Gut microbiota

I recently wrote about the adverse effects of artificial sweeteners. One of those effects is that they disrupt gut microbiota (intestinal bacteria) balance and diversity.[1] You really don’t want to mess with your healthy gut organisms and I’ll tell you why a bit later in this report. Let’s look at disruptors of healthy gut microbiota and also the connection scientists have found between gut microbiota and most all body systems.

Importance of a healthy gut microbiota[2]

Your gut bacteria produce a variety of nutrients. They produce short-chain fatty acids, B vitamins, and vitamin K. The bacteria actually interact with epithelial and subepithelial cell receptors and even release cellular factors known to influence your metabolism. As you will see later in this report, they play roles in the pathogenesis of metabolic syndrome, diabetes, non-alcoholic fatty liver disease, cognition, and more, that extends well beyond just bacteria for digestion in the gut.

Disruptors of gut bacterial balance

There are a few disrupters to mention. Aspartame, sucralose and saccharin have been shown to disrupt the balance of gut microbiota. Researchers found that the artificial sweeteners acesulfame potassium, saccharin and sucralose have a major impact on healthy bacterial growth.[3] Researchers began to discover this when fecal transplant experiments (microbiota from artificial sweetener-consuming hosts are transferred into germ-free mice) proved that this disruption is transferable. Moreover, it resulted in impaired glucose tolerance (diabetes).[4]

Antibiotics are also known to disrupt the gut microbiota.[5] For example, even short-term antibiotic treatment is known to shift the healthy gut microbiota to create a long-term dysbiotic condition that promotes the development and aggravation of various diseases.

In one study, healthy volunteers who were treated for up to 1 week with antibiotics reported symptoms of adverse effects of bacterial flora which persisted 6 to 24 months after treatment. They were found to have a dramatic loss in diversity, increased antibiotic-resistant strains, and upregulation of antibiotic resistance genes.[6]

Apparently, antibiotics drive intestinal environment changes that proliferate even virulent gut pathogens. Unfortunately, even one single dose of Clindamycin (antibiotic) has been shown[7] to induce profound changes in the gut microbiota of mice even to consequently confer long-lasting susceptibility to C. difficile infection. I’ll share more about Clostridium difficile intestinal infection in my next article.