Do you know that your gut bacteria are responsible for many different functions in your body, including keeping your immune system in check, promoting brain function, ensuring proper digestion of nutrients from food, and helping to power your metabolism?
And that’s the reason nourishing your gut microbiome is essential for optimal health. Healthy gut bacteria, bifidobacterium and lactobacillus, are the most well-known and often get most of the press. Still, there is another unknown species of gut bacteria, called Akkermansia muciniphila, which emerging new research suggests plays a significant role in your health.
This article will delve into the role of Akkermansia muciniphila in your body, help you understand why it is so vital for your health, and provide you with dietary tips to take steps to restore and enhance the levels in your gut.
What is Akkermansia muciniphila?
Akkermansia muciniphila was first identified in 2004 and was named after its primary function in the body, eating mucin. Mucin is a protein found in the mucosal layer of the gut lining, and after feasting on mucin, Akkermansia muciniphila produces two short-chain fatty acids, propionate and acetate. And these two short-chain fatty acids go on to make another short-chain fatty acid called butyrate.
So why is this important? Well, these short-chain fatty acids play an essential role in gut function. Butyrate is particularly important as it provides energy to cells in the digestive tract to function optimally.
Short-chain fatty acids are also responsible for maintaining the integrity of the gut barrier function. When the gut barrier function is impaired, you are more likely to have increased intestinal permeability, often referred to as leaky gut syndrome. Leaky gut syndrome facilitates the transport of toxins, large undigested food particles and pathogens into the bloodstream from the gut, which can trigger an unwanted inflammatory response. Over time this inflammation can become chronic, leading to persistent symptoms and disease development.
In my clinic, helping women with autoimmune diseases, nine times out of 10, Akkermansia muciniphila is low or undetectable in their stool test results. And by lifting their levels, they often see an improvement in their symptoms.
Akkermansia muciniphila in metabolic health
Recent studies have shown a relationship between Akkermansia muciniphila and metabolic health, indicating that gut health is essential in maintaining stable blood sugar levels and body fat.
It may not seem obvious how the two are related at first, but gut health can impact inflammation in the body and how sensitive your cells are to the effects of the hormone insulin. Your cells must respond to the effects of insulin to maintain blood sugar levels and keep your energy stable. However, as you age, your cells are more likely to become resistant to insulin, leading to blood sugar regulation issues, which causes energy crashes, brain fog, and the inability to shift stubborn weight.
Akkermansia muciniphila helps produce butyrate, which has anti-inflammatory properties due to its effect on the mucosal gut barrier, reducing inflammation and increasing insulin sensitivity at the cellular level. This means that your body can regulate blood sugar and utilise energy better which can help with weight management.
Foods to enhance Akkermansia muciniphila levels?
Akkermansia muciniphila thrives on colour. Polyphenols are found in colourful fruits and vegetables and feed and replenish Akkermansia muciniphila in the gut. So, if you need one more reason to eat your 30 plants a week, here is another one!
Cranberry powder is an effective way to enhance gut levels of Akkermansia muciniphila as it is rich in polyphenol proanthocyanidin. Proanthocyanidins are also found in grapes, apple skin, Ginkgo Biloba, red cabbage and bilberries. Proanthocyanidins feed the goblet cells in the digestive tract, which produce mucins that Akkermansia muciniphila feed off and encourage their proliferation.
Other foods rich in polyphenols such as teas, flaxseeds and omega-3s in fish oil may also benefit gut health and create an environment for Akkermansia muciniphila to flourish.
How do you know if you have low Akkermansia muciniphila?
The most insightful way to find out whether your levels of Akkermansia muciniphila are low is to do a stool test. Most stool tests offered by nutritional therapists and functional medicine practitioners, such as the ones I provide in my clinic, will test for this so you can determine what your levels are and decide whether you need to make changes to your diet to up your levels. You will find more details here, or contact the clinic.
Eating polyphenol-rich plant-based foods is an excellent addition to your diet in any case, so if you feel like testing isn’t a priority for you at the minute, you can still incorporate foods into your diet to nourish your Akkermansia muciniphila so that you feel your best whilst taking steps to be proactive about your long-term health.
P.s You can join my free group, The Autoimmunity Community, if you want to be part of a supportive network of strong-willed women living with chronic illness. This month we are focusing on cellular health, and by healing your cells, you can reverse inflammatory symptoms. Join us.
- Zhou K. Strategies to promote abundance of Akkermansia muciniphila, an emerging probiotics in the gut, evidence from dietary intervention studies. J Funct Foods. 2017;33:194-201. doi:10.1016/j.jff.2017.03.045
- Bland J. Intestinal Microbiome, Akkermansia muciniphila, and Medical Nutrition Therapy. Integr Med (Encinitas). 2016;15(5):14-16.
- Earley, H., Lennon, G., Balfe, Á. et al. The abundance of Akkermansia muciniphila and its relationship with sulphated colonic mucins in health and ulcerative colitis. Sci Rep 9, 15683 (2019). https://doi.org/10.1038/s41598-019-51878-3
This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.