On today’s episode of The Modern Vital Podcast, episode #3, we’re going to talk about polyphenols and the microbe called Akkermansia municiphila.
Our Modern Vital Fact of the Day is that wild blueberries contain the most antioxidants of any berry in the world. A single cup of wild blueberries in fact, contains over 13,000 total antioxidants, vitamins A and C flavonoids like quercitin, anthocyanins, et cetera, et cetera. Blueberries of the non wild yet cultivated varieties still contain over 9000 total antioxidants per cup.
Sidenote, the purple, blue, red and orange spectrum of vegetables and fruit is the most antioxidant rich. And why is that pertinent? Well, it’s because we’re going to talk about polyphenols today, which are a type of antioxidant.
But first, we’re going to get a little bit into integrative medicine and the gut. So in the world of naturopathic medicine, we’re often introduced to new strains of gut bacteria that appear to play specific health roles in the body. The new kid on the block today in the probiotic world is Akkermansia.
It’s a species that’s regularly tested by a lot of stool tests that we run as integrative health practitioners. Akkermansia appears to play an important role in our metabolic health.
And though correlation does not equal causation, adequate amounts of this commensal appear to be necessary for regulating our blood sugars properly.
What is a commensal, you ask? Well, these are the basic beneficial bacteria that symbiotically reside in our gut and make up our microbiome. Hence, not having enough Akkermansia could be a risk factor for conditions where insulin resistance plays a key role. These would be conditions like PCOS or type two diabetes.
So how do we balance our Akkermansia if we are low? Well, there are several probiotics that contain Akkermansia. I think there’s one called Cuturelle.
However, the most effective way to consume adequate amounts of specific prebiotics called polyphenols… Well, I just answered my own question. The answer is to consume them through your diet. So the key to health in our microbiome is the food that our microbiome takes in that our gut takes and the food that we eat, which completely depends on the foods that we consume.
These foods which nourish our microbiome we call prebiotics. Prebiotics are substrates
Do you know what a substrate is? It’s basically a foundational food upon which another organism, or upon which a chemical reaction can take place, and go to the next step. So prebiotics are the substrate for probiotics.
Probiotics are derived from prebiotics, or the prebiotics of the food that lead to probiotics growing in the gut.
Prebiotics are substrates which selectively metabolize and confer a health benefit to their host. In other words, prebiotics feed probiotics, so that they can properly function in our microbiome. So, well known prebiotics include things like insulin (it’s a non-digestible carbohydrate), fructo-oligosaccharides, galacto-oligosaccharides.
But recently, polyphenols have received considerable attention as viable prebiotics. They appear to help the commensal probiotics in our gut thrive.
In other words, the Hippocratic axiom, You are what you eat, can be updated to, You are what you eat ate.
So, polyphenols, classified as a type of antioxidant, are plant metabolites in fruits and vegetables. Flavonoids, phenolic acids, lignans, stilbenes. In biochemistry, a phenolic compound contains two or more aromatic rings with two or more hydroxyl groups. We don’t need to get into that.
But the long-term consumption of these plant polyphenols actually protects us from chronic disease according to epidemiological studies and associated meta-analyses.
Polyphenols can protect us from UV damage and pollution. More than 8000 different types of polyphenols have been discovered. Probably the two most famous polyphenols are epigallocatechin gallate or EGCG, which we have found in green tea, and then resveratrol, which is found in grapes and wine.
There are supplements that contain these items. Foods such as green and black tea, coffee, chocolate, even spinach are rich in polyphenols.
So, making sure polyphenols are a part of our diet will make dysbiosis, that is, imbalance in our gut, much less likely to occur.
There’s something called the gut-brain axis. And it’s a bi-directional communication system between the nervous system of our gut called the enteric nervous system (enteric is just an adjective that refers to the gut), and our central nervous system in our brain.
You could probably include the peripheral nervous system in there as well, but we won’t get into that.
The term, dysbiosi,s has become less and less helpful. However, its hallmarks include the loss of microbial diversity (sound familiar?), a reduction in beneficial microbe populations (those commensal start to die, they start to become scarce), and an overgrowth of pathogenic bacteria.
Tidbit. These pathogenic bacteria are referred to as pathobionts in the literature.
So what kinds of poly phenols appear to feed our Akkermansia best?
Well, the answer lies in the dark berries, which contain the highest amounts of polyphenols, such as elderberry and black currant.
We also mentioned wild blueberries earlier.
This could even partly indicate or explain why elderberry is so great for the common cold. 70 to 80% of our immune cells reside in our gut. And our intestinal microbiota plays a crucial role in our susceptibility to infection.
So when we’re taking in polyphenols, we’re feeding our immune system.
Another interesting fact is that because Akkermansia appears to play another key role in the regulation of our blood sugars. Yeah, that’s pretty important. It appears that consuming dark berries is good for metabolic health, good for insulin resistance, et cetera.
Polyphenols help our bodies make antioxidants, such as glutathione and superoxide dismutase. And they help to lower oxidative stress.
The most common type of poly phenol are flavonoids. Anthocyanin, or anthocyanins is another way of saying it, are a flavonoid and they’re my favorite and they’re found in red, purple and blue foods, such as red grapes, plums, elderberry, cetera.
Flavonols are found in cruciferous vegetables and the alliums, like garlic and onion. And quercetin is probably the most well known one. Flavanals, that’s flavonall with an ‘A’, are found in cocoa, red wine and green or white tea. It’s another type of flavonoid.
And then isoflavones are found in legumes. Probably soy is the most famous. That’s a type of flavonoids as well.
Phenolic compounds are another category of polyphenol. They’re found in nuts, red wine, coffee.
And then stilbenes are a third type of polyphenol, and the most famous stilbene, as mentioned earlier, is resveratrol.
It appears that eating plenty of dark berries can provide a jolt to our immune health, right? Getting plenty of polyphenols, eating the rainbow, can give a jolt to our immune health, provide nourishment to our microbiome, lower inflammation, modulate our metabolic health. Pretty cool.
All right. Well that concludes episode number #3 of The Modern Vital Podcast. We would love to hear from you. We value your feedback. If you have any questions or suggestions please reach out to me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Also, please leave us a review if you enjoyed this episode. We look forward to having you join us next week for another exciting episode of The Modern Vital Podcast.
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