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How to Make the Most of the Bacteria in Your Gut

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One of the most important partnerships for our health is the one we have with the bacteria in our gut, collectively known as the microbiome. Everyone’s microbiome is unique and contains a balance between what’s known as “good” and “bad” microorganisms. As long as that balance is maintained, we enjoy the benefits of this symbiotic relationship.

Unfortunately, that balance is often threatened. It’s estimated that nearly 70 million Americans suffer from some form of digestive issues today, ranging from  occasional constipation and bloating to irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). It is believed that many of the digestive issues Americans are experiencing can be attributed to imbalances in our microbiome.

“Your microbiome is very much a part of you,” says Louise Vigsnæs, head of preclinical development at Glycom, a biotechnology company based in Denmark. “We have 10 times as many bacteria cells as human cells — it’s a big organ that is important for you. And when it is out of balance this could lead to issues such as pain and diarrhea.”

That imbalance is getting easier to achieve. “Microbiome imbalance often arises because of the modern lifestyles we have today,” says Bruce McConnell, head of business development at Glycom. “What we’re eating, the overuse of antibiotics — our microbiome changes and starts off a negative cycle.”

A new approach to digestive health

Human natural oligosaccharides (HNOs) are akin to natural prebiotics produced by our own bodies. In fact, they’re produced as part of a mother’s milk in order to help their newborn attain digestive balance. When naturally found in breast milk, they are referred to as human milk oligosaccharides (HMOs).  HNOs have evolved alongside us for millions of years, making them perfectly attuned to our body’s needs, unlike foreign bacteria [probiotics] introduced temporarily and quickly excreted.

“The idea behind HNOs is to feed the right bacteria,” explains McConnell. “Most other approaches are in fact only addressing symptoms — not dealing with the underlying problem. What HNOs do is help bring back that fundamental balance.”

By feeding the right bacteria naturally occurring in your body, the benefits can be longer-lasting. “HNOs are used by what you already have,” says Vigsnæs. “With an HNO you’re using the bacteria that are supposed to be there to help restore that balance.”

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“As opposed to HNOs, a probiotic is basically live foreign bacteria” explains McConnell, “usually isolated from another person or an animal. These bacteria are industrialized and cultured, and ultimately you take a pill with them in it. As the bacteria go through your system, they’re doing something good. What exactly they’re doing will depend on the particular bacteria and the data behind them.”

The problem with probiotics is their temporary nature. Since they are not adapted to your unique biology, they usually die and pass through the body within about 48 hours while taking their benefits with them. This is a primary reason why Glycom believes their new product, Holigos®, containing human-natural oligosaccharides (HNOs), is a better approach.

The fundamental balance

Holigos® comes in two versions — a medical food specifically for people suffering from IBS, as well as a Digestive Health dietary supplement. “Holigos® Digestive Health works in a similar way as the IBS product,” McConnell says. “It’s just a less potent version. It’s something you can take every day to promote gut health and address occasional digestive issues.”

For the tens of millions of people dealing with digestive health issues, HNOs might be the key to bringing their guts — and their lives — back into harmony.

Jeff Somers, [email protected]

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