Gut Bacteria Influences Our Gut Reactions Our Entire Lives


Researchers reported on Thursday that our gut bacteria can affect our gut reactions our entire lives. Our gut bacteria can affect our weight, risk of disease, how our bodies process the calories we consume and how easy or difficult it is for us to lose or gain weight. In short, our gut bacteria may be shaping our health throughout our entire lives.

Want the straight poop on how gut bacteria can affect your ability to lose weight?

According to the researchers, though the study that they undertook didn’t reveal if it’s possible to change one’s gut microbiome to lose weight, it suggests that a once-a-year stool test might become part of your regular checkup.

The researchers conducted in-depth, long-term studies on the bacteria living inside several dozen volunteers and found very little change over the years, with one notable exception: in women who lost a lot of weight suddenly.

They estimated that, were physicians to begin collecting fecal samples to monitor patient health, doing so just once a year would be sufficient to reveal significant changes in the core microbiome. That could be a useful diagnostic tool for doctors, according to Jeffrey Gordon of Washington University in St. Louis and colleagues write in their report, published in the journal Science.

Gordon added:

These results reveal that the majority of the bacterial strains in an individual’s microbiota persist for years, and suggest that our gut colonizers have the potential to shape many aspects of our biological features for most and in some cases all of our lives.”

Each human carries pounds of microorganisms that we couldn’t live without. The bacteria within our guts break down food, prevent infections and extract nutrients like vitamin K.

According to scientists, microbes outnumber human cells by a factor of at least 10 to one and scientists believe at least 10,000 different species live in and on us.

Scientific studies suggest that our gut bacteria affect our weight, by either pulling every last calorie out of food, or passing it along quickly before the body absorbs too many calories. They likely also have an affect on ailments such as Crohn’s disease and irritable bowel syndrome.

Does the makeup of bacterial species within us change much over time?

Gordon’s team, wanting to see if the makeup of various bacterial species changes over time, sampled the stool of 37 healthy Americans. Among these were 33 who gave samples multiple times over more than five years, and four were tested while on a liquid diet over eight months.

His team developed a new type of genetic testing to monitor the different species of bacteria. Each person’s population of bacteria is unique, although closely related people often share some of the same species.

Despite finding a few changes, the researchers noted:

Nonetheless, the set of microbial strains was remarkably stable overall, with more than 70 percent of the same strains remaining after one year and few additional changes occurring over the following four years.”

They added:

The objects we touch and consume during the course of our lives are covered with diverse microbial life. Despite this (the genetic sequencing) revealed that on average 60 percent of the approximately 200 microbial strains harbored in each adult’s intestine were retained in their host over the course of a five-year sampling period.”

The study suggests that the majority of the strains of bacteria within our gut represent a stable core that exists within our bodies for our entire lives.The strains might be around since our childhoods, and some might even have been acquired from our parents.

What influence, if any, do we have over our gut bacteria?

Despite a core of bacteria persisting in our bodies from the cradle to the grave, we still can exert a powerful influence upon them through our eating habits and the amount of exercise we engage in throughout our lives.

The study the researchers conducted affirm this when they had four of the volunteers, who were obese, volunteer to go on a series of diets while having their bacteria sampled. The types of species changed a lot in these four as they lost weight on a liquid diet and then went on a different diet to stabilize their weight.

Some groups, or genuses, of bacteria thrived, while other populations plummeted on the weight loss diet, the researchers said. The changes seemed more linked with the actual weight loss itself than the ingredients in the diet milkshake.

Though further studies are needed, the evidence Gordon’s team collected suggests that:

Earlier colonizers, such as those acquired from our parents and siblings, have the potential to provide their metabolic products and exert their immunologic effects for our entire lives,”

The next time you have a “gut reaction” to something, your gut’s colonies of bacteria might actually be trying to tell you something is wrong inside of your body.

While it’s possibly true that some humans are predisposed through our DNA to have a more difficult time getting rid of our excess weight because of the bacteria within our guts, the study’s results show that we are not entirely influenced by them.

We can change, we can alter the species of gut bacteria within us, we can lose weight and become healthier, though it might be more difficult for some of us than others.

Our gut bacteria may influence our lives, but that doesn’t mean that it controls them.


Written by: Douglas Cobb

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