• Gut Health
  • Heart Health
    • Heart Health

      The stats tell it all: The number one cause of death in the United States is heart disease. That’s right, more than any other disease – even cancer (a close second) – heart disease is the most likely to kill you. The United States is currently facing a “diabesity” epidemic, or a substantial increase in the prevalence of metabolic syndrome leading to diabetes and obesity, all serious risk factors for heart disease.

      According to the American Heart Association, every 34 seconds someone in the US dies of a heart attack. By the time you finish reading this paragraph, another person will have lost their life. Sadly, many people do not even know they have heart disease until they experience a heart attack. These facts alone make Heart Health a critical topic to understand.

  • Skin Health
    • Skin Health

      The gut-skin connection is very significant. Inflammatory processes present in the gut may manifest on the skin. Toxins are expelled with sweat, and can cause the skin to react. Like the inside of the digestive tract, the skin is covered in microbes which can be neutral, protective or pathogenic. Skin reaction may reflect what is going on inside the body. Therefore treating skin conditions only from the outside will often be ineffective and lead to other chronic issues.

  • Brain Health
    • Brain Health

      The gut-brain connection occurs in two directions—from the brain to the gut, and from the gut to the brain. When a person has a “gut feeling,” or an emotional upset causes a stomachache or loss of appetite, they experience examples of the first, most familiar direction. When the gut is out of balance, inflammation results leading to a condition commonly known as leaky gut. A leaky gut will allow undigested food particles and toxins to enter into the bloodstream. Some may cross into the brain, setting the stage for diseases like Alzheimers and dementia. Recognizing the underlying contributing factors that created the gut imbalance in the first place is the first step to achieving optimal brain function .

  • Diet & Health
    • Diet & Health

      Healthy pH levels, whether in the colon or systemic, are found when you eat a high-fiber diet, high in vegetables and fruits, healthy proteins, and healthy fats. Complement this with foods and supplements high in beneficial bacteria, omega-3 fatty acids, and digestive enzymes, and you will be supporting optimal health (which begins in the digestive system).

  • About Brenda
  • Pet Health
    • Pet Health

      Our dog’s health is precious! They provide us with unconditional love and companionship. A daily probiotic formula is a great way to ensure good health. Make sure you choose one that delivers the recommended potency level and strain count. There is nothing quite like a healthy and happy dog. Happy Dog. Happy Life!

  • Blog
  • Shop

Gut Bacterial Diversity And Allergies

Filed in General | Posted by lsmith on 01/04/2012


The hygiene hypothesis states that a lack of exposure to microorganisms—both beneficial and potentially harmful—during early childhood increases susceptibility to development of allergic diseases by creating an imbalance in immune system development. Brenda has blogged on the topic before, and I’ve blogged about immune balance.

A recent study published in the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology has found that gut diversity in infancy helps protect against the development of allergies.1 The study involved 40 children: 20 with atopic eczema, and 20 children with no health conditions. Stool samples were collected from each child at one month and twelve months of age, and the DNA of bacteria present in the infants’ guts was identified. The diversity of gut microflora at one month of age was significantly greater in the healthy children than in those children who later developed allergies.

The researchers suggested that in the absence of stimuli from a diverse array of microbes, the immune system may overreact against harmless antigens in the environment, such as food. I have blogged on the topic of food sensitivities, as well, highlighting the importance of maintaining immune balance with a good balance of gut bacteria.

So how do infants acquire gut bacterial diversity? First, by vaginal delivery, through which they are inoculated with protective bacteria from their mother (which works best if mom is on a plant-based diet, eating prebiotic foods, and taking probiotics throughout the pregnancy); second, by breastfeeding, which delivers yet more beneficial bacteria and prebiotics to feed the beneficial bacteria establishing in the baby’s gut; three, without the use of unnecessary antibiotics, which decrease gut bacterial diversity; and four, with a healthy diet consumed by the mother. When any of these factors cannot be optimized, probiotics formulated for infants can help build the beneficial bacteria in the gut.


