Research into what is known as our microbiome is giving scientists clues as to the causes of various diseases. The microbiome, or microbiota refers to the hundreds of trillions of bacteria that live in our body. We think of ourselves as one being with one set of DNA. However, virtually every organ in our body has its own unique microbiome. The highest density of bacteria in our body resides in the large bowel. Research has been conducted on various organs microbiota, but most of the recent breakthrough data is comes from studying the bacterial species makeup in our large bowel or colon. Virtually all diseases that have been studied appear to be influenced by the various makeup of species of bacteria in our body, principally our gut.
I originally became interested in the gut flora, or microbiota, as a relates to obesity. It has been observed that the microbiota species makeup in obese people differs significantly from the microbiota in lean people. It has also been observed that there are patterns of microbiota species makeup that are generally associated with periods of health. And there are patterns of species of bacteria that are associated with various diseases.
Species Diversity and Richness
The first concept is what we refer to as “species diversity and richness”. A high richness and diversity of species in the microbiota can be thought of similar to the tropical rain forest. There are many different species, and they all more or less keep each other in check. There is not one species that dominates, there are all equal and they are numerous.
A low diversity and richness can refer to either a more limited number of species, or situations where the species are not in check, where there are some that are dominant and some that are not present in significant numbers. And while we are still learning about the different bacteria species and their relationship to disease, a high richness and diversity, that is a large number species that are keeping each other in check, is associated with health. On the other hand disease processes whether it be cancer, autoimmune diseases, cancer, hypertension, obesity, diabetes, virtually any disease pattern studied, have alterations in richness and diversity compared to healthy individuals.
“Making disease optional” is something that Naveen Jian, a Silicon Valley serial entrepreneur is pursuing. Naveen founded Viome (www.viome.com), which is one of the many companies that can test your stool and evaluate the bacterial patterns. The amount of richness and diversity at your own fingertips: microbiome exhibits will be reported to you. I listened to Naveen Jain speak about his intentions at a recent Genius Network event in Scottsdale Arizona, November 2017. Their team of scientists are using artificial intelligence in modern science to map out various bacterial patterns and how they relate to specific diseases. They are also trying to track what can be done to alter diseased pattern microbiota. Their intent is to give you a customized blueprint of what you can do to protect your health. We hear so many things about what we should and should not do. The intent of Viome is to give you custom recommendations of what are the best nutrients for you to consume and which foods you should stay away from based on your unique bacterial signature. Imagine that. Knowing precisely which food you need to avoid, and which food you need to consume more of, that will give you the most benefit. We already know the basics of eating healthy, but if you read clinical studies, you’ll see that there’s a lot of conflict as to what the best dietary patterns are for us to adhere to. In the future, we will be able to know by monitoring the species of bacteria in our gut, essentially by using a stool specimen, as to what foods we should stay away from and what foods we should be consuming more of.
Artificial intelligence allows a tremendous amount of data to be analyzed. By using artificial intelligence, their hope is to be able to match bacterial patterns in people with various stages of disease and health and match that to types of food that can be used to either preserve health or create health in people who have bacterial patterns that are likely to lead to disease.
Diseases Develop over Time.
A basic concept is that diseases do not occur overnight. They develop over time. And what we are seeing is that it is the alteration of the microbiome species makeup that is clearly linked to the development of disease and appears to actually be the cause of many modern-day diseases. By monitoring the species makeup of your microbiota over time, we can all eventually conquer modern-day diseases. This is the essential idea of making disease optional. We already know what we should do to be healthy, or at least we think we do. With all the current advice by various experts as to what types of food to eat, what we should avoid leads to confusion.
You’ve heard of alkaline diet, the Mediterranean diet, the vegan diet, high carb diet, low-carb diet, high-fat diet, low-fat diet, vegetarian diet, pescatarian diet, high fiber diet, complex carbohydrate diet, gluten-free diet, dairy free diet, organic diet, and there can be observations noted for potential benefits from any of these and even other options.
Soon , we will be able to know with more certainty which specific foods you should avoid, in many cases they were foods that you were unpleasantly eating because you thought they were healthy for you. You may also find that based on your own bacterial makeup that there is foods that you love and have been avoiding that you really should be eating more of.
The goal of Viome is to enroll a million people into their program and achieve enough data points to be able to give people customized dietary plans. They now cost $399, that is expected to get lower once they’ve achieved a critical mass of people who have gone through the testing. I am doing this, and asking all my friends do it as well. Right now Viome is in it’s early stages, and will be able to give you some limited information as to what foods you should avoid and what foods you should enjoy. It will also give you clues as to what diseases you may have be at risk for in the future if you do not change your habits, based on your bacteria makeup. In time, the artificial intelligence will have looked at over a million people’s microbiome and analyzed the makeup of their hundreds of trillions of bacteria, in our understanding of how to prevent disease will be much more clear.
I encourage you to be part of the scientific evolution. There are other stool specie kits available and I’ve done some of them myself for my patients. I’m currently interested in Viome because it gives us much more information. They are going to be able to rapidly scale up our understanding of health and disease as well as the relationship of our microbiota by using artificial intelligence to analyze this massive amount of data.
Decades ago, hundreds of years ago, thousands of years ago, humankind had a shorter lifespan because of trauma and infection. In the antibiotic era, we were able to improve our lifespan by creating safe environments, delivering clean water, and treating infections. Now we learn that bacteria are still a substantial cause of disease in modern humankind. But in this case, it is not an infection where there is one bacteria that overwhelms the humans immune system. It is the loss of biodiversity in our bodies that creates the ability for disease to sneak up on us, not in the form of an infection but in the form of modern day diseases such as obesity, hypertension, heart disease, cancer, autoimmune disease, and seemingly almost all modern-day nontraumatic disease.
The future is looking bright. We are now developing tools to be able to live longer, healthier lives and create more abundance in our world.
Dr. Charles Mok
About Allure Medical Spa Founded in 2003 by Dr. Charles Mok, Allure Medical Spa is Metro-Detroit’s largest vein therapy, cosmetic enhancement and anti-aging medical practice, with locations in Shelby Township, Livonia, Clarkston, Warren, Southgate and Beverly Hills. Allure Medical Spa has grown to a staff of seven physicians, along with a team of medical assistants and physician assistants that treat thousands of patients annually from the Detroit area and beyond. For more information, visit www.alluremedicalspa.com .