Only a stomach that rarely feels hungry scorns common things - Horace
You probably know the human body hosts a variety of microbes, but you might be surprised by the volume.
If the collection of bacteria, fungi and other organisms could be shed all at once, it would weigh 2 to 4 pounds and fill one or two quarts.
En masse, scientists call it the microbiome and have come to believe it is as important to good health as a sound brain, heart, kidneys, liver and lungs.
It helps digest our food, regulate our immune system and feed the cells that line the gut. But if its mix of microbes gets out of whack, the same organisms that ensure our health can make us sick.
“Not only irritable bowel syndrome and inflammatory bowel disease, but cardiovascular disease, even Parkinson’s, autism and multiple sclerosis,” said Rob Knight, director of the Center for Microbiome Innovation at the University of California in San Diego.
Remarkably, those illnesses—as well as obesity—have been transferred to mice by implanting the rodents with samples of the microbiomes of humans who suffer from the disorders.
“You can take a condition that affects the nervous system or brain and transmit it across species with the microbiome,” Dr. Knight said. “It’s pretty amazing.”
Although there is still much to learn, there is hope that in the future researchers will be able to use the microbiome to treat diseases.
In one small study, for example, fecal transplants introduced to rebalance the microbes of the gut improved symptoms of autism. And in controlled studies, researchers can distinguish healthy individuals from those who are sick by examining their microbiomes.
“If you have certain microbes, we don’t know if you are more likely to get a disease or, if when you get a disease, it changes your microbes,” Dr. Knight said. “What you want to know is can your microbiome predict interventions that will work.”
The first step in understanding the microbiome is to document the assembly of microbes, and each person’s appears to be unique.
The American Gut Project has collected more than 15,000 microbiome samples, and none are identical. That doesn’t rule out the possibility of doppelgängers among the 7.6 billion people who inhabit the Earth, but it’s possible that, in addition to medical therapies, the microbiome could be useful as trace evidence in criminal investigations, just like fingerprints or DNA.
The microbiome occupies the skin and the body’s various orifices, but it is primarily composed of bacteria that reside in the gut, a constantly changing environment.
“The gut contents are thick except when you empty your bowels,” said Maria Gloria Dominguez-Bello, a professor of microbiome and health at Rutgers. “Then, suddenly, it’s reduced.”
Still, estimates of the weight and volume of the microbiome are based on what researchers are able extract from the gut.
“It’s like taking a biopsy,” Dr. Knight said. “You suck out the gut content, get rid of the water and with the mass you have left, you figure out the number of human and other cells.”
After discerning the proportion of bacteria in the sample, researchers capture the total volume of the of the gut content by CT or MRI and extrapolate the full size of the microbiome.
Another way of thinking of its size is as a ratio to the number of human cells in the body. An often repeated but disputed number suggests there are 10 microbes for every human cell.
Researchers at the Weizmann Institute of Science in Israel recently revised the ratio to one-to-one but even that estimate is debatable because of choices about which human cells to count (are nonnucleated red blood cells in or out?) as well as individual microbial differences.
Not all of the organisms in the human microbiome have been identified, but one of the better known is E. coli, a sometimes deadly bacteria that provided early evidence that microbes could be beneficial in treating human disease.
In World War I, a special kind of E. coli was found in a German soldier who, unlike his comrades, didn’t develop infectious diarrhea while stationed in an area of Europe where the disease was endemic.
E. coli Nissle, named for the professor who isolated the strain in 1917, became the active ingredient in a drug used to treat diarrhea, ulcerative colitis and other gastrointestinal disorders.
While there is no doubt that reducing pathogens has improved public health, scientists now suspect that in our zeal to avoid infection, we may have separated ourselves from some benefits of bacteria.
“There is increasing evidence that exposure to healthy microbes in the earth, dust, air and water and on pets may be good for us,” Dr. Knight said.
It’s a whole new way of thinking about germs. But, please, do wash your hands.
Source: Jo Craven McGinty, Gut Feeling: To Stay Healthy, Keep Your Body’s Microbes in Line, The Wall Street Journal, August 17, 2018.
Companies say the microbiome varies from person to person—and so should the most effective diet.
The gut is especially vulnerable to the presence of chronic (and even acute) stress, demonstrating stress-induced changes in gastric secretion, gut motility, mucosal permeability and barrier function, visceral sensitivity and mucosal blood flow.
Diets can be overwhelming, but one small change can do a lot. The best part about this health advice is that it doesn’t involve eating something you don’t like. Fiber is in almost every fruit, vegetable, and whole grain. You could eat more apples and celery, sure, but there’s also fiber in things like corn tortillas, beans, grainy bread, and some types of breakfast cereal.
Our gastrointestinal tract, or gut, is sometimes described as our “second brain”. This is because it is controlled by its own complex nervous system comprising hundreds of millions of neurons – more than all the nerves in your spinal cord.
The gut and brain talk to each other through nerve signals, the release of gut or stress hormones, and other pathways. We have long known that emotions can directly alter gut function.
