Our gut is home to trillions of bacteria, both good and bad, collectively called the gut microbiota. This bacterial ecosystem plays a very crucial role in maintaining our overall health and well-being.
It’s established that the role of these good bacteria in our gut isn’t limited to digestive health. But they also regulate many bodily functions, including creating vitamins and supporting the immune system, metabolism, and brain function.
One strain among the vast array of good bacteria in our gut is Akkermansia muciniphila. Interestingly, it’s noted that bacterial species such as A. muciniphila and Faecalibacterium prausnitzii probiotic are present in abundance in the guts of healthy adults.
On the contrary, some studies have found that lower levels of these bacteria are linked with metabolic syndrome and other issues.
In this blog, we’re going to understand “what is Akkermansia muciniphila,” how it’s beneficial for gut health, as well as “how to increase Akkermansia muciniphila” in the gut.
What is Akkermansia?
Akkermansia is a mucin-degrading bacterium found in the gut. This is an anaerobic (existing in the absence of free oxygen), gram-negative bacteria that thrives in the mucus layer of the colon. This bacterial species accounts for about 1-5% of the total bacteria in our gut.
Akkermansia belongs to the phylum Verrucomicrobia. Both infants and adults have Akkermansia in their guts. Breast milk contains these bacteria that give infants the benefits of these good microbes.
Just like the role of S. boulardii for leaky gut, studies have found that people having high levels of Akkermansia are also at a lower risk of having the leaky gut syndrome, IBD, and other gastrointestinal issues.
Additionally, these bacteria are self-sufficient and symbiotic. This means, A. muciniphila doesn’t depend on us to feed it; instead it munches on mucin.
Even though there are nearly no nutrients present in the gut, it can still survive just fine. Also, they share a symbiotic (mutually beneficial) relationship with our bodies. By thriving on our mucus, they strengthen our gut lining in return.
Akkermansia and Gut Health
Akkermansia inhabits the mucus layer of the colon and helps regulate the mucus lining of the gut. In simple terms, this bacteria species is responsible for keeping our gut barrier strong. Let’s understand how exactly it works.
Our intestinal lining is made of epithelial cells, which are covered in a mucus layer. The role of this lining is to allow useful substances to enter the body and restrict harmful substances (like toxins, microbes, and undigested food) from entering.
So basically, this mucus layer protects us from possibly falling ill by creating a barrier. This slimy mucus layer is rich in mucin, a protein that Akkermansia loves to feast on.
Akkermansia muciniphila munches on our gut mucins, encouraging our cells to produce more mucin. The more mucin is produced by our cells, the stronger our intestinal wall becomes.
This is how these bacteria decrease our intestinal permeability, which is crucial for a healthy gut. As a result, fewer microbes and other unwanted substances enter our bloodstream. Contrary to this, high gut permeability leads to leaky gut syndrome, obesity, IBD, etc.
At the same time, this bacteria also provides nutrients to support other good bacteria in the gut. All this suggests that high levels of Akkermansia muciniphila are substantial for our good gut health. This is the reason why experts are calling it a “next-generation beneficial microbe”.
Methods to Boost Akkermansia
Increasing the levels of Akkermansia in the gut holds a lot of potential for supporting gut health and achieving optimal health. Here are the methods of increasing A. Muciniphila in your gut:
Akkermansia muciniphila Supplement
In order to increase the colonization of any good bacteria in the gut, the easiest way is to opt for dietary supplementation.
However, there are very few stand-alone Akkermansia supplements present on the market. This is because A. muciniphila is still being researched and investigated for its safety. Thus, there aren’t many commercially available products on the market to choose from.
A. muciniphila Growth-promoting Probiotics
Probiotics with Akkermansia Muciniphila are still in the research and development phase as clinical trials are ongoing on animals as of now. A. Muciniphila is a relatively new bacterial strain, so probiotics haven’t yet been made available to the general public.
But the good news is that there are some prebiotics that can help get the job done. Prebiotics aren’t live bacterial cultures like probiotics; instead, they are fertilizers that help the beneficial bacteria grow and thrive inside the body.
Thus, adding prebiotic supplements or prebiotic foods to your daily routine is also a good idea to help promote the growth of Akkermansia and other good bacteria in the gut.
A Mixture of Lactobacillus rhamnosus and Bifidobacterium animalis
A study conducted on animals found that the oral administration of a mixture of Lactobacillus rhamnosus and Bifidobacterium animalis increased the levels of Akkermansia. This shows the promising potential of using this mix of probiotics to promote Akkermansia Muciniphila in the gut.
In these studies, it was noted that an increase in SCFAs (short-chain-fatty-acids) had an Akkermansia-promoting effect. This is because SCFAs promote mucin growth, and as we have learned, Akkermansia is a mucin-degrading bacteria.
Thus, it also makes sense to increase the intake of foods that can increase SCFAs in the gut. These foods include fruits, vegetables, fiber-rich foods, and legumes.
Oligofructose Prebiotic Supplement
One of these studies suggested that a high-fat diet decreased the levels of A. muciniphila substantially. However, when administered with a supplement of prebiotics, fructooligosaccharides levels were completely restored to normal. Thus, FOS can be preferred as a nutrient for Akkermansia as it shows positive growth-promoting activity in the bacteria.
Fructo-oligosaccharides are plant sugars that naturally occur in plants like bananas, garlic, onion, chicory, artichoke, etc
FODMAP in Diet
FODMAP stands for fermented oligo-saccharides, di-saccharides, mono-saccharides, and polyols. This includes lactose, fructose, polyols, sugar alcohols, and oligosaccharides.
