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Microbiome analysis for Chelsea Flower Show gardeners

Updated: Mar 8


I was delighted to be invited to provide Microbiome Analysis for gardeners Chris Hull and Sid Hill, as part of their journey with the Microbiome Garden that will be unveiled at the RHS Chelsea Flower Show in May this year, supported by Bowel Research UK.




The Microbiome Garden draws on the designers' passion for ecological health and its relationship with human health — a passion that's shared by The Microbiome Group team. This innovative garden will include an edible meadow, made up of wild and ancient foods, including prebiotic-rich edible lupin and camassia, as well as bistort, a wild edible plant rich in polyphenols


Microbiome tests were provided to the project by Biomesight; the same simple stool tests we use in our practice. As always, the results were fascinating and gave important insights about each of the gardener’s health history and current diets, as well as priorities for supporting their microbiome health which will in turn have a positive impact on their current and longterm health.


Diversity

We always assess the diversity of an individual's gut microbiome as that is one measure of microbiome health. Like most natural ecosystems the greater diversity, the more robust the microbiome is, and the more functions it can perform for our health. The stool test results showed that Chris's microbiome had low diversity, while Sid had a very high diversity of gut bacteria. This is likely due to the diversity of plant foods he eats each week, including foraged foods, as well as fermented foods with each meal.


Anti-inflammatory capacity

As always, I also assessed the anti-inflammatory capacity of each of their gut microbiomes. Sid’s microbiome had a weakly anti-inflammatory profile overall, while Chris’s microbiome was weighted heavily towards pro-inflammatory species, especially those that thrive on a meat-rich diet.


In both samples, populations of bacterial species that produce anti-inflammatory butyrate were low, with Chris’s much lower than Sid’s. Chris attributes this to his diet, that suffers especially when working away from home. With this in mind, both could benefit from eating the inulin-rich camassia root and the polyphenol-rich bistort included in their meadow planting, as both inulin and polyphenols feed up beneficial,butyrate-producing bacteria.


The microbiome’s capacity to produce butyrate is very important for preventing a wide range of illnesses, such as cardiovascular disease and Type 2 Diabetes. Adequate butyrate production also protects against Inflammatory Bowel Disease and Bowel Cancer – two important areas of research that one the Microbiome Garden's supporters, Bowel Research UK is heavily involved in.


Ideally, about a third of an individual’s gut microbiome is made up of species that produce butyrate. With only 2% of Chris’s microbiome known to produce butyrate this is a very clear and important treatment priority for him. Fortunately this population tends to respond well to individualised microbiome interventions. To support the growth of butyrate-producing bacteria, I prescribed a targeted prebiotic supplement, alongside food-based recommendations.


Overgrowths promoted by aspartame

Detailed analysis showed Chris had overgrowths of Escherichia and Enterobacter. These are likely due to an artificial sweetener aspartame that he consumes regularly in the soft drinks that he chooses over sugar-containing drinks, in an effort to preserve his dental health. I prescribed a certain probiotic strain of Limosilactobacillus reuteri that has been shown to reduce these species. I also prescribed other probiotic strains to support his oral microbiome — these particular strains have been shown in robust clinical trials to protect against dental caries and gum disease.


Beneficial Bifidobacterium

Both samples also showed low Bifidobacterium populations, with Sid’s slightly lower than Chris’s. This means both would also benefit from eating the edible lupin included in their edible meadow, which like other legumes, is rich in galacto-oligosaccharides (GOS) — an ideal food source for these beneficial Bifidobacterium species. I recommended a GOS prebiotic as well as GOS-rich foods, such as lentils and beans, to increase their Bifidobacterium populations, which are known to promote mental health, skin health and support our immune system, among many other beneficial activities.


Bowel cancer-associated species

The latest medical research suggests several bacterial strains are associated with bowel cancer. As part of my analysis, I also checked for bacterial species that include those strains. Both Chris and Sid have Fusobacterium species present in their samples, with Chris having Fusobacterium within the top twenty most abundant populations. Higher levels of a species known as Fusobacterium nucleatum has been associated with bowel cancer — from the early stages of development right through to metastatic disease. Identifying the presence of this species may in future be part sensitive tests for detecting early signs of bowel cancer. We usually see Fusobacterium populations decrease below detectable levels through microbiome repair following our treatment recommendations, so I'm hopeful this may show as below detectable levels in their next microbiome stool tests.


Next steps

All results were included in a detailed report (screenshots shown above) together with their individualised treatment plans. Sid and Chris are keen to share how microbiome testing can support their health so have given permission to share the details of what we found. They plan to retest their microbiome around the time of the Flower Show. Follow us on Instagram or Facebook to hear about the changes they see.



REFERENCES

Rebersek (2021) Gut microbiome and its role in colorectal cancer. BMC Cancer 21, 1325.


Guardian article about the garden (screenshot shown above).




Viola Sampson BSc MCMA is a registered Microbiome Analyst based in the UK and working with clients around the world. Appointments are available with her team of Associates.

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