Plus: Probiotics Can Help, NSAIDs Maybe Not So Much
Three recent research findings caught our attention since the start of the year, each one of which provides important insights into the health and well-being of our microbiome.
Don’t be put off by the scientific jargon, we’ll break this all down for you:
Research Piece #1
In Vitro. Experiments were conducted in vessels designed to recreate the environment inside the human colon.
Microbial diversity is increased when those microbes are fed a diverse diet of prebiotic carbohydrates (fiber).
When fed a single prebiotic, overall microbial diversity decreased.
Some specific microbial species thrive on a single prebiotic, while others do better with a mix suggesting there are interactions between and among the microbes and their food that we don’t entirely understand.
This was an in vitro study, in which chambers were created to mimic the human colon. While useful for controlling variables, conditions and interactions could very well be different inside an actual human colon.
Assuming a diversity of microbes in your gut is a desirable thing, and there is research to support that contention, then consuming a diet with diverse sources of prebiotic fibers appears to be one way to achieve that.
Likewise, consuming only one prebiotic fiber, can in fact reduce diversity by benefiting certain specific species over others.
Adding Inulin alone reduced microbial diversity by the greatest amount. Inulin is a very popular prebiotic and is found as the sole ingredient in many supplements. This does not make inulin bad, only that over-supplementing with inulin alone, particularly in large quantities, might be counterproductive.
If you are interested in increasing the microbial diversity of your gut, ingesting a variety of prebiotics is a potential strategy.
Research Piece #2
Probiotic Medilac-S® for the induction of clinical remission in a Chinese population with ulcerative colitis: A systematic review and meta-analysis
In vivo Human. The research was a meta study of existing related studies that had used human subjects.
A specific, proprietary probiotic was found to be effective against ulcerative colitis.
This is a meta analysis of numerous other studies, not a study designed from the ground up to explore this question.
Some of the researchers are paid employees of a business-to-business probiotic company.
Only one proprietary probiotic was examined.
The notion that probiotics of any kind can be useful in treating medical conditions remains controversial among many in the medical community. While this was an extremely narrow study conducted on a single probiotic, any finding that suggests probiotics can be effective is instructive.
If you suffer from ulcerative colitis, this could be a very important finding worth exploring with your doctor.
Research Piece #3
Nonsteroidal Anti-inflammatory Drugs Alter the Microbiota and Exacerbate Clostridium difficile Colitis while Dysregulating the Inflammatory Response
American Society for Microbiology
In vivo, mice. The research was conducted using laboratory mice.
The introduction of an NSAID pain reliever increased the severity of Clostridium difficile Colitis (C. diff).
The study was conducted using mice only.
Only one NSAID was examined, the prescription-only indomethacin.
The mechanism by which the indomethacin increases the severity of C. diff is not understood.
Great care should be taken with indomethacin for anyone susceptible to C. diff or who already suffers from it, but always consult with your doctor before taking any action or changing any medication he or she recommends or prescribes.
There is prior research suggesting that NSAIDs (Advil (ibuprofen) and Aleve (naproxen) being two popular OTC products) can in general negatively affect your microbiome. Whether or not you take NSAIDs has to be a personal decision for you, or, if you take them under the recommendation of your doctor, between the two of you.
My personal approach is to take as little medication as possible for as short a time as possible. That’s not always a realistic option, so even I break down and take the occasional ibuprofen, but as a general rule, I will suffer with minor aches and pains so as to spare my body, and my microbiome, from the side effects of NSAIDs.
Thank you for reading. You thoughts and comments are welcome and encouraged.