June 17, 2017
Until fairly recently, most of the developed world subscribed to the idea that “bacteria is bad.” We obsessively sterilized surfaces to eliminate “99.9% of bacteria!”, kept sanitizer on hand, and washed often. However, we’re beginning to understand that not all bacteria is our enemy – in fact, we need it. America’s foodies, gastronomes and families are welcoming friendly bacteria back into everyday living by drinking probiotics, letting our kids play in dirt, and fermenting our foods.
This shift in attitude to bacteria is paired with a growing consensus among scientists that we need friendly bacteria to protect us from pathogenic bacteria. In fact, our gut contains pounds of bacteria that not only protect us, but also influence our bodies through hormonal and immune systems, and even influence our behavior, including food preference, mood, and sense of well-being.
In order to understand why we need bacteria and why it influences us the way it does, let’s take a big step back and understand how we, as a species, have arrived here evolutionarily.
Prokaryotes and Eukaryotes: Members of One Big Family
Prokaryotes: Setting the Foundation for All Life on Earth
The Earth formed roughly 4.5 billion years ago. Almost immediately, around 4 billion years ago, the first life forms appeared. No one’s sure how they developed, but these microscopic one-celled bodied organisms, called prokaryotes, dominated the Earth for nearly one billion years. They were able to synthesize proteins from the information contained in their DNA. Although this regulation was primitive and not contained within a nucleus, synthesized proteins were simple but effective enough to support prokaryotic life. This prokaryote-established DNA mechanism is the basis of every life form since, including us.
At this point, the Earth still did not look like the Earth we know today and all life was microscopic. The first prokaryotes mainly used chemical elements and high geothermal temperature as energy sources. They were anaerobes that lived in the oxygen-less environment of early Earth’s atmosphere. About half a billion years later, anaerobic prokaryotes learned how to use the sun’s energy and developed photosynthesis that occurred within cell organelles called chloroplasts. Photosynthesizing prokaryotes started emitting oxygen into the atmosphere, allowing aerobic prokaryotes to form that used oxygen to oxidize organic molecules. These events set the stage for the creation of aerobic eukaryotes, or multicellular organisms that resemble us.
Eukaryotes: Using the Prokaryotic Stage for Evolution
Eukaryotes are the next step in the evolution of the biosphere. They evolved based on the systems and organic material environment prokaryotes created, taking the most effective prokaryotic-developed systems and adapting them. Eukaryotes organized genetic material on DNA within chromosomes in the nucleus, allowing a much more efficient storage and manipulation of information to now build multicellular organisms. Eukaryotes absorbed aerobic prokaryotes into their cell structure that transformed into mitochondria, the powerhouse of the cell. Eukaryotes that also adapted chloroplasts into their cell structure later developed into plants. Prokaryotes are like the grand-grand-grandparents of eukaryotes that still very much care about the wellbeing of their offspring: us, the eukaryotes.
Now, the mass of prokaryotes and eukaryotes comprise almost equal living parts of the biosphere. Although we may not notice it, we eukaryotes live within a prokaryotic environment, and every eukaryote is surrounded by a friendly prokaryotic community that forms its specific microbiota. This specific microbiota, or microbiome, plays a vital role in a eukaryote’s life on an individual and species-wide scale.
Metabolism: What is it? Why is it Impossible Without Prokaryotes?
To understand how life is organized in the biosphere, it’s important to first understand what drives change within it.
The basic driving force behind every life form on Earth is metabolism, or the active process of creation and destruction within a living system. The goal of any metabolic system is to be as efficient as possible and to use all resources to destroy less effective old components and use their building blocks to create more effective new components.
Metabolism exists on all scales: cellular metabolism, an organism’s metabolism, an ecosystem metabolism, and so on. The biosphere’s metabolism – the biggest known metabolic system – has the same goal. Its goal is to most effectively use all resources (animals, plants, fungi, etc.) within it to create the most efficient circulation between its resources. The faster that Earth’s biosphere breaks down unused resources and transforms them into new, more efficient resources, the faster evolution occurs and the greater the utilization of all available potential. Prokaryotes are what make this efficiency possible.
What do prokaryotes mean for us evolved, sentient, advanced eukaryotes now?
More than we can imagine.
Have you ever wondered why humans have a large intestine, an organ that takes up a very large space in our stomach and weighs more than our brain and heart combined? To answer this question, we will explore a modern perspective on the human gut microbiome.
In the last decade, the enthusiastic increase in medical and scientific study of the gut microbiome almost makes it seem like scientists discovered a new organ. They somewhat did. Before, the microbiome remained an understudied mystery and its true purpose unclear. Two recent events spurred a meteoric rise in microbiome research: 1) modern food began to fail our microbiomes, causing a sharp rise in microbiome-based disease that caused us to pay attention to its importance and 2) human gene sequencing technology was adapted for bacterial gene and microbiome spectrum identification, creating a new research direction: human microbiome metagenomic and proteomic analysis. The data obtained using these new methodologies showed that a human cannot be healthy without a healthy microbiome.
It is unclear why human health is so strongly dependent on the microbiome. In order to understand the reason of this interdependency, we have to examine it from a much higher perspective.
We combined this new scientific data into a comprehensive understanding of the microbiome’s role in the human body to determine its multi-level influence on not only our bodies, but how the biosphere uses organism’s microbiomes to control life processes within it.
We realized that prokaryotes comprise a microbiome specific to each eukaryote which perform several universal functions on a biosphere scale.
While it’s alive, microbiota optimizes the life processes of its host eukaryote by helping it efficiently digest food, synthesize vitamins and bioactive compounds. During evolution, specific microorganisms adapted to its specific host metabolism, allowing microbiota to directly communicate with host body cells. Through cell communication, microbiota is even able to influence organ and body function, too. Impacting body function is critical for integrating the host into the biosphere.
