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Gut Microbiota for Health Conference Update 2019 – Post Series 4

We’re on week 3 of the Gut Microbiota for Health conference update – you will be seeing 5 different articles on the Gut Microbiota for Health conference coming to Ignite. Mark your calendars and stay tuned for the following topics:

  1. The low FODMAP diet
  2. Supplements
  3. Probiotics
  4. Personalized nutrition (today!) 
  5. Taking care of the gut microbiota

Personalized Nutrition and Your Gut Microbiome

I am more and more convinced that we will be able to personalize nutrition for disease management and disease prevention in the future. However, on the optimistic side of things, I’m predicting 10 more years before we get there.

There is no such thing as one way to define a healthy gut microbiota. It’s likely that we won’t be looking at the bacteria themselves, but how YOUR individual gut microbiota functions as a COMMUNITY. The theme of this year’s conference was ‘microbial ecology’. Our bacteria work together in health, and disease – and to change one is to likely impact them all.

I believe the next steps in personalizing nutrition requires us to categorize different ecological communities that occur, how they work together, and then understanding how we can modify them.

So – should you get a ‘test’ for your gut microbiota?

Short answer – no. At this point – it doesn’t really tell us much.

A few problems with current gut microbiota tests:

  • Testing for individual microbes pays NO attention to how those microbes function together. They’re a community, and their function is as important, if not more important than their presence
  • The testing isn’t up to scientific standards when you send your sample in the mail
  • We don’t understand yet what impact having a larger amount of one bacteria as opposed to another has on human health, nor how to manipulate it safely

What can we expect in the future?

This is me speculating – but! I think we can expect gut microbiota testing to lead the way in disease management AND prevention. I could see us getting our gut microbiomes analyzed as part of ‘regular care’ to look at disease risk, current health status, and what we need to do to manipulate it.

The interventions I imagine will play a pivotal role will be:

  • Nutrition! Variety and fibre will continue to be at the forefront of keeping a healthy microbiota
  • Probiotics – bacteria tailored to you to perform a specific function – with perhaps some strategies to populate the gut – especially in disease states (ie. antibiotics to ‘make space’ for these new probiotics to take root!)
  • Targeted prebiotics – certain prebiotics (fibre, etc.) administered to fuel specific bacteria in your gut
  • Fecal microbiota transplant – it sounds exactly like what it is – taking stool from a healthy donor with characteristics you require in YOUR gut microbiota and ‘transplanting it’ – we’re talking about ‘poop pills’ or enemas (I didn’t say microbiota science was sexy…)

Now – this is all speculative and frankly – probably won’t happen any time soon. But! It’s exciting to think about! For now – we can keep to simple dietary intervention. Eat more PLANTS, and get a WIDE VARIETY of them!

If you need help in tailoring that advice to YOUR life – work with one of our dietitians! We’re experts in gut health!

Bottom line about gut bacteria testing: 

Personalized nutrition has promise – however we need to better understand how the bacteria function to actually make meaningful interpretation and impacts.


Hold off on expensive tests for now! (I just saved you another $500 ;)) – read the probiotics post if you want more ‘savings’ ideas for your gut microbiota 😉

Andrea Registered Dietitian with Ignite Nutrition here in Calgary, Alberta attended the Gut Microbiota 2019 Conference. Here's her takeaway on Personalized Nutrition.

Categorized: Food Relationship, Gut Health & IBS

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