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THE IMPORTANCE OF GUT HEALTH

The human gastrointestinal (GI) tract is colonised by an abundant and diverse microbial community that gathers more than 100 trillion microorganisms.1
Gut bacteria play the following key roles:1
• Regulators of digestion along the gastrointestinal tract; commensal bacteria play an important role in the extraction, synthesis, and absorption of many nutrients and metabolites, including bile acids, lipids, amino acids, vitamins, and short-chain fatty acids (SCFAs).
• Immune function against pathogenic bacteria colonisation by inhibiting their growth
• Prevent bacteria invasion by maintaining the intestinal epithelium integrity
Healthy gut microbiota varies according to age, ethnicity, lifestyle, and dietary habits1
Dysbiosis (imbalance) is often defined as an alteration of gut microbiota composition and a cause or a consequence of disorders1
Factors that impact microbiota balance
1. Antibiotics related alteration2
There is substantial evidence that the composition of the gut microbiota may fluctuate in response to external factors such as antibiotics. Viral and bacterial infections or allergies can be promoted by antibiotic-induced changes in the microbiota2
2. Lifestage
Microbes colonise the human gut during or shortly after birth and continue to mature throughout childhood into adulthood. The composition and activity of gut bacteria can vary according to (and possibly a result of) life events, including puberty, ovarian cycle, pregnancy and menopause. Another broad shift in gut microbe populations occurs with age and thus the gut microbiota profiles of the elderly may not be optimal3
3. Lifestyle
Smoking has a significant influence on gut microbiota composition and could potentially contribute to increased risk of Crohns Disease. Exercise (or rather a lack of it) may be an important influence on any shifts in microbial populations that are associated with obesity.3 Another lifestyle factor, stress, has an impact on colonic motor activity via the gut-brain axis which can alter gut microbiota profiles. Dietary saturated fats may increase numbers of pro-inflammatory gut microbes.

Diseases associated with alterations of gut microbiota composition1

Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS)1

One of the most common gastrointestinal (GI) disorders and the bacterial role has been largely investigated. Studies suggested a weakness of the epithelial barrier as a result of a loss of microbial richness.

Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD)1

Refers to chronic and relapsing inflammatory conditions of the gastrointestinal tract including ulcerative colitis (UC) and Crohn’s disease (CRD). Studies suggest that gut microbial imbalances contribute to disease severity.

Celiac disease (CD)1

A chronic intestinal inflammatory disorder due to an abnormal immune response to dietary gluten proteins in genetically predisposed individuals. Gut microbiota variations may play a significant role in the pathogenesis of CD. Celiac disease is caused by the interplay between gluten, genetic factors, and environmental factors such as gut microbiota dysbiosis.1

Colorectal Cancer (CRC)1

The third most common cause of cancer death in the world. Findings have revealed that alterations in the microbiota of CRC patients may contribute to the cause of colorectal cancer.

Obesity

Gut microbiota can be considered as a contributing factor to the development of obesity and may have potential therapeutic implications. Obesity is associated with changes in the composition of gut microbiota including lower species diversity and shifts in the abundance of genes involved in metabolism. These gut microbiota variations affect the microbiome which has an increased capacity to harvest energy from the diet.1

Type 2 Diabetes (T2D)1

Several studies demonstrated that gut microbiota composition is altered in patients suffering from T2D, but it is not clear whether these changes are a cause or simply a consequence of the disorder.

Brain Disorders1

The brain and the gut are connected via the gut–brain axis which enable the brain to influence gastrointestinal functions as well as immune functions. Dysbiosis of gut microbiota has been associated with Alzheimer’s & Parkinson’s diseases, hepatic encephalopathy, autism and stress.1

For more information refer to your healthcare provider.

Adults

References:
  1. Rinninella E, Raoul P, Cintoni M et al. What is the Healthy Gut Microbiota Composition? A Changing Ecosystem across Age, Environment, Diet, and Diseases. Microorganisms. 2019;7(14):1-22. doi: 10.3390/microorganisms7010014.
  2. Dudek-Wicher RK, Junka A, Bartoszewicz M. The influence of antibiotics and dietary components on gut microbiota. Gastroenterology Review. 2018;13:85-92. doi:10.5114/pg.2018.76005.
  3. Conlon MA, Bird AR. The impact of diet and lifestyle on gut microbiota and human health. Nutrients .2015;7(1):17–44. Published 2014 Dec 24. doi:10.3390/nu7010017
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