Do You Have A Gut Feeling?
We Are Not Alone
Our gut bacteria have co-evolve with us, from the moment we are born, into adulthood 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.
The human gut is home to a complex world of micro-organisms, especially bacteria. It is estimated we are carrying up to 2 kg of bacteria in our gut. There is still a lot we don’t know about how the gut bacteria can influence disease pathologies, however each day researchers take increasingly bigger steps in advancing our understanding about the links with gut bacteria and our health.
What Do Our Good Gut Bacteria Do?
To date, our gut bacteria has been linked to assist various body system functions in many ways, including:
- Helping breakdown food
- Assisting in absorption of some medications
- The manufacture of certain nutrients
- Producing neurotransmitters
- Assisting in keeping our immune system functionally healthy
- Production of anti–inflammatory compounds
- Keeping our gastrointestinal tract healthy
What Causes Disruptions To Our Gut Bacteria?
There are many ways that day to day living can impact the gut bacteria and cause a shift in diversity and density of these organisms. Some of these factors include:
- Diets high in processed foods and low in real whole foods
- Medications such as antibiotics
- Environmental factors
- Lack of exercise
Distinct shifts in the diversity and density of gut bacteria is thought to influence certain health conditions for example, previous research into ADHD and the gut microbiome have associated an increase in the gut bacteria genus Bifidobacterium with an increase in neuropsychiatric disorders.
What Are Some Health Conditions That Are Influenced By Our Gut Bacteria?
There are many health issues that have been or currently under investigation in regard to how our gut bacteria may influence the progress of a disease or health issue. Below is a list of some of the most common health disorders researched in relationship to the impact of gut bacteria on the disease and person.
– 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.
– Mood Disorders
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
These 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 clear and is that if you want to add and extra insurance policy to your health, you need to take care of your gut.
It is not the answer to take a probiotic supplement and think that will fix your current health issues. It’s always about looking for the underlying cause and ideally addressing all areas that may be influencing the health of your gut bacteria, especially in regard to food, diet and nutrition. The clinical research looking at probiotics to assist in improving disease parameters in general use species specific bacteria. Therefore, it would be advisable to seek qualified assistance to ensure that you are making overall changes to your food, diet, nutrition and the correct probiotic supplement is prescribed or is infact needed.
Changes to your diet or nutrition to manage a health condition should only be undertaken with advice from a suitably qualified nutritional health professional.
This factsheet is for general information only. Please contact me to discuss your individual needs.