Dr James Kinross tells Chris Evans why the microbiome is so important: 'If it's not set up right, our immune systems don't work well'

Virgin Radio

20 Jun 2023, 11:32

Dr James Kinross tells Chris Evans why the microbiome is so important.

Dr James Kinross joined The Chris Evans Breakfast Show with cinch to give a fascinating insight into our relationship with microbes.

James Kinross is a senior lecturer in colorectal surgery and consultant surgeon at Imperial College London. In his debut book, Dark Matter: The New Science of the Microbiome - which is out now - he shows how our relationship with microbes may hold the key to why we are increasingly succumbing to diseases of progress such as Alzheimer’s, cancer and bowel and autoimmune conditions. 

Dr James told Chris: “The really important thing to say is that the microbiome - which is all of the microbes that live within us, and on us, and all of the things that they need to survive and stay healthy - evolves with us as we age. So it starts with us in very, very early life, and it's their right to the very end.”

He added: “Growing the microbiome, from the minute you're born is probably the most important thing that we do.”

In his book, James shows how to optimise the microbiome to protect your health, boost your immunity and safeguard your mental wellbeing. “There's this rising pandemic of chronic diseases, and many of those are caused by problems in our immune systems,” he explained. “The microbiome is so important because it educates, and it teaches our immune system what's a friend, and what's the enemy. And if it's not set up right, our immune systems don't work well.”

While chatting to Chris, James spoke about how “people that exercise more have a more diverse ecosystem,” and that, “you've got to de-Westernise your diet… put lots more fibre and vegetables into your diet.”

He added: “If you can have just seven grams more fibre in your diet, your risk of cardiovascular disease, cancer, obesity, diabetes will fall. So it doesn't seem like you're doing a lot, but I promise you, you're really transforming your risk of chronic disease if you do that.” 

The doctor also explained how, “real world social networks, so the people that you interact with, that you hang out with, change your microbiome,” and that “one single kiss changes 50 to 80 million microbes”. 

He added: “So, what that means is that you've got to de-digitise your life. Real healthy living demands real world healthy connections, and that's a really important thing that we need to do.” 

Speaking about our addiction to antibiotics, he said: “Get vaccinated. If you're vaccinated, it means you're much, much less likely to take antibiotics. And we know that antibiotics do a lot of harm to the microbiome.” 

He also added that “getting out into nature, and connecting with nature is a really important part of looking after your microbiome. And what we want you to do is to bring plants into your home and think about the microbiome in your home too.”

James also spoke about something called a faecal milkshake. “Poo transplants,” he clarified. “These are faecal microbiota transplants, where we take literally poo from one person, and we put it into another. Now that sounds absolutely disgusting… but it's also amazing. And it works extremely well if you've got super-infections of the gut. And now the NHS gives this as a recommended treatment.

He continued: “The way I think about faecal transplantation is it's a gateway into understanding the true power of the microbiome. It may not be the treatment that we end up with in the end, but it's a starting point for beginning to engineer these microbes to improve human health. 

“The most important thing about the microbiome is that it doesn't allow us to treat disease, it allows us to prevent it. So unless we think about our microbiome differently, and try to optimise its health, we can't prevent chronic diseases that cause no end of harm, like bowel cancer, which is what I spend my whole day treating.”

Dark Matter: The New Science Of The Microbiome is out now in Hardback. For more information visit: dark-matter.org.uk.

For more great interviews listen to  The Chris Evans Breakfast Show with cinch weekdays from 6:30am on Virgin Radio, or catch up on-demand here.