What is the gut microbiome?
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The collection of organisms found within our bodies is called the human microbiome. Every surface of the human body (the stomach, the colon, the skin, etc.) has a distinct microbiome with a community of bacteria that can be found there. Each person’s microbiome is unique.
The gut microbiome is responsible for:
Producing vitamins our body needs
Breaking down our food to extract energy and nutrients
Maintaining our immune system
Defending our body against disease
How IBD affects the microbiome
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Disease or a treatment of the disease (for example, medication) can alter the microbiome. Eventually, it usually bounces back to normal, or an altered stable. This “new normal” is called “dysbiosis” which is still considered a healthy microbiome, but sometimes less diverse in its composition than the original. As long as the microbiome is in balance with the immune system, it is healthy.
Inflammation and dietary factors can also cause an imbalance in the microbiome. You can support your microbiota by eating a diet high in fibre (at least 30g a day), taking pre- and probiotics, and avoiding antibiotics unless they are necessary.
Advancements in research
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Crohn's and Colitis Canada funds several research projects that investigate the relationship between the microbiome and IBD. These studies can help us better understand the role of the gut micriobiome in IBD to discover causes or triggers of inflammation, as well as develop novel treatments and dietary therapies for the management of IBD.
The IMAGINE Network is investigating the interactions between inflammation, microbiome, diet, and mental health in patients with Crohn’s disease or ulcerative colitis. They are also studying whether new therapies, such as diet and probiotics, are effective in the management of IBD and IBS.
The IMAGINE Network is supported by Crohn’s and Colitis Canada. For more information about IMAGINE and to find a study recruitment site near you, click here.
Watch the video below to learn more about the use of fecal microbiota therapy (FMT) as a treatment for Crohn's and colitis. Get updates on the results of clinical trial studies from the IMAGINE network supported by Crohn's and Colitis Canada.
Usha Chauhan (NP) is an adult nurse practitioner at Hamilton Health Sciences, McMaster University Medical Centre in the Digestive Disease Clinic, and an Assistant Clinical Professor in the McMaster University School of Nursing.
Melanie Watson is a Research Associate, CCRP certified at McMaster University Medical Centre, and works at the Farncombe Family Digestive Health Research Institute, specializing in fecal microbial transplantation.