By now, we know that gut health is linked to the functioning of many of your body’s other processes – your immune system, mood, skin health, and more. However, understanding exactly what your gut needs can feel a bit overwhelming (your gut, after all, is home to trillions of different species of bacteria).
Good news: Functional medicine doctor Mark Hyman, M.D., provided some clarity on the topic over on a midbodygreen podcast. One of the biggest takeaways from their conversation? The importance of a microbe called Akkermansia muciniphila.
The role of Akkermansia muciniphila
According to Hyman, Akkermansia muciniphila supplies your gut’s lining with a layer of mucus (that’s what mucin in muciniphila refers to). This mucus layer is essential in preventing a leaky gut, or, putting it simply, when the lining of your intestines breaks down and allows undigested food particles and bacteria to “leak” into the bloodstream. The resulting spillage can spur inflammatory immune response, whick is why research links leaky gut with gastrointestinal conditions and autoimmune diseases.
But Akkermansia muciniphila has another important role to play: “Turns out, it’s really important in cancer,” says Hyman. “If you have low levels of this bacteria and you have a cancer that usually responds to immunotherapy checkpoint inhibitors (ICT), it won’t work. These drugs require us to have this particular bacteria.”
Research backs it up, with a systematic review including Akkermansia muciniphila among the list of gut bacteria associated with an ICT response in mice and humans. Another study found that the microbe was significantly associated with a favorable clinical outcome against both non-small-cell lung cancer (NSCLC) and renal carcinoma (RCC).
Of course, much more research is necessary, as there’s a lot we still don’t know. But it does emphasize the relationship between the gut microbiome and the immune system, which needs further discussion/scrutiny.
Foods that feed Akkermansia muciniphila
With all that this bacteria does, you may be surprised to learn that it loves pretty familiar foods. “The ones they really like are pomegranate, green tea, and cranberry,” Hyman notes.
It makes sense, as each of thee foods is full of phytochemicals: Specifically, pomegranates contain a significant amount of tannins, flavonols, anthocyanins, which have incredible antioxidant properties. Plus, those ruby-red seeds are also a good source of prebiotic fiber, which feeds your gut bacteria and keeps the microbes happy (Akkermansia muciniphila, among others)
Perhaps we don’t need to remind you about green tea’s antioxidant-rich, inflammation-managing properties, but also keep in mind that the catechin EGCG may play a specific role in certain types of cancers. As for cranberries? Those tart berries are rich in polyphenols and ursolic acid, which also has anti-inflammatory effects.
I don’t feel the need to suggest recipes as to how one should consume these three “goodies”; smoothies, oatmeal bowls, or simply grab a handful of fresh fruit and start snacking.
As Hyman states, “Your gut microbes like to eat a lot of different things,” so make sure to fill your plate with loads of gut-supporting phytochemicals. If you’re interested in feeding your Akkermansia muciniphila bacteria, though, consider incorporating pomegranate, green tea, and cranberry into your diet.
That’s it for now my friends; see you all the next time.