The immune system is the body’s first line of defense. When triggered, white blood cells rush to the affected area, which can trigger symptoms such as redness, swelling that is warm to the touch, pain, and stiffness. Flu-like symptoms can also be implicated when inflammation is taking hold of the body's host defense mechanisms. We normally think of up-regulating the immune system, however, sometimes it can be overactive. In this case, balancing the immune response might be a more accurate approach. In the case of chronic inflammation, due to an overly active immune system, the immune response must be downregulated.
In this article, we’ll explore how various factors, such as the microbiome, genes, and inflammation impact the immune response.
Role of the Microbiome
The microbiome plays a key role in modulating inflammation, mainly in the regulation of the immune response. This finding indicates that targeting the microbiota could help support healthy inflammatory pathways.
Approximately 70% of the immune system is located in the gastrointestinal tract where the majority of our microbes live. Inside the human body, microbial cells outnumber human cells by a factor of 100, correspondingly, considerable study has been focused in this area. To better define and understand the microbial role in host physiology, health, and disease pathology, extensive scientific study is warranted. Our fast-track understanding of the microbiome as a community of complex and dynamic organisms is due thanks to The Human Microbiome Project.
What is The Human Microbiome Project?
Our understanding of the microbial flora and its impacts on human health exploded after the “The Human Microbiome Project” was launched in 2007. The findings resulted in a wide range of publications delving into the amazing world of the microbiota. For example, oral taxa were found to be implicated in the elevation of Th-17 lymphocytes, probiotics were found to suppress cytokine production and intestinal inflammation, and dietary therapy produced rapid effects on the gut microbiota composition. The Human Microbiome Project exposed a wide array of correlations between the gut microbiota and inflammation, let’s explore some of these findings.
Oral taxa or pneumotypeSPT is found in the oral microbiota and can be tested for with swabs. An abundance of oral taxa correlates with increased lymphocytes and neutrophils. Testing both fecal matter and oral swabs can expose the colonies of microbes that inhabit the body and indicate dysbiosis and disease. This ability to expose and predict disease via the microbiome provides a new approach to disease testing in the future.
Can Probiotics Suppress Inflammation?
Specific probiotics, which are strains of live microorganisms in vitro, support healthy intestinal inflammation by reducing cytokine production. One study explored how diet, gut bacteria, and host-mediated signaling altered the microbial terrain, supporting healthy inflammatory pathways.
Probiotic strains of Lactobacillus reuteri successfully supported healthy intestinal inflammation in animal models. However, the ability of L. reuteri to suppress colitis was entirely dependent on bacterial histidine decarboxylase genes being present in the intestinal microbiome. The combination of L. reuteri and a histidine-rich diet suppressed inflammation in the mouse colon.
What is Histidine & What is it used for?
Histidine or L-histidine is an essential α-amino acid that is used in the biosynthesis of proteins. Histidine can also protect tissues in the body from damage caused by radiation or heavy metals. For this reason, it is often used for medicinal purposes. L-histidine be converted to histamine in the gut and this creates the beneficial suppression of colonic inflammation. Histidine rich foods include: pork, beef, lamb, chicken, turkey, fish, soy, beans, milk, cheese, nuts, seeds, whole grains, and eggs.
The Science of Dysbiosis and Loss of Diversity in the Microbiome
Dysbiosis and loss of diversity in the microbiome can be a sign of ill health or obesity. Patients that present with chronic inflammation also have an abnormal intestinal bacterial composition (dysbiosis). Often due to environmental stressors that destabilize the balance of the microbiome. A loss of diversity in the microbiome was found in patients suffering from chronic inflammation.
Allergies and the Microbiome
Allergies have become an epidemic in recent decades. Both exposure to pollutants and infectious agents combined with diet were studied to analyze how these factors contribute to allergic inflammation. An alteration in the composition of the microbiome has been found in infants who have been given antibiotics early on in life. The use of antibiotics may be deleterious to the microbiome and could encourage the proliferation of fungi.
The Bottom Line
There is a bidirectional relationship between the human microbiome and health. Microbiome dysbiosis and a loss of microbial diversity are correlated to inflammatory conditions. Therefore, balancing the gut microbiome can be key as a foundational strategy in supporting a healthy immune system and inflammatory pathways.
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