Human beings have more than 5000 different bacterial strains which have been sequenced to date, even though only a small proportion of these strains can be cultivated in the laboratory.
A total of about 100 billion bacteria colonise human beings, who themselves only consist of about 10 billion cells. Researchers now assume that more than 95% of all genetic information in our bodies is not of human origin but is derived from bacteria, viruses and fungi. The human genome consists of about 22,000 genes, whereas our microflora already have more than two million, but probably as many as eight million genes.
Without this diversity of protective microorganisms colonising us, there would not be any living organisms; because these are also found in the animal world, in plants and in water, where they contain important protective mechanisms for detoxification and maintaining the environment. One of the main problems in our current lifestyle is the absorption of environmental pollutants, i.e. substances and molecules which are toxic or directly harmful to the body. The toxic pollutants in food, drinking water and breathing air include, for example, meat and fish products containing hormones and antibiotics, pesticides and herbicides in fruit and vegetables and heavy metal pollution in the air and in our soils.
Three of the organs which protect our body are directly affected by this: the skin, the lungs and the intestines. These three organs have one thing in common: They are in continuous and direct exchange with our environment and its specific environmental conditions. The skin is in exchange with the air (and all of the toxins that it contains such as exhaust gases, heavy metals, sprayed pesticides, herbicides and different radiation particles). Our skin also interacts with all of the liquid and solid substances that it comes into contact with. The lungs are in exchange with the air that we breathe and the toxins contained in the air. Our gastrointestinal tract has to deal with all of the liquid and solid food constituents that are absorbed through it. These include meat and fish from animals that have been treated with hormones and antibiotics.
The consumption of food products such as this can cause permanent damage to the defence systems of our bodies. Non-organic vegetables and fruit are almost always contaminated with herbicides and pesticides which can cause considerable damage to our healthy body cells. Heavy metals from the air, the soil and in the water are often also constituents of our daily food chain. However, nano-particles contaminated with heavy metals are also frequently found in textile clothing materials and medicines (vaccinations!), which can also play a major part in chronic illnesses. A common target of all three organs (skin, lungs and gastrointestinal tract) is the natural protective barrier which they create, which exists on the skin and in our respiratory and gastro-intestinal tract in the form of mucous membranes. Under normal circumstances, these protective barriers prevent penetration or absorption of high doses of environmental toxins.
If these protective barriers are breached, the organs concerned are contaminated with large quantities of harmful substances. If the absorption of these foreign substances continues, our immune system reacts with persistent inflammation, which can lead to chronic diseases such as cancer, allergies, auto-immune diseases and neurological damage (Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s). A main constituent of the natural protective barriers on the skin and in the respiratory and digestive tract consists of commensal bacterial strains. These are bacteria which protect human beings and their bodily functions such as lactobacilli and bifidobacteria, but also cyanobacteria.
These bacteria are instrumental in the integrity and intactness of our protective barriers. One of these vital protective barriers may be damaged by the antibiotics contained in fish and meat, for example, or the pesticides adhering to vegetables and fruit killing off our protective bacteria and therefore thinning out the natural mucous membrane. At some stage or other, this natural barrier collapses, and the pores which are then created give harmful substances direct entry into our body. This activates cells in our immune system, which colonise the walls of the gastrointestinal tract in large quantities. Continuous activation of these immune cells by toxins migrating into the intestinal wall then causes a chronic inflammation reaction in a wide variety of organ systems in the body.
At some stage, chronic inflammations can also lead to instability of our genetic material (chromosomes and their DNA) and the development of cancer caused by DNA changes (so-called mutagenesis). The adhesion of pollutants to certain antigen-presenting cells of the immune system can trigger auto-immune diseases such as diabetes, colitis, Crohn’s disease, psoriasis, rheumatism, lupus and others. Because of the nerve pathway connections between the brain and the intestine (vagus fibres), the so-called “brain-gut axis”, these pollutants can also migrate directly into our brain (after the collapse of the protective barrier) and trigger diseases such as Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s, multiple sclerosis or ALS (amyotropic lateral sclerosis) at different points in the central nervous system. These examples show how essential the protective bacteria of our mucous membranes are for protecting human beings from chronic diseases. Furthermore, by means of enzymatic conversion, these protective bacteria also produce essential vitamins (vitamin A, vitamin B etc.) and important short-chain fatty acids which play a decisive part in shaping our metabolism.
A changed bacterial flora in the intestine is therefore now also closely linked to diabetes, obesity and psychological symptoms such as depression and autism. Bacteria play a major part in determining how our sugar, carbohydrate, fat and protein metabolism functions. A disturbed intestinal microbiome converts sugar and carbohydrate differently from a normal microbiome.
This results in a number of inflammatory proteins which directly cause diseases such as rheumatism, intestinal inflammation, fibromyalgia, skin eczema etc. The intestine is therefore also partially responsible for deciding which neuro-transmitters work in the brain, and therefore influencing whether we are happy or depressed. Many patients cannot lose weight because of their microbiome.
Their proportion of certain bacteria (firmicutes) is simply too high, and the amount of bifidobacteria is too low. This means that too many calories from the food are absorbed, and dieting is therefore predestined to fail! It is therefore important to have a healthy and balanced flora of bacteria in order be able to maintain the natural metabolism for maintaining our physical well-being. How can we now protect ourselves from these dangers of destroying our protective barriers and the diseases that are associated with them?