Akkermansia Muciniphila – Super Probiotic
Akkermansia Muciniphila – Super Probiotic
If you’re familiar with probiotics, you will have heard of Lactobacillus and Bifidobacteria and their benefits to the human body. But there is another microorganism, only discovered in the last 20 years, that lives in your gut and has a huge impact on your health – Akkermansia muciniphila.
What is it, what good does it do me and how can I get more of it?
Read on to find out more about this incredible probiotic and its surprising health benefits.
What is Akkermansia muciniphila?
Akkermansia muciniphila belongs to the phylum (a classification of bacteria) Verrucomicrobia. It’s the only type of this phylum found in human stool samples.
It was first isolated in 2004 by Muriel Derrien and Willem de Vos at Wageningen University of the Netherlands.
It gets its name from the name of microbial ecologist Antoon DL Akkermans and muciniphila means “preferring mucin”. Mucins are proteins that exist in the mucus layer in your gastrointestinal (GI). These play an important role in providing lubrication for the passage of food, participating in cell signalling pathways and protecting the host epithelium from commensal microorganisms and invading pathogens, as well as toxins and other environmental irritants. 
Akkermansia lives mostly in the distal parts of the small and large intestines, generally located closer to our intestinal cell wall than the majority of other bacteria. It colonises our intestines at a very young age where it utilises mucin as its main energy source to provide the amino acids and sugar groups required for bacterial growth. It is able to degrade the complex structure of mucin and by doing so, it releases less complex carbohydrates from the mucin layer and produces organic acids such as acetate and propionate. 
What are the benefits of Akkermansia muciniphila?
Akkermansia makes up around four percent of intestinal bacteria in healthy people and is less abundant in people who aren’t as healthy. This tells us that it is important in maintaining our overall health.
This powerful probiotic has many benefits, including:
- Akkermansia muciniphila is what is known as a “cross-feeder” probiotic. It cross-feeds beneficial bacteria such as Faecalibacterium prausnitzii, Eubacterium rectale, Roseburia intestinalis, Anaerostipes caccae. It consumes mucins but doesn’t destroy the mucus layer. Instead, it turns the mucins into short-chain fatty acids which feed other strains of healthy bacteria. In some cases, these fatty acids are then used by other bacterial strains to create butyrate, which has anti-inflammatory properties, reducing inflammation and increasing insulin sensitivity at the cellular level. This means that your body can regulate blood sugar and utilise energy better which can help with weight management.
Short-chain fatty acids are also responsible for maintaining the integrity of the gut barrier function. Akkermansia helps to create more mucin, strengthening it over time. This keeps the good bacteria in and the bad bacteria out – decreasing the likelihood of developing leaky gut.
Leaky gut syndrome facilitates the transport of toxins, large undigested food particles and pathogens into the bloodstream from the gut, which can trigger an unwanted inflammatory response. Over time this inflammation can become chronic, leading to persistent symptoms and disease development.  With a strong gut lining, you will be less likely to develop gut dysbiosis and chronic illness.
- It prevents inflammation. Optimal levels of Akkermansia muciniphila usually means less leaky gut and in turn, less inflammation. Researchers have found that patients with ulcerative colitis had reduced numbers of Akkermansia while studies focusing on inflammatory bowel disease have shown that mucolytic bacteria levels increase in IBD patients. 
- Lower levels of A. muciniphila are present in individuals who have metabolic disorders like obesity or type 2 diabetes mellitus. It manages glucose levels in the body and although we still don’t know much about how it impacts people with type two diabetes, research outcomes are positive. One study showed that in lean individuals with type 2 diabetes, the levels of A. muciniphila are lower compared to the control group, which is not the case with obese type 2 diabetes patients. Another study also showed a decrease in A. muciniphila in type 2 diabetes patients, associated with higher fasting blood glucose and urine glucose.  Especially for those who struggle with insulin resistance, supporting this bacteria could be a much-needed breakthrough. 
Higher levels of Akkermansia are correlated with lower body weight and BMI in human and animal studies. One study found that obese adults who had higher Akkermansia levels had healthier metabolic status and better clinical outcomes (fasting blood sugar, body fat distribution, and insulin sensitivity) after 6-weeks of calorie restriction compared to those with lower Akkermansia levels. 
