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Akkermansia: a fascinating bacteria in our gut

So, I may have gone down a little bit of a rabbit hole... It started like this: Many months ago, a colleague recommended a probiotic brand called Pendulum . Probiotics are something you take to help the gut microbiome maintain diversity of good bacteria, which is supported by eating insoluble fiber (fruits and veggies). I briefly looked at the website, was discouraged by the price, and moved on. At the time, I was already taking a cheaper probiotic that seemed to be working well so I didn't feel the need to change anything. Skipping forward to now, I discovered Dr. Peter Attia had a lengthy interview with Pedulum's founder, Dr. Colleen Cutcliffe, PhD on his podcast. I gave it a listen and immediately shared it in a newsletter because I thought it was so good and Dr. Cutcliffe is just incredibly intelligent. She also cusses, which of course also wins my heart :). Give it a listen!

On the podcast episode, Dr. Cutcliffe talks about a bacterial strain found in the microbiome of our intestines called Akkermansia (Akkermansia muciniphila) that has shown promising results in the research. Higher levels of this strain have been correlated with better metabolism, better immune system function, decreased certain markers that are high in those that have diabetes, and decreased IBS symptoms. In mice studies, fecal transplants containing Akkermansia have positive effects on symptoms of neurodegenerative diseases such as amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), multiple sclerosis (MS), Parkinson's disease, and Alzheimer's disease (3). Scientists are also pointing to using this strain as an intervention for depression and anxiety but more research is needed (4). I really loved how one study worded that this strain has an effect on the gut-brain axis with neurodegenerative disease, the gut-liver axis with metabolic disease, the gut-bone axis with bone metabolism, and the gut-heart axis in cardiovascular disease (3). Think about all of these "axes" and how incredibly important gut health is, which is a direct result of what we put into our bodies. There is not a single system that the gut doesn't influence. Akkermansia has also been shown to help improve the lining of the intestines, something that is weakened in leaky gut syndrome and other inflammatory states.

Until now, no one has been able to produce and deliver Akkermansia successfully because of how tedious and difficult the process is. Therefore, most of the studies have been through observation in humans and through fecal transplantation in mice. But Dr. Cutcliffe and her team figured it out! Now it can be delivered to your doorstep and now scientists are able to study it as an intervention in humans. Amazing! They are my heroes. It should be noted, however, that we still aren't sure of the minimal effective dose for taking this strain as well as other factors including any potential adverse effects in the short or long term.

After all of this, I ordered Pendulum's Akkermansia product. I was so impressed by everything I had learned about this strain as well as Pendulum's dedication to regularly test their products. Yes, I should get some kind of marketing kick back for saying this! I have been taking it for a week now and one big change I have already noticed is my energy level. I feel like I still have gas in the tank at dinnertime! My plan is to take it for at least 90 days as well as make sure to eat plenty of insoluble fiber. Then after 90 days, I will take a break and see how I feel for a month. Dr. Cutcliffe mentioned that in their study where individuals ingested the product for 90 days and then stopped, about 20% of individuals kept desirable levels of Akkermansia in their microbiome 30 days after stopping. They aren't sure why some people were successful in doing this and others were not. One theory is that the individuals that kept the sufficient levels of the strain were eating enough insoluble fiber to feed this good bacteria.

I will always be an advocate of self discovery and friendly self experimentation. You never know what you will learn! The gut is one of the foundational pieces to target with any symptom you may have that seems "unrelated".


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