Yes, it’s a mouthful, tough to pronounce, but an important player in your quest to rebuild a healthy microbiome.
First of all, where does this microbe come from? L. mesenteroides is a frequent species in fermented foods, especially sauerkraut (only fermented, not pickled in brine and vinegar), kimchi, and fermented meats such as salami and sopressata (again, only if fermented), and traditionally fermented French cheeses. After consuming some kimchi or a morsel of Comté cheese, it takes up residence in the human gastrointestinal (GI) tract where it can exert a number of interesting health benefits.
Beneficial health effects of L. mesenteroides include:
- Reduction of blood sugar—The effects can be substantial, on a par with the magnitude of effect of some prescription medications (with none of the expense or nasty side-effects, of course). A group recruited from our Undoctored Inner Circle membership website, for instance, that took the L. mesenteroides-containing probiotic Sugar Shift, for instance, experienced a mean fasting blood sugar reduction of 10 mg/dl after 4 weeks, more over a longer time period (with accompanying positive shifts in bowel flora composition via stool analysis). (Sugar Shift is a probiotic from BiotiQuest.) One of the means by which L. mesenteroides reduces blood sugar is conversion of fructose to mannitol, a sugar that humans do not metabolize and does not raise blood sugar. (Fructose does not raise blood sugar acutely, but does so chronically. Conversion of fructose to mannitol thereby can reduce blood sugar.)
- The increased mannitol can cross the blood-brain barrier, where it causes dissolution of the alpha synclein protein that is associated with Parkinson’s disease. I was unaware of this effect until BiotiQuest’s founder, Martha Carlin, whose husband was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease at age 44, informed me of this line of thinking and research. As you likely know, Parkinson’s disease is a progressive neurodegenerative condition characterized by gait disturbances, disruptions of sleep, memory impairment and dementia, tremor, and gastrointestinal disruptions including constipation. Martha tells me that, at least anecdotally, her husband and several acquaintances with Parkinson’s disease who have taken this L. mesenteroides-containing probiotic have experienced partial remission of the disease. Of course, a formal clinical trial is planned.
- Anti-fungal properties—A properly functioning bacterial microbiome keeps fungi at bay in the GI tract. One of the consequences of disrupted bacterial populations is therefore excessive proliferation of fungal species such as Candida albicans and Candida glabrata that we may experience as irritable bowel syndrome, persistent or recurrent skin rashes, sugar cravings, unexplained fatigue, and—if we believe the growing evidence—Alzheimer’s dementia. It potentially means that consumption of fermented foods containing L. mesenteroides is one of the strategies that may help prevent this process.
- Lead detoxification—Many strains of L. mesenteroides bind lead on their surface, causing you to pass this toxic metal into the toilet. Those of us who have been exposed to leaded gasoline, stripping or sanding lead-based paints, or drinking water passing through lead pipes can obtain some measure of detoxification with this microbe.
Beyond its effects that develop upon human consumption, L. mesenteroides also plays an important role in molding the composition of microbes in fermented foods. Some strains produce bacteriocins such as mesentericin and leucocin, i.e., natural antibiotics effective against pathogenic species such as Listeria monocytogenes that causes diarrheal illness, even death. Because Listeria is ubiquitous in foods, the greater presence of L. mesenteroides tilts the balance away from Listeria proliferation. Natural balance is important: L. mesenteroides can also be responsible for the slimy spoilage of meats and vegetables if it over proliferates and is not accompanied by other microbes like Lactococcus lactis. It is also suspected to also take up residence on grapes used to make wine that can contribute to spoilage.
All in all, despite some of its downsides in food, including foods like kimchi and fermented meats are important components of a well-rounded effort to rebuild an intestinal microbiome disrupted by such factors as antibiotics, glyphosate, diet colas, and non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs.
By the way, are you getting the sense that the substantially less cardiovascular disease in populations like the French, some Mediterranean cultures such as those in Crete, South Koreans, and Japanese has less to do with fat intake or drinking red wine, but may be due to inclusion of fermented foods and the impact of their consumption on bowel flora composition?