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Bacteria Friend or Foe?

Updated: Sep 14, 2021

Yellow and orange microbes on a pink gut lining.
ID: Yellow and orange microbes on a pink gut lining.

Bacteria in our gut have the ability to help us or harm us depending on their abundance and the overall composition of the entire gut ecosystem.

Akkermansia muciniphila is a great example…

Akkermansia supports the abundance of other beneficial microbes, the intestinal immune response, mucus membrane health and metabolic health.

The preferred fuel source of Akkermansia is fibre, particularly fructo-oligosaccharides (FOS). Akkermansia abundance also increases in response to flavonoid/polyphenol intake (aka a variety of colourful plant foods). Levels are reduced on a low FODMAP diet (due to low intake of fibre, particularly FOS).

Look out for my follow up post on high FOS foods to support Akkermansia abundance!

However, as always we need balance! Akkermansia overgrowth can reduce the intestines protective mucus layer: this typically occurs with a diet devoid of fibre.

'Muciniphila' refers to the capacity of this microbe to feed on the gastro-intestinal mucus lining!

In the absence of fibre, Akkermansia can over-proliferate by feeding on the mucus lining of the intestines resulting in damage to the gut wall known as "leaky gut." This has a cascade of consequences including the translocation of particles from the gut into circulation which can trigger an inflammatory immune response.

A ketogenic diet dramatically increases the abundance of Akkermansia likely due to the low fibre content.

*This post is NOT claiming that a ketogenic diet is unsafe (in fact, the significant increase in Akkermansia is suspected to mediate the therapeutic benefits of a ketogenic diet in epilepsy), merely that they are not appropriate for everyone, likely not suitable long-term and require tailoring to support your microbiome & other individual needs.


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