9 Surprising Ways Gut Bacteria Affect Health

Carol Bradley Bursack | Feb 13, 2015

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It’s not sexy but it’s real. Many scientists are now looking at the gut as a primary source of many diseases that plague humankind. Probiotics, the prebiotics that they feed upon in the gut, as well as changes in our diet are being studied as possible methods of preventing or curing major diseases.

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Alzheimer's disease

Could changing what we eat alter the proteins that may cause degenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s? An international group of researchers has found preliminary evidence suggesting this may be so. What can we do while we wait for confirmation? Eat a low fat, high fiber diet of fish, vegetables, fruits and antioxidants. Possibly take probiotics. Ask your doctor.

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Anxiety

Volunteers in a study at Oxford University who consumed B-GOS, a type of prebiotic, paid less attention to negative words and more attention to positive words. The prebiotic also seems to reduce levels of the stress hormone cortisol and reduce anxiety.

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Allergies

Probiotics improve digestion and nutrient absorption plus restore positive gut bacteria. They also fight harmful pathogens that may encourage allergies in children.

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Chronic digestive diseases

Probiotics have also been shown to benefit people with chronic GI diseases such as Crohn’s disease and irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). The beneficial bacteria help keep harmful bacteria in the gut under control.

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Cancer

Some preliminary research shows that probiotics may help prevent certain cancers from developing by signaling gut bacteria to decrease the production of carcinogens.

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Obesity

People who are obese have different intestinal flora compared to thin people which is due to diet differences. Researchers believe probiotics help promote the growth of healthy gut bacteria that aid in weight loss and management.

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Autism

Researchers have suggested that some children with autism may have abnormal communities of digestive bacteria in their intestines. There is interest in trying to introduce different gut bacteria ratios into children with autism to determine if that would help improve symptoms.

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General immunity

Researchers are finding that certain bacteria in the gut influence the development of aspects of the immune system such as correcting deficiencies and increasing the numbers of certain T cells.

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The takeaway

If some major illnesses can be stopped or treated early while their root is still in the gut, good health for many would be amuch more likely prospect. We’ll be watching for more research on this topic.