Recent research suggests that various factors, such as excessive use of antibiotics in both treating human illnesses and the production of animal proteins, as well as dietary changes, have altered the composition of our gut microbiota. Some studies have even linked rising rates of obesity to changes occurring in our gut.
Antibiotics kill more than bad bacteria
There’s no denying that modern antibiotics have significantly lowered mortality rates associated with aggressive bacteria and illnesses. However, antibiotics cannot target only the bad bacteria, and just one course could wipe out significant amounts of beneficial gut bacteria.
It’s unclear exactly how long it takes for gut microbiome to recover from antibiotic use, but some studies suggest it could take up to a year or longer. What makes this worse is that a healthy gut serves as your first line of defense against disease. Therefore, a damaged microbiome could allow the growth of dangerous pathogens.
Beyond the use of antibiotics for treating human illnesses, there is growing concern over the misuse of antibiotics in food production. Farmers often give livestock low doses of antibiotics to increase growth rates, and how much of the antibiotic is passed on to humans during consumption remains unclear.
Dietary fiber feeds your gut
Fiber is an important component of a healthy diet, as it fuels beneficial bacteria, boosting the production of compounds that help regulate your immune system. Beneficial microbes feed on fiber that comes from various types of vegetables and whole grains. These foods remain undigested as they make their way through the digestive tract to the large intestine, where microbes can extract energy, nutrients, vitamins and other needed compounds.
However, most people fail to get the recommended daily dose of fiber, and recent studies show that lack of fiber will starve beneficial bacteria and can negatively impact your health. One study shows that without enough fiber, microbes may start to feed on the gut’s protective mucus lining, which could potentially trigger inflammation and disease. Other research indicates that lack of fiber can cause a negative shift in the microbial profile often linked to obesity.
Obesity and gut bacteria
Your weight can be affected by many health-related issues, including your gut microbiome. Obese individuals often have higher levels of certain gut microbes and lower levels of certain bacteria. Recent research has shed even more light on the links between gut bacteria and weight problems, finding that bacterial proteins could directly impact appetite control.
It seems gut bacteria plays a role in regulating appetite by multiplying in response to certain nutrients, which stimulates satiety hormones. In addition, while it’s long been understood that if you want to lose weight you need to eat a lot of fiber, new studies are helping researchers understand the connection between increased fiber consumption and the activity of genes associated with metabolism.