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Breaking new ground in gut biome, probiotics and immunity

The gut microbiome is a hot topic when it comes to many areas of our health, with decades of research contributing to a growing appreciation of its impact on immunity, mental wellbeing, food addiction and skin, among others.

Sharp Clinic dermal therapist Diane Lehto says “it’s a topic that I personally find fascinating, having seen first-hand the power of probiotics and good gut health on my patients’ skin over the past 15 years, whether it’s related to the associated skin benefits or to restore the microbiome following postoperative antibiotics.”

Our gut micro biome is with us from birth and describes the ‘ecosystem’ that exists in our gastrointestinal tract, which is part of our digestive system. It is made up of a complex community of trillions of good and bad bacteria, viruses, chemicals and fungi that benefits the body as a whole.

The COVID pandemic has drawn particular interest in the impact of gut health on our immunity. We now understand how important and crucial the interplay between the gut and the immune system is, and the role it plays.

Breaking new ground in gut biome, probiotics and immunity - 1

Assistant Professor of Microbiology and Physiological Systems at the University of Massachusetts Chan Medical School, Ana Maldonado-Contreras, is a scientist investigating interactions between diet, microbiome and immunity. In this article she explains that:

“Bacteria in our guts can elicit an effective immune response against viruses that not only infect the gut, such as norovirus and rotavirus, but also those infecting the lungs, such as the flu virus. The beneficial gut microbes do this by ordering specialized immune cells to produce potent antiviral proteins that ultimately eliminate viral infections.”

Research into the relationship between a healthy gut biome and the immune response to COVID is currently underway in many countries, and while it is not yet clear what contribution the altered microbiome makes, a recent study showed that COVID infections trigger an imbalance in immune cells called T regulatory cells that are critical to immune balance. Bacteria from the gut microbiome are responsible for the proper activation of those T-regulatory cells. Researchers are taking repeated patient stool, saliva and blood samples over a long time frame to learn how the altered microbiome observed in COVID patients can modulate disease severity, possibly by altering the development of the T-regulatory cells.

“This is an exciting area of medicine and we wait to hear more as the results of current research come through; in the meantime we all need to remember that when we look after our gut health, it looks after us,” Diane says.

 This article does not constitute medical advice. Seek the advice of your medical practitioner, dietician or naturopath if you have concerns about your gut health.

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