Taurine: A natural ‘antibiotic’ and more

Antibiotics are lifesavers. But because we’ve relied on them so heavily, and certainly “over-used” them, there’s a big downside to depending on them.

That’s because many strains of bacteria have become resistant to our strongest antibiotics, leaving those in the medical field scrambling for alternatives.

It’s been years since a new class of antibiotics was developed. But scientists are finding promise in taurine, a nutrient found in many of the common foods we eat that may harness good bacteria in the body to go after disease-causing pathogens.

Triggering your body’s bacteria to fight invaders

Taurine is a naturally occurring amino acid within the body that plays an essential role in protecting cells from damage.  Now scientists are finding that it may be helpful in killing invading pathogens, such as Klebsiella pneumoniae (Kpn), by triggering beneficial bacteria in the gut to go after the bad guys — and to remember them if they ever show up again.   

We’ve been learning more for years about the role of microbiota living inside the gut to protect people from bacterial infections, but the “how” has been mysterious.  Scientists have been curious about enhancing natural treatments to replace antibiotics that harm microbiota and become less effective as bacteria develop drug resistance. 

Scientists from five institutes of the National Institutes of Health observed microbiota that had experienced prior infection and, when transferred to germ-free mice, helped prevent infection from Kpn. They identified a class of bacteria — Deltaproteobacteria — involved in fighting these infections and eventually learned that taurine was found to trigger the protective activity.

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Scientists have discovered low levels of taurine allow pathogens to colonize the gut but higher levels produce enough hydrogen sulfide to prevent colonization. During the study scientists realized the liver and gallbladder can develop long-term infection protection, and that a single mild infection is adequate to prepare the microbiota to resist subsequent infections.

The study found taurine given to mice in drinking water also prepared the microbiota to prevent infection.  When the mice drank bismuth subsalicylate — a common over-the-counter drug used to treat diarrhea and upset stomach — the infection protection waned because bismuth inhibits hydrogen sulfide production.

More benefits of taurine

Taurine is plentiful in meat, fish and eggs. That’s why individuals following a strict vegetarian diet will need to examine if they are getting enough taurine to benefit from all the nutrient has to offer. 

Taurine plays a vital role in our overall health, including:

  • Promoting healthy metabolism – Taurine helps the liver to create bile salts which break down fatty acids in the intestines including cholesterol.
  • Protecting the eyes – Taurine protects the retina of the eye from retinal degeneration.  Reduced amounts of taurine in the body can play a role in developing glaucoma and diabetic retinopathy. 
  • Heart protector –  A 2017 study investigated the benefits of taurine supplements and exercise with people with heart failure. People who ingested taurine before and after exercise for 2 weeks had lower blood cholesterol and inflammation, compared to placebo.
  • Protecting the muscles- Taurine ensures muscle function and protects against muscle damage.
  • Brain aging – Taurine supplementation works to protect long-term memory storage.
  • Improved markers of diabetes – A 2012 animal study in rats has suggested taurine was beneficial for reduced glucose levels, improved insulin resistance, and reduced cholesterol levels.  However additional research is needed to determine if taurine provides the same benefits in humans with diabetes.

Taurine is an added ingredient in some energy drinks, but this may be due to its nootropic and neuroprotective actions that promote healthy brain activity, like memory and cognition.

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Sources:

How does taurine affect the body — MedicalNewsToday.com

NIH scientists identify nutrient that helps prevent bacterial infection — NIH.gov

Taurine supplementation has anti-atherogenic and anti-inflammatory effects before and after incremental exercise in heart failure — NCBI

Taurine ameliorates hyperglycemia and dyslipidemia by reducing insulin resistance and leptin level in Otsuka Long-Evans Tokushima fatty rates with long-term diabetes — NCBI

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Tracey G. Ingram, AuD

By Tracey G. Ingram, AuD

Tracey G. Ingram is a former Occupational Therapist, and presently a writer and Doctor of Audiology with more than 20 years of experience. She enjoys living a healthy lifestyle and feels health is a complete state of physical, mental and social wellbeing. She practices intermittent fasting, Pilates, yoga, hiking and daily meditation. She loves to share her experiences with nutrition, supplements and eating organic foods to help others improve their health.