Ever wondered if your ‘leaky gut’ is contributing to weight gain? Or whether a microbiome test is worth the hype? Your Akkermansia levels could be the key to overcoming your health concerns …
Read on to learn exactly why …
As a holistic naturopath, one of my favourite functional tests is gut microbiome testing.
Microbiome testing provides a detailed snapshot of my clients’ unique gut microbiome bacteria. It allows me to ‘see’ exactly which microbes are in abundance, those that are lacking and whether gut dysbiosis may be occurring.
I use this invaluable information with amazing results…every single day.
As well as looking closely at a client’s personal health challenges and current dietary needs, I use their microbiome test results to make informed recommendations.
Everything from probiotics, functional supplements, dietary changes to lifestyle tweaks can be revealed in microbiome testing – all with the goal of bringing balance back to their gut (and health).
Sounds simple right?
It really can be that straightforward…
…But only when you know what you’re looking at.
Gut testing provides comprehensive information about scores of different types of bacteria, ratios of important groups, bacterial metabolites and so much more.
Believe it or not, there really is an ecosystem living in your gut.
Your Microbiome By Numbers
The latest estimates suggest that a staggering 100 trillion cells live in your gut microbiome. If the conditions within us are just right, these organisms live in perfect harmony with us.
It’s thought our gut microbiome supports over 1000 species of microorganisms. The overall health of our gut changes because of alterations of the human gut microbiome, most significantly influenced by diet.
Another simple, yet true gut health fact.
We choose which bacteria will flourish with our food choices.
Diet determines whether we nurture beneficial bacteria in our gut (or not) – this uncomplicated process holds the key (and the power) to increase or decrease the risk for some infections and many diseases.
This is where gut microbiome testing comes in.
Trained practitioners are able to interpret this information and provide vital feedback about your health concerns – here we are going to focus on just one pivotal bacterial species, Akkermansia muciniphila.
But not everyone has it.
Akkermansia – the hidden gem
Low levels of Akkermansia muciniphila (from now on we will call it A.muciniphila for short) have been linked with numerous conditions. Like:
- Type 2 diabetes
- Inflammatory bowel disease
- Obesity and weight loss
But we’ll talk mostly about one that most of us will struggle with in our lifetimes – weight loss.
Despite the weight loss industry boom we are still getting heavier as a global population. Our generational break away from traditional eating is starting to reveal the error in our ways.
We are eating ourselves unwell.
In an attempt to further understand the mechanisms behind our struggle to lose weight as a species, research is also booming.
Recent studies have revealed a close connection between the identity of one’s gut microbiome and the development of obesity, especially A.muciniphila.
So, what is A.muciniphila?
Discovered in 2004 and named after the Dutch microbiologist Dr Antoon Akkermans, A.muciniphila is a Gram-negative, oval shaped, anaerobic bacteria found universally in the animal kingdom.
It’s also known as a true symbiont of humans.
What does this all mean for us…?
In a nutshell, A.muciniphila thrives in the anoxic (oxygen poor) environment of our gut and lives in true symbiosis with us – offering no harm and countless benefits.
By eating mucus.
Sounds odd but it’s absolutely true.
Allow me to explain.
Mucus – the good type
To maintain the health and integrity of our gastrointestinal tract we have an insulating mucus layer that coats our gut lining.
This crucial layer forms a protective blanket that shields and protects our phenomenally complex single-cell layer – our gut lining.
The mucus layer performs a dizzying array of functions including:
- Protecting our gut lining from our food particles and antigens
- Keeping gut microbes from infiltrating our intestinal walls
- Preventing harmful byproducts from stimulating immune responses (that can trigger inflammation)
And many many more…
Our multi-layered gut mucus also provides an adhesive surface for numerous microbes.
Meaning that it actually attracts bacteria to colonize, survive and multiply within and on the mucus layer, serving as a nutrient source for bacterial growth.
Over the last few years, it has become clear that some microbes benefit us more than others.
A.muciniphila is one of those – a beneficial bacterium believed to have anti-inflammatory effects in humans leading to greater weight loss results.
This species of gut bacteria is acknowledged to be the “caretaker” of our mucus layer.
Akkermansia’s Secret Role
A now widely acknowledged probiotic, Akkermansia is abundant in the healthy human intestinal tract – making up to 1-5% of the entire microbial community of the colon.
