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November 19th, 2022
For many years I’ve been tinkering with just about every variable related to health that I can think of. For a variety of reasons, but for two in particular. One is the idea that subtle tweaks made with the right knowledge can have huge effects, and the second is simply that the body is a bit of a puzzle, and it’s fun to continually perform experiments and learn about it - it’s delightful to think that I’m a system that is experimenting on itself in order to try and understand it’s self as a system better.
Another aspect of this search and tinkering, which I’ve only recently realized is that I have a very high degree of interoception compared to most people. This is the ability to feel things that are going on inside your body. For example I can count my heartbeats without putting a couple fingers to my wrist or neck. I can simply feel my pulse, nearly body wide, and that signal is strong enough that I can count heartbeats while walking, I don’t even have to be sitting still in order to “hear” it. This high interoception has also been the reason for chronic discomfort. For the majority of my life I felt much like I was wearing a second skin - something uncomfortable, like a wet suit, and like many people, I struggled with getting lean, despite working out very consistently and being fairly mindful about my diet. This is despite the fact that my hunger has pretty much always been off the chart. I was the sort of person who could eat a whole large pizza and then seriously contemplate ordering a burger. The feeling of an appetite simply never went away it seemed.
Finally, I recently cracked the puzzle on this tangle of symptoms. After learning about research regarding fermented foods from the Andrew Hubberman podcast earlier this year, I started eating kimchi quite regularly, and there were a few improvements. But then I moved at the beginning of the summer and quite suddenly I became very learn, had a ton of energy, and frankly my body had never worked better. I thought it was the new variety of kimchi I was religiously eating. But then I moved again and the incredible shape and function of my body faded back to the old normal. I tried different kimchis lazily thinking that it was perhaps a specific sort of culture of bacteria in the kimchi I had been eating that was responsible.
After a few more months of cycling through different varieties of kimchi it was clear I wasn’t anywhere close to replicating the incredible shape I was in during those summer months.
So I started researching the predominate species of bacteria that were in kimchi. I knew one of the most important signals of what I experienced during the summer is that my ubiquitous hunger had radically changed. I was barely hungry and felt satisfied half way through meals. Suddenly questions that I should have been asking months earlier started topop up:
What is the mechanism of hunger? Is it just Ghrelin? Or is there more going on?
What turns off a sense of appetite?
Is there any research about strains of gut bacteria and how it relates to the mechanism of hunger and appetite?
This is where things get interesting: I learned about GLP-1 or Glucagon-like peptide-1. It’s produced by a specific type of endothelial cell and it’s biphasic, meaning simply that it turns on twice. GLP-1 is largely responsible for turning off hunger. This lead me to a fairly robust assumption: My GLP-1 levels must be horribly low because my hunger never turns off.
But It did during those couple summer months.
So is there a connection between gut bacteria and GLP-1
You bet. Some gut bacteria can absolutely demolish GLP-1 production, while others can increase it by 300X.
It was at this point in the feverish googling and reading that I remembered an important detail about that summer I’d totally forgotten about. I had taken a round of Bio+ K which is essentially a yogurt that purports to have something like 50-80 Billion live bacteria in each little container and I’d downed 6 within a 36 hour period.
So then I started cross-referencing the specific strains listed on that product with researched connections to GLP-1. Lo and behold I had flooded my system with some powerful GLP-1 agonists at the beginning of the summer. The new theory was that they had simply died off, and so my body went back to it’s former shape and function.
This little research session was about two weeks ago and since I’ve inundated my system with a number of rounds to repopulate my gut with these GLP-1 agonists, and lo and behold the effects I saw over the summer are beginning to return. My hunger is far more manageable, and I’m shedding weight again.
This has lead me to wonder. Perhaps the obesity epidemic is a crisis of gut bacteria?
But is there anything that could potentially bolster that idea, as in, what would cause such a huge disruption of gut bacteria across such a big population?
The answers may be fairly obvious. A round of antibiotics can seriously disrupt a person’s gut, and we pump livestock full of antibiotics. Could meat treated with antibiotics be killing off healthy bacterial colonies in people’s guts? It certainly seems plausible.
There’s also things like Glyphosate - weed killers and other insecticides and pesticides which percolate into the food we eat - all which is equally lethal to the sort of bacteria we have in our digestive system.
The proof may very well be in the pudding. Literally.
The issue of gut bacterial health might be a crisis of friendly fire. The practices we have adopted to kill off bad pathogens may very well be killing off all the good stuff we need.
It may also help explain the radical changes people often observe when they move to a different part of the world and see changes in their body - why the French can eat in ways that seem as though it would make them obese and yet they stay lean. Gut bacteria is bound to be different from place to place, especially if regulations regarding food additives, ie. Antibiotics, pesticides, etc.
This is all conjecture of course. But the ancedata of my personal story certainly points out the radical power of gut bacterial make up. Having replicated the results twice now, it’s hard not to be convinced that there’s a very easy and simple solution to a couple issues that I struggled enormously with. A subtle tweak with profound effects…