Food you eat and medicines you take can alter your gut bacteria in both good and bad ways

Submitted by Emma Tiller on Fri, 04/29/2016 - 15:15

According to two new studies, food and medicines consumed by an individual can change the gut bacteria in ways that can either improve or harm health. Gut bacteria support strong immune system in human body.

Foods including fruits, tea, vegetables, coffee, wine, yogurt and buttermilk can boost the diversity of bacteria in the intestines of a person. Dr. Jingyuan Fu, senior author of one of the studies, said that that such diversity can be helpful in protecting the body against illness.

Fu, an associate professor of genetics at the University of Groningen in the Netherlands, explained that higher diversity and richness in gut bacteria is believed to be beneficial for the body.

Conversely, Fu and colleagues have discovered that foods rich in simple carbohydrates apparently decrease bacterial diversity in the gut. They contain high-fat whole milk and sugar-sweetened soda.

The researchers found that besides these foods, medications can also play a role in the makeup of your gut bacteria. They found that the gut diversity can also be reduced by antibiotics, diabetes drug metformin and antacids. The team said that smoking and heart attacks can also have a negative effect.

Dr. David Johnson, chief of gastroenterology at Eastern Virginia Medical School in Norfolk, Va., and an ex-president of the American College of Gastroenterology, said that the intestines of every individual have trillions of micro organisms, which doctors term as the ‘gut microbiome’.

Dr. Johnson added that the gut microbiome plays a vital but little-understood part in the health of humans. Johnson, who wasn’t part of the new studies, informed, “It's the largest immune system in the body. These bacteria have a very dramatic and prominent role in determining health and disease”.