It appears that the developing gut bacteria in newborns is even more important than previously thought. Antibiotics and other chemical toxins destroy gut bacteria. As the microbiome develops in humans it also determines how our metabolism gets established and our digestive patterns for life are formed according to a NYU research team and published in Cell.
Acquisition of the intestinal microbiota begins at birth, and a stable microbial community develops from a succession of key organisms. Disruption of the microbiota during maturation by low-dose antibiotic exposure can alter host metabolism and adiposity.
We now show that low-dose penicillin (LDP), delivered from birth, induces metabolic alterations and affects ileal expression of genes involved in immunity. LDP that is limited to early life transiently perturbs the microbiota, which is sufficient to induce sustained effects on body composition, indicating that microbiota interactions in infancy may be critical determinants of long-term host metabolic effects.
In addition, LDP enhances the effect of high-fat diet induced obesity. The growth promotion phenotype is transferrable to germ-free hosts by LDP-selected microbiota, showing that the altered microbiota, not antibiotics per se, play a causal role. These studies characterize important variables in early-life microbe-host metabolic interaction and identify several taxa consistently linked with metabolic alterations.
For further reading:
Altering the Intestinal Microbiota during a Critical Developmental Window Has Lasting Metabolic Consequences Cox, Laura M; Yamanishi, Shingo; Sohn, Jiho; Alekseyenko, Alexander V; Leung, Jacqueline M; Cho, Ilseung; Kim, Sungheon G; Li, Huilin; Gao, Zhan; Mahana, Douglas; Zarate Rodriguez, Jorge G; Rogers, Arlin B; Robine, Nicolas; Loke, P’ng; Blaser, Martin J 2014 Aug;158(4):705-721, Cell — id: 1132022, year: 2014, vol: 158, page: 705, stat: Journal Article,
Bacteria in the gut help the body to digest food, and stimulate the immune system. A PhD project at the National Food Institute, Technical University of Denmark, examines whether modulations of the gut bacterial composition affect intestinal integrity, i.e. the ability of the body to maintain a well-regulated barrier function that hinders bacteria from entering the body unintentionally.
The human gut contains more than 100 trillion bacteria, which help the body digest food, produce vitamins protect against disease-provoking bacteria in food, and stimulate the immune system.
All these bacteria are separated from the rest of the body by the intestinal wall, which functions as a selective barrier aimed at allowing only useful substances to pass and be absorbed in the body.
Ellen Gerd Christensen, PhD student at the National Food Institute, has examined whether a change in gut bacterial composition affects intestinal integrity. Results show that increased intake of whole-grain wheat increases the number of bifidobacteria, which are considered beneficial for human health. In addition, the study indicated that bifidobacteria may have a negative effect on intestinal integrity. However, subsequent animal testing in rats showed no changes in intestinal integrity after dosing with live bifidobacteria.
Antibiotics also have an effect
In addition, experiments in rats showed that administration of antibiotics, which cause immense changes in the bacterial gut composition, have an effect on intestinal integrity in either a positive or negative direction, depending on the specific antibiotics.
The findings of this PhD project can be used to clarify how changes in the composition of the natural gut bacterial community may affect intestinal function and permeability.
Read Ellen Gerd Christensen’s PhD thesis: http://www.food.dtu.dk/english/~/media/Institutter/Foedevareinstituttet/Publikationer/Pub-2014/PhD%20thesis%20Ellen%20Gerd%20Christensen.ashx.
Could passing gas, in some instances, be a sign that our gut microbes are busy keeping us healthy? Maybe, but that won’t necessarily make us welcome guests. Here’s what you need to know about which way the wind blows.
In theory, these recipes would be helpful for some people — and those in their vicinity.
But being a bit gassy may actually be a small price to pay for a lot of benefits to our health.
We know that air often comes after eating nutrient-packed vegetables, such as cabbage, kale and broccoli. And researchers have found that fiber-rich foods, like beans and lentils, boost the levels of beneficial gut bacteria after only a few days, as we reported in December.
So all this got us wondering: Could passing gas, in some instances, be a sign that our gut microbes are busy keeping us healthy?
Absolutely, says Puma Kashyap, a gastroenterologist at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn.
“Eating foods that cause gas is the only way for the microbes in the gut to get nutrients,” he says. “If we didn’t feed them carbohydrates, it would be harder for them to live in our gut.”
And we need to keep these colon-dwelling critters content, Kashyap says. When they gobble up food — and create gas — they also make molecules that boost the immune system, protect the lining of the intestine and prevent infections.
“A healthy individual can have up to 18 flatulences per day and be perfectly normal,” he adds.
Gas gets into the digestive tract primarily through two routes: Swallowing air (which we all do when we eat and chew gum) and your microbiome. That’s the collection of organisms in the GI tract that scientists and doctors are currently all fired up about. (Check our colleague Rob Stein’s recent series on it.)
That microbiome includes hundreds of different bacteria. But there are also organisms from another kingdom shacking up with them: the archaea.
All these microbes are gas-making fools. They eat up unused food in your large intestine, like fiber and other carbohydrates we don’t digest, and churn out a bunch of gases as waste.
But that’s not all they make. They also produce a slew of molecules (called short chain fatty acids) that may promote the growth of other beneficial bacteria and archaea.
And the more fiber you feed these friendly inhabitants, the more types of species appear, studies have found. This bump in microbial diversity has been linked to a slimmer waistline .
“Undigested carbohydrates allow the whole ecosystem to thrive and flourish,” Kashyap says.
Most gas made by the microbiome is odorless. It’s simply carbon dioxide, hydrogen or methane. But sometimes a little sulfur slips in there.
“That’s when it gets smelly,” Kashyap says.
But here’s the hitch: Many of the smelly sulfur compounds in vegetables have healthful properties.
Take for instance, the broccoli, mustard and cabbage family. These Brassica vegetables are packed with a sulfur compound, called sulforaphane, that is strongly associated with a reduced risk of cancer.
Another possible benefit of a little smelly gas? It may reduce the total volume of air in the gut, Kashyap says.
Why? Because bacteria and archaea make the sulfur gas from other gases in the gut, like hydrogen.
“Bacteria that make sulfide gas are really important,” Kashyap says. “They can cause smelliness, but they can reduce the total amount of gas flow.”
Of course, having too much of anything can be bad. If gas and bloating start interfering with your quality of life, Kashayps recommends seeing a doctor.
But don’t immediately blame your diet, Kashyap says.
In many cases, people who complain about too much gas actually don’t generate more than others, he says. Instead, they perceive the passing more intensely. Or they pass it more often.
“Yes, a more fiber-rich diet will produce more gas,” Kashyap adds. “But completely eliminating fiber from the diet should not be the first option. You don’t want to starve your microbes.”
So go ahead. Enjoy those lentils. Chow down on the cabbage. Then if you stink a little, think of it as a thank you gesture from your microbiome.