Not just what—but how—you eat may affect your microbiome

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stroke patients tube feeding microbiome

Researchers from Japan found that post-stroke patients re-grow a healthy microbiota in their mouth and gut when they revert to normal food intake from tube feeding. 

These results emphasise the need to actively normalise feeding in these patients, not only to minimise the risks of tube feeding, but also because oral feeding significantly alters the microbiome of both the mouth and the gut, potentially with beneficial consequences for overall health.

In a study published in Frontiers in Cellular and Infection Microbiology, researchers from Tokyo Medical and Dental University (TMDU) have shown the importance of normal feeding for establishing and maintaining appropriate bacteria in the mouth and the gut.

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Our bodies are symbiotic units of human cells and microorganisms. Far from being deleterious, this microbiota is now recognised as a vital modulator of functions such as digestion, mood, sleep and response to drugs, as well as susceptibility to diabetes, autism, obesity and cancer.

Patients convalescing from stroke often have dysphagia, and need to be fed via a tube to bypass the mouth. 

“We hypothesised that resuming oral food intake could modify the composition of oral and gut microbial communities in tube-fed patients,” senior author Haruka Tohara said. 

“To test this, we compared oral and gut microbiome profiles before and after the resumption of oral food intake in eight post-stroke patients recovering from enteral nutrition.”

The researchers were surprised to find that re-initiation of oral food intake dramatically altered and diversified both oral and gut microbiomes. 

Though very different in composition, both showed an increase of the family Carnobacteriaceae and genus Granulicatella suggesting that orally ingested bacteria may directly modulate the gut community thus affecting systemic health. Although oral microbiota alteration was more significant than that in the gut, metagenome prediction showed more differentially enriched pathways in the gut, especially those related to fatty acid metabolism.

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