You have been attacked by H1N1 – Change your gut microbiome and fight it!

The title of this post is not science fiction. I actually had this conversation today with Dr. Jenifer Fenton. We discussed that calorie restriction protects against the normal age-related decline of the  immune system and may increase its effectiveness under most conditions.  The only exception might be a very fast-acting bacteria like H1N1.

She posited that changing the gut microbiome might be a way to increase the immune response when needed.

How do you do that? By changing the fiber content:

 Supplementation with Galacto-Oligