Retired U.S. navy veteran comments on military microbiome study

uss-america-1986420_1920A recent study published in the American Journal of Physiology-Gastrointestinal and Liver Physiology , used a systems biology approach and multiple-stressor military training environment to determine the effects of physiologic stress on intestinal microbiota composition, metabolic activity, and intestinal permeability (IP), according to a recent press release.

The study, headed by J. Phillip Karl, PhD, RD, of the U.S. Army Research Institute of Environmental Medicine Military Nutrition Division, looked at 73 soldiers who received three rations with or without protein, or carbohydrate-based supplements during a four-day cross-country ski march.

According to the published abstract, "Findings demonstrate that a multiple-stressor military training environment induced increases in intestinal permeability (IP) that were associated with alterations in markers of inflammation, and with intestinal microbiota composition and metabolism. Observed associations between IP, the pre-stress microbiota, and microbiota metabolites suggest targeting the intestinal microbiota could provide novel strategies for preserving IP during physiologic stress."

Gerda Edwards, PhD, DNM, FDN-P, Retired U.S. Navy Captain, who served in the Navy for 27 years, knows first-hand that military members are under siege from a multitude of physical and mental stressors that come with the profession. Now a Doctor of Natural Medicine (DNM), Board Certified in Integrative Health by the American Association of Integrative Medicine (AAIM), Edwards sees the recent study as a "great first step in recognizing the effects of stress on service members' health, as it relates to intestinal permeability, sometimes referred to as 'leaky gut.'"

Noting that intestinal permeability increased by an astounding 62 percent after the experiment, Edwards says that finding ways to preserve the pre-stress microbiota is an important goal to keep inflammation to a minimum.

"Equally important is the management of increased cortisol and catecholamines in the stress response cycle that keep the inflammatory cycle going," she say. "The last or third important part of this cycle is the elimination of toxins or other unwanted pathogens once they have accessed the bloodstream via intestinal permeability."

This three-pronged approach addresses all of the factors involved with intestinal permeability, Edwards says, and can help the military member control inflammation and even possibly prevent illness and disease.

Additionally, moving from an emphasis on disease treatment to prevention could save the Military Health System (MHS) budget worries as well. The MHS supports a total of 9.2 million beneficiaries with a 2016 fiscal year budget of $47.8 billion dollars.

The study may be the first to use humans in the military to find out how our all-important microbiome is especially stressed due to intense training or "during multiple deployments with exposure to different elements, while enduring long days trying to stay at peak performance with little sleep and limited nutritional support," says Edwards.

With 80 percent of our immune system dependent on our gut health, this study contributes to increased understanding of the importance of the microbiome. Prebiotin is involved in two National Institutes of Health (NIH) studies and several more with other major research institutions.

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