In the light of recent discoveries on how much human health can depend on elements that until a few years ago were considered to belong only to organ pathologies, today it can be stated that the interaction of each cellular lineage, be it of the nervous system central, of the heart, of the lung or that regulates the immune system, should be understood as a complex and interacting entity, where one of the conductors are the germs that live in the intestine.
The population of microorganisms that colonize the intestine is called microbiota and is capable of influencing the regulation of digestion and metabolism, synthesizing vitamins and releasing molecules that contribute to intestinal well-being, but it also has other important roles, such as cooperating with the immune system . Furthermore, the role that the metabolites produced by intestinal bacteria have on the activity of the central nervous system, including the regulation of mood, stress and the sense of satiety, has been identified, earning them the nickname of “second brain”. The microbiota is an entity subject to variations, it changes over the course of life, adapting to the different phases of the individual, and is modified by external factors, such as diet, the environment or the amount of stress we are subjected to. Maintaining the balance of the intestinal microbial population is commonly defined as eubiosis, while dysbiosis is the alteration of this balance, which can be associated with various pathological conditions.
OBJECTIVES AND PROCEDURES
It is precisely in the context of these still little explored aspects that the research of the Seaforlife project fits in, the final aim of which is to demonstrate that contact with nature in an environment free from stimuli other than the sea, the sky and the return to rhythms driven only by the astronomical clock can lead to a constant state of eubiosis.
The aim of the research is to evaluate the variations of the intestinal microbiota and of the stress levels in conditions of particular isolation and in this case during long sailing voyages in the ocean, with a controlled diet. These experimental objectives arose from the objective finding clinically measured in numerous subjects during various periods of permanence at sea for four or more days.
The clinical evidence has been expressed through the detection of regularization of physiological parameters such as the sleep-wake rhythm, the quality of sleep despite the shifts imposed by navigation, a constant regularization of digestion and the bowel habit as regards the digestive system, but with particular reference to mood. It can therefore be said that the clinical experience evaluated on over 50 subjects who have navigated with the researchers over the years has shown a state of well-being that deserves more in-depth scientific analysis.
Clinical evidence has in fact suggested a probable influence on the gut-brain axis, hypothesizing a variation of the intestinal microbiota in favor of strains potentially responsible for hormonal regulations regarding serotonin (happiness hormone), GABA (gamma amino butyric acid) and the dopamine.
The measurements that will be conducted aboard the Ariel-equipped yacht, with computerized equipment aimed at calculating the HRV – cardiac variability index – or rather how the neurovegetative system regulates itself in particular conditions such as ocean navigation.
In addition to this, the researchers of the Seaforlife project will examine how the constant postural variations induced by movement at sea (simulating a stabilometric platform), can similarly affect physiological parameters.
The research project is coordinated by Prof. Paolo Casoni, general and vascular surgeon, former professor at the University of Parma, and always present on board, by Prof. Duccio Cavalieri, full professor of Microbiology at the University of Florence; dr. Giovanni Zanette (psychotherapist and HRV expert of Self Coherence – Verona and Dr. Cagnazzo Francesco, University of Perugia, expert sports nutritionist of Rome.
Nine months of navigation covering 20,000 miles
The yacht Ariel will set sail in November from Gibraltar to follow the historic route of Charles Darwin’s brig Beagle.
Crossing the Atlantic you will first reach the Canary Islands, then the archipelago of Cape Verde to reach the coasts of Brazil; subsequently she will begin to descend along Argentina, Patagonia and Tierra del Fuego. You will reach the Strait of Magellan, the Beagle Channel and Usuhaia to go up the Chilean channels. She will continue through the Panama Canal to flow into the Caribbean Sea, from where she will return to Europe en route to the Caribbean and the Azores Islands. She will eventually return to the Mediterranean in July 2024.