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Diet

Although our intestinal flora is probably determined by genes and the environment we live in, there is no doubt that it is affected by our diet. The diversity and quality of our alimentary bolus contributes to the balance in our intestinal microbiota – and undoubtedly also contributes to our overall health.

Intestinal flora is built up progressively starting at birth. Various elements influence its composition, in particular the nature of the milk the newborn consumes. Breastfed babies have different microbial flora than that of bottle-fed babies. Although breast milk is still recommended by specialists, infant formulas that are enriched with prebiotics and probiotics have particularly favorable nutritional qualities for the intestinal microbiota ecosystem.

Dietary practices shape the composition of microbiota

In adulthood, the qualitative and quantitative composition of microbiota remains reasonably stable. However, it is still affected by the diversity and the nature of our dietary practices: both a lack of food and the latter’s composition can rapidly change the biodiversity of the bacteria. Macronutrients like polysaccharides (sugars), fats, and proteins consumed by the host are partially broken down by intestinal microbiota. Certain dietary fibers, specifically soluble fibers like inulin (found in artichokes and endives in particular) are prebiotics, which stimulate the growth of good bacteria in intestinal flora. As a result, they contribute directly to the stability and good health of the microbiota.

Therefore, it is very probable that changes in dietary habits, if they are long-lasting, play a role in health, opening the door to new treatment possibilities via nutrition.

Sources
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Martin R, Jimenez E, Heilig H, et al. Isolation of bifidobacteria from breast milk and assessment of the bifidobacterial population by PCR-denaturing gradient gel electrophoresis and quantitative real-time PCR. Appl Environ Microbiol 2009 ; 75 : 965-9.
Inserm http://presse.inserm.fr/trop-de-gras-desequilibre-rapidement-la-flore-intestinale/25134/
Delzenne N, Cani P, Neyrinck A. Modulation of glucagon-like peptide 1 and energy metabolism by inulin and oligofructose: experimental data. J Nutr 2007 ; 137 S : 2547S-51S.
Tap J, Furet JP, Bensaada M, et al. Gut microbiota richness promotes its stability upon increased dietary fibre intake in healthy adults. Environ Microbiol 2015 ; 17 : 4954-64.