Through these processes, microbiota supports its host by influencing its behavior within food chains so that it consumes the correct food and produces usable output for the next food chain member. Optimizing host behavior allows for better ecosystem regulation of participating species, promoting symbiotic relationships, and resisting entropy and ecosystem destruction.
What is a Microbiome?
No one could really tell you, until now.
Although this organ exists within the human digestive system, it is not directly part of the human body. It consists of microorganisms that comprise a complex community, which belongs to the biosphere. Most of these microorganisms are prokaryotes, but the community also includes simple eukaryotes like yeasts. The human gut microbiome isn’t only a massive, weighty organ, but it also carries informational significance as every human cell is outnumbered by 10 bacteria cells, and for every human gene, the microbiome contains up to 100 prokaryotic genes. Altogether, the mass of the gut microbiome weighs 6-12 pounds (3-6 kilograms).
The small intestine contains aerobic prokaryotes that actively interact with the epithelial cells of the digestive tract and help digest and absorb food. The majority of probiotic supplements and acidophilic bacteria from yogurts and fermented foods colonize this area of the digestive system. Their composition and behavior is fairly well known and continues to be actively studied.
However, the large intestine contains anaerobic prokaryotes that we know much less about than the aerobic prokaryotes of the small intestine. Scientists are able to identify only about 40% of all of the anaerobic species in the large intestine. The only well-studied anaerobic bacteria are notoriously dangerous ones, such as anthrax, gangrene and tetanus. Botulin toxin, one of the deadliest and now most popular poisons, is used worldwide in cosmetic procedures (botox). In reality, the anaerobes that truly support our youth and health reside in our large intestine microbiomes. The prokaryotic community in our small and large intestines is able to influence many aspects of human health through hormonal and immune systems, and even impacts our behavior including food preference by influencing our nervous system. Depression and anxiety may be stimulated by an unhealthy microbiome community.
Humans have evolved over thousands of years in symbioses with a certain set of friendly microorganisms. Correct food continuously replenishes the microbiome with the right microorganisms and resources for them. Friendly microorganisms that have adapted to humans are able to communicate with the different human cells inside our digestive tract such as epithelial, immunocompetent and nervous system cells. Currently, the relationship and interactions between these microorganisms and human cells is being actively studied. Although the spectrum of microorganisms that comprise a healthy microbiome is not yet identified, it is already apparent that a healthy microbiome is the foundation of a healthy human. The opposite is also true; it is impossible for a human to be healthy without a healthy microbiome.
The human microbiome is established within the first few years of birth. Initially, the microbiome consists of acidophilic bacteria that help digest mother’s milk. The main sowing of microorganisms into the microbiome occurs when an infant begins to consume foods, but microorganisms also enter from the surrounding environment and parents. Some of these microorganisms remain with the human for the rest of their lives. Throughout a human lifetime, the microbiome is constantly upheld and corrected by consumed foods, which is the main and most important source of correct microbiome microorganisms. Humans have evolved in such a way that we cannot survive without microorganisms, and in this way the biosphere helps control our behavior within evolved food chains.
However, modern food technology has nearly completely removed native microorganisms from human food, and we no longer receive the beneficial microorganisms we require through our diets. Our bodies need hundreds, if not thousands, of various microorganism species for microbiome correction that should be replenished with what we eat. As soon as modern growing, processing and storage technology destroyed friendly microorganisms, our microbiomes started to become sick. Since a sick microbiome does not support human health, populations living in developed countries that use modern food technology have began to experience a sharp rise in “lifestyle diseases” caused by worsening microbiomes. Obesity, cardiovascular disease, food allergies and autoimmune problems, depression, anxiety, and even Alzheimer’s disease and cancer are directly connected to an unhealthy microbiome.
Try this mental exercise: try to remember the last day when everything you consumed did not include a single processed item from a box, can, farming facility or package. Every one of these foods no longer contains its natural microbiome, and instead has an accidental, production-selected, chemical-resistant, unnatural set of bacteria that aren’t friendly to our microbiomes. Imagine how a lifetime of this kind of food affects our bodies, which have evolved to be tightly integrated with our prokaryotic family that we are no longer in touch with.
In order to become healthy, we must heal our microbiomes. The most effective and natural path to stabilize and correct the microbiome is to return the friendly microorganisms that we’ve lost from our foods. Similar to the way that food companies began to add vitamins and minerals back into food post-processing after inadvertently removing them, we must add the correct bacteria back into our diets.
How do you most naturally, effectively and sustainably return the right microorganisms into your microbiome?
The foods that have been fermented with bacteria for centuries like yogurt, kefirs and kombucha provide healthy acidophilic bacteria for our small intestines which are beneficial, but they are not enough. Some researchers have even suggested some extreme means for microbiome replenishment that includes eating backyard dirt and giving yourself dust baths, which may help, but may be quite dangerous as these methods can introduce pathogenic bacteria like tetanus.
After years of extensive investigation and experiments, we found an efficient, complete and natural source of friendly microorganisms in germinating grain.
Volgin-developed germinated grain technology returns missing microbiota to food, increasing its probiotic repertoire and repairing our connection with the biosphere. Germinated grain is currently the only natural, most effective and probiotically-diverse method we know that sustainably restores our microbiome health. This kind of technology – returning biologically correct values back into modern living and technology – is what we call “naturetech.”
Naturetech is a new development in technology and biotech that restores the connection between the technosphere and biosphere. The goal of naturetech is to fix the oversights humans created when inventing biology-manipulating technology without completely understanding biology.
It is important to keep our relationship with the biosphere, the cradle in which humans evolved, healthy, robust and integrated. When we restore this connection, we return our own health.