Our genes are fundamental to our health and one gene that is becoming better understood is the FUT2 gene. This gene gives us the ability to produce an enzyme called α1,2-fucosyltransferase. We use this enzyme to produce glycans (fiber-like molecules) found in our saliva and in the mucus of our intestine. Nursing mothers use the enzyme to produce glycans in their milk, which are called human milk oligosaccharides. In saliva and mucus, the glycans are part of our body’s natural defense system. In mothers’ milk, they function as part of the mothers’ protection for her baby. The glycans found in saliva and mucus are chemically bound, while those in mothers’ milk are free or separate molecules.
In about 20% of the population, the FUT2 gene is altered. Due to this alteration, these people cannot produce the α1,2-fucosyltransferase enzyme. People with this altered gene are called FUT2 non-secretors, while people who produce the enzyme are called FUT2 secretors. The consequence is that FUT2 non-secretors cannot produce some of the glycans that FUT2 secretors can produce. A significant difference that has been identified is that FUT2 non-secretors cannot produce the bound and free forms of 2’-fucosyllactose (or 2’FL). This inability to product 2’FL has known health consequences, which are further explained below.
What are the health consequences of being a FUT2 non-secretor?
As seen in many cases where there are differences in genetic make-up, both positives and negatives exist for being either a secretor or a non-secretor. In FUT2 secretors, the bound 2’FL is commonly found in the mucus of the intestine. Here it forms part of the body’s natural defense system and provides a food for beneficial bacteria. However, over thousands of years, many pathogens have evolved that can bind to this 2’FL to invade and cause infection. Therefore, the good news for FUT2 non-secretors is that these pathogens cannot bind to the mucus due to the absence of 2’FL. This should result in less suffering from ailments, such as diarrhea and ear infections.
On a less positive note, 2’FL is a key nutrient for many beneficial bacteria, specifically bifidobacteria. Therefore, FUT2 non-secretors usually have much lower levels of beneficial bacteria in their intestine. This may result in a weaker intestinal barrier and an unbalanced immune system. Also, FUT2 non-secretors have a higher risk of developing diseases like type 1 diabetes, celiac disease, and inflammatory bowel disease. It is also possible that this group of people have a greater risk for developing kidney diseases, urinary tract infections and candida infections. These diseases and infections have been linked to intestinal microbiome containing less beneficial bacteria.
In addition, an unbalanced microbiome may produce less essential amino-acids and vitamins such as phenylalanine, tyrosine and tryptophan. These amino acids are essential for the health of our nervous system.
What can FUT2 non-secretors do about it?
For adults and older children, one approach is to consume a dietary source of 2’FL. When eaten or drunk, 2’FL feeds the beneficial bacteria in the intestine, increases their abundance and improves the intestinal wall. It may also help support the immune system.
Both Holigos™ products currently available contain 2’FL. This key ingredient nourishes your good bacteria and your intestinal wall and has been clinically proven to increase the abundance of bifidobacteria in FUT2 non-secretors.
Also, in a trial involving more than 1,400 people, the vast majority are either satisfied or very satisfied with their experience and find the product easy to take. Several FUT2 non-secretors have tried Holigos™, one of whom, also suffers from IBS-D and celiac disease. She told us that after using Holigos™ for 3 weeks, she felt a significant improvement in her symptoms. She explained, “My IBS symptoms have somehow calmed down a great deal, which of course makes me feel a lot better, more energized and indeed stronger.” As described by this user, if you are a FUT2 non-secretor, Holigos™ provides you with the specific nutrient you need to support your journey to good digestive health.
We recommend our Digestive Health product for non-secretors without severe gastrointestinal issues but with low abundance of bifidobacterial.
We recommend our IBS product for patients with IBS; i.e., having severe gastrointestinal symptoms and the product is designed to address these symptoms.