As a practitioner working with clients one of my favourite functional tests is gut microbiome testing. This testing provides a snapshot of my client's personal gut microbiome and allows me to see where gut dysbiosis may be occurring and make recommendations based on those results to bring their gut back into balance.
Although this testing looks at many different types of bacteria, in todays article I am going to focus on just one, Akkermansia muciniphila.
Continue reading to learn all about this amazing bacteria and discover some of the conditions that have been linked with low levels of akkermansia muciniphila.
So, what is Akkermansia muciniphila? Could one single bacteria truly be affecting your weight loss?
An Inner Rainforest
With a fascinating number of 100 trillion cells that live in your gut microbiome, it’s crazy to think that these microbes outnumber the body cells 10:1. If the conditions within us are just right, these organisms live in perfect homeostasis with us, their hosts.
Our gut microbiome contains over 1000 diverse species of microorganisms. The overall health of our microbiome changes because of changes in the structure of the human gut microbiome, mostly influenced by diet.
Our diet determines what kind of bacterial growth we nurture in our gut, which can increase or decrease the risk for some infections and diseases.
Akkermansia muciniphila - The Hidden Gem
Along the gastrointestinal tract we have a mucus layer that covers the epithelial cells. This mucus layer forms a protective blanket that keeps gut microbes from touching intestinal walls, and preventing harmful byproducts from stimulating an immune response that can trigger inflammation.
This layer is rich with mucin and acts as an adhesive surface for numerous microbes. It also attracts bacteria which colonize, survive and multiply inside and on the mucus layer, which serves as a source of nutrients for bacterial growth.
During the past few years, it has become obvious that some microbes benefit us more than others.
A decade ago we discovered Akkermansia muciniphila, an oval shaped bacterium believed to have anti-inflammatory effects in humans leading to greater weight loss results.
This strain of gut bacteria is acknowledged to be the “caretaker” of the layer of mucus that lines the intestine.
Akkermansia’s Secret Role
The probiotic Akkermansia is abundant in the healthy human intestinal tract, making up to 1-5% of the microbial community of the colon.
For a healthy gastrointestinal tract, mucus production and thickness is important and Akkermansia is key in this process.
In the complex ecosystem of our gut, Akkermansia is generally located closer to our intestinal cell wall than any other bacteria. It colonizes the human intestine at a very young age and uses the mucin as its source of energy, protecting the gut from pathogens.
It has the unique capacity to feed on mucin, releasing signaling molecules that stimulate and reinforce the intestinal cell wall. Because it is a major source of nutrients, it is in the best interest of the bacterium to keep the intestinal barrier as healthy as possible.
Akkermansia degrades the mucus layer, stimulating new mucus production. The production of new mucus stimulates growth of Akkermansia. This process ensures that there are plentiful amounts of Akkermansia available to maintain integrity and shape of the mucus layer.
Akkermansia and Weight loss
Researchers are perhaps most excited to determine the effect that Akkermansia muciniphila has on weight loss.
Initially proven on mice, researchers concluded that an increase in Akkermansia corresponded to a reduction in inflammation, indicates a link between dietary fats, gut flora composition, and inflammation levels.
So Akkermansia seems to work just fine in mice. But what about the human gut?
Recently it was demonstrated that overweight and obese adults who had higher levels of the Akkermansia muciniphila had better clinical measures after going on a diet – including reduced visceral fat.
However, more research is needed to fully back this up – especially in human trials, before a link can definitively be determined between Akkermansia muciniphila and weight loss.
I wrote another article about the connection between gut bacteria and weight loss, which you can read here.
The Gut and Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD)
Low levels of A. muciniphila or its related species have been observed in people with gastrointestinal dysfunction and gut microbial composition disturbances. This includes inflammatory bowel disease, weight gain and even autism.
Lately, there is a general agreement that problems with the gastrointestinal system are common in individuals with Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD) and they have been widely reported.
Gut microbial composition disturbances were found in children with autism, including the mucolytic bacterium Akkermansia muciniphila, suggesting that the changed mucus barrier together with the altered gut microbiome affect people with autism.
Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) is a complex neurodevelopmental disability. The term “spectrum” refers to the wide range of symptoms, skills, and levels of disability in functioning that can occur.
The lifelong developmental disability affects and is characterized by impaired social interaction, communication (verbal and non-verbal), interests and restricted and repetitive behavior.
The symptoms begin early in the childhood of the affected and last throughout a person’s life.
They affect how a person acts and interacts with others, communicates, and learns.
Besides the symptoms that come along with the ASD, studies are suggesting that with the disorder, the microbiome is potentially arising from their role in modulating the immune system and gastrointestinal (GI) function.
Gut problems such as chronic constipation and/or diarrhea are common in children with ASD, and this can affect their behavior and worsen their quality of life.
These findings could help practitioners to recommend the right diet and probiotics, that would positively impact the gut microbiome and improve gut health in individuals with ASD.
Support Your Akkermansia
There is a possibility that some people are not colonized by Akkermansia or their levels in the gut are very low. The exact reason for that matter is not known yet, neither is the effect of its absence might have on the body.
For some reasons, Akkermansia can be completely absent in the gut and it is possible for it to not appear because of unfavorable conditions in the internal environment caused by irregular nutrition and antibiotic consumption.
Some studies have shown that gut bacteria quickly respond to stimulus and diet changes. This means that even though Akkermansia bacteria is present in small amount, an increase can be stimulated.
Even though there are no commercially available probiotic supplements that contain Akkermansia muciniphila, you can increase your colony through the consumption of certain prebiotics and foods.
It is also important to consume a special type of fiber called resistant starch.
You can read more about resistant starch here.
Here are a few other things you can do to improve your gut health:
- Add a high quality third party tested probiotic supplement.
- Lower your intake of sugar, carbs, processed food and increase the consumption of healthy fats and fresh vegetables.
- Consume fermented vegetables, yoghurt, kefir.
- Eat navy beans (Phaseolus vulgaris).
- Eat mangoes.
- Take cranberry extract.
- Take Fish oil.
- Polyphenol rich foods - cloves, thyme, rosemary, cacao, flaxseed meal, celery seed, blueberries
If you are looking for more ideas, I wrote a whole article titled "How to Build A Better Microbiome" you can check it out here.
The Bottom Line...
The most important thing for you to remember is that you need to take care of your microbiome and nourish it carefully!
Your overall well-being is dependent on a healthy gut and the symbiotic bacteria within it.
Keeping your Akkermansia muciniphila colony properly fed will promote your body's metabolism, deal with harmful microorganisms, lower inflammation and balance your weight.
I have personally helped many clients address imbalances in their gut microbiome through our various programs and services. The latest technology in gut microbiome testing is able to identify your unique level of Akkermansia.
If you are wondering whether I can help you, you can book a FREE Discovery call here to discuss your personal situation.
Thanks for reading, I hope you enjoyed the article. If you know someone else who could benefit from this information, please share it!
And if you have any thoughts or questions on the article, I would love for you to share them in the comments below 🙂