Scientists are only just discovering the enormous impact of our gut health – and how it could hold the key to everything from tackling obesity to overcoming anxiety and boosting immunity
The number of studies that have found a link between a disease and a specific gut microbiome composition seems to be ever increasing. Until recently, though, almost all these studies have looked at single diseases in isolation. But most people tend to have more than one health complaint at a time – “comorbidities”, in medical parlance.
A century ago, a few isolated studies found a link between diet and mental health. Now, it’s emerging that the bacteria inside us could be a crucial link between the food we eat and how we feel.
Having experienced mild digestive issues for years, I was excited to learn more about how the bacteria in my gut were faring. Would I learn more about what was causing my occasional bloating, cramps, and indigestion? Or walk away from the test more confused than before?
It seems so easy. You get a prescription filled, follow the directions on the bottle, and then just wait for the results. But as with many things we assumed before learning more about the bacterial universe in our guts, the story isn’t nearly so simple.
Research has shown that having a diverse microbiome – particularly your gut bacteria – has benefits not only for your digestive health, but many other organ systems, and even your brain. That has led to the idea that treatments targeting the microbiome may be able to improve our mental health.
But, in reality, the microbiome is a nuanced ecosystem composed of millions of organisms—it affects not just our gut health, but also our noses, throats, urinary tracts, genitals, and skin, and entire digestive system. Having a symbiotic relationship with the bacteria in our bodies helps us modulate immunity, insulate us from toxins, better absorb foods, and fight disease.
Instead of relying solely on a pill to strengthen your microbiome, we should seek to live a healthier lifestyle that fosters good gut bacteria.
Here’s why probiotic supplements aren’t a fix-all...
When Antony van Leeuwenhoek, the late 17th-century drape maker turned amateur scientist, first described microbes, people thought he was crazy.
He focused his homemade microscopes on water from a pond outside his house, and on the dental plaque from his neighbors in Delft, the Netherlands. And he became the very first person to see a teeming world of life previously inaccessible to the human eye.
Most gut bacteria recover quickly, but there can be long-lasting consequences from taking antibiotics.
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.
Who wouldn't want a snapshot of what's going on in their digestive system?
Revelations about microbes in the gut are shaking the foundations of medicine and nutrition.
Immigrants’ gut bacteria “westernize” soon after they move to the U.S., which might influence obesity in immigrants and Americans alike.
More fiber might mean more bacteria—and that's a good thing.
Those drugs in your cabinet? They’re designed to treat only half of you. The other half — the trillions of microbes throughout your body — haven’t historically interested drug makers.
But as scientists learn more about the microbiome’s role in conditions ranging from allergies to anxiety to cancer, they’re increasingly interested in drugging its constituents.
Synthetic biology may lead to the creation of smart microbes that can detect and treat disease.
We are a nonprofit stool bank,
expanding safe access to fecal transplants
and catalyzing research on the human microbiome.
We’ve long known that that the gut is responsible for digesting food and expelling the waste. More recently, we realised the gut has many more important functions and acts a type of mini-brain, affecting our mood and appetite. Now, new research suggests it might also play a role in our cravings for certain types of food.