Your Gut: A Delicate Bacterial Balance

How Promoting Flora Diversity is Not Enough in Your Fight For Optimal Health

The vital role that our intestinal bacteria plays in determining our health is getting incredible press as of late- and thankfully so. Current research is showing time and time again that diverse gut microflora is key to attaining and maintaining optimal health.

However, a 2013 study published in the BMC Microbiology journal shows that one cannot measure one’s gut health (and subsequent risk of disease) based soley on its flora diversity, but that its specific make up and number of microbes is also key- even in infancy.

In this study, researchers assessed and measured the fecal microbiota of 35 infants (15 with eczema and 19 without) at 6 and 18 months of age. They discovered that at the age of 18 months, the gut flora of infants with eczema were more diverse, but had higher numbers of Clostridium clusters (which are much more common in adults) than those without eczema. Though less diverse, the fecal flora of the eczema-free subjects were found to have 3 times more Bacteroidetes.

This study not only brings to light a strong connection between impaired gut health and infantile eczema, but also how complex the gut’s microbiome is. While some might find it surprising that the infants with eczema have more diverse gut flora, these findings suggest that microbial diversity is not the only thing to consider when measuring gut health. Balance of numbers is also key. In this case, infantile eczema is linked to an overabundance of Clostridium and an under abundance of Bacteroidetes in the gut.

Unfortunately, the ideal number and diversity of gut microbes needed to attain and maintain optimal health still eludes scientists today. Until we learn that magical formula, though, there are a number of things we can do to boost our own gut health:

1. Avoid processed carbohydrates, sugar, gluten and alcohol. These feed bad bacteria in the gut, making them more abundant than the good guys.

2. Avoid antibiotics whenever possible as they kill healthy gut microbes thereby causing imbalance.

3. Choose non-GMO and organic fruits and vegetables over sprayed. Some pesticides, such as Round-Up, contain antibiotics that kill vital gut bacteria.

4. Choose organic grass fed beef and free range organic eggs and chicken.

5. Take a high quality probiotic daily. Be sure to choose one that provides a diverse array and large number of bacteria.

6. Eat fermented vegetables. This is a healthy and natural way to increase your intake of good bacteria. Remember, homemade is best!






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