Exercise and associated dietary habits may boost gut microbiota diversity

Exercise is known to be essential for both our mental and our physical health. It is good for the heart, for keeping weight down and may help prevent some kinds of cancer; moreover, it can help keep our spirits up, as well as boosting our creativity and learning.

According to a new study recently published in Gut, however, the benefits of exercise may not end there. Researchers suggest that frequent exercise may also play an important role in our whole-body health by – directly or indirectly – contributing to the diversity of our gut microbiota.

In recent years there has been a boom in studies that try to shed some light on the importance of a healthy, diverse and balanced community of bacteria in our gut, our gut flora or gut microbiota, as they contribute to our metabolism and the appropriate development of the immune system. As we have already explained in this blog, people with balanced, diverse microbiota may be less prone to obesity, immunity problems, inflammatory diseases such as IBS, or even diabetes, than people with low microbial diversity. Read more

Antibiotics in pregnancy may affect the baby’s immune system, mice study shows

According to the results of a recent study with rodents by the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP), antibiotics treatments during pregnancy may put newborns at risk of disease by challenging their immune system.

When they’re born, infants move from a largely sterile environment, their mothers’ womb, to one full of microorganisms, the outer world. Both animal and humans learn to adapt to this situation by being exposed to their mother’s microbes from the very moment of birth, as delivery kick-starts the immune system of the newborns. The results of the study, published in Nature Medicine, suggest that the mother’s gut microbiota may play an essential role in this transference as it foster the production of some white blood cells in charge of fighting infections, granulocytes, during the first days of life. Read more

Irritable Bowel Syndrome: when the gut microbiota gets out of balance

One of the main functional disorders that can be caused by unbalanced gut flora is irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), which affects up to two out of every ten people in 

Western countries. It is estimated that 60% of the workload of gastroenterology practitioners is due to this disorder, which can be very distressing for the patients as it considerably reduces quality of life, causing abdominal pain, bowel movements provoking discomfort and in most cases, bloating.

For quite a long time, IBS was believed to be a psychological condition affecting young, predominantly female and anxious patients with no detectable macroscopic abnormalities in their bowels. Consequently, the disease burden was often attributed to an imaginary disorder, and so the treatment was far from satisfactory. Read more

Seasonal diet changes affect the composition of our gut microbiota

The mix of bacteria that live in our gut changes throughout the year, to match the food we eat in every specific season. For example, bacteria that process fresh fruit and vegetables are more abundant in the summer, and those that process fats are mode abundant in winter times.

A group of scientists at the University of Chicago has found evidence of this seasonal shift in the gut flora, by studying the remote Hutterite population, in North America. The traditional diet and common meals of this community have allowed researchers to study the effect of one common diet in a large population over a long period of time.

In the last few years, scientists have found that a healthy composition of the gut microbiota is essential for digesting food, developing immunity against disease, and even for mental equilibrium. Some diseases or antibiotics’ treatments can alter the gut flora composition. But what maintains day-to-day balance is diet, through which bacteria are nourished, or ingested. Read more