Gastroenterology & GI Surgery

Understanding Gut Microbiome and Diet Interactions to Improve Human Health

Jan. 11, 2024 - Eden McCleskey

The gut microbiome interacts directly with the food we eat, and the relationship goes both ways. This bidirectional interchange plays a critical role in virtually every system and function in the human body.

The interchange was the impetus for the creation of Houston Methodist's Food and Health Alliance, a place for patients and the public to optimize their diet for health and wellness through evidence-based medicine and nutritional science.

The Food and Health Alliance incorporates strategies that include patient and family education and dietary interventions as part of therapeutic plans. The Alliance also conducts research on diet and the microbiome in human health and disease.

The program's goal is to help patients understand the effect their diet has on their bodies and empower them to make lifestyle changes that can improve their health. The scope includes not just the digestive tract, but also inflammation in any location — cardiovascular and neurodegenerative diseases, psychiatric issues and the aging process itself.

Houston Methodist has established a special patient clinic for metabolic liver disease which will have a dedicated dietitian and plans to add a psychologist dedicated to GI patients. Additional areas of focus include any GI or liver conditions related to obesity, including gastroesophageal reflux disease and certain cancers; food allergies and intolerances, including eosinophilic esophagitis and celiac disease; food intake issues; and the nutritional consequences of GI-related diseases.

Additionally, research projects will be conducted involving nonalcoholic fatty liver disease, irritable bowel syndrome and its interaction with depression and anxiety, gastrointestinal effects of the low-FODMAP diet and the role of food allergies in modern diets. The research team will hire a nutritional scientist in 2024 to help carry out these studies.

Research initiatives include:

  • An international study of a live biotherapeutic in irritable bowel syndrome
  • A study of probiotics' effect on the brain and the gut in irritable bowel syndrome and how this may be mediated through the gut-brain axis and inflammation
  • A multi-center trial on the role of atypical food allergies in gut symptoms
  • A study on how the microbiome may influence fat accumulation in the liver and fat metabolism
  • An international study on changes in the gut microbiome in irritable bowel syndrome
  • An investigation into how changes in the gut microbiome may influence the effect of probiotics in chronic constipation
  • Formulation of reviews/guidelines on diet and the gut, small intestinal bacterial overgrowth, how diets may help in irritable bowel syndrome and postbiotics
  • Studies on interactions between celiac disease and irritable bowel syndrome

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