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Health & Wellness Articles  ›  Healthy Lifestyles

How a Good Gut Keeps You Healthy

Want a Healthy Body? Cultivate a Healthy Gut

-- By Robin Donovan, Health Writer
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Stopping Food-Borne Illness
If you've ever carefully washed a cutting board after slicing raw chicken or passed on the platter of deviled eggs that's been sitting at room temperature for who knows how long, you've done your part to prevent Salmonella infection, a type of food poisoning.

Now, scientists at Arizona State University say they've found evidence that Lactobacillus reuteri, bacteria that naturally live in a healthy gut, produce a substance called "reuterin," which wards off Salmonella poisoning. The exact mechanism is unknown, but reuterin appears to help keep cells lining the intestinal walls of mammals safe from salmonella.

Regulating Stress
We know that there is a connection between the brain and the gut, which is why a stressful day can cause indigestion or anxiety can increase irritable bowel symptoms, for example. But it is newly thought that this communication may not be simply from the brain to the gut, but a two-way sharing of signals. Animal studies have shown that good bacteria help facilitate resistance to stress, particularly early in life, when bacteria are first being introduced. And the way we tolerate stress tends to persist over our lifespan, so the bacteria that the body is exposed to when we are very young may well have lifelong consequences.

Preventing Obesity
A study led by a Washington University School of Medicine researcher compared the gut bacteria of twin siblings in which one twin was obese. They introduced the gut bacteria of each twin to mice, and found that the rodents gained weight or stayed lean according to which bacteria they were exposed to.

Interestingly, allowing the mice with differing bacteria to interact with each other helped obese mice return to a healthy weight—but only when that interaction was paired with a healthy diet. In other words, obese mice exposed to the "lean" promoting bacteria did not lose weight on an unhealthy, high-calorie diet.
 
Although much of this research is in its early stages, today's studies hint that a gut filled with "good" bacteria can have a range of health-promoting impacts, from supporting the immune system to allowing us to better cope with stress.

Sources
American Psychological Association, "That Gut Feeling," www.apa.org, accessed on December 6, 2013.
 
Arizona State University, "Beneficial Bacteria May Help Ward Off Infection," researchmatters.asu.edu, accessed on December 6, 2013.

International Foundation for Functional Gastrointestinal Disorders, "Antibiotics & Diarrhea," www.iffgd.org, accessed on December 6, 2013.
 
Jane A. Foster and Karen-Anne McVey Neufeld. "Gut-Brain Axis." Trends in Neurosciences. 2013 May;36(5):305-12.
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About The Author

Robin Donovan Robin Donovan
Robin Donovan is a Cincinnati-based freelance writer and magazine journalist with experience covering health, medicine, science, business, technology and design.

Member Comments

  • PUGGLEMONKEY
    So....what are you supposed to do to get your gut in balance? What should you eat, any supplements to take etc? Good question about the garlic - we eat a lot of it in my house. - 2/28/2014 11:29:47 AM
  • Good information. There are some other things I've never seen addressed that I think should be. 1: Garlic is often called nature's antibiotic; does it kill all bacteria, including the good, or just the bad? Or does it really kill any of it? 2: Horseradish is said to fight infections; does it have any effect on good bacteria? - 2/28/2014 10:32:50 AM
  • HOOLAHOOP2
    It is absolutely essential that the gut is healthy to feel good. I have personally witnessed how bad I can feel if it is out of order. In 2010, I had a thyroidectomy. Little did I know that that little gland has everything to do with how the body performs. My digestion was completely off. I had to find something to take beside the pharmaceutical meds. I am not one to take medicine, especially if I don't absolutely have to. So I went on a search for something that could support my digestion that was more natural. Taking probiotics and enzymes have absolutely helped me. There are many probiotics on the market, so it is imperative that you find the one that is best for you. - 2/27/2014 3:22:09 PM
  • Is anyone using "Keybiotics" and do you this product is effective to treat candida? - 1/29/2014 9:16:17 AM
  • Informative about why bacteria is good, but nothing about HOW to cultivate good bacteria. - 1/28/2014 10:18:30 AM