Could Gut Bacteria be the secret to all underlying long-term conditions?

I have strong beliefs that bacteria can make us sick, but it can also make us healthy. Earlier this month I shared a wonderful article on my Facebook page in the Telegraph about a Biotherapeutics company in Leeds UK making discoveries about bacteria strains showing positive influences upon diseases that are now believed to be related to the health of the digestive system.

 The next phase of the study is now underway, and so far they have taken gut bacteria from a healthy person, frozen the bacteria and then put it inside an oral pill for patients to take. The results at this stage are good and showing that they are having a positive effect on the immune system particularly for people suffering from Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, and even cancer. You can read the Telegraph article here. [1]

Interestingly, the article refers to the University College of London, who earlier this year reported that one dose of antibiotics had shown to alter the oral and gut microbiome for at least year. Professor Francois Balloux (UCL Genetics Institute) said, “Though we don’t fully understand the exact role the microbiome plays in maintaining health, the effect of antibiotics is dramatic and are likely to be of some importance.” [2]

These studies are crucial as we work towards trying to find treatment for many of the long-term conditions we are seeing today, without the use of invasive treatments such as chemotherapy, and pharmaceutical drugs. If one dose of antibiotics can alter the diversity of the gut microbiome for at least a year, then how will multiple doses of antibiotics effect the oral and gut microbiome over many months? And let’s think about teenage children, often doctors prescribe antibiotics for acne. These antibiotics may help initially but what changes are happening to the microbiome when taken over a longer period of time? Doctors are just following guidelines, but with these new studies surely the advice on long-term treatment for these conditions need to be readdressed. That’s why these studies are extremely important and it’s wonderful that health science is being explored in this way.

When I am approached or challenged by someone who is suffering a long-term health condition, I rarely think first about treatment (that’s why I will probably never be a GP), but I do think why this is happening, what has happened to that person for them to now experience these problems. Yes of course genes play an important role in conditions that sometimes don’t exacerbate themselves until later in life, but I always consider lifestyle first. Why is this person suffering in this way, then I consider how they can help improve their symptoms. I can’t advise people because I am not a qualified GP, but all I can do is bring a different perspective and hope people then consider other lifestyle changes that could help them.

One of the main long-term conditions I also believe has a link to gut health is depression. I believe this condition is intensified particularly if someone is overweight. The question lies in whether being overweight causes depression, or whether depression causes being overweight. Having experienced both of these myself, and now watching someone close experience the same, I believe our situations were weight causing the depression. I also know that I took multiple doses of antibiotics, and so has the person close to me, so could this link of antibiotics and altering the gut microbiome be the key to our weight problems, and then depression? These are all questions I feel need to be explored, as health professionals try to find the solution to global obesity, and depression. I was lucky in the sense that I have a “Can do” attitude, so when I was depressed and overweight, I wanted to do something about it. The NHS/pharmaceutical way was not something I believed in, so I set on my own mission to heal myself, and I turned my attention to the health of my gut. Since doing so, I am the fittest and healthiest I have ever been in my life.

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