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Microbiome on the 1 place

13 of May 2016 „Microbiome Initiative“ has been announced in the USA, during Barack Obama presidency as a national project. The White House has called a year earlier the scientists from all over the country, to find out how microorganisms influence the climate, food and human health. Why should we get interested in microorganism community? “Immune cells gathered in our guts make the highest in number ingredient of our immune system in the body. In other words, in the space of our guts, we have more immune cells than in the blood and bone marrow altogether.” – says Dr. Emeran Mayer, gastroenterologist, neuroscientist  and professor of medicine, psychiatry and  physiology at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA in Los Angeles.

Allergy, depression or other problem on the line of brain-gut connection?
Submitting pills or application therapies which have not been personalized are less likely to bring a optimal results when it comes to getting back a solid health of a patient, if we skip this small aspect which occurs between the mind and the guts. The subject seems to be shocking and brave. It touches such phrases like intuition, sixth sense and butterflies in the stomach. Why should we pay attention to bacteria, which lives here on the Earth long before our existence billions of years ago? Don’t we appreciate their role only because we don’t actually see them? I think not, because other living creatures like viruses or mites are also beyond our horizon, and we actually have not been paying attention to them. I am putting a few questions to the author of the book “Mind-Gut Connection”, which is just entering our Polish bookstores – while his travel to Europe, to dr Emeran Mayer.


Żaneta Geltz: We happen to say „something tells me not to do it” or we say „I need to follow my inner voice”. Do you think that it is not our intuition, but the hidden intuition based on our bacteria metabolism? 

dr Emeran Mayer: “Gut feelings” are generated by our nervous system, communicating and learning with our gut all the time, since we were born. All emotional moments of our life are stored in a gigantic  database, which is built from trillions of “video clips”, When we are looking for an immediate answer,  we are looking for the most relevant films like a google search engine. Signals coming out from our nervous system in a given emotional situation are recorded in our guts, showing us these video clips. Practically, each moment of our life is registered in our guts, and connected to a given reaction. Most of the people will agree with the saying: “I made this decision based on my gut feeling”. What does it have in common as for our microbiome? For decades our body creates a pile of emotional feelings in the guts. Our computer works, meaning the brain, together with the guts. Emotional situations appear in the brain, but based on feelings registered in the guts, based on listening to what the cells are communicating both ways, transmitting signals. This issue has already been defined by Antonio Damasio, who proposed the term “somatic markers”, as a special type of emotional memory, emerging in given emotional statuses. These emotional brain gut memories allow us to make personal predictions about the future.

Żaneta Geltz: I have a theory that if if we all got back our immunology level on the decent 90% efficiency, almost all our allergies could go away. Do you think that having the right food on the plate, reseting our body through enough sleep and taking in the right air and sport is the way to achieve it? Or we are forced to endless suffering in present times, no matter what we do? 

dr Emeran Mayer: Our immune system is being trained since the first days of life. We teach our immune system how to react to dirt, to bacteria and parasites in our guts, to food, and to many other features of our environment. If this training of the immune system is disturbed by antibiotics during childhood, or the child did not come into contact soil, nature, farm animals, and if we were badly fed with high-fat food, rich in sugar, then we have a greater risk of suffering as adults from immunological diseases. If we feed our bodies with inflammatory foods (life fastfood, fat-rich, sugar-rich, meat from badly fed animals), we have a greater risk of suffering from fatigue, depression, and in the future may develop Alzheimer disease. What matters is:

  • A predominantly plant-based diet has a big role, which is critical for the healthy of our microbiome
  • enough sleep is important, it has antiinflammatory effect, chronic disturbing the sleep facilitates a state of chronic immune activation
  • everyday exercise – even a simple walk, it works antiinflammatory

My personal diet has  also changed a lot, when I made these discoveries. Now, it can be named a Mediterranean diet, with the high dosage of vegetables, fruits, seeds, nuts, grains and a moderate amount of meat only from fish and poultry ecological farms. I pay attention to meat not to come from farms using hormones, antibiotics, grown on the soil with pesticides usage or fungicides, herbicides. When I eat fish, it is also from the wild living, and not given any antibiotics. Foods containing even low amounts of antibiotics have the potential to disturb the diversity of our microbiome.

Sometime ago, I used to eat a lot of meat, but I was not aware of it, how much unsaturated fatty acids and how many chemical ingredients are landing on my plate, and finally in me.


