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Harmful gut flora
Aug 27, 2013

In the new study about harmful bacteria in the digestive tract being higher in HIV+ people. What can one do to help reduce harmful bacteria in the digestive tract before it becomes a problem?

Response from Mr. Vergel

Great question!

This is the recently published study you refer to (watch the two videos):

Intestinal Bacteria May Fuel Inflammation and Worsen HIV Disease

"The researchers compared seven untreated HIV patients, including six with active infection and one long-term patient who never developed AIDS; 18 HIV patients in whom ongoing drug treatment had reduced HIV in the blood to undetectable levels; and nine uninfected individuals matched for other health risks. The patients are part of a group being monitored through ongoing research led by UCSF's Steven Deeks, MD, and Jeffrey Martin, MD, MPH, at San Francisco General Hospital and Trauma Center.

"We found that HIV-infected people have a very different gut microbiome than people who are uninfected," Vujkovic-Cvijin said. "In particular, infected people harbor more bacteria that can cause harmful inflammation, like Pseudomonas, Salmonella, E. coli, and Staphylococcus."

Although we have very little data on how to keep a healthy community of gut bacteria in HIV, these are suggestions that are emerging in this field:

1- Only use antibiotics when prescribed and needed. Antibiotics can disrupt gut microbiota. Some of us with low CD4 cells have to take Bactrim or Dapsone to prevent PCP pneumonia. No one has studied what happens to our gut microbes when using those life saving drugs, though.

2- Supplement with probiotics (brands like Culturelle and Align have been used in several non-HIV studies) specially after antibiotic use. No one knows how long this supplementation should last.

3- Eat what healthy microbes love: prebiotics. The 2007 Journal of Nutrition defined prebiotics as:

"A prebiotic is a selectively fermented ingredient that allows specific changes, both in the composition and/or activity in the gastrointestinal microflora that confers benefits upon host well-being and health"

Eating a variety of fresh vegetables (leafy greens like kale, chard, and spinach, as well as broccoli, cauliflower, and any other vegetable that contains soluble fiber. Beans are also a good source of soluble and insoluble fiber. Fruits like bananas also have some prebiotics) will get you plenty of soluble, prebiotic fiber in all its forms. Start slowly and build up your fiber consumption as you go since shocking your gut with a lot of fiber may cause gas and bloating!

4- Eating low sugar Greek style yogurt daily. I love the Sage brand(2 percent fat) which I eat with nuts and berries as an afternoon snack or at breakfast. I replace sour cream with yogurt plus garlic and spices on my sweet potatoes (It tastes amazing!). A study showed that some of the friendly bacteria present in yogurt actually survive the acid environment in our stomachs. Survival of Yogurt Bacteria in the Human Gut

Ever since I started following the suggestions I just listed, my soft stools and sporadic diarrhea went away. My gas and bloating also got better even when I eat broccoli, beans and coleslaw.

Knowledge of the role of gut microbes is being gathered fast after scientists started using PCR technology in the late 90's to differentiate different populations (previous culture related studies were difficult to perform due to the nature of collecting samples throughout the intestines).

I hope Dr Deeks and Dr McCune can use some of the suggestions above in future studies to see if in fact they make a difference in our gut microbiome.

I hope this helps!

In health,


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