  1.  T.R. Abrahamsson, et al., “Low diversity of the gut microbiota in infants with atopic eczema.” J Allergy Clin Immunol. 2011 Dec 6. [Epub ahead of print].

Proton Pump Inhibitors Decrease Gut Microbial Diversity

Filed in Heartburn, Human Microbiome, PPIs | Posted by lsmith on 01/07/2015

Proton pump inhibitors (PPIs) are one of the most commonly prescribed medications in the United States, earning billions of dollars for pharmaceutical companies. PPIs markedly decrease the production of stomach acid as a treatment for conditions in the upper digestive tract such as acid reflux, ulcers, and Helicobacter pylori infection. While these medications are sometimes necessary in the short term, long-term use has been associated with a number of adverse effects, including a 74 percent increased risk for Clostridium difficile infection according to a five year follow-up study of 100,000 patients taking a proton-pump inhibitor daily.1

In a recent study published in the journal Microbiome, researchers explored a possible explanation for the link between PPI use and C. diff infection.2 They found that after 28 days of either low- or high-dose PPI treatment in healthy individuals, the diversity of microbes in the gut was decreased in a similar way as is found in individuals who are infected with C. diff for the first time.

C. difficile infection occurs when gut microbial diversity is decreased.3 When diversity is down, the pathogenic C. diff can more easily gain the upper hand. In this study PPI use reduced microbial diversity, which helps to explain how PPI use is associated with C. diff infection.

“Evidence has been mounting for years that long-term use of proton-pump inhibitors poses increased risks for a variety of associated complications, but we have never really understood why,” noted John DiBaise, MD, lead researcher. “What this study does for the first time is demonstrate a plausible explanation for these associated conditions.”

While more studies are needed to work out how the bacterial diversity decreases, two main mechanisms are postulated in this study:

  • Increased bacterial load entering the colon
  • Changes in dietary proteins entering the colon

In a previous study by Kanno, et al, PPI use increased all groups of fecal bacteria they looked at with the exception of decreased Bifidobacterium.4 So when the protective diversity of bacteria are decreased by PPIs, there will be an increased load of bacteria entering the colon that knock out many of the beneficial bacteria. This is seen in C. diff patients and also in patients with small-intestinal bacterial overgrowth (SIBO).

A change in dietary proteins entering the colon, triggered by reduced stomach acid (and reduced digestion of proteins) can increase C. difficile growth by providing certain amino acids that may increase C. diff growth.

In addition, antibiotic use in vivo has been found to increase sialic acid in the gut, a favored catabolite of C. diff that is strongly associated with C. diff bacterial load.5 Antibiotics are often used in conjunction with PPIs, especially when treating H. pylori.

If this applies for PPIs, what about the senior citizens and people who are genetically predisposed to hypochlorhydria (low stomach acid) with age? It is likely they are also at increased risk for C. difficile infection and/or SIBO especially when treated with broad spectrum antibiotics and PPIs.

In addition to increased risk for C. diff, long-term use of PPIs has been linked to iron, calcium, and vitamin B12 deficiencies, low magnesium levels, osteoporosis-related bone fractures, small intestinal bacterial overgrowth, and community-acquired pneumonia. The risk of C. diff infection with long-term PPI use has prompted the Food and Drug Administration to require a warning on the product insert that states PPIs may increase the risk of C. difficile infection.

If you have acid reflux, talk to your doctor about controlling the condition with non-pharmacological means. There are many lifestyle changes you can make that will help to keep this condition under control without having to use these potentially dangerous medications.



  1. Linsky A, Gupta K, Lawler EV, et al., “Proton pump inhibitors and risk for recurrent Clostridium difficile infection.” Arch Intern Med. 2010 May 10;170(9):772-8.
  2. Seto CT, Jeraldo P, Orenstein R, et al., “Prolonged use of a proton pump inhibitor reduces microbial diversity: implications for Clostridium difficile susceptibility.” Microbiome. 2014; 2: 42.
  3. Antharam VC, Li EC, Ishmael A, et al., “Intestinal dysbiosis and depletion of butyrogenic bacteria in Clostridium difficile infection and nosocomial diarrhea.” J Clin Microbiol. 2013 Sep;51(9):2884-92.
  4. Kanno T, Matsuki T, Oka M, et al., “Gastric acid reduction leads to an alteration in lower intestinal microflora.” Biochem Biophys Res Commun. 2009 Apr 17;381(4):666-70.
  5. Ng KM, Ferreyra JA, Higginbottom SK, et al., “Microbiota-liberated host sugars facilitate post-antibiotic expansion of enteric pathogens.” Nature. 2013 Oct 3;502(7469):96-9.

Ultra-Low Diversity of Gut Microbes During Critical Illness

Filed in Antibiotics, Human Microbiome, Prebiotics, Probiotics & Gut Flora | Posted by lsmith on 10/29/2014

The intestinal tract is a main source of health-care associated pathogenic infections, not surprisingly due to the high concentration of microbes residing there.1 The GI tract is also considered to the primary reservoir for the emergence of antibiotic resistance of such infections.2 In patients with prolonged critical illness, the risk of developing a gut-derived sepsis (blood infection) is increased.

In a recent study published in the journal mBio, researchers analyzed the gut microbial composition of 14 critically ill patients under prolonged stay in an intensive care unit.3 They found ultra-low-diversity communities of bacteria consisting of only one to four species in 30 percent of the patients. This ultra-low diversity is the result of harsh conditions in the gut during critical illness, including multiple antibiotic exposure, reduced nutrition, physiological stress, and additional medications, some of which also affect gut microbes (acid-suppressors and opioids, in particular).

The most common bacteria in these patients detected by 16S rRNA sequencing were Enterococcus and Streptococcus as well as microbes under the family Enterobacteriaceae. Culture-based analyses also revealed the presence of Candida albicans and Candida glabrata in about 75 percent of the ICU patients. Four patients harbored a 2-member pathogen community consisting of one Candida and one bacterial organism.

“Here we demonstrate that the intestinal microbiome in critically ill patients can be considered a “damaged organ” given that its main cellular mass, the normal microbiota, is disrupted and dominated by pathobiota which may be an ever-threatening source for disseminating pathogens,” concluded the researchers.

In further experiments, the researchers determined that the ultra-low-diversity communities showed low virulence (pathogenicity) when they were grouped together, or living commensally as “friendly” organisms. The bacteria were able to keep the fungal Candida species in check, reducing their ability to become pathogenic. The researchers also tested the use of phosphate-polyethylene glycol (an anti-virulence compound) and found that it helped to reduce the pathogenicity of the microbes, suggesting that it might be a useful compound for critically ill patients with an ultra-low diversity of antibiotic-resistant gut microbes.

“A major challenge in treating critically ill patients is the overuse of antibiotics, a practice that is often unavoidable with patients exposed to multiple invasive procedures and extreme physiologic stress,” noted the researchers.

Further study of compounds that positively affect gut microbe composition in this vulnerable population is needed.

Many critically ill patients are now getting a slow, continuous drip of liquid food fortified with gut supportive supplements such as zinc, glutamine, arginine, vitamin C, omega-3s, and many more. These feedings are administered either via a thin nasogastric tube or an endoscopically placed gastric feeding tube.

I personally think it is high time that prebiotics and probiotics be added to the feeding tube line. Many of these tubes have an extra opening to administer meds. The prebiotics could be administered with the continuous liquid feedings and the probiotics be injected via side port, ideally between antibiotic dosages. This allows for maintenance of microbial diversity and repopulation of probiotic species that diminish with chronic stress, which allows pathogenic bacteria and fungi to multiply out of control.

It has been well documented that probiotics ingest prebiotic fibers, creating short-chain fatty acids (SCFAs) such as butyrate, acetate, and propionate. All three of these have been shown to bind to GPR43, and GPR41 receptors in the gut lining and on the surface of white blood cells. This action majorly helps to balance the immune system so that it can appropriately deal with pathogenic bacteria and fungi without overdoing it and leading to autoimmune disease.

This is only one action of SCFAs, and only one of many ways immunity is balanced when supported by good nutrition and beneficial bacteria such as Lactobacillus and Bifidobacteria, and fungi such as Saccharomyces boulardii, signaling through many different pathways. The optimum situation is to provide the nutrients, supplements, and probiotics that support our “damaged organ”—the gut lining and beneficial microbes.

This article provides a good picture of what happens when our normal microbiome, which normally consists of several hundred microbial species, is reduced to 2 to 4 pathogenic bacteria and fungi while everything else has been starved or killed by antimicrobials. It makes perfect sense to replenish that which has been lost, a practice that should be, and is slowly becoming, standard of care today.


  1. Alverdy JC and Chang EB, “The re-emerging role of the intestinal microflora in critical illness and inflammation: why the gut hypothesis of sepsis syndrome will not go away.” J Leukoc Biol. 2008 Mar;83(3):461-6.
  2. Salyers AA, Gupta A, and Wang Y, “Human intestinal bacteria as reservoirs for antibiotic resistance genes.” Trends Microbiol. 2004 Sep;12(9):412-6.
  3. Zaborin A, Smith D, Garfield K, et al., “Membership and behavior of ultra-low-diversity pathogen communities present in the gut of humans during prolonged critical illness.” mBio. 23 2014 Sep;5(5):e01361–14.

Shed Pounds Slowly? Gut Bugs May Be Missing Link

Filed in Adults, Diet, Digestive Health, Human Microbiome, Obesity, Probiotics & Gut Flora, The Skinny Gut Diet, Uncategorized, Weight Loss | Posted by Brenda Watson on 02/08/2017

Shed Pounds - brendawatson.com

Attempting to shed pounds but feeling a bit discouraged? I read some fascinating research that I hope will motivate you. Please give the healthy choices you’re making a bit more time!

The study itself was published last week in the journal Cell Host & Microbe and was conducted by a team led by Jeffrey Gordon, Director of the Center for Genome Sciences and Systems Biology at Washington University. I’ve been following Gordon’s lab for some time. In fact, I shared their previous research in my book, Skinny Gut Diet. If you have a copy you know that Gordon suggested that a person’s potential for obesity can partially be predicted. He measures the ratio of Bacteriodetes (I called those the Be Skinny bacteria) to Firmicutes (Fat bacteria) in their gut. Gordon’s initial research was done with mice. We decided to run our own lay research study with our human Skinny Gut group (you can meet them all in the book) and we found Gordon’s observations to hold true. Fascinating.

Understand what microbes are in your gut!

Gordon’s more recent lab results suggest that despite your best efforts, your gut may not be on your side with regards to losing those extra pounds quickly! If you’re hosting an overgrowth of unhealthy bacteria in your gut, your microbiome (the community of microbes in your gut) may actually require extra time to reset back to health if you are making a switch from a Standard American Diet (SAD), high in refined carbohydrates and saturated fats to more healthy, calorie restricted, plant-based fare.

Initially in the study, fecal samples from humans following the SAD diet were compared to those following a healthy diet. I’ve blogged often on bacterial diversity, and how increased diversity of bacteria in the gut is often an indicator of vibrant health. Once again this has been found to be the case. The people on the SAD diet demonstrated a much less diverse microbiome than those on the healthy diet, suggesting generally that the SAD group would also be more prone to immune issues, digestive issues and silent inflammation.

Read more about bacterial diversity

Next the researchers implanted germ-free mice with the two sets of human donor’s gut microbes. Once implanted, both groups of mice were then fed the same healthy plant based diet.

Listen up here – this is the very interesting part. Although all of the mice responded overall to the diets, the group implanted with the SAD diet microbes responded more slowly than the mice that had only received more healthy microbes. Apparently there seems to be a transitional time needed for the mice with the SAD guts to shed pounds and regain health as efficiently as the more healthy ones.

A fascinating additional quirk in this study was when the SAD mice were placed into the same cages with the healthy mice, their gut health improved more quickly than the SAD mice who were living only with other SAD mice. How wild is that? Communal living anyone?

The practical goal of this research was to gather information that would pinpoint specific bacterial strains. Gordon’s team was seeking microbes that might be used to diversify and balance the gut. Normalized weight and increased health are most certainly the desired outcomes. No doubt, this research will continue well into the future. Hopefully one day research like this will result in a specific probiotic formula designed to combat obesity. But that’s still in the future.

Probiotics help you shed pounds.

So lets get back to you! If you recently switched from a SAD diet to more healthy choices and your weight loss isn’t diminishing as quickly as you might hope – hang in there. Good news – prior research shows clearly that your good microbe populations actually shift quickly. It just may take some time until you notice those changes in your skinny jeans.

Check out 4 excellent things you can do to fuel your weight loss

Shed pounds TODAY!

Getting the Poop Scoop on Autism

Filed in Autism, C. difficile, Children, fecal transplant, General, Human Microbiome, Probiotics & Gut Flora, Uncategorized | Posted by Brenda Watson on 01/25/2017

Autism Hope

A report in Science Daily entitled “Autism symptoms improve after fecal transplant, small study finds” caught my eye immediately.

You see, in one of the episodes of my recent PBS special, Natural Health Breakthroughs with Brenda Watson, I interviewed a woman who had undergone fecal transplant with great success. She had been extremely ill with recurrent C. difficile bacterial infections when this innovative treatment was suggested. She felt she regained her life through this process. Now I see it’s being used to help young people with autism!

For those of you unaware of this procedure, fecal transplantation is done by processing donor feces and screening it for disease-causing viruses and bacteria. Then the “healthy” microbes are inserted into the participant’s digestive tract to rebalance the gut, known as the microbiome.

The boys and girls diagnosed with autism, ages 7 to 16, initially were administered a two week course of antibiotics to essentially wipe out existing bacteria, with hopes to start with a “clean slate”. Then doctors then gave the participants a high-dose fecal transplant of healthy donors’ bacteria and viruses in liquid form. Over the 7-8 weeks that followed the youngsters drank smoothies blended with a lower dose powder.

Although it was a small study (18 children), the results appeared to be extremely positive. Diarrhea and stomach pains decreased markedly – up to 82%, and parents also reported that behavioral autism symptoms significantly changed for the better. The study followed the participants for 8 weeks after the implantation, and positive results appeared to continue.

Researchers were also able to use laboratory testing to compare the autistic children’s bacterial diversity with their healthy peers following treatment. The participants’ bacterial diversity had improved to the point that the test results were indistinguishable from healthy children. This is such an important finding since previous research has shown that children with autism typically have less diversity of bacteria in their guts, and are also missing some important bacteria that are regarded as markers of a healthy microbiome, as I discussed in this blog.

The relationship between mental health and gut microbes has been researched often as well. So it seems logical that attempts to restore balance to the autistic child’s gut, as so many parents have worked to do over the years with great results through diet and probiotics, would and does result in better health.

It’s exciting to see that research may offer a more direct tool in the future with the potential to improve so many lives. As larger studies are done, it is hoped that researchers will uncover the precise bacteria and viruses that impact very specific diseases. What an interesting future we have to look forward to!

