New Research Shows Link Between Genetics and Gut Bacteria

by Jennifer Mitchell Wilson B.S. Dietetics, Dietitian, Health Professional

In one of my previous posts Balancing Gut Bacteria Shows Promise for IBD Treatment we discussed that Inflammatory Bowel Disease patients tend to have an imbalance between good gut bacteria and the inflammation causing or bad gut bacteria.
Newer studies go even further, suggesting that these gut microbiomes could also have a genetic link.

Recent research in Genome Medicine entitled "Complex host genetics influence the microbiome in inflammatory bowel disease"
delves into the relationship between genetics and bacterial communities in the development of inflammatory bowel disease.

This study, published by by Dr. Dan Knights from University of Minnesota's Department of Computer Science and Engineering and the Biotechnology Institute, found groups of genes that may play a role in the development of imbalances in gut microbes.

In the two year study researchers looked at 474 adult IBD patients and collected samples of their DNA along with samples of the DNA of their gut bacteria.
The data proved the researchers theory that the DNA of the patients was associated with the DNA of the gut bacteria.
"In many cases we're still learning how these bacteria influence our risk of disease, but understanding the human genetics component is a necessary step in unraveling the mystery," said Dr. Knights.

Now that several studies have indicated that patients with IBD have a lower diversity of healthy gut bacteria the next step in research may be to determine how to increase that diversity across the board.

In the meantime, there are three things you can do help develop healthy gut bacteria:

  1. Eat probiotic-rich foods, such as kefir or yogurt, every day.

  2. Add prebiotic-rich foods to your diet to get the best results from the probiotics you consume.
    Some good sources of prebiotics include beans, artichoke, jicama, chickory root, raw oats, unrefined wheat or barley and yacon.

  3. Try to avoid using antibiotics unless necessary, and make sure you finish the course of treatment as directed by your physician.
    Ask your doctor about probiotics that can help replenish the good bacteria that may have been destroyed by the antibiotics.

For more information on related topics check out some of my previous blogs:

Antibiotic Overuse and Crohn's Disease Risk
Early Antibiotic Use Linked to IBD

Probiotics for the Treatment of IBD

Jennifer Mitchell Wilson
Meet Our Writer
Jennifer Mitchell Wilson

Jennifer Mitchell Wilson is a dietitian and mother of three girls. Two of her children have dealt with acid reflux disease, food allergies, migraines, and asthma. She has a Bachelor of Science in dietetics from Harding University and has done graduate work in public health and nutrition through Eastern Kentucky University. In addition to writing for HealthCentral, she does patient consults and serves on the Board of Directors for the Pediatric Adolescent Gastroesophageal Reflux Association.