To test or not to test + 8 Habits Destroying Your Gut Health.
There is growing evidence to suggest that there is a link between gut health and chronic inflammatory diseases. Chronic inflammatory diseases are conditions in which the immune system becomes overactive and attacks healthy tissues in the body. Some examples of chronic inflammatory diseases include rheumatoid arthritis, inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), psoriasis and multiple sclerosis.
Research has shown that the health of the gut microbiome, which is the collection of microorganisms that live in the digestive tract, plays an important role in regulating the immune system and preventing chronic inflammation. When the gut microbiome is disrupted, such as through the use of antibiotics or a diet high in processed foods, it can lead to a condition called dysbiosis, in which harmful bacteria outnumber beneficial ones. Dysbiosis can trigger an immune response, leading to chronic inflammation.
Furthermore, a leaky gut, also known as increased intestinal permeability, can occur when the lining of the gut becomes damaged or compromised. This can allow harmful substances, such as bacteria and toxins, to leak into the bloodstream and trigger an immune response, leading to chronic inflammation.
Should I be doing some tests to check my gut bugs?
People are paying hundreds of dollars to have their gut microbes analysed, hoping the insights will allow them to adjust their diet and improve their health. Perhaps these testing services are based on science that’s still in its infancy.
So while there may be great promise for analysing our gut microbiome to help diagnose and treat people in the future, for the moment knowing what’s in your gut is mostly a curiosity.
But aren’t these tests based on science?
The idea of your gut microbiome – the whole community of gut microbes and their products – influencing your health is gaining momentum.
So it’s been appealing to think if you just knew what was in your gut microbiome, you could tweak your diet and create a “designer microbiome” to improve your health.
There’s preliminary evidence analysing the gut microbiome in a stool sample can help predict who will do well on a certain diet.
There’s also some evidence it can help predict which people with inflammatory bowel disease respond to medical treatments. But these findings are far from being applied more generally and for routine health care.
One day, we may understand how combining information about your microbiome with other test results, such as genomic tests (sequencing your human genes) might help.
The idea is that this would help people prevent disease and medication side-effects, predict their future risk of disease and help choose a personalised diet for optimal health.
For instance, information about someone’s microbiome, when combined with blood tests and their diet, can predict how someone’s blood glucose levels respond to specific meals.
This 2015 study also showed that by analysing someone’s gut microbes you could tailor their diet to keep their blood glucose under control.
Again, while the prospect might sound appealing – and the potential impact huge – we don’t yet have the evidence to implement this more widely.
There’s also much we don’t know about the microbiome itself. For instance, scientists don’t agree what a healthy microbiome looks like, we haven’t sequenced all of the bacterial genes, and we don’t know what they do or how they interact.
So while we are starting to understand the ideal microbiome for health, it is still more of a rough sketch than a blueprint.
Given the complexity of the gut microbiome and its interaction with us, its host, we still need large research trials replicated across different centres to make sense of the data.
So-called microbiome diagnostics could become central to optimising health and improving care of people with chronic disease in the future.
But, for the moment, knowing the specific community of your gut microbes will only serve to satisfy your curiosity, perhaps not so much your health.
8 Habits Destroying Your Gut Health
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