Give a Poop this Holiday Season with OpenBiome

Filed in C. difficile, Human Microbiome | Posted by Brenda Watson on 12/22/2014

“Give a sh!t. Save a life.” Literally.

If you have yet to make end of the year charitable contributions, I have just the organization for you.

OpenBiome’s slogan, although crude, couldn’t be more true. In an effort to raise funds the nonprofit organization is educating the public about the use of fecal transplants for treatment of refractory (resistant to treatment) Clostridium difficile disease. C. diff is responsible for up to 30,000 deaths annually, and is usually triggered by the use of antibiotics, which throw off your balance of good bacteria, putting you more at risk for pathogenic infections. Studies have found that fecal transplants have about a 90 percent cure rate for C. diff, a rate much higher than the standard treatment of yet more antibiotics.

Fecal transplants are just as they sound: stool is transplanted from a healthy donor into the digestive tract of someone suffering from C. diff. While it sounds unappealing, if you are suffering from recurrent bouts of this disease, the idea of changing the bacteria in your gut makes all the sense in the world. Fecal transplants contain a rich diversity of beneficial bacteria, which is key to its success. Gut bacterial diversity is a marker of good digestive health. When C. diff takes over, that diversity is decreased—thus the need for repopulating with a rich community of good bacteria.

We interviewed James Burgess from OpenBiome for my upcoming public television series set to air by summertime next year. He and Mark Smith founded OpenBiome after watching a friend and family member suffer through 18 months of C. difficile infection and seven rounds of antibiotics before finally receiving a successful, life-changing fecal microbiota transplantation (FMT). They launched OpenBiome in 2012 to make FMT easier and faster to attain for patients and doctors alike.

OpenBiome provides hospitals with screened, filtered, and frozen material ready for clinical use, which helps to make the treatment easier, cheaper, safer, and more widely available. They aim to partner with doctors in 601 cities in the United States, which would put 90 percent of the country’s population within a two-hour drive of treatment. They also want to transition their treatments from implanted tubes to pills, which would make it even easier for patients to receive care.

They have launched an IndieGogo campaign in order to raise funds to help achieve their goals for growth. Check out their campaign to learn more about the important work they are doing.

Diverse Gut Bacteria Linked to Better Estrogen Metabolite Levels

Filed in Cancer, Human Microbiome | Posted by Brenda Watson on 10/22/2014

The diversity of your gut bacteria refers to the abundance of different types of microbes. As a rule, the more diverse your gut microbes, the healthier you are. A recent study published in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism further supports this idea. Researchers from the National Institutes of Health National Cancer Institute discovered that gut bacterial diversity may play a role in the eventual development of breast cancer.

“In women who had more diverse communities of gut bacteria, higher levels of estrogen fragments were left after the body metabolized the hormone, compared to women with less diverse intestinal bacteria,” noted James Goedert, MD, one of the researchers. “This pattern suggests that these women may have a lower risk of developing breast cancer.”

Could it be that our bacteria take over our living environments as a protective measure over our health? I would certainly not be surprised. I like the idea of having an arThe researchers collected fecal and urine samples from 60 postmenopausal women aged 55 to 69 and analyzed them for the ratio of estrogen fragments to estrogen, which is a known predictor of breast cancer. my of beneficial bacteria surrounding me at all times.

What does gut bacterial diversity have to do with estrogen and breast cancer, you might ask? Well, bacteria in the gut actually metabolize estrogen that is excreted into the digestive tract, affecting the balance of estrogen and estrogen metabolites. Some estrogen is even reabsorbed from the gut into circulation, which can affect overall estrogen levels in the body. This new research suggests that gut bacterial diversity may play an important role on estrogen levels and breast cancer risk.

The best way to improve gut bacterial diversity is to eat a diet high in foods that replenish gut bacteria (fermented foods) and foods that feed good bacteria (those foods high in prebiotic fibers). Adding probiotic and fiber supplements will also help. As we see here, optimizing gut health is the key to better total-body health.

