The GI EcologiX, provided by Invivo Clinical and Phylo Bioscience in the UK is my stool test of choice as it is the most comprehensive and accurate analysis of the gut microbiome on the market.
There is a wealth of research and human clinical data on the markers that have been used in the GI EcologiX, in their relation to chronic disease.
This microbiome test is a recently developed stool test that looks at the health of the microbiome (the gut ecosystem) using DNA technology. It enables me to really personalise your programme, by using a specifically targeted approach.
It looks for pathogenic bacteria, fungal overgrowth, as well as parasites and commensal (beneficial) bacteria. It also assesses gastrointestinal health markers for Helicobacter pylori, inflammation, digestive enzyme function, bile acids, faecal blood, and the integrity of the intestinal lining. Read more here.
The information that this test provides me, allows me to get to the root cause or causes of my client's health issues. It helps us to get the results we are looking for, quicker and more efficiently.
The Gut Microbiota
The gut microbiota is an ecosystem containing trillions of bacteria, that is constantly changing according to many factors. This ecosystem is continuously shaped by our diet and lifestyle habits; stress; pharmaceutical use, especially antibiotics; the seasons; as well as the presence of disease.
The microbial bacteria are classified according to phyla, classes, families, orders, genus, and species. Without going too much into the represented phyla, the two main players are the Firmicutes and Bacteroidetes, which represent up to 90% of the gut microbiota. The Firmicutes phylum consists of more than 200 different genera, which includes Lactobacillus, Bacillus, Clostridium, Enterococcus, and Ruminococcus. Another phyla, Actinobacteria, which is less abundant proportionally, is mainly represented by the Bifidobacterium phylum.
Our gut microbiota is shaped early in life and is highly dependent on several factors including the gestational date of our birth, the type of birth or delivery, the method of feeding (i.e. breastfed or bottle fed), when we were weaned, as well as environmental factors such as antibiotic use (1).
There is no optimal gut microbial composition, as we are all different. However, we do know that maintaining a healthy bacterial composition may provide a therapeutic intervention for not only intestinal disorders, but also metabolic and neurological disorders.
In order to prevent the development of disease states we must maintain an optimally healthy intestinal barrier and immune system function. This can be achieved by respecting the microbial balance between ourselves (the host) and these gut microorganisms.
Unfortunately, food production techniques and modern diet and lifestyle habits over the past 30 or 40 years have led to a growing incidence of obesity and metabolic disease, promoting inflammatory states and structural and behavioural changes in the gut microbiota.
We know that the adoption of a ‘healthy’ diet can have a positive impact on disease prevention and progression, however, different types of diets pertaining to be healthy, can have different impacts on the gut microbiota. The long-term effects of these purported ‘healthy’ diets are still largely unknown and could potentially lead to changes in the gut ecosystem, the intestinal lining and our immune system function.
Some examples of different diet types include the Mediterranean diet, vegan and vegetarian diets, low carb or ketogenic diets, the low FODMAP diet, the Western diet (or SAD – Standard American Diet), and a gluten-free diet.
A recent review paper published in the journal Nutrients, examined the effects of these different types of diets on the gut microbiota, the mucus layer and the immune cells in the intestinal lining (2).
The following diagram illustrates how the various diets have differing impacts on the gut microbiota, particularly the mucus layer, the intestinal lining, and immune cells.
Diagram: Rinninella, et al. (2019)
In summary, it appears that on the one hand, diets high in animal fats, saturated fat, ultra-processed foods, food additives, sugar, and salt, could potentially stimulate pathogenic bacteria, and have a detrimental impact on the beneficial bacteria and the intestinal lining. On the other hand, diets high in complex polysaccharides and plant protein could be associated with increased beneficial bacteria, stimulating short chain fatty acid (SCFA) production. Certain micronutrients, omega-3 fast and polyphenols may also beneficially alter the gut microbiota.
The Mediterranean diet shows the most beneficial impact on the gut microbial balance and intestinal barrier function. Therefore, adopting this type of diet may prevent microbial imbalances and the associated gastrointestinal and neurological disturbances (1).
Certain bioactive substances such as polyphenols and plant compounds, which are abundant in the Mediterranean diet have been associated with improved diversity of beneficial gut bacteria, which correlates with improved mood, cognition, and cardiovascular health (3).
While the low FODMAP diet is a useful short-term intervention for reducing uncomfortable bloating and other symptoms related to irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), and small intestinal bacterial overgrowth (SIBO), it’s long term use can be detrimental to the gut microbial balance. The lack of fermentable fibres may result in the loss of certain key species, as well as a reduction in the short-chain fatty acid (SCFA) producing species.
So, while we all have different genetics, health conditions, tastes, moral and ethical beliefs, there is not one right diet for everyone. What works for one person, won’t work for everyone, highlighting the need for personalised dietary interventions.
The GI EcologiX profile uses quantitative real-time polymerase chain reaction (qRT-PCR) to analyse the bacterial, fungal and viral communities of the gut microbiome. It also uses enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA) technology for measuring gastrointestinal health markers.
My Simple Gut ReSet
Besides gastrointestinal symptoms, health issues such as fatigue, mood disorders, allergies, food intolerances, muscle aches or pains, autoimmune conditions, brain fog, migraines, hormone imbalances, and/or skin problems, can all be associated with imbalanced gut microbial diversity.
My Simple Gut ReSet is designed to help us get to the root cause or causes of your health issues. The aim is to nourish and support the gut lining to assist it back to a healthy state. A robust intestinal lining is an essential first step for finding freedom from painful, frustrating and embarrassing symptoms of IBS and other gut-related symptoms and health problems.
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1. Rinninella, E. et al. (2019) ‘Food components and dietary habits: Keys for a healthy gut microbiota composition’, Nutrients. doi: 10.3390/nu11102393.
2. Rinninella, E. et al. (2019) ‘What is the healthy gut microbiota composition? A changing ecosystem across age, environment, diet, and diseases’, Microorganisms. doi: 10.3390/microorganisms7010014.
3. Toribio-Mateas, M. (2018) ‘Harnessing the Power of Microbiome Assessment Tools as Part of Neuroprotective Nutrition and Lifestyle Medicine Interventions’, Microorganisms. doi: 10.3390/microorganisms6020035.