13 May Gut Bacteria and Health
We are not alone
The human gut is home to a complex world of microorganisms, especially bacteria. It is estimated we are carrying up to 2 kg of bacteria in our gut.
Understanding the role of gut microbiota on our health has advanced significantly. We know changes to our gut bacteria population can be either beneficial or detrimental.
What do our good gut bacteria do?
- Breakdown food
- Help absorb some medications
- Make vitamins
- Produce neurotransmitters (chemicals in the brain that can make us feel happy and sad)
- Help our immune system
- Produce anti–inflammatory compounds
- Keep our gastrointestinal tract healthy
Our gut bacteria, co-evolves with us, from the moment we are born, into adult hood and then into our twilight years. When we are born our gut is almost sterile and is populated within months of birth. As we age, this bacteria population changes. Studies have shown we lose both diversity and density of species, which is now known to contribute to many major health issues.
What causes disruptions to our gut bacteria?
- Diet, stress, age
- The environment
- Lack of exercise
What are some health conditions that are influenced by our gut bacteria?
Irritable Bowel Syndrome and Inflammatory Bowel Diseases.
People with these conditions have an imbalance of bacteria in their gut. Studies have shown, when the gut bacteria colony is completely replaced with healthy bacteria colonies, symptoms significantly improve to the point of remission.
A recent clinical trial with children that suffered from peanut allergies were given probiotics and increasing doses of peanut protein. After the trial, 80% of the children with peanut allergies were able to tolerate peanuts.
A group of patients who suffered from either anxiety or depression were given probiotic therapy. After 30 days, patients’ scores for both anxiety and depression significantly improved.
People that are overweight have different gut bacteria than people that are lean. The bacteria in overweight people are thought to harvest more energy from food, resulting in a surplus of energy and the storage of this energy (fat) if not used.
Cholesterol, eczema, blood pressure, diabetes and sleep disorders are more health issues that have shown significant association with gut bacteria and positive effect with probiotic therapy.
Research has only just scratched the surface in understanding our gut bacteria and health, but what is definite, look after your gut health for your health!
What can I do?
Look out for the triggers that may cause your gut bacteria to be out of balance, particularly after taking antibiotics. Ensure you are feeding the good bacteria with non-digestible fiber found in foods such as leeks, asparagus, nuts and seeds. If you take a probiotic supplement, make sure it has the correct bacteria strain for your particular health issue. However, if you have persistent health issues, comprehensive testing is available to help understand if your gut bacteria may be contributing to your particular health concern.