Gut bacteria play a number of very important roles in our bodies—more than most people realize!
Obviously they’re needed for digestion, as they break down the food we eat. However, they also  provide immunity against pathogens, manage fat storage, help modulate bone mass density, protect against damage to the epithelial lining of our cells, modify our nervous systems, encourage synthesis of important amino acids and vitamins, train our immune system to increase resistance, and help new blood vessels to form.
Simply put, our gut bacteria are absolutely vital to our health! It’s essential that we feed them the right probiotics and prebiotics to keep them flourishing and active.
Over the years, countless studies have been conducted into gut health, analyzing how the bacteria in our intestines can not only manage, but even predict problems.
Well, one new study has found an interesting new result: high markers of a certain type of bacteria can indicate a higher mortality risk.
A study published in the journal Nature Communications  highlighted the very interesting link between gut microbiome composition and predictable mortality rates.
The study, conducted in Finland, included more than 7,200 adults between the ages of 24 to 74 (mean age of 49). All of the participants underwent three different analyses in 2002:
Questionnaire on current health, history of diseases, and health behavior
After this initial analyses, the researchers continued to monitor the health of the subjects for the next 15 years.
Over the long follow-up period, the researchers used machine learning algorithms to analyse more fecal samples collected and detect certain microbial species—specifically, the species that were correlated with death during the next 15 years.
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While no one bacteria was linked to a specific cause of death, there was one in particular that raised the risk of death by respiratory and gastrointestinal causes.
The culprit: microbes from the Enterobacteriaceae bacterial family.
Enterobacteriaceae have shown correlations with higher rates of inflammatory bowel disease and colorectal cancer. However, there is a bit of a “chicken and egg” situation here—high levels of inflammation can cause this specific bacteria to flourish, so it’s unclear whether the bacteria is just a signpost indicating the presence of the problem, or a contributor to it.
Now, let’s be clear: the researchers aren’t stating that they’ve definitively found a link between gut bacteria and high mortality rates. They concluded that, “extensive research is still warranted before human microbiome sequencing can be used for prediction, prevention and targeted treatment of disease.”
But, on the positive side, this research does provide some interesting fodder for future studies examining the link between gut health and mortality rates. The study’s conclusion also states, “Our data provide a proof of concept that the microbiome can be used to assess mortality risk, and potentially also disease risk. Additional studies will be needed to assess which disease states can be most effectively predicted through microbiome profiling. In addition, our findings can help establish a framework for recruiting disease-susceptible individuals to randomised trials to assess causal effects of gut microbiome variation on health outcomes.”
How amazing is that? One day in the near future, it’s very possible that doctors will be able to use your current gut bacteria to analyze not only your current health, but potential future diseases or even your mortality risk. It just goes to show how important your gut bacteria are to every single aspect of your health!
That’s why it’s so important to take good care of your gut health and encourage healthy gut bacteria growth. To do that :
Eat a wide variety of natural, color-rich foods. Colorful foods contain antioxidants—red foods contain lycopene, orange foods contain beta-carotene, blue foods contain anthocyanins, and so on—that can improve your gut health and protect the intestinal bacteria.
Eat fermented foods. Fermented foods like sauerkraut, kimchi, kefir, and tempeh all contain live bacterial cultures (probiotics) that can reinforce and strengthen your existing gut bacteria.
Eat fiber-rich foods. Vegetables, fruits, legumes, and whole grains are an amazing source of dietary fiber, which is digested by your gut bacteria and thereby stimulates better gut health.
Cut down on artificial sugars. Fake sugars like aspartame can actually negatively impact your gut bacteria and suppress your ability to regulate blood sugar.
Eat more plant-based foods. Plant-based foods are linked to better gut health than animal-based foods. You don’t need to go vegetarian or vegan, but increasing your intake of plant-based foods will benefit your gut bacteria.
Eat resistant starch. These starches are broken down in your large intestines, where they act like a prebiotic to feed your gut bacteria. They can be found in whole grains, legumes, potatoes, rice, and green bananas.
A few simple changes to your diet can make a huge difference to your gut bacteria. And if, as this study suggests, there is a link between your gut bacteria and higher mortality rates, these changes may just save your life down the road!
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