Wednesday, 5 February 2020

A Gut Feeling: Your Gut’s Microbiome and the Misinformation Circulating About Fecal Transplants


There’s been a lot of talk in recent years about the gut’s microbiome. Probiotics and prebiotics have become the buzzwords of the day.

A guest post by Indiana Lee.

Talk of intestinal flora and fecal transplants are now parts of polite dinner conversation. Cultivating your belly’s internal ecosystem is starting to seem like some universal panacea for good health. But is it really? This article will help you separate the truth from the hype when it comes to the impact of your gut’s microbiome on your overall health.

What Is the Microbiome?

Simply put, the gut microbiome refers to the colonies of trillions of bacteria present in the human intestinal tract. Though its primary function is to aid in digestion, an increasing body of research is showing that the microbiome’s function is far more extensive, impacting virtually every bodily system, from the immune system to the neurological system and practically everything in between.

Protecting the Microbiome

As important as the gut microbiome is, the simple fact is that our modern lives aren’t very kind to our intestinal ecosystems. Changes in diet, hygiene, and lifestyle born of industrialization have disrupted the delicate balance of this ancient system, which may explain today’s rising rates of gastrointestinal and immune disorders. Disturbances to the intestinal flora may also account for the increasing prevalence of allergies, including surging diagnoses of pediatric food allergies.

Studies show, though, that perhaps the most significant threat to the gut’s microbiome is antibiotic use. A recent study found that not only does the use of antibiotics cause an immediate and significant disruption to the body’s microbial communities, but that these effects are extremely long-lasting. Researchers found that new strains of gut bacteria could be detected as many as 6 months after the completion of antibiotic therapy, demonstrating how severe and enduring the effects of antibiotics on the stability and overall health of the gut’s ecosystem truly are—and when multiple antibiotics are introduced, the impact is that much stronger.

What is a Fecal Microbiota Transplant?


In recent years, fecal microbiota transplants (FMT) have been studied for the treatment of a host of diseases. The treatment consists of the transfer of fecal material from a healthy donor, typically through a colonoscopy or in the form of FMT capsules. The premise is that the introduction of healthy stool containing the appropriate balance of essential intestinal microbiota will help the patient’s body to rebalance its gut microbiome. Though fecal transplants are most commonly being used to treat severe gastrointestinal diseases, they are also being studied for the treatment of other common conditions, from Parkinson’s disease and multiple sclerosis to chronic fatigue syndrome.

Digestive Disorders

Digestive disorders are becoming increasingly common, with nearly 3/4 of all Americans experiencing some kind of chronic digestive dysfunction, ranging from heartburn and constipation to ulcers and gastrointestinal bleeding. Diseases of the digestive tract, such as Crohn’s disease, are not only often debilitatingly painful, but can also become life-threatening. FMT therapy, especially when combined with prescription biologic drugs, such as Entyvio, can help restore the intestine’s healthy bacterial ecosystem while tamping down the immune response that disrupts the gut’s microbiome in certain digestive system disorders like Crohn’s and ulcerative colitis.
Thyroid Disorders

Approximately 20 million Americans have thyroid disease. Both underactivity of the thyroid gland (hypothyroidism) and the overactivity of the thyroid gland (hyperthyroidism) can significantly impact the entire body, with symptoms ranging from weight gain or loss to joint pain, fatigue, and cognitive impacts. Though you may not think that a little butterfly-shaped gland at the top of the throat has much to do with the bacteria in your gut, an increasing number of studies are showing that the opposite is true. Current research suggests, in fact, that the intestinal microbiota strongly impact thyroid function and may have a particularly significant effect on autoimmune-related thyroid disorders. This would seem to strongly support the idea that FMT could be beneficial in the treatment of thyroid disease.


Obesity

Obesity and obesity-related diseases, ranging from cardiovascular disease to Type 2 diabetes, have become epidemic in the United States. According to recent estimates from the World Health Organization, more than 2.8 million lives are claimed each year as a result of obesity-related diseases. As the scope and danger of the obesity epidemic grow, researchers are searching for answers, and FMT is demonstrating increasing promise. Studies suggest that restoring the gut’s healthy bacterial ecosystem through FMT may reverse the metabolic syndromes often linked to obesity. For instance, obese patients receiving FMT seem to be better able to absorb nutrients and process glucose more efficiently than before receiving the transplant. This means they tend to feel full longer, without experiencing the spikes in glucose that can trigger overeating and predispose patients to the development of diabetes.

The Takeaway

The connection between the gut’s microbiome and overall health is only just beginning to be understood or appreciated. But the evidence is mounting that your inner ecosystem not only impacts your digestive well-being but also contributes to the functioning of almost every other bodily system, from the neurologic to the endocrine and everything in between. Restoring your gut’s microbiome through the use of fecal microbiota transplant (FMT) may be the key to combating some of our most common, dangerous, and debilitating illnesses, from Crohn’s Disease to Parkinson’s to obesity. When it comes to good health, in other words, just follow your gut!


Pharmaceutical Microbiology Resources (http://www.pharmamicroresources.com/)

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