics for any illness going (and antibiotic residues found in non-organic, intensively farmed meat, dairy and food grown with pesticides) can wipe out how species and colonies of bacteria.

Modern life seems to be quite quickly damaging a part of us that is so vital to good health. Much of our health is outlined in our genetics but gut bacteria is also responsible for modifying genetic activity, for example, it can turn genes and systems on, off, up or down. If beneficial bacteria cannot thrive and large amounts of the wrong kind of bacteria or beneficial bacteria are changed it can affect our genetics and bodily systems in really negative and disastrous ways. More and more research is being done that is identifying gut bacteria as playing a huge role in lifelong, serious chronic physical and mental health illnesses, as well as in general ill health.

As you can imagine this topic is vast and can get very technical. I hope that my short summary above has helped give you a basic insight into what people are referring to when they talk about gut bacteria. As mentioned at the top of this post, I have actually gone down the gut bacteria route in order to help my M.E. If you would like to know more about my experience, I have written a series of blog posts on my treatment, starting with 'FMT and ME: Part One Why?'.


I am not a medical professional and nothing here can be taken as medical or health advice, so check with your doctor before following any information in my blog.

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