Can A Malnourished Gut Microbiome Recover?

If you are malnourished as a child, does your gut bacteria balance ever recover or does it leave you compromised for life?

This was a question asked in an interesting study published in Nature journal recently where researchers studied the microbiome (gut flora balance) in healthy and malnourished children in Bangladesh. They found malnourished children had not developed an adult-like microbiome within the first 2 years whereas the healthier diet children had. Even after being given nourishing diets, the microbiome recovered for a couple of months but then reverted back.

This is interesting to me because I was malnourished as a child from neglect really, obviously nowhere near on the same scale as these Bangladeshi children, of course, but even so I have often wondered if that had a bearing on my poor immune status now. I’ve always thought so anyway.

NutriLink enews had a comment on it too that I thought was quite apposite (ooh, big word!):

The findings present a possible explanation for the commonly observed complications that malnourished children suffer even after they are treated with a standardised food regimen, including stunted growth, cognitive delays, and immune system problems. The researchers have suggested that the immature gut microbiomes of malnourished children may be partially responsible for some of these long-term impairments.

Degraded ecosystems are notoriously difficult to restore. Often, such efforts focus on restoring environmental conditions and eliminating unwanted species then waiting for assembly processes to play out ‘naturally’ to restore the desired community.[2] But degraded communities can be resistant or resilient to change, and although host health can be restored, youth cannot. Meaning that the time it takes to restore optimal function may be very costly in terms of human health and functionality.

Could explain a few things about why it is so hard to recover. I see gut dysbiosis all the time with beneficial bacteria very low in many of our chronic illness cases, sometimes despite probiotic therapy. This kind of info is precisely why I recommend starting right from the baby bacteria again because some research has shown if you missed out on that growth, nothing else will seed enough. This new study seems to play into that doesn’t it?

The researchers have already repeated the experiment in Malawi children and got the same result, and they are now completing studies in Peru, Brazil and South Africa.

Anyway, you can read the abstract here:

Persistent gut microbiota immaturity in malnourished Bangladeshi children.

Just goes to show how important diet is in that first few months and years of life.

2 Replies to “Can A Malnourished Gut Microbiome Recover?”

  1. Interesting and important research. Regarding your comment, “I recommend starting right from the baby bacteria again because some research has shown if you missed out on that growth, nothing else will seed enough,” hoe does one start again from the baby bacteria?

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