4 things about gut health, even experts admit they don’t know
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What if millions of tiny beings lining your digestive tract control more than the direction of your food? A walk through your local health food store quickly shows just how much misinformation and confusion around gut health abounds – you see hundreds of choices of prebiotics, probiotics, fermented foods, and more claiming to help you. protect you from cancer, depression and everything in between. But do they work? And is the gut really that powerful?
The elusive and mysterious study of the microbiome (the bacteria and other microorganisms that live in our bodies) and the potential powers of our gut health is an area that physicians still have a lot to learn about, even those who study it all. days. The experts themselves say they have only scratched the surface in their understanding of how gut health affects the rest of the body and mind.
Ashkan Farhadi, gastroenterologist at MemorialCare Orange Coast Medical Center and director of the Digestive Disease Project at MemorialCare Medical Group in Fountain Valley, Calif., warns of focusing on study or company claiming to draw conclusions about gut health.
“Unfortunately, our understanding of their importance and function lags behind what is being advertised in the media. For example, we are dealing with a whole range of species of germs in the gut, but we only have antibiotics which kill almost all germs indiscriminately, ”he said, adding that he did not It was hardly surprising that even experts in the field had “no idea”. on the importance and function of germs.
Here are some areas they hope to learn more about from a growing body of evidence that gut health may be the key to overall health.
How quickly the balance of our gut can change
Can we give our gut health a “makeover” in just one day, rather than an entire year by eating differently? Perhaps, Farhadi said, noting that experts are struggling to understand the dynamic nature of the microbiome.
“With a full day of a specific diet, that can change. By subjecting someone to stress, the composition of germs could change, ”he said.
The fact that gut bacteria can change so quickly is what makes it hard to pin down, but it also gives experts hope that controlling these changes may improve other medical conditions.
The impact of gut health on weight
Experts are also trying to better understand the link between gut bacteria and weight. For example, a study published in September looked at stool and blood samples from people who lost weight (and checked for factors like age, gender, and body mass index). Researchers have found a link between a person’s microbiome and weight loss. Specifically, the microbiomes in the weight loss group appeared to have an increased number of genes that accelerated the growth of beneficial gut bacteria.
Therefore, the study authors concluded that diet alone might not be the only factor contributing to weight loss. “Your gut microbiome can help or cause resistance to weight loss and this opens up the possibility of trying to modify the gut microbiome to impact weight loss,” said Christian Diener, lead author of the study. , scientist at the Institute for Systems Biology in Seattle. A declaration.
Other studies have also highlighted the the impact of the microbiome on weight loss. Rudolph bedford, a gastroenterologist at Providence Saint John’s Health Center in Santa Monica, Calif., said that doesn’t mean focusing only on gut health will lead to weight changes. But he thinks it does play some role, especially when it comes to weight-related illnesses like diabetes.
“[Our microbiome] can help control blood sugar and may affect the risk of developing diabetes, ”he said.
The link with autoimmune diseases
The triggers of autoimmune diseases can seem as mysterious as the microbiome, and researchers are studying how they might be linked.
Farhadi said the microbiome plays an important role in immune function. When there is stress in the body, it makes the intestines more permeable, giving bacteria better access to the immune system. This can alert the body that germs are nearby and activate an immune response. Scientists know this well. But it can go further than that.
“What if that’s overkill?” What if that turns into a vehicle that your immune system recovers and begins to fight off, in an autoimmune disease? Like Crohn’s disease, like inflammatory bowel disease, rheumatoid arthritis… maybe it’s a mechanism for the mechanism to go haywire… for the function to start to behave.
That’s why he’s no surprise that diseases like rheumatoid arthritis are partially treated with probiotics. “We know roughly that intestinal and autoimmune processes can be related. … We want to work on this front.
How gut health can change mental health
Gut health experts are also studying how the microbiome can affect mental well-being.
“We don’t know much, but we have some evidence,” Farhadi said of the link between gut health and mental health. “There are many studies on the role of bacteria in depression, our moods, our confidence and other studies that show that when we go through stress, the makeup of bacteria changes.
Bedford said bacteria in the gut can produce chemicals and even serotonin, the feel-good hormone that helps stabilize mood. He said that people with various psychological disorders may have different species of bacteria in their gut compared to others who do not.
There is more to learn, and a lot of things we don’t know: “We have billions and billions and billions of bacteria,” Bedford said. “And it’s only because we use so many antibiotics, so many processed foods now that all affect the microbiome, that we find more and more things happening when that microbiome is altered.”
In the meantime, here’s what to do to improve gut health
While we wait for answers on how the human body works (Bedford joked that we should call back in 10 years), experts are sure of a few positive gut health steps you can take now:
- Use antibiotics only when absolutely medically necessary
- Eat a wide variety of fruits, vegetables, and whole grains
- Choose probiotics that contain lactobacilli and bifidobacteria. Don’t fall for label claims such as “contains 50 billion bacteria”. (Bedford said remember you have billions of billions in your gut – “50 billions is a grain of sand on the beach.”)
- Get plenty of fiber in your diet by eating foods like legumes, beans, and broccoli, among others.
- Eat fermented foods, including yogurt, sauerkraut, and kefir.
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