Did you know there are more bacteria cells than human cells in your body? Most of them reside in and around your digestive tract, and your personal collection of cells is called your microbiome. The key to a healthy microbiome is making sure the good and neutral bacteria outnumber the harmful bacteria, which is why we so often hear about the importance of maintaining a balanced gut. Here are three new microbiome studies making headlines:
Further Praise for Fecal Transplants
Fecal transplantation refers to the process of transplanting stool from a healthy donor to a recipient in need—typically someone suffering from the infection Clostridium difficile, or C. diff. A new study conducted by researchers from the University of Minnesota and published in the journal Microbiome found that when people suffering from recurrent C. diff infections received healthy fecal matter (populated with beneficial bacteria) from a donor, positive changes were noted to their intestinal bacteria. What’s more, those changes had long-term benefits—lasting up to five months or more.
Can Poop Predict Obesity?
Researchers from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee recently embarked on a groundbreaking microbial study that reveals a link between what a population “eliminates” and its estimated level of obesity. Scientists collected and analyzed hundreds of sewage samples from more than 70 metropolitan areas and found they were able to predict the obesity rate of each city with more than 80% accuracy. Weighing in at the top was St. Joseph, Missouri, with a 37.4% obesity rate. At the other end of the scale was Steamboat Springs, Colorado, with a 13.5% obesity rate.
Can Miniaturized Microbiomes Reveal More Gut Bacteria Benefits?
Just think about the more than 100 trillion bacterial cells in your body and how they impact your well-being. Might there be benefits even beyond optimal digestion and immune health? That’s what researchers from Duke University and the University of North Carolina hope to find out. Using human tissue, scientists have discovered a way to create microscopic bacterial colonies they are calling “mini-guts.” About 15,000 mini-guts will fit on a small chip, which researchers will inject with different types of bacteria in order to test the impact of specific microbes on human health.
Irritable bowel syndrome affects millions of Americans every day, and April is a time to take action. All month long healthcare providers and communities nationwide will be working together to help raise awareness about IBS, how it is diagnosed, and how to improve the quality of life for those suffering from the condition.
While the cause of IBS is still largely unknown, symptoms often include some combination of abdominal pain, gas, bloating, and diarrhea and/or constipation. If you or someone you know is living with IBS, here are 10 tips for improving bowel health:
- Add More Fiber. Fiber supports healthy digestive function by helping to absorb and eliminate toxins in the colon that may aggravate IBS symptoms.‡
- Limit Fried and Fatty Foods. Fried foods and certain fatty meats may contribute to IBS. Be sure to consume these types of foods in moderation.
- Cut Back on Caffeine. Highly caffeinated foods and beverages (such as coffee, tea, soda and chocolate) have been shown to worsen IBS symptoms.
- Avoid Foods High in Sulfur. Some foods that are healthy—including veggies such as Brussels sprouts, cabbage, onions, and broccoli—are high in sulfur and may actually trigger IBS symptoms. Opt for low-sulfur veggies instead.
- Don’t Rule Out Food Sensitivity. IBS symptoms may stem from an underlying food sensitivity; the two most common are gluten and dairy. A gluten-free diet, dairy-free diet (or both) may help improve IBS symptoms in some people.
- Be Kind to Your Digestive Tract. Many herbs and natural ingredients such as marshmallow root, slippery elm, and the amino acid L-glutamine have been found to help nourish and soothe the intestinal tract and bowel.‡
- Promote Balance with Probiotics. Eating more probiotic foods helps maintain a balanced internal environment and supports optimal digestion and bowel health.‡
- Drink Plenty of Water. Drinking plenty of water (at least half your body weight in ounces every day) helps flush out toxins and other harmful microbes that may be causing IBS symptoms.
- Consider Colon Hydrotherapy. IBS sufferers—especially those with severe symptoms—may find that natural colon hydrotherapy helps cleanse the system and improve digestive health and elimination.
- Stay Informed with the IBS Information App. The International Foundation for Functional Gastrointestinal Disorders (IFFGD) provides a mobile app to help people learn more about IBS. IBS Info is available for use on iOS and Android platforms.