- Liver diseases are associated with changes in the gut microbiota, and a reduction in A. muciniphila levels. Studies have shown that the decrease in levels of A. muciniphila in alcoholic liver disease is indirectly correlated with disease severity.
- High levels of this probiotic promote the diversity of bacteria in your gut microbiome. This is important because microbial diversity is an essential component of a healthy gut and balanced metabolism. Akkermansia mucinphila’s ability to produce short chain fatty acids such as butyrate, acetate, and propionate that other probiotics feed on combined with its ability to bolster the mucus lining your gut gives other strains of bacteria a safe place to live. 
- Many studies have linked a lack of Akkermansia to several diseases such as Crohn’s disease, ulcerative Colitis, appendicitis and even cancer.
- Recent studies have provided a link between A. muciniphila and several neurological disorders such as autism spectrum disorder (ASD), psychological disorders associated with Inflammatory Bowel Disease, refractory epilepsy, Alzheimer’s disease, and amyotrophic lateral sclerosis. According to a meta-analysis based on five clinical studies, children with ASD have a lower abundance of Akkermansia in their gut than control groups 
How do I get more Akkermansia muciniphila into my gut?
There are no foods that contain Akkermansia so you’ll need to take a supplement to boost your levels.
However, research has found that some plant extracts can significantly increase the abundance of intestinal Akkermansia muciniphila by promoting the secretion of mucins and antibacterial ability. Polyphenols, alkaloids, capsaicin, plant-derived carbohydrates, and some Chinese medicines can significantly increase the abundance of A. muciniphila in the gut. 
Cranberry extract, for example, is rich in polyphenols and can prevent weight gain as well as improve the symptoms of metabolic syndrome in mice. It also increases the abundance of Akkermansia, proving polyphenols have a prebiotic effect on the bacteria.
The polyphenols in grapes also exhibit the same effects on the bacteria and improve metabolic status. Both contain a particular class of polyphenol, called proanthocyanidins, and it’s these which are believed to have a role in the prebiotic activity. 
But Akkermansia does feed on fibre so the more fibre you eat, the more Akkermansia is likely to multiply in your gut. The best foods to help boost the Akkermansia that already exists in your gut include polyphenol-rich foods (those high in antioxidants). These include:
- Cocoa powder
- Coffee and teas
- Dark chocolate
- Green tea
- Red wine
Prebiotic fibres also support Akkermansia in your gut. There following foods are rich in prebiotics and are a great way to support Akkermansia growth:
- Chicory root
- Dandelion greens
- Jerusalem Artichoke
- Jicama Root
- Wheat bran 
Rhubarb extract is promising but more research is needed to confirm its activity.
Healthy fats are also beneficial in boosting Akkermansia muciniphila numbers, while unhealthy, saturated fats are linked to inflammation and disease. Research has demonstrated that people with diets high is polyunsaturated fats, are leaner and have less inflammation.
Include lots of omega-3s such as fish oil, flax seeds and flax seed oil, hemp seeds, olives in your diet to improve your gut microbiome diversity and lower inflammation. Avoid saturated and trans fats that are abundant in highly processed foods.
In addition to the above, other supportive practices include:
- Adding a high quality multi-strain probiotic supplement
- Lower your intake of sugar, carbs, processed food
- Increase the consumption of healthy fats and fresh vegetables
- Consume fermented foods
- Eat navy beans (Phaseolus vulgaris)
- Eat mangoes
- Take cranberry extract 
- Avoid high-fat diet and heavy alcohol consumption
How we can help
The benefits of Akkermansia muciniphila are many and it may be just what you need to heal and restore your gut health.
Akkermansia muciniphila strengthens the gut lining and in so doing, is associated with low inflammation, insulin regulation, sugar metabolism, fat metabolism, intestinal immunity and reduced symptoms of chronic illness. Overall, it protects us from disease.
Although it’s difficult to test Akkermansia muciniphila levels, an advanced stool test and some symptoms may give you an indication of these levels. If you are having digestive issues or overall health problems that seem to stem from the gut, such as leaky gut, recurring infections or inflammation, it’s a good idea to talk to a gut health expert to support you to find solutions.
At Advanced Functional Medicine, our team of health practitioners are here to assess the health of your gut microbiome and help you find non-invasive, natural treatment to eradicate unwanted symptoms.