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Gut bacteria can change very quickly

If you read our blog regularly, you appreciate how good gut health, supported by taking a multi-species probiotic, affects the overall quality of your bodily health, from lowering your blood pressure to obesity.

However, an important part of treating any health condition is knowing how long it will take before your health returns to normal.

A pair of American studies published this year have concluded the human gut microbiome is uniquely flexible and may change in as little as a single day, a good thing to know when monitoring health problems like inflammatory bowel disease.

The microbial shift between diets is fast!

In one study published in Nature, Harvard University scientists tested the composition of gut bacteria on humans after discovering how flexible and responsive the microbiomes of mice were each day.

Researchers tested their premise on nine human volunteers who were prescribed radically different diets for five days with a break in between them. (The gut health of the nine patients was tested before, during and after each diet.)

The first diet centered on meats and cheeses—ribs, eggs and bacon—then followed after a break by a high-fiber diet focused on plant-based foods—granola, lentils, fruits, rice and vegetables.

“The relative abundance of various bacteria species looked like it shifted within a day after the food hit the gut,” Duke University researcher Lawrence David told

After three days on each diet, the collective behavior of human microbiota had changed along with the way gut bacteria behaved.

Checking your microbiota easy as checking out an iPhone app

MIT researchers came up with similar findings, published in Genome Biology, and were helped with the use of an iPhone app.

The two study participants were monitored for a full year via the collection of daily stool samples and tracking various health measures (sleep, exercise, emotions, diet) using an iPhone app.

“On any given day, the amount of one species could change manyfold, but after a year, that species would still be at the same median level,” explained Eric Alm, MIT associate professor and senior author of the paper. “To a large extent, the main factor we found that explained a lot of that variance was the diet.”

For example, increases in dietary fiber matched boosts in Roseburia, Eubacterium rectale and Bifidobacterium (one of the species contained in EndoMune Advanced Probiotic and EndoMune Advanced Junior).

During the yearlong study period, both subjects became sickened, which changed their gut bacteria considerably. In both cases, the relationship between specific groups of bacteria and diet occurred in one day.

While living in a developing country, one patient experienced a two-week bout of diarrhea and severe problems with his microbiota. However, once he returned stateside, his microbiota recovered and returned to its original composition.

Interestingly, the second patient experienced food poisoning fueled by Salmonella. During that time, Salmonella levels tripled to 30 percent of the gut microbiome while the Firmicutes phylum of beneficial bacteria almost vanished.

Beneficial levels of Firmicutes bacteria increased with the patient’s recovery to some 40 percent, but the strains were different from those present at the start.

The long-term goal of this research, said Dr. Alm, is to ease the data collection process so patients suffering from inflammatory bowel syndrome or other diseases could be fitted with a personalized monitoring system that warns them ahead of a flare-up so it can be avoided.

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