Researchers studying the microbiome are discovering that bacterial diversity in our intestinal tracts is affected by what we eat and drink.
Dutch scientists analyzed the bacteria, viruses and fungi living in the digestive systems of 1,100 living in the Netherlands. The subjects collected and froze stool samples for analysis.
What Makes for Better Bacterial Diversity in the GI Tract?
The investigators found that people who ate the most fruit, vegetables and yogurt displayed greater bacterial diversity. People who drank coffee, tea, wine or buttermilk also had more varied flora within their GI tracts. Older people tended to have greater diversity than younger ones and women demonstrated a greater range of species.
Other researchers have found that fiber in the diet makes a difference for the bacterial diversity of the microbiome. Surprisingly, even a preference for dark chocolate over milk chocolate changes the flora. What you put in your mouth nourishes your microbes as well as your body.
Why Should You Care about Bacterial Diversity?
Research has found that having a more diverse gut flora is linked to better health in general. Several of the guests on our radio show over the past year have emphasized the importance of bacterial diversity. Dr. David Perlmutter pointed out the links between gut flora and brain function. So did Dr. Kulreet Chaudhary, who described the importance of good digestion in the Ayurvedic tradition and the emerging science linking the brain and the digestive tract. Drs. Mullin and Robillard describe how to reduce small intestine bacterial overgrowth and reduce unpleasant symptoms such as reflux or irritable bowel syndrome.
As the special edition of Science points out, microbial diversity is intimately linked to the development of a robust immune system. Beneficial bacteria help reduce the likelihood of rampant inflammation, and that, as is now recognized, is important to health throughout the body.