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“GUT ALERT !”- What’s new – Latest developments in Gastroenterology

Dr Haidry comments on some of the latest clinical and research developments in his field:

The use of probiotics is increasing in the medical fraternity as well as the community. Gut microbiota refers to the microbe population living in our intestine. It contains tens of trillions of microorganisms, including at least 1000 different species of known bacteria with more than 3 million genes (150 times more than human genes). Microbiota can, in total, weigh up to 2 kg. One third of our gut microbiota is common to most people, while two thirds are specific to each one of us. In other words, the microbiota in your intestine is like an individual identity card. In my personal opinion a lot of what we do in gastroenterology over the next few years will stem form our undertaking of how the human intestine interacts with our microbiota and how they co-exist and function in our bodies and gut. We are really beginning to understand that subtle imbalances in these relationships between our gut bacteria and our colon can lead to profound symptoms in both health and disease.

From my experience the intestinal microbiota helps with the following:

  • It helps the body to digest certain foods that the stomach and small intestine have not been able to digest
  • It helps with the production of some vitamins (B and K).
  • It helps us combat aggressions from other microorganisms, maintaining the wholeness of the intestinal mucosa.
  • It plays an important role in the immune system, performing a barrier effect.
  • A healthy and balanced gut microbiota is key to ensuring proper digestive functioning.

This month I would like to comment on an article on the use of probiotics in critically ill patients admitted to intensive care that I came across recently.  I have found that I am using probiotics increasingly in my clinical practice for patients with bloating and also in association with antibiotics for small intestinal bacterial overgrowth. There is a growing body of evidence showing the beneficial role of probiotics in health and disease. I therefore read this recent article with great interest which aimed to investigate whether the probiotic VSL#3 prevents antibiotic associated diarrhoea or the much talked about clostridium difficile diarrhea in hospital patients. (J Hosp Infect. 2013 June, Probiotic VSL#3 prevents antibiotic-associated diarrhoea in a double-blind, randomized, placebo-controlled clinical trial, Selinger CP et al.). The study randomized hospital patients to receive one sachet of VSL#3, a probiotic that I frequently prescribe, or placebo (a control preparation) whilst they were receiving a course of antibiotics. They looked at a total of 229 patients and interestingly found that the rate of antibiotic associated diarrhoea was significantly lower in the probiotic group. The use of antibiotics is growing in the community and this study reinforces the concept that the anti-oxidative properties of probiotics may serve as a defense in the intestine and overcome various stresses such as infection or inflammation.

This is just one of a growing number of studies I have read recently that show that certain types of probiotics are of huge benefit in disorders and symptoms of the intestine

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