There are over 400 species of bacteria in your belly right now that can be the key to health or disease.
Health care of the future may include personalized diagnosis of an individual's "microbiome" to determine what probiotics are needed to provide balance and prevent disease. They're thought to encode more than 3 million genes in the body, and this complexity of bugs may also be responsible for immune dysfunction that begins with a "failure to communicate" in the human gut, scientists say.
Led by researchers from the Lawson Health Research Institute at Western University, Canada, and Tianyi Health Science Institute in Zhenjiang, Jiangsu, China the study analysed gut bacteria in a cohort of more than 1,000 Chinese individuals in a variety of age-ranges from 3 to over 100 years-old who were self-selected to be extremely healthy with no known health issues and no family history of disease.
The results showed a direct correlation between health and the microbes in the intestine.
""The main conclusion is that if you are ridiculously healthy and 90 years old, your gut microbiota is not that different from a healthy 30 year old in the same population," said lead researcher Greg Gloor at the Lawson Health Research Institute.
"The aim is to bring novel microbiome diagnostic systems to populations, then use food and probiotics to try and improve biomarkers of health," added Professor Gregor Reid, also of the Lawson Health Research Institute. "It begs the question - if you can stay active and eat well, will you age better, or is healthy ageing predicated by the bacteria in your gut?"
Cause or Effect?
Whether findings are the result of cause or effect is unknown, but the team behind the study point out that it is the diversity of the gut microbiota that remained the same through their study group.
"This demonstrates that maintaining diversity of your gut as you age is a biomarker of healthy aging, just like low-cholesterol is a biomarker of a healthy circulatory system," said Gloor.
However, the team go further, by suggest that resetting an elderly microbiota to that of a 30-year-old might help promote health.
"By studying healthy people, we hope to know what we are striving for when people get sick," said Reid.
The team noted that the present findings suggest that the microbiota of the healthy aged differ little from that of the healthy young in the same population, although the minor variations that do exist depend upon the comparison cohort.
"This baseline will serve for comparison for future cohorts with chronic or acute disease," wrote the team. "We speculate that this similarity is a consequence of an active healthy lifestyle and diet, although cause and effect cannot be ascribed in this (or any other) cross-sectional design."
They added that one surprising result was that the gut microbiota of persons in their 20s was distinct from those of other age cohorts.
"This result was replicated, suggesting that it is a reproducible finding and distinct from those of other populations," said the team -- who noted that further work will now investigate this unexpected finding.
"This observation may result from an altered diet, altered energy requirements, or an unknown cohort effect, although if the latter, it must have occurred countrywide as the same effect was observed in a population of university age students from Jiangsu Province and from police and military recruits originating from all provinces in China," the Canadian and Chinese team concluded.
6 SURPRISING FACTS ABOUT MICROBES IN YOUR GUT
1. What's in Your Gut May Affect the Size of Your Gut
Need to lose weight? Why not try a gut bacteria transplant?
New research published in the journal Science suggests that the microbes in your gut may play a role in obesity.
2. Probiotics May Treat Anxiety and Depression
Scientists have been exploring the connection between gut bacteria and chemicals in the brain for years. New research adds more weight to the theory that researchers call "the microbiome--gut--brain axis."
Research published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Science shows that mice fed the bacterium Lactobacillus rhamnosus showed fewer symptoms of anxiety and depression. Researchers theorize that this is because L. rhamnosus acts on the central gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) system, which helps regulate emotional behavior.
L. rhamnosus, which is available as a commercial probiotic supplement, has also been linked to the prevention of diarrhea, atopic dermatitis, and respiratory tract infections.
3. The More Bacteria the Better
While bacteria on the outside of your body can cause serious infections, the bacteria inside your body can protect against it. Studies have shown that animals without gut bacteria are more susceptible to serious infections.
Bacteria found naturally inside your gut have a protective barrier effect against other living organisms that enter your body. They help the body prevent harmful bacteria from rapidly growing in your stomach, which could spell disaster for your bowels.
To do this, they develop a give-and-take relationship with your body.
"The host actively provides a nutrient that the bacterium needs, and the bacterium actively indicates how much it needs to the host," according to research published in The Lancet.
4. Gut Bacteria Pass from Mother to Child in Breast Milk
It's common knowledge that a mother's milk can help beef up a baby's immune system. New research indicates that the protective effects of gut bacteria can be transferred from mother to baby during breastfeeding.
Work published in Environmental Microbiology shows that important gut bacteria travels from mother to child through breast milk to colonize a child's own gut, helping his or her immune system to mature.
5. Lack of Gut Diversity Is Linked to Allergies
Too few bacteria in the gut can throw the immune system off balance and make it go haywire with hay fever.
Researchers in Copenhagen reviewed the medical records and stool samples of 411 infants. They found that those who didn't have diverse colonies of gut bacteria were more likely to develop allergies.
But before you throw your gut bacteria a proliferation party, know that they aren't always beneficial.
6. Gut Bacteria Can Hurt Your Liver
Your liver gets 70 percent of its blood flow from your intestines, so it's natural they would share more than just oxygenated blood.
Italian researchers found that between 20 and 75 percent of patients with chronic fatty liver disease--the kind not associated with alcoholism--also had an overgrowth of gut bacteria. Some believe that the transfer of gut bacteria to the liver could be responsible for chronic liver disease.
Probiotics work in many different ways by their production of antimicrobial substances (organic acids, hydrogen peroxide, and bacteriocins) that inhibit pathogen adhesion and degrade toxins produced by microbial invaders. Probiotics resist colonization by competing for binding sites as well as for nutrients with pathogens. In other words, they crowd out pathogens like candida and harmful E. Coli.
Probiotics secrete various proteins that stimulate the immune system both locally and throughout the body, boost intestinal brush border enzyme activity and increase secretory-IgA (a family of antibodies lining mucous membranes). Enzymes like lactase, sucrase, maltase, alpha-glucosidase, and alkaline phosphatase are enhanced by probiotics. Cholesterol and triglyceride blood levels are metabolized and lowered by healthy probiotic populations. Probiotics are able to resist translocation, defined as the passage of pathogens from the GI tract to extraintestinal sites such as the mesenteric lymph node (MLN), spleen, liver, kidneys, and blood.