Upcoming WDHD will focus on the gut microbiota – Opening up new horizons to improve human health


World Digestive Health Day 2014: Gut microbes take centre stage

Upcoming WDHD will focus on the gut microbiota
Opening up new horizons to improve human health

SHANGHAI: The huge diversity of the microbial life within our intestines is going to be the topic of next year’s World Digestive Health Day (WDHD). Its motto will be Gut Microbes – Importance in Health and Disease. This has been announced by the World Gastroenterology Organization (WGO) on occasion of the ongoing Gastro 2013 Asian Pacific Digestive Week (APDW) / World Congress of Gastroenterology (WCOG) in Shanghai (China). Activities connected with the WDHD will take place throughout the year. They will be supported by Danone, which maintains a long-standing partnership with the WGO with the goal to increase awareness, understanding and management of digestive health worldwide. The jointly organized campaign Love Your Tummy has emerged from this cooperation.
The insights we have recently gained on the impact that the gut microbiota has on a multitude of disorders has clearly shown that everyone can contribute to maintaining their own health through taking proper care of the microbiota, with diet being one of the most important factors to take into account, says Professor Francisco Guarner, Chairman of the upcoming WDHD, which will be celebrated on 29 May 2014.
Entitled Gut Microbes – Importancce in Health and Disease, the WDHD campaign aims to inform the lay public, as well as healthcare professionals, on the significance the multifarious life forms inside our guts have for our wellbeing. It is becoming increasingly clear that a well-balanced and diverse microbial gut community, particularly with regard to its bacteria, is key to one’s health. It helps to prevent a broad range of digestive and immune system-related disorders and is a powerful helper in making efficient use of the food we consume and providing the body with the energy it requires. A properly composed diet is a prerequisite for a beneficial functioning of the gut microbiota. Conversely, an imbalanced and less diverse microbiota is closely linked to a number of diseases that range from irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) and inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) to obesity, metabolic syndrome and diabetes, says Professor Eamonn Quigley, Chairman of the WGO Foundation, who spoke about the diagnostic and therapeutic potential of the gut microbiota at the WCOG/APDW. As he points out, even psychological disorders such as depression and anxiety may be linked to the gut microbiota.
Recent research has revolutionized knowledge of the intestine’s inner life.Over the past several years, gastroenterological research activities have produced a wealth of findings that have truly revolutionized our understanding of the inner life harboured by the intestine. It has been discovered that myriads of bacteria symbiotically living within the human gut form a biological society that profoundly influences our health. The intestinal microbiota, formerly known as gut flora, can be regarded as a whole organism in itself, including the incredible amount of at least 100 trillion bacteria, belonging to more than 1,000 species, and weighing between 1.5 and 2kg. The gut microbiota consists of 10 times as many cells as there are human cells in the body. The gut microbiota’s metagenome – the so--called microbiome – turns out to be much more diverse than the human genome.
Gut microbiota plays a crucial role in maintaining one’s health This vast microbial community is connected not only with the gut, but also with the nervous and immune systems through a multitude of pathways, mediating a permanent exchange of signals that run both ways. So it comes as no surprise that, although in many cases the precise causal relationships have still to be determined, the gut microbiota plays a crucial role in the physiology of the entire human body. We think it is about time that doctors, as well as patients and the general public, take into account that the gut microbiota is a key player when it comes not only to disease management, but also to maintaining one’s health in daily life,says Prof. Guarner. What makes for a healthy microbiota composition is the beneficial bacterial strains out ruling the potentially harmful ones. Apart from medication – particularly the intake of antibiotics, which might damage the gut microbiota – nutrition is the most important environmental factor that interacts with the various microorganisms of the intestine. This is where prebiotics and probiotics come into play: prebiotics are fibres which serve as food for beneficial bacteria, thus influencing the gut microbiota in a positive way, while probiotics have proven to be helpful in conditions such as bloating, flatulence, abdominal pain or IBS. The positive effects of probiotics are generally undisputed, and currently a number of studies are under way to establish precisely which outcomes are induced by which bacterial strains.

Prevention by daily diet

It is quite clear that the gut microbiota and how it interacts with us, its host, is of major significance for doctors and their patients as well as for the general public, and we are convinced that WDHD 2014 will help to get this message across on a global scale, says Prof. Quigley. Therefore, it matches perfectly WGO’s principal goal to raise awareness of digestive disorders and of the fact that, through diet, prevention is, to a large extent, in everybody’s own hands. In organising WDHD 2014, WGO will be supported by its long-term partner Danone, which is also involved in the ˜Love Your Tummy Campaign, launched in 2012. In relation to WDHD 2014, the goal of that particular campaign is to draw public attention to the importance a proactive approach, on a daily basis, to one’s diet has for maintaining digestive health.(PR)