The gastrointestinal tract contains in the order of 100 trillion different micro-organisms, hopefully living in harmony with the rest of your body. There is some evidence to suggest that the “health” of these micro-organisms reflects the composition of these organisms within the gut. For example, studies have shown that antibiotic use may alter the composition of the gut “microbiota”.
What is the function of these organisms within our gut microbiota?
The gut microbiota plays an important role in digestion of food, initially in the stomach and small bowel, and later into the large bowel, or “colon”. These organisms break down fibre within the large bowel which results in the production of substances called “short chain fatty acids” (SCFA’s) which are important for the health of the gut itself, and also provide “fuel” for normal processes within the liver, for example.
The gut microbiota in disease
Studies have shown that in some disorders which affect the gastrointestinal tract such as Crohn’s disease, there is reduced “diversity” within the microbiota. Whether these changes are secondary to Crohn’s disease, or whether they play a role in the pathogenesis of the disease is an active area of research. This is sometimes referred to as a “dysbiosis”. Whether “dysbiosis” causes an “unhealthy gut”, or vice-versa is an area of active interest.
An evidence-based approach to gut health
At Universal Gastroenterology, we aim to provide an evidence-based approach to gut health. Most commonly, we aim to achieve this via “natural” means, often avoiding medications. Sometimes this may involve changes to the diet. Please speak to your specialist for further information.
These articles, from the British Medical Journal and The Conversation website form a good beginning.
Role of the gut microbiota in nutrition and health, British Medical Journal (2018)
Articles on Gut bacteria, The Conversation website.
Note that this document is a guideline and individual treatment should be discussed with your clinician. This page is in the process of being updated.