For all that it claims to be, modern science has only barely breached the tip of the iceberg in understanding how the human body works, including its amazing ability to epigenetically adapt for optimal survival. Although each one of us is a single being, our bodies rely on a multitude of tiny organisms — or what some people might refer to as “germs” — for nourishment and longevity, functioning in truly amazing ways that were previously unknown or regarded as impossible.
When most people think of germs, they tend to think of viruses, bacteria, infections, and other things that are generally harmful to the body and best to avoid. However, as science has progressed over the years, it’s become undeniably clear that the human immune system is largely comprised of germs, a lack of which would leave us not only malnourished but also completely defenseless against disease.
The vastly complex microbiome that lives within each of our guts, it turns out, is absolutely critical for nutrient absorption and immune function. Groundbreaking research into the synergistic cohabitation of these microbial ecosystems and our own bodies suggests that these little helpers might even be capable of generating nutrients like vitamin C that science has long regarded as impossible for the human body to produce on its own.
Some bacterial strains contain special biosynthetic pathways capable of producing vitamins
A paper published in the journal Current Opinion on Biotechnology (COB) relates how this process works, focusing on the role of lactic acid bacteria in fortifying the gut to fill nutrient gaps. Entitled “Bacteria as vitamin suppliers to their host: a gut microbiota perspective”, the paper reveals how healthy bacterial isolates in the human gut are capable of producing a wide range of vitamins, including vitamin C.
When genes that are constantly exposed to ever-changing ecological, environmental, and nutritional conditions are unable to supply the body with what it needs for survival, beneficial microbes, or probiotics, can fill the gaps epigenetically, meaning they assimilate into the host organism (us!) and use what we feed them to help us out.
One such microbe is Corynebacterium glucuronolyticum, which GreenMedInfo reports contains an L-ascorbate biosynthesis pathway, meaning it can produce its own vitamin C. Although this particular bacterial strain has been linked to human urogenital infections and diphtheria, in certain conditions it has also been shown to provide benefits.
“Emerson once said that a weed is an herb whose virtues have yet to be discovered. So too may be the case with ‘germs,'” explains GreenMedInfo.
“A nuisance, perhaps, may grow into greater numbers when the body is suffering from a deficiency of one of its primarily biosynthetic pathways and associated biomolecule, be it a vitamin, anti-tumor agent, or antibiotic. It is possible that C. Glucuronolyticum grows into ‘infectitious’ [sic] proportions when the body is starved in vitamin C, and that when the body is replete with vitamin C the normally benign strain does not contribute to urogenital infection.”
“Germs” as protectors of the human immune system
While this amazing discovery does not necessarily imply that the human gut will ever have the ability to produce physiologically relevant quantities of vitamin C on its own, it does show how germs are at least capable of picking up where our own bodies leave off. This is why maintaining healthy gut flora is so important — these tiny critters are the standing army, if you will, responsible for guarding and protecting the fortress of our bodies.
“It is expected that the food industry will exploit novel and efficient vitamin-producing strains to produce fermented products,” concluded the COB study about the future of vitamin-producing probiotics.