Gut Bacteria in Children with Autism Are Different

Filed in Autism, Children, Human Microbiome | Posted by Brenda Watson on 07/04/2014

There is a distinct connection between changes in gut bacteria and autism, a topic I have written and blogged about before. A recent study presented at the annual meeting of the American Society for Microbiology found that children with autism spectrum disorders (ASDs) have different concentrations of bacterial metabolites, or chemicals produced by bacteria, in their stool when compared to children without ASD.

“Most of the seven metabolites could play a role in the brain, working as neurotransmitters or controlling neurotransmitter biosynthesis,” said Kang. “We suspect that gut microbes may alter levels of neurotransmitter-related metabolites affecting gut-to-brain communication and/or altering brain function.”

Of the 50 different metabolites they tested, seven were found to differ between those children with ASD and those without.

“Most of the seven metabolites could play a role in the brain, working as neurotransmitters or controlling neurotransmitter biosynthesis,” said Kang. “We suspect that gut microbes may alter levels of neurotransmitter-related metabolites affecting gut-to-brain communication and/or altering brain function.”

In a nutshell, they think that the bacterial metabolites are altering brain function. The next step would be to determine whether these altered metabolites might be a cause or confounder of the disorder. I certainly wouldn’t be surprised.

In addition, the scientists confirmed that children with ASD had a distinct and less diverse bacterial composition than children without ASD. A lack of gut bacterial diversity has been found in people with a range of health conditions and generally indicates a state of impaired digestive health. That they found less diversity in children with autism is not surprising, given that digestive disruptions are a common finding in these children.

It is my hope that this research leads to a more clear understanding of just what is happening in these children so that we can take more measures to prevent the condition in the first place and even reverse it in certain children. In the meantime, promoting good digestive health in these children is a must. Children with ASDs often do well by taking probiotics, digestive enzymes, and omega-3 fish oils, and by following a gluten-free, dairy-free diet. The Autism Research Institute is an excellent resource for finding a physician who understands how to treat autism by taking into consideration a range of possible contributing factors.

Gut Microbe Imbalance Linked to Colon Cancer

Filed in Adults, Cancer, Conditions, Dietary Fiber, Digestive Health, Probiotics & Gut Flora | Posted by lsmith on 01/08/2014

The gut bacteria composition of people at risk for colorectal cancer differs from that of healthy people, according to a recent study published in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute.1 Researchers from the New York University School of Medicine analyzed stool samples from 141 patients—47 of which had colorectal cancer—and found lower bacterial diversity in patients with colon cancer.

Bacterial diversity is the hallmark of a healthy gut. The more diverse the gut bacteria, the less likely potential pathogens can gain the upper hand and lead to infection. This study suggests that lower gut diversity may also lead to increases in certain bacteria and decreases in others; colon cancer patients had higher levels of Fusobacterium and Porphyromonas bacteria than did healthy subjects. Fusobacterium has been found to contribute to colitis,2 which involves inflammation of the colon, and both Fusobacterium and Porphyromonas have been linked to periodontal disease,3 which itself has been linked to colon cancer.4 Perhaps based on the latest research, gingival and oral cultures may soon be a preventative biomarker of inflammatory bowel disease and colon cancer.

Patients with colon cancer were also found to have decreased levels of the Clostridia class of bacteria. You may recognize the name Clostridia because one bacterium from this class—Clostridium difficile—is a major pathogen that can be deadly. Not all Clostridia are harmful, however. One particular Clostridia family (Lachnosporaceae) and one bacterium within this family (Corpococcus) are both known to efficiently ferment dietary fiber and complex carbohydrates, producing butyrate, a short-chain fatty acid well known to be protective of colon cancer due to its nourishing effects on the lining of the colon. In addition to helping feed the cells that line the colon, butyrate enters the cells and prevents damaged cells from becoming cancerous. Also telling, Clostridia have been found to be less abundant in colon tumors when compared to normal adjacent tissue.3

“In conclusion, this survey of the gut microbiota found that colorectal cancer risk was associated with decreased bacterial diversity in feces; depletion of Gram-positive, fiber-fermenting Clostridia; and increased presence of Gram-negative, pro-inflammatory genera Fusobacterium and Porphyromonas,” stated the researchers. “Because of the potentially modifiable nature of the gut bacteria, our findings may have implications for colorectal cancer prevention.”