It’s widely recognised that emotions can directly affect stomach function. As early as 1915, influential physiologist Walter Cannon noted that stomach functions are changed in animals when frightened. The same is true for humans. Those who stress a lot often report diarrhoea or stomach pain.
Think about what you ate for lunch today. Did it feel like something you wanted, something you chose? Or was it something that the Lactobacilli in your digestive tract was actually jonesing for? A new study in fruit flies suggests that the latter idea might not be so outlandish.
In considering whether taking supplemental digestive enzymes may be beneficial, one should recognize that the term "digestive enzymes" is a catchall that includes a variety of compounds with different purposes–similar to "vitamins" or "probiotics." Just as we can't draw sweeping generalizations about whether taking vitamins is beneficial (it would depend on which vitamin in which individual), so too with digestive enzymes: It depends on which enzyme and in what population.
Several times a week, I am queried on my view of probiotics, which are bacteria that confer health benefits on the human who ingests them. If you were to survey the public, I suspect that a majority would express that probiotics promote health and are effective in treating or preventing various maladies.
Because it is something of a mystery disease that can show itself as a bewildering array of other conditions, you could have Leaky Gut Syndrome and not even realize it.
The reason is that Leaky Gut Syndrome is one of the many concepts in medicine that cuts across the boundary lines of specific diseases.
It is a major example of an important medical phenomenon: distress in one organ causes disease in another. That is why it is vital to look beyond the symptoms and discover the root cause of illness.
A preference for dark versus milk chocolate, among other things, shows up in the kinds of healthy germs found in the gut.
The right combination of stomach microbes could be crucial for a healthy mind.
New research sheds light on how eating and sleeping habits can contribute to disease by disrupting the bacteria in the digestive tract.
Research suggests the vast ecosystem of organisms that lives in our digestive systems might be as complex and influential as our genes in everything from mental health to athleticism and obesity. But is ‘poop doping’ really the way ahead?
The microbiome may yield a new class of psychobiotics for the treatment of anxiety, depression and other mood disorders.
And you can’t stave it off by guzzling grape juice.
Although probiotics have been around for generations - think of the "live active cultures" in several brands of yogurt - the sheer number of products with probiotics now available may overwhelm even the most conscientious of shoppers. In some respects, the industry has grown faster than the research and scientists and doctors are calling for more studies to help determine which probiotics are beneficial and which might be a waste of money.
A happy gut is a gut that is able to do all of the work of digestion. It has a healthy microbiome, it’s able to extract all the nutrients you need from your food without causing any pain, discomfort, bloating or distress, and it creates a bowel movement at least once a day.
A new study illuminates the problems antibiotic overuse could cause for individual patients.
Rectal bleeding often reveals itself as bright red blood on the toilet paper–usually after a bowel movement–or by turning the toilet bowl water red. Rectal bleeding can also present as extremely dark stool, ranging in color from deep red/maroon to black, and sometimes appearing tar-like (melena). The color of the blood can indicate where the bleeding is occurring: Bright red blood usually indicates bleeding low in the colon or rectum Dark red or maroon blood usually indicates bleeding higher in the colon or the small bowel Melena usually indicates bleeding in the stomach, such as bleeding from ulcers
If you think intestinal parasites only lead to gut disturbances such as upset stomach and diarrhea, think again. Because problems that happen in your stomach don't stay in your stomach.
If ratio gets out of whack, the same organisms that ensure our well-being can make us sick.
Dealing with stomach pain, ulcers, reflux, constipation, Crohn’s disease, and more
It’s the thing everyone does, but that no one wants to talk about: Poop. Most people (understandably) prefer not to talk about what happens in the bathroom, but there’s a reason why most physicians ask you about your bowel movements when you go to the doctor’s office. It may not be the most comfy conversation to have, but your poop can actually tell you a whole lot about your gut health — which, in turn, can tell you a lot about your overall health.
Just as shape, consistency and timing of our bowel movements are important indicators as to the health of our digestive system, so too is the colour of our poo. Brown, red, white or green, these colours tell us much about not only the foods that we eat, but whether you're absorbing important nutrients or have a bowel condition.
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Gut is a leading international journal in gastroenterology and hepatology and has an established reputation for publishing first class clinical research of the alimentary tract, the liver, biliary tree and pancreas.
Welcome to your complete resource for trustworthy digestive health information, support, and assistance about functional gastrointestinal and motility disorders (FGIMDs).
Started in 1991 by one person struggling with the challenges of a chronic GI disorder, IFFGD has been joined by many others from all walks of life in the fight to improve the daily lives of persons affected by long-term digestive troubles.
Welcome, I’m so glad you’re here to learn more about digestive health and its connection to everything from what you eat to how you move and even how you think.
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At Gastroenterology Consultants we are dedicated to providing each patient with the individualized attention that you deserve. We provide each patient with state-of-the-art treatment methods that will help relieve the ailments and symptoms that you are experiencing. There are many different diseases and conditions that affect the overall health of the digestive system.