BENEFICIAL BUGS (GUT MICROBIOTA)

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Winston Craig May 6, 2019, Lake Union Herald

The community of microbes that lives  within our gut numbers in the trillions, and the health of that  community determines our health. The gut microflora (microbiome) is  vital for maintaining the integrity of the intestinal lining. The  microbiome plays a vital role in energy metabolism, anti-inflammatory  mechanisms and immunity. Intestinal bacteria serve as a central line of  resistance to colonization by foreign microbes.

The intestinal microflora also makes important contributions to our  vitamin K, biotin and folate status. New research shows that the  microbiome protects the person against chronic diseases such as obesity,  diabetes, cancer and cardiovascular diseases.

What we eat has a big impact on the composition and behavior of our  gut microflora. The type of bacteria living there and the number of each  variety plays a significant role in our health. Apart from our dietary  intake, the gut microbiota is impacted by a variety of genetic and  environmental factors, including stress and medications. The interaction  between all these factors is complex.

Our gut microbiota thrive on fiber-rich foods such as fruits and  vegetables, whole grains, nuts and legumes. The fiber encourages the  growth and proliferation of healthy microbes. Fiber is degraded by the  microflora into short-chain fatty acids, which nourish the cells of the  intestinal lining. Animal foods are devoid of fiber so that those  consuming a largely meat-based diet will have anaerobic bacteria as the  predominant type in their gut. These bacteria are associated with an  increased risk of colon cancer. Processed foods often contain added  inulin, a fiber from chicory root, as a prebiotic food component to  facilitate the growth of a healthy microflora.

Gut microbiome play a role in the development of obesity and  diabetes. The type and diversity of micro-organisms living in the gut of  persons with obesity and diabetes is different from that of healthy  individuals. In studies with mice, scientists have been able to reverse  these health conditions by transplanting microflora from the gut of the  healthy mice into the gut of mice with obesity or diabetes.

Scientists are looking at ways to alter our microbiome by dietary  changes. Patients with type 2 diabetes who were given oligofructose (a  sugar that stimulates the growth of certain healthy bacteria) for two  years showed improved glucose control and experienced an increased  weight loss compared to the control group.

Trimethylamine-N-oxide (TMAO) is a metabolite synthesized by certain  gut bacteria from compounds in meat, fish, milk and eggs. TMAO is  associated with speeding up the rate of atherosclerosis. By eating less  animal products, TMAO levels could be decreased, thereby decreasing the  risk of cardiovascular disease.

Scientists are looking into the possibility of screening one’s  microbiome to identify people at high risk of cancer and then to make  dietary changes that would nurture bacteria that would reduce the risk  of cancer.

People often take probiotics (supplements) to restore their colonic  microflora after taking antibiotics. The evidence suggests that the  probiotics may actually delay the restoration of a person’s microbiome.


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