Behaviors that Can Change the Microbiome in Your Gut

  • Taking antibiotics
  • Taking anti-inflammatories
  • Moving to a different country
  • Taking vitamins
  • Fasting
  • Eating a high fat diet
  • Eating yogurt with live bacterial cultures
  • Close contact with someone with an infectious disease
  • Breastfeeding (affects the baby)
  1. Moving to another country:

Moving to another country could change a person’s microbiome over time through a change in diet and exposure to new microbes in the environment found in a completely different geographic and cultural population. This would include infectious microbes such as bacteria and viruses that the person’s body had not been exposed to. Upon exposure to new infectious microbes, the body will hopefully have a strong immune response to it. This most likely will cause inflammation, which can have a cascade effect of lowering microbial diversity, and increasing susceptibility to illness.  Also, studies have shown a correlation between lower microbial diversity and a change in genetic sequencing of the immune system. In addition, exposure to a different cuisine, the types of food cooked and how they are cooked could also expose the person to a completely different variety of microbes.  It would be interesting to compare gut biomes cross-culturally.  It would make sense that healthy microbiomes in different countries may be very different from each other.  I guess that points to the adaptability of our bodies and how our immune system, in many cases, can cater to whatever new “invader” comes along.

  1. Taking anti-inflammatories

If a person has a gastrointestinal disease or infection and they take anti-inflammatories, it can potentially change the microbiota in their gut.  If that’s all they take it may not necessarily cure the disease.  Still, inflammation in the gut has been linked to lower bacterial diversity and microbiome dysopsia. Reducing that inflammation with anti-inflammatories in combination with other dietary supplements  has been shown to help bring back the microbiome to higher diversity and more normal levels. In a study led by Valeria D’Arginio, M.D., they showed that  nutritional therapy including protein powder, antioxidants and anti-inflammatory fats significantly increased the gut microbiome diversity and decreased the high levels of unwanted proteobacteria in the patient’s gut. 

Anti-inflammatories alone may also have some effect on the gut microbiome. Inflammation is a response by the immune system to invader microbes.  In other studies a correlation has been shown between inflammation and the presence of  a flagellin bacteria.  The flagellin apparently took advantage of the intestinal tissue weakened by the inflammation and proliferated, significantly changing the microbiome. It would be interesting to see if anti-inflammatories could partially effect a decrease of the flagellin in the microbiome.

  1.  Taking antibiotics

Taking antibiotics can greatly change the gut microbiome.  Antibiotics are used to kill H. pylori, one of the most prevalent causes of gastrointestinal disorders including ulcers. Once the bacteria is killed off, the microbiome in the gut can return to a normal balance of bacteria. Antibiotics are powerful and can alter the gut biome. It is not uncommon to experience diarrhea, nausea and other gastrointestinal problems when taking strong antibiotics because they upset the microbiome so much in order to kill the offending microorganisms. It is usually  recommended that a patient takes a supplement with live cultured bacteria, such as yogurt or a probiotic supplement to help keep the microbial growth in balance.

HPV vaccine development – Writing Exercise #2

I think further research needs to be done into which of the strains of HPV are the most prevalent but not covered in the current vaccine.  Since this article was written, vaccines have been made to cover more strains than just HPV 16 and HPV 18.

HPV 31 and HPV 45 were included along with HPV 16 and 18 to account for 80% of the cases of cervical cancer. The article states that HPV types 33, 35, 39, 51, 52, 56, 58 and 59 are also associated with cervical cancer.  Since then, the Gardasil 9 vaccine has been developed that protects against  HPV 16, 18, 6, 11, 31, 33, 45, 52 and 58.  

Of those listed in the article, HPV 35, 39, 51, 56 and 59 are not covered in the current Gardasil 9 vaccine, so I would probably recommend covering those strains in upcoming treatment. 

Another aspect to consider is the prevalence of different strains worldwide. 75% of HPV is considered to be carcinogenic, but the most prevalent strains vary by region and population and some are not currently covered by available vaccines.

In Japan, HPV 35 is part of the 20% most likely to cause cervical cancer, but it is not included in the Gardasil 9 vaccine.  Similarly, in one study in Korea, HPV 56 was identified to be in the top 4 most prevalent strains associated with cervical cancer, along with HPV 16, 58 and 68. HPV 56 also is not included in Gardasil 9 vaccine.

Because those strains are so prevalent in those countries and are included in the strains mentioned above that I would focus on in the United States (HPV 35, 39, 51, 56 and 59) it might be good to consider more in depth research on those strains as well, and the importance of contributing to the development of a vaccine for them as well. 

Following current guidelines, vaccines for cervical cancer should be administered in their early pre-teen years, between the ages of 9-12, when the strongest immune responses will occur.  If not then, then between the ages of 13-26.  It is also important to receive the vaccine before any exposure to the strains of HPV can occur.

My sources for this blog include:

Cancer Lett. 2011 June 28; 305(2): 218–227. doi:10.1016/j.canlet.2010.09.011.