WHAT IS YOUR METABOLOME AND WHY IS IT IMPORTANT?
The term Metabolism refers to the sum total of the chemical reactions involved in keeping you alive and in HOMEOSTASIS. This can be broken down further into Catabolism ---- breaking down molecules for energy, and Anabolism --- building up the compounds needed by the cells to build and repair your body's structure. As you might guess, nutrition is of critical importance as far as Cellular Metabolism is concerned. Along this same line of thinking, I want to talk today about a term that you are increasingly seeing in the scientific literature, Metabolome (met-tab-o-lome).
Whether talking about a blood, fluid, or tissue sample, the term Metabolome is the name given to the collective group of small-molecule chemicals and compounds found in said sample. These can be both endogenous (produced by the body --- vitamins, sugars, aminos, fatty acids, etc, etc) and exogenous (produced outside the body --- foods, drugs, chemical toxins, etc, etc). Four years ago the journal Nucleic Acid Research (The Human Metabolome Database in 2013) stated that, "the number of annotated metabolite entries has grown to more than 40,000." Although this number is undoubtedly far bigger now, why is any of this important as far as you and your family's health is concerned?
Metabolomics --- the study of individual or collective Metabolomes --- is a big deal because it can provide an extremely accurate and detailed picture of cellular metabolism. Avens Publishing Group (an Open Access publisher of peer reviewed journals) put it this way in a blog post called Metabolomics: Importance and Application.
"The purposes of metabolomics are timely detection of disease, such as necrosis, alzheimer’s, and inflammation, evaluation of toxicity (especially liver toxicity) in new drugs, diet strategies, and drug testing, elucidating biochemical pathways. The importance of metabolomics are that over 95% of all diagnostic clinical assays test for small molecules, 89% of all known drugs are small molecules, and 30% of identified genetic disorders occupy diseases of small molecule metabolism. Small molecules serve as co-factors and signaling molecules to thousands of proteins."
While there is certainly excitement over the the field of metabolomics, some of it is (or at least should be) tempered by the failure of of genetics to live up to it's hype (HERE). And in similar fashion to the way that epigenetics greatly controls genetic expression, your metabolome can be similarly controlled and directed. Let's take a look at just a few of the most recent studies on the metabolome to see why metabolomics is gaining importance as far as health is concerned. (Note that all studies are from mainstream medical journals and most have been cherry-picked due to restraints on time and space)
The bottom line is that diseases leave distinct metablomic fingerprints. Once we figure out what this fingerprint looks like, the disease can be diagnosed. The problem is that most of this research has little to do with nutrition --- it's all about finding drugs to block specific metabolites or metabolic pathways. Case in point is a study from last month's issue of the Journal of Biological Chemistry --- the title of the study tells the story (Targeting of Microbe-Derived Metabolites to Improve Human Health: The Next Frontier for Drug Discovery). "Recent advances in metabolomic and genome mining approaches have uncovered a poorly understood metabolome that originates solely or in part from bacterial enzyme sources. Whether living on exposed surfaces or within our intestinal tract, our microbial inhabitants produce a remarkably diverse set of natural products and small molecule metabolites that can impact human health and disease. The gut microbe-derived metabolite trimethylamine N-oxide (TMAO) has been causally linked to the development of cardiovascular diseases. Recent studies reveal drugging this pathway can inhibit atherosclerosis development in mice." Sounds great on the surface but the problem with blocking metabolic pathways is that it always has side effects (the medical community refers to these as AR's or ADVERSE EVENTS).
The cool thing is that almost no matter what is wrong with you, whether you are dealing with CHRONIC ILLNESS or CHRONIC PAIN, you can start the ball rolling by taking matters into your own hands. Start by reading THIS POST. The second step is to sit down and formulate a WRITTEN PLAN. I get it; there might be other steps that need to be taken such as seeing a FUNCTIONAL MEDICINE SPECIALIST or a FUNCTIONAL NEUROLOGIST. The doubly cool thing is that most experts in the field agree that an ELIMINATION DIET followed by something along the line of PALEO, GAPS, or even KETOGENIC, is safe enough to start on your own (HERE).
Dr. Schierling completed four years of Kansas State University's five-year Nutrition / Exercise Physiology Program before deciding on a career in Chiropractic. He graduated from Logan Chiropractic College in 1991, and has run a busy clinic in Mountain View, Missouri ever since. He and his wife Amy have four children (three daughters and a son).