Could Microbes Be Responsible For Obesity, Auto-Immune Diseases and Allergies?

February 23, 2011 by  
Filed under Health Blog

We all know that a healthy diet maintains our health but, not surprisingly, recent research has also shown that a poor diet can play a major role in determining our gut microflora which may explain the increase in auto-immune diseases, allergies, inflammatory bowel diseases and other digestive problems and possibly even obesity, caused by germs living in the gut.

But before you go reaching for ‘off the shelf’ probiotic products, try eating more legumes and vegetables instead and less meat, sugar and processed grains. In addition to dietary changes, talk to your naturopath about which probiotic species you should be taking, as different microflora species are required for various health problems.

In one study on gut microflora, the researchers compared intestinal bacteria from children in the European Union and young villagers in remote Burkina Faso, and found enough differences to help explain disparities in chronic disease and obesity. The findings, published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, may support the development of probiotic products to help restore the ancient balance and keep humans leaner and healthier, the researchers say. “Our results suggest that diet has a dominant role over other possible variables such as ethnicity, sanitation, hygiene, geography, and climate, in shaping the gut microbiota,” says Paolo Lionetti of the University of Florence in Italy and colleagues write. “We can hypothesise that the reduction in richness we observe in EU compared with Burkina Faso children, could indicate how the consumption of sugar, animal fat, and calorie-dense foods in industrialised countries is rapidly limiting the adaptive potential of the microbiota.”

The study builds on a body of evidence that human health relies heavily on the trillions of microorganisms living in and on our bodies. Only a fraction cause disease directly – many more help digest food, affect other bacteria and may influence hundreds of biological functions. Several recent studies have found that certain bacteria cause inflammation that can affect appetite as well as inflammatory bowel conditions like Crohn’s disease and colitis, including a study published in Science in March.

“Western developed countries successfully controlled infectious diseases during the second half of the last century, by improving sanitation and using antibiotics and vaccines,” the researchers write. “At the same time, a rise in new diseases such as allergic, autoimmune disorders and inflammatory bowel disease both in adults and in children has been observed,” they add. Lionetti’s team studied the DNA of the gut bacteria of children in Burkina Faso, who are breast-fed up to age two and eat a diet rich in whole grains such as millet, legumes such as black-eyed peas, and vegetables. They eat very little meat. The Western diet, in contrast, is heavy in meat, processed grains, sugar and fat.

The Italian team found the African children had many bacteria that help break down fibre, but the European children were lacking these microbes. The ratios were similar to studies comparing the gut bacteria of lean people to obese people. This bacterial balance could even be causing obesity, the researchers say. It may also be useful to test children for these bacteria to see if they are at high risk of becoming obese, they add. “Reduction in microbial richness is possibly one of the undesirable effects of globalization and of eating generic, nutrient-rich, uncontaminated foods.”

For thousands of years, Traditional Chinese Medicine philosophy has claimed that most disease originates in the gut. Scientific research just confirms this viewpoint.

Yours In Great Health,

Sar Rooney BHSc., ND., DC., DASc., GDSc. (Hons), MATMS, MNHAA, MHATO

Naturopathic Medicine Practitioner, Lecturer, Researcher 

Earth Medicine TM


Email: [email protected]


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Sar Rooney is a Naturopathic Medicine Practitioner specialising in Anxiety and Depression |Women’s Health| Hormonal Imbalances | Thyroid Disorders | Digestive Health | Genetic Polymorphisms (MTHFR/Pyroluria) | Nutritional Medicine | Optimal Wellness & Disease Prevention 

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Reference: 3.8.10. Reuters. Western diet changing gut biota.

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