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Gut Microbes: Eye, Brain and Body Health

Friday, May 11, 2018

A few years ago, one of our favorite life-exploring journals, The Scientist, reported on far-reaching ocular microbiome research presented at an Association for Research in Vision and Ophthalmology (ARVO) annual meeting.

A microbiome is the ecological community of microorganisms that share our mucosal body space. Technology is making it possible for scientists to analyze these internal health-dependent inhabitants that most people probably would rather not know about. 

Gut microbiota is the name given today to the microbe population living in our intestines. It contains tens of trillions of microorganisms, including at least 1,000 different species of known bacteria with more than 3 million genes (reportedly 150 times more than human genes).

This abundant community of human-associated microbes were largely unstudied for years, leaving their influence on human development, physiology, immunity, and nutrition almost entirely unknown.

Researchers are also beginning to understand the ways in which bacteria living in the human gut communicate with and influence whole body health, including brain health. The concept of a faulty "gut/brain axis" has been associated with various neurologic and psychiatric outcomes and is thought to be explained, at least in part, by immune dysfunction triggered by poor gut health.

The Human Microbiome Project was established back in 2008 by the National Institutes of Health Common Fund. It was created with the mission of generating research resources that enabled comprehensive characterization of the human microbiota and the analysis of their role in health and disease.

The project made an effort to identify microbial communities in five sites—the gut, mouth, nose, skin, and urogenital tract. Unfortunately, the eye and brain were not originally included.

The good news is that the 10 years since the first publications on the human microbiome project have brought enormous attention and insight into the role of the human microbiome in health and disease. Major connections between populations of microbiota and an entire host of diseases are now being established, and increased accessibility to microbiome research and insights into other diseases is expected to yield important health information in coming years.

Ellen Troyer, with Spencer Thornton, MD, David Amess and the Biosyntrx staff


Diet is considered the main driver in shaping the gut microbiota across our lifetimes. These intestinal bacteria have proven to play a crucial role in maintaining immune and metabolic homeostasis, while protecting us against dangerous pathogens. 

Emerging science also suggests that gut microbes influence metabolic functions, so much so that some experts now regard it as a "hidden" organ system capable of interacting with its host, down to DNA expression.  

Microbiome science is again proving the importance of avoiding overprocessed, center-of-the-supermarket, nutrient-empty junk food. Plant-based diets focused on consumption of larger amounts of organic, if possible, vegetables and fruits, in addition to smaller amounts of meat and dairy are recommended for optimal gut health. 

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Clinical references available in the Biosyntrx office.