Behaviors the could change the gut microbial community in an individual:
- Taking antibiotics to treat an infection. This would be potentially detrimental to gut microbes, eliminating them like the bacterial infection that was meant to be fought off with the medication. Also, taking antibiotics when not prescribed to do so, or for an incorrect amount of time could have further affects on an individual’s microbiota.
- Consuming probiotics. This could be beneficial or detrimental depending on the conditions the individual takes the probiotics. I have always heard that if you are not in need of them, you should never consume probiotics because it could “disrupt your natural flora”. However, a person who is undergoing antibiotics may be encouraged to take probiotics to improve their diminished microbial gut populations.
- Quality of diet. A person’s nutrition plays a large role in what kinds of microbes their guts harbor. I assume this has a lot to do with the role bacteria have in helping us digest our food. It can be assumed that a healthy diet encourages normal microbiota populations, whereas poor diet disrupts the normal environment for inhabiting microbes. Along with the type of food we consume, the amount also can change our individual microbiota. For example, according to the article “Role of the gut microbiota in health and chronic gastrointestinal disease: understanding a hidden metabolic organ” by Caitriona M. Guinane and Paul D. Cotter on page 295, malnutrition and obesity play a large role in gut microbe diversity.
- Aging. The human gut microbiota varies hugely across age groups, according to the article cited above. An infant receives its first set of bacteria that become its microbiota through vaginal birth. After this, the microbiota matures and fluctuates over the span of a person’s life. Aging does not necessarily have a beneficial or detrimental affect on microbiota communities, but it has been proven that our gut microorganism populations change over time and adapt to our living conditions.
- Changing environmental factors. The article noted above brought up a very fascinating piece of data that elderly microbiota differ based off of if the individual lives in a “long-stay care environments” versus in the general community. In this case, living in care facilities alters a person’s microbiota in a way that makes them more frail, making this particular example of environmental factors a detrimental one. This could be beneficial, though. For example, if a person who was malnourished received probiotics and began a normal, healthy diet, their microbiota populations could improve by changing some of their environmental factors.