A Microbiome Makeover is Possible and Supported by Clinical Trials
1. Your past diet affects your future microbiome
The rich collection of microbes that inhabits the human intestinal tract (the gut microbiome) helps us process nutrients in the foods we eat, supports our immune system and does many odd jobs that promote good health. A damaged gut microbiome, on the other hand, has consequences reaching far beyond the intestine, affecting everything from allergies and inflammation, metabolic diseases like diabetes and obesity, and mental health conditions like depression and anxiety
We’ve known for some time that diet has a huge impact on the gut microbiome and refashioning a damaged gut microbiome is a good long-term investment in your health. However, altering your microbiome may not be easy, and not everyone responds to dietary intervention in the same way.
Now a study published in Cell Host and Microbe has identified how prior diet affects the response of the microbiome to dietary changes. The study confirms that changing your diet can change your microbiome for the better. However, if your diet has been a typical American diet (consuming about 3,000 calories a day, high in animal proteins with few fruits and vegetables), then it will take some time and significant dietary changes to improve see improvements.
Here’s a nice overview of the study in the New York Times.
The study is here.
2. First clinical trial shows probiotics may improve cognitive function in elderly Alzheimer’s patients
Alzheimer's disease is one of the most common forms of senile dementia, the development of which may stem from the proteins produced by gut bacteria. Now a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled clinical trial (a proper clinical trial), published in the journal Frontiers in Aging Neuroscience has shown that a daily dose of Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium probiotic supplements can improve cognitive function and metabolic status in Alzheimer’s disease patients.
The probiotic supplement involved was 200 ml per day of a probiotic milk containing Lactobacillus acidophilus, Lactobacillus. casei, Lactobacillus fermentum and Bifidobacterium bifidum (2 billion colony forming units/g for each) for 12 weeks.
You can read the study here.
3. Galactooligosaccharide (GOS) supplementation can improve lactose digestion in lactose-intolerant individuals
Another proper study! We love seeing these.
In case you didn’t know, galactooligosaccharide (GOS) is a prebiotic that is derived from the lactose found in cows’ milk and has been shown to promote healthy Bifidobacteria.
Up to 75% of the global population have issues with lactose intolerance. A previous clinical trial has shown that GOS supplementation can improve the symptoms of lactose-intolerance. Now a randomized, double-blind, multisite placebo-controlled trial conducted in human participants has linked the improvements to shifts in the microbiome. The study, published in the journal PNAS found that GOS supplementation increased the abundance of lactose-fermenting Bifidobacterium, Faecalibacterium, and Lactobacillus bacteria in the gut microbiome. When dairy was introduced into the diet, the lactose-fermenting Roseburia species was also increased. The changes correlated specifically with improved lactose tolerance in the studies participants.
Some people with lactose intolerance think that they can’t take GOS because it is derived from lactose. This study proves quite the opposite. Taking GOS is an effective strategy for dealing with lactose intolerance.