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Can your poop determine your health?

Posted on02 Dec 2020
There has been a lot of buzz in the last few years about the human gut microbiome. The gut microbiome is the genetic material of the trillions of microbes in the human body.

With advances in science, researchers and scientists can look at how these micro-organisms in the gut are linked to disease. Dysfunction in the microbiome has been associated with autoimmune diseases such as diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis, muscular dystrophy and multiple sclerosis; gastrointestinal problems such as Crohn's disease and irritable bowel syndrome; and other conditions such as eczema, anxiety, obesity and autism.

Dr Lim says microbiome sequencing has been offered in the United States and Europe for a number of years and the reference data is based in large part on Caucasian data. "We wanted to offer in Singapore, and Asia more broadly, a test based on global as well as Asian data with recommendations tailored to the diets and lifestyles in Asia," he says. "The gut microbiome is highly dynamic and responsive to changes in lifestyle, environment and diet. Testing one’s microbiome... is a great way to track any changes in the microbiome, as well as to see the effects of diet and lifestyle changes people have made."

"Your gut is also associated with the production of neurotransmitters that influence your feelings, mood and affect your brain function. The Think Well category measures the levels of certain neurotransmitter-influencing microbes that are important to your mental health."

Dr Juanda Leo Hartono, consultant at the National University Hospital (NUH), Singapore's Division of Gastroenterology & Hepatology, says: "In the future, it may be possible to use the gut microbiome as a biomarker, to identify or predict the clinical course and severity of disease, the response to a particular treatment, and the complications of treatment. "Having the ability to predict these will allow a more tailored, personalised, form of medicine."

Dr Tan Poh Seng, a gastroenterologist in private practice, says gut problems such as irritable bowel syndrome, constipation, acid reflux and gastritis are common among Singaporeans, and older people are more prone to developing diverticular disease, colon polyps and colon cancer.

Brain and gut link

What is the gut microbiome? It is the genetic material of the trillions of good and bad micro-organisms that live in your gut. The bacteria digest food and help absorb and synthesise nutrients from food. Beyond that, the gut microbiome affects a person's quality of life too - his physical and mental health, mood and longevity.

Phrases such as "gut instinct" and "butterflies in the stomach" come from how closely tied the brain and gut are.

Why should I care about what my gut microbiome is like?

Advances in science have allowed scientists to look at the genetic sequence of the gut micro-organisms and see how they might be linked to conditions such as irritable bowel disorders, obesity, autism, diabetes, depression and cancer.

What can change the gut microbiome? Stress, illness, the overuse of antibiotics, obesity, ageing and a poor quality diet can throw the gut microbiome out of whack or cause it to lose diversity. At the same time, dietary and lifestyle changes can improve the diversity of the gut microbiome. Although there is great interest in the microbiome, there is still a long way to go before microbiome-based diagnostics become a routine part of clinical care.''

Source: ST, 02/12/20
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