December 6, 2016, Leiden
Dear Esther’s blog readers, two weeks ago, on Tuesday evening I was visiting symposia about gut microbiome organized by MyMicroZoo company in Leiden. Esther has asked me, Martina Surá-de Jong, whether I would write something for you about the symposia and I did. Please, consider this text as a “blog beginner text”.
But let me tell you something about the symposia and the content of the symposia – gut microbiome.
Gut microbiome composition and its relation to men health, physical and also psychical was the main content of the symposia. Did you e.g. know that there as many bacterial cells (or even more) in human body than of human cells (Sender et al., 2016)? Gut microbiome (microbiome = bacteria, eukaryotes, viruses, and at least one archaeon) is sometimes referred as “forgotten organ” (Clemente et al., 2012). Considering gut microbiome as an organ, wouldn’t you want to know more about it? Why is this microbiome so important to us? And how can we influence our gut microbiome? You can see the connection between the gut microbiome and human body at following figures.
Crosstalk between an organism and its gut commensal microbiota has both potentiating and detrimental effects on the immune response. Source of the figure: Goldszmid & Trinchieri, 2012.
Factors, which influence the composition of the human gut microbiota, with special focus on diet (Graf et al., 2015).
In total four lectures were presented during symposia. The first presentation was from MyMicroZoo by Derek Butler and Tom van den Bogert (introduction of MyMicroZoo company), second one gave Koen Venema (about composition of gut microbiome and how these bacteria can influence us), third one gave Sigrid van der Marel (diet advices to make our gut microbiome better) and the fourth one by Christian Weij (advantages of fermented food for our health).
If you would ask me to sum up the symposia take-home messages, I would tell you: Gut microbiome is responsible for couple of processes in human body, among them e.g. for the development of the intestines, part of our immunity, production of vitamin K and other compounds and gut-brain axis. Knowledge about the connection between composition and function of gut microbiome and diseases can help in reducing disease symptoms. We can influence the gut microbiome composition by our diet, life style or environment we are living in. Among the dietary patterns that were discussed during symposia was e.g. FODMAP diet or introducing of fermented products in our diet. If you are interested in the composition of your own gut microbiome, you can order a kit on the website of MyMicroZoo company and they will analyze your gut microbiome.
Further you can read more about the symposia talks.
MyMicroZoo story MyMicroZoo was introducing their ideas, services and outcomes. MyMicroZoo is a company based in Leiden whose interest is in gut microbiome, especially gut bacteria. For those that are interested what kind of bacteria lives in their gut, they can order the collection kit at MyMicroZoo website, collect stool sample at home, send the sample back to MyMicroZoo and the company will provide the analysis of gut microbiome composition. Because MyMicroZoo tries to collect as many samples as possible, you can see the relation of your gut microbiome to gut microbiomes of other people. This is presented in an understandable graphical way (https://www.mymicrozoo.com/nl).
Gut microbiome story Second lecture was presented by professor Koen Venema from Maastricht University and CEO of Beneficial microbes consultancy. The talk of Koen was full of knowledge, scientific data and results. He introduced several nice examples what are gut bacteria responsible for. E.g. for the development of the intestines, 70% of the immunity, colonization resistance or production of vitamin K, short chain fatty acids, acetic acid, butyric acid and other compounds. Koen also showed how presence of certain bacteria can change the behavior of a healthy mouse to autistic mouse.
But let’s start from the birth as Koen did during his lecture. Birth is an important moment for colonization of gut microbiota. Depending on the method of giving a birth, babies get in contact with vaginal microflora and/or with skin microflora (Caesarian section), thus obtaining their first bacteria. Because of the higher diversity and importance of vaginal microflora, regular birth is preferred for future colonization of babies guts. The colonization of the gut is a slow, but dynamic process. Approx. at the age of three the gut microflora is developed and further on is influenced by external factors such as food, stress, environment, etc. Colonization of gut by microbiome protects us against pathogens that are invading into our bodies. Of course composition of microbiome is important, but not only that. Also its functionality is important, that means, what these bacteria can do in our gut and for us.
In relation to disease and the importance of the gut microbiome, you could ask a question: but what is the cause? Is it microbiome disturbance that causes the disease or is it a disease that causes microbiome disturbance? In other words, was there first an egg or chicken? To these questions we all would like to know the answer. Koen gave an answer to one example, obesity. It is the microbiome that influence us being obese. One solution of changing the gut microbiome might be stool transplantation from the healthy or non-obese person to the recipient. Just stool transplantation (or so called fecal microbiota transplant) does not need to help if diet or lifestyle is not adjusted as well.
FODMAP story The third lecturer was Sigrid van der Marel-Sluijter. She is a dietist and owner of 2FeelBetter, diet advice & coaching. Sigrid is an advisor in food regarding the composition of the microbiome and the changes one would like to achieve. For example IBD (irritable bowl syndrome), how can we change our diet and consequently microbiome in order to reduce the symptoms? Sigrid’s answer is FODMAP diet. FODMAP is the acronym for a group of osmotically active, rapidly fermentable, short-chain carbohydrates. It stands for Fermentable Oligo- Di- and Monosaccharides and Polyols. Examples of FODMAPs are lactose, fructose, sorbitol, mannitol, fructooligosaccharides, and galactooligosaccharides. The concept originated with scientists at Australia’s Monash University (web source). Sigrid introduced during her lecture this type of diet and the food we should avoid or not. For a video you can visit 2FeelBetter website, where Sigrid is talking about the diet itself: http://www.hetdieetadvies.nl/dieetadvies/fodmap-dieet/
Fermented products story The fourth lecture by Christian Weij, fooddesigner, fermentation specialist and author of a book Verrot Lekker, was about fermentation, fermented products and the positive influence of fermented products to our health. What is fermentation exactly? Christian described it as a process during which we apply microorganisms in order to make other edible products. As an example: from sugar using yeasts we can prepare alcohol, from alcohol using acetic acid bacteria we can prepare acetic acid, from fresh olives we can prepare olives that we can actually consume. A lot of products are made by fermentation. Cheese, bread, beer. Using fermentation we can preserve the food. Like sour cabbage which is prepared from cabbage and salt. Fermentation occur through lactic acid bacteria naturally present in vegetables, while lowering the pH in the bottle. At lower pH most of the microorganisms cannot survive, that is why we preserve the cabbage using fermentation process.
In the end of Christian’s talk we received few tips for making our own healthy fermented products. I will share with you two of his tips and if you think this is not enough, I am sure there are more recipes on the internet or in his book.
Fermented vegetables – chop vegetables and mix it with at least 1.5% salt Sour milk – 1 liter of milk + 1 spoon of sour milk (as a starter culture)
I hope you enjoyed the symposium via this blog.
With kind regards,
References Clemente JC, Ursell LK, Parfrey LW, Knight R. Impact of the gut microbiota on human health: An integrative view. Cell 148:1258 – 1270, 2012. doi: 10.1016/j.cell.2012.01.035
Goldszmid RS & Trinchieri G. The price of immunity. Nature Immunology 13:932–938, 2012. doi:10.1038/ni.2422
Graf D, Di Cagno R, Fåk F, Flint HJ, Nyman M, Saarela M, Watzl B. Contribution of diet to the composition of the human gut microbiota. Microb Ecol Health Dis 26:26164, 2015. doi: 10.3402/mehd.v26.26164
Sender R, Fuchs S, Milo R. Revised estimates for the number of human and bacteria cells in the body. PLOS Biology, 2016. doi: https://doi.org/10.1101/036103
The rest of the text: Symposia “Kriebels in je buik”, December 6, 2016, Leiden