Maintaining gut balance is crucial for protection against many conditions, digestive or otherwise. Administration of probiotics (beneficial bacteria) and prebiotics (fibers that feed beneficial bacteria in the gut) has been found to have a protective effect against colon cancer.6 One main reason probiotics and prebiotics are so beneficial is because they promote increased production of butyrate in the colon, just as the beneficial Clostridia do. Achieving gut balance is one of the most important things you can do for your health.



  1. Ahn J, Sinha R, Pei Z, et al., “Human gut microbiome and risk of colorectal cancer.” J Natl Cancer Inst. 2013 Dec; online ahead of print.
  2. Ohkusa T, Okayasu I, Ogihara T, et al., “Induction of experimental ulcerative colitis by Fusobacterium varium isolated from colonic mucosa of patients with ulcerative colitis.” Gut. 2003 Jan;52(1):79-83.
  3. Signat, Rogues C, Poulet P, et al., “Fusobacterium nucleatum in periodontal health and disease.” Curr Issues Mol Biol. 2011;13(2):25-36.
  4. Ahn J, Segers S, Hayes RB, “Periodontal disease, Porphyromonas gingivalis serum antibody levels and orodigestive cancer mortality.” Carcinogenesis. 2012 May;33(5):1055-8.
  5. Kostic AD, Gevers D, Pedamallu CS, et al., “Genomic analysis identifies association of Fusobacterium with colorectal carcinoma.” Genome Res. 2012 Feb;22(2):292-8.
  6. Wollowski I, Rechkemmer G, Pool-Zobel BL, “Protective role of probiotics and prebiotics in colon cancer.” Am J Clin Nutr. 2001 Feb;73(2 Suppl):451S-455S.

Gut Inflammation – Dysbiosis – Colon Cancer

Filed in General | Posted by Brenda Watson on 11/16/2012

Gut inflammation is known to be a risk factor for the development of colon cancer. A recent study published in the journal Science has traced back the steps from colon cancer only to discover that gut inflammation triggers a decrease in gut microbial diversity that allows pathogens to flourish and damage intestinal cells, leading to the development of cancer.

The researchers were able to determine that inflammation in the gut comes first, and is followed by a simplification of the gut microbial communities. This simplification is essentially a reduction of bacterial diversity that then allows pathogens—E. coli and related bacteria—to gain the upper hand in the gut and promote the formation of tumors.

This study used an animal model to help us to understand how gut microbes might lead to cancer in humans. One of the researchers, Anthony Fodor, found higher levels of E. coli and related bacteria in a separate human study that looked at at biopsies from patients with colorectal cancer. “As is usual in human studies, we didn’t have cause and effect,” noted Fodor. “We don’t know if microbes are somehow causing conditions to shift in the gut that would cause cancer or if there are conditions that are associated with cancer that would increase the openness of the gut to particular microbes.”

That’s why they did the animal study. So they could more closely look at the relationship between inflammation, changes in the gut microbiota, and development of cancer. “These are exciting results because they suggest there may be a direct link between changes in the gut microbiota and the progression from inflammation to cancer.”

Gut inflammation is one main contributor to chronic disease, including cancer. This is the topic of my last book and PBS show, The Road to Perfect Health, as well as my new book and PBS show, Heart of Perfect Health (airing nationwide beginning November/December). Truly, optimal digestive function is the foundation upon which total-body health is built.