These FODMAPs are a group of short-chain carbohydrates that our gut can’t properly absorb. Thus, in this diet, foods naturally low in FADMAPs are suggested to be consumed.
Some recent studies have suggested that FODMAP content in the diet affects the growth of Akkermansia.
This cross-over study on seven Crohn’s disease patients showed that the low FODMAP diet increased the levels of Akkermansia in the patients.
Polyphenols such as phenolic acids, stilbenes, and flavonoids are known for their antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. By scavenging free oxygen radicals, polyphenols may help protect obligate anaerobes such as Akkermansia in the gut.
This study found that red wine grape extract and black tea contain polyphenols that significantly promote the abundance of Akkermansia.
Therefore, incorporating polyphenols into your diet is a good way to promote the growth of Akkermansia. Some foods containing high polyphenol content are- berries, herbs, spices, vegetables, nuts, cocoa powder, olives, coffee, and tea.
Metformin is a widely-known anti-diabetic drug used for treating type 2 diabetes. Metformin has anti-obesity and anti-inflammatory properties, which is the general cause of its working in favor of modulating the gut microbiota.
Some animal studies showed that metformin significantly promoted the growth of Akkermansia muciniphila in the gut.
More research is needed to understand the therapeutic mechanism of this drug. As of now, there are no human trials available to conclude the impact of metformin on the abundance of A. muciniphila.
Rhubarb, also called Da Huang, is a Chinese herbal medicine that’s generally used to treat jaundice, constipation, ulcers, and gastrointestinal hemorrhage. Rhubarb is also linked to anticancer and hepatoprotective activities due to the presence of anthraquinone derivatives.
A recent animal study noted that supplementation of rhubarb extract modified the gut microbiota in mice. Along with increasing the abundance of Akkermansia, rhubarb also improved intestinal homeostasis, inflammation in the liver, and oxidative stress caused by alcohol.
Because of the very low fiber and polyphenol content in rhubarb, it’s supposed that anthraquinone derivatives are behind the increase in Akkermansia levels. However, further research-based evidence is required to establish the effect of anthraquinones on A. muciniphila.
Calorie restriction (CR), which means eating fewer calories, is linked with a lot of health paybacks, such as a reduced risk of atherosclerosis, age-related diseases, diabetes, etc.
One study conducted on mice showed that CR resulted in a significant increase in A. muciniphila. However, contrary to this, another study on humans showed the opposite results. Therefore, more research needs to be conducted on the effect of calorie restriction on A. muciniphila.
We all know that antibiotics are the major disruptors of gut microbiota. However, interestingly, a few animal studies noted that antibiotic treatment significantly promoted Akkermansia in the gut.
Oral treatment of vancomycin on mice (non-obese diabetic mice) as well as a broad-spectrum antibiotic treatment on two patients both showed an abundance of Akkermansia. This suggests that selective antibiotic treatments can actually promote Akkermansia abundance in the gut.
Dietary Fats and Akkermansia
By now you might have got a clue that a high-fat diet is amongst the biggest disruptors that significantly reduce Akkermansia abundance.
One study found that a high-fat diet given to DIO mice reduced Akkermansia levels by 100 folds within eight weeks. Thus, it makes complete sense to avoid a high-fat diet if you’re trying to increase Akkermansia muciniphila in your gut.
Additionally, this study suggests that alcohol intake also negatively affects the abundance of A. muciniphila.
Does Cranberry Juice Increase Akkermansia?
Yes, cranberry juice can increase Akkermansia in the gut. This is because cranberries are naturally rich in polyphenols that are reported to increase mucin secretion, which is loved by Akkermansia.
There are several studies that suggest the incredible effect of cranberries on boosting good bacteria in the gut, including Bifidobacterium longum and A. muciniphila.
In a recent study, it was found that cranberry extract, when administered orally in mice, not only significantly promoted Akkermansia abundance but also prevented various detrimental features of the metabolic syndrome as well as diet-induced obesity.
Does Fasting Increase Akkermansia?
Some studies have found that intermittent fasting or Islamic fasting leads to promoting Akkermansia Muciniphila abundance.
It’s reported that the gut microbiota composition is affected by all types of intermittent fasting. This contributes to the increased levels of A. muciniphila and a decrease in the levels of Alistipes. However, the length of the daily fasting interval is a factor that can influence the outcome.
It’s important to note here that long fasting hours may deplete other good bacteria. Thus, fasting should be observed mindfully to avoid gastric distress or other health issues.
Overall, it can be said that Akkermansia muciniphila is a bacterium with massive potential. It can improve gut health, prevent various chronic diseases, and help you achieve optimal health.
But unfortunately, there aren’t many Akkermansia probiotic supplements available on the market. The reason is that Akkermansia is an anaerobic bacterium. It can survive only in a completely oxygen-free environment.
Therefore, the best way to increase Akkermansia in the gut is to incorporate foods that increase intestinal mucus, plant-based foods, polyphenols, and prebiotics. This will help these beneficial bugs to feed and grow in the gut.
In addition to this, alkaloids, capsaicin, and Chinese medicines such as rhubarb can also increase the abundance of Akkermansia significantly.
Pomegranates, raspberries, cranberries, strawberries, blackberries, blueberries, apples, walnuts, grapes, and pecans are some of the foods that help increase Akkermansia levels.
Lastly, we suggest you check out our Optimal Health Gut Solution, which is a cutting-edge formula for all gut issues.
Also, you can check our post about types of guts.