Mucus production (and thickness) is a key indicator of gut health and Akkermansia is fundamental in this process. Some of its primary functions include:
- Gut lining integrity promotion
- Immune response modulation
- Inflammation inhibition
- Syntropy or cross-feeding
Akkermansia is generally located closer to our intestinal cell wall than the majority of other bacteria. It colonizes the human intestine at a very young age and while using mucus as food, it actually promotes the mucus cells in our gut lining to produce more mucus.
Like supply and demand it keeps the mucus turnover fresh and strong.
One of the features that makes it stand out in the gut is its ability feed solely on mucin.
Other gut bacteria, like Bacteroides fragilis, Ruminococcus gnavus and Bifidobacterium bifidum (to name a few), can also use mucin as a food source, but these bacteria can also switch to other food sources.
A.muciniphila only has genes for enzymes that degrade mucus – it’s their singular carbon and nitrogen food source.
- Release signaling molecules that stimulate and reinforce the intestinal cell wall
- Produce beneficial oligosaccharide and short-chain fatty acid metabolites
- Inadvertently reduce abundance of non-beneficial bacteria like Shigella
- Cross-feed beneficial bacteria like Faecalibacterium prausnitzii, Eubacterium rectale, Roseburia intestinalis, Anaerostipes caccae
In brief, 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.
So what does all this mean for weight loss?
Akkermansia And Weight Loss
One of the many exciting effects that Akkermansia muciniphila has on gut health is welcome news to those struggling with long-term weight loss issues.
Initially proven on mice, researchers have found that an increase in Akkermansia corresponds to a reduction in:
- Insulin resistance
- Dyslipidemia – unhealthy blood lipid (fat) levels
- Metabolic endotoxemia – toxins in the blood typically from pathogenic microbes
- Fat mass gain
There is also evidence for correlations between A.muciniphila and:
- A link between dietary fats
- Gut flora composition
- Inflammation levels
So researchers saw that Akkermansia seems to support health 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 diet interventions – including reduced visceral fat!!!
A wonderful and very promising result.
However, research is ongoing – especially in human trials. So that more knowledge can be gathered to further associate Akkermansia muciniphila and weight loss.
If you’re interested in the gut-weight connection there is plenty of wonderful evidence around gut bacteria and weight loss, which you can read here.
How to Support Your Akkermansia
We regularly see clients with very low or even no Akkermansia levels in the gut. Many have typical leaky gut symptoms which we work together to correct where possible.
There are currently no commercially available probiotic supplements that contain Akkermansia muciniphila – although significant efforts are being made to develop one.
But the good news is, if you have low levels you can increase your A.muciniphila colony through the consumption of certain prebiotics and foods, but particularly with omega 3 foods.
I recommend all my clients with below optimal levels of Akkermansia to increase their consumption of omega 3 foods for this very reason.
Foods high in omega 3s that support Akkermansia levels include:
- Chia and flax seeds
- Hemp seeds
- Fish oils
It is also important to regularly consume foods rich in resistant starch and prebiotic fibre. Other supportive practices include:
- Adding a high quality multistrain probiotic supplement
- Lower your intake of sugar, carbs, processed food and
- Increase the consumption of healthy fats and fresh vegetables
- Consume fermented foods
- Eat navy beans (Phaseolus vulgaris)
- Eat mangoes
- Take cranberry extract
- Polyphenol rich foods – cloves, thyme, rosemary, cacao, flaxseed meal, celery seed, blueberries
But it’s also important not to overdo it, especially so if you already have optimal Akkermansia levels. As always balance is key – too much Akkermansia is often accompanied by too much mucin degradation – leaving the gut lining exposed. Exactly what we don’t want and a great example of why gut testing is so important.
If you are looking for more ideas about how to naturally improve your gut health, we have an epic article titled “How to Improve Gut Health Naturally: The Ultimate Guide” you can access it here.
The Bottom Line…
The most important thing for you to remember is that taking care of your microbiome and nourishing it carefully and turning your health (and weight) around.
It’s now no secret that our overall well-being is dependent on a healthy gut – and the amazing bacteria within it.
Maintaining an optimal Akkermansia muciniphila level with adequate nutrition promotes a healthy metabolism, increased capacity to deal with harmful microorganisms, lower inflammation and a healthy weight.
I have helped many clients address imbalances in their gut microbiome through our various programs and services. The gut microbiome testing we use is able to identify your unique level of Akkermansia.
If you are wondering whether I can help you, we have a range of options for personal consultation packages – you can see which one is right for you here.
I hope you enjoyed the article and learnt more about how to positively influence your gut health.
If you are looking to go deeper, we offer a comprehensive online program that walks you through the foundations of how to heal and nourish your microbiome – it’s called Gut Heal & Nourish – you can learn more here.