Emeran A. Mayer, MD, PhD, poses for photographs in the UCLA Microbiome Center in Westwood, March 2 2017.

Each of our steps starts with education, and when you become aware what happens, you can’t deny your reason. Culinary books will not do the job. You need to understand the interactions between food, the gut microbiome and thegut brain axis first before you can decide on a healthy diet.


Żaneta Geltz: You refer in your book to Barack Obama, who announced May 13th, 2016 so called „Microbiome Initiative” in the USA. What happens with this project now, after a year?

dr Emeran Mayer: Our current government has a negative attitude to science, so I have no idea what will happen to the contract between the government and the coalition of scientists running research in this area. Before this project, there was also the highly successful “Brain Initiative” which aims at discovering the crucial role of the brain.  More recently scientists realized that the microbiome plays a crucial role in all aspects of our own health and in the health of the environment.  This realization led to the National Microbiome Initiative.


Żaneta Geltz: Is it true what some cosmetic producers say that Atopic Dermatitis is a genetic disease and can be cured only with emollients? I don’t agree with this view point and claim that our skin is only a continuation of our guts, so ATOPIA means that we generated a serious disbiosis in our guts and we need to start all over in there. What is your experience on atopic skin and relation to gut micro biome? 

dr Emeran Mayer: This will change. Many chronic diseases are being treated a wrong way, without effects.  Genes are responsible for our predisposition for certain diseases, but  diet, and its effect on the gut microbiome and the immune systeme plays an important role in determining if we develop a disease.


Żaneta Geltz: In my personal life, over 6 years ago I was also diagnosed with Sensitive Gut Syndrome and was prescribed a box of pills, which were supposed to accompany my life for ever. However, my „gut bacteria” (stomach voice) told me not to take it. I change a lot in my fridge and on my plate, practically I forgot I had so numerous pain stories a few years ago. What is a reasonable way of approaching the disease, in case of people with a problem of this syndrome? 

dr Emeran Mayer: We need to be aware that the great majority of doctors are not yet educated on microbiome area, as they are being trained in the universities to be competent in using instruments, running tests, prescribing the list of remedies. In 90% of cases of gastrologists consultations, the doctor for sure is not “prescribing the diet” to the patient, and for sure does not talk about the microbiome issue. He will use what he has, i.e. pills assigned to a given type of a diagnosed disease.

Patients are very often very engaged and start to find natural therapies, which are also not the best idea, because persons who give them the natural solutions and most often not educated in medicine, not equipped in medical practice. It is good, there are more and more patients starting to read books on their own, like allergies, celiac diseases or gluten intolerance. But here also, you need to know that not all the books are presenting a scientific truth, sometimes they are simply bestsellers, having nothing in common to a good knowledge, so the Readers are really in a difficult situation.

5 steps how to take care of your microbiome, example – in case of IBS:

  1. Study the history:
    1. What do we eat in a given stress situation
    2. How do we feel after eating this food
    3. What are our emotional feelings
    4. What are exactly these situations?
  1. Introduce stress reduction techniques:
    1. Relaxation, mindfulness
    2. The techniques of stress management
    3. At the beginning some pills, at a personalized dosage are useful to pacify the body
  1. Introduce regular diet, rich in components we need:
    1. 2/3 of our diet should be veggies and fruits
    2. eat only organic poultry and wild-living fish
    3. In the adult, large amounts of milk is not a good idea, in most of the cases, so it is recommended to reduce consumption to fermented dairy products such as yoghourt or kefir
    4. observe which food is good for us and which food makes us bubbling, and eliminate certain foods only if we have decided it plays a causal role in symptoms
    5. Folllowing this rule we can design our own, personalized perfect feeding system within a few weeks, a diet which is optimal for our gut microbiota and our gut health
  1. Regular sport: whatever form, it can be even a small walk everyday
  2. The right dosage of sleep and body regeneration. The body is an integrated computer, it connects many systems and they need to work together and work at the same time, in many directions.

Patient should feel hopeful and not helpless, when leaving the doctor’s clinic. He should realize how much depends on himself and that his health condition is mainly in his own hands, then we can observe motivation on people faces.


Żaneta Geltz: In your book you suggest that not taking the right care of our micro biome on time, we put ourself at a risk for developing certain chronic diseases such as obesity, metabolic syndrome, diabetes. There is even some evidence to suggest this may play a role in autoimmune diseases.  How can you explain the connection between? People think they can eat what they like, not what the bacteria needs….

dr Emeran Mayer: There is no doubt that the worldwide increase of autoimmune diseases is in some way related to “hygiene hypothesis”, which means getting away from our country side way of life, from close contact to farm animals and with nature in general.

Antibiotics prescribed too often attack all our good bacteria, along with the bad bacteria they are targeted for. Additionally, we eat lots of semi-food, which results from our changed style of life and work routines. So far, China did not know the problem of asthma, only since a few years they dramatically suffer, when young Chinese chase after work. They started to get sick with asthma because they moved from their traditional setting  and happy life style.

We live in a canion in Los Angeles, within wild environment, close to animal living in the wild, running a happy country side life. I don’t agree with excessive attention paid to hygiene or using skin disinfectants and plastic gloves whenever we interact with our environment . We got to far from natural conditions of a human being.


Żaneta Geltz: You mention in your book that it is in the last days (two? three weeks?) before being born, the baby develops specialized cells in our „front island” in the brain which play an important role in brain gut communication. What can mothers (still pregnant) do, to secure that their children will have a perfect connection with their little guts and build up a strong immune system? 

dr Emeran Mayer: It is nothing new that the child which is born too early, is more exposed to a higher risk of diseases. The baby is usually long time in a hospital where getting a virus or harmful bacteria is very easy. Also submitting antibiotics at his stage is disturbing a natural growth of a baby microbiome with negative effects on the gut associated immune system. Amazonia inhabitants are delivering babies in the woods on the banana leaf, where a newborn baby has an instant contact with nature, protected by his mother. This is how nature has designed that.

A modern way of life is often problematic when it comes to maintaining optimal health. In case of a baby, the natural profile of a full value microbiome is being created for the first 3 years. In this period the child should not be given any antibiotics, unless absolutely necessary for a bacterial infection. In Scandinavia they have “no antibiotics practice” within 0-3 years of age. It is important to support the natural process of creation of microbiome like: by eating nautrally fermented foods, including yoghurts, kefirs and it is important to diversify, not to eat all the time the same foods. Apart from microbiome, it is worth to take care of fiber supply, to maintain the good work of guts.

I remember when I complained of belly pains, I was given Sauerkraut or yoghurt before taking any pills. And most of the time it worked.

In the United States fermented food almost totally disappeared from the diet and only in recent years such foods have become popular again.  This is quite different from most other countries in the world, includlng  Japan, Korea and China, Europe and Russia where such fermented foods are an important part of the diet.


Żaneta Geltz: What is your advice for food allergy sufferers, and patients who have crossed food and pollen allergies?

dr Emeran Mayer: We should be very critical on what we eat. Many of us do not suffer from true, immune mediated food allergies but from food intolerance.   Many of these sensitivities develop early in life when our gut microbiome is established and out gut based immune system is being traied. In 90% of children when they are given antibiotics it has not been necessary. And it has not been effective either, because majority of infections are viral-based and not bacteria-based! We should be demanding to doctors and ask for what base he has to prescribe an antibiotic to our child. How does he know it is not virus, but bacteria? What type of bacteria he discovered? If the situation allows, better avoid antibiotics. Take care of your microbiome.



Dr Emeran A. Mayer
– specialist in gastroenterology, a lecturer in the Departments of Medicine, Physiology and Psychiatry at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA, Executive Director of the Oppenheimer Family Center for Neurobiology of Stress, and Co-director of the CURE: Digestive Diseases Research Center at UCLA. He is a thought after speaker all over the world, with some 50 speaking engagements during the past 2 years. He has contributed to the characterization of physiologic alterations in patients with various chronic pain disorders, such as irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). He started his research carrier at the Institute of Physiology in Munich, with a dissertation into the mechanisms of stress effects on the heart. After moving to the US, he became a gastroenterologist and focused his work on basic, translational and clinical aspects of brain gut interactions. He has 30 years of experience in the study of clinical and neurobiological aspects of how the digestive system and the nervous system interact in health and disease, and his work has been continuously supported by several NIH grants.

He has published over 300 peer reviewed articles (average H index 100), including 90 chapters and reviews, co-edited four books, and organized several interdisciplinary symposia in the area of visceral pain and mind body interactions.

For more, please enter here: www.emeranmayer.com