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And Speaking of Gut Bacteria

Published: September 25, 2010

A better understanding of the ecosystem we all carry inside us is going to allow us to produce a healthier GI tract, which will have positive effects on many areas of health. Health food stores are now selling “pro-biotic” products, and while this practice seems great in theory, the research is only now getting done to confirm or deny the specifics of how to improve the flora of our digestive system.

Researchers in Italy recently compared the diets of children in Burkina Faso, a decidedly poor African nation where a high fiber diet is standard (legumes, vegetables, sorghum and millet), to those of European children on Western diets. It turned out that the African diet – thought to resemble that of humans 10,000 years ago – induced a gut micro-flora that was more populous and varied than in European children.

This more complex internal ecology was felt to offer protection from allergies and certain gut diseases like inflammatory bowel disorders and Crohn’s disease. These diseases seem to afflict people on Western diets at a much higher rate than those who are not. Additionally, fewer bacteria that can cause diarrhea were cultured in the high fiber group. So the “good bacteria” resulting from a high fiber diet is surely going to pay-off on healthier immune systems in the future. Be wary though, this research is still a work in progress, so don’t rush out to buy the latest thing being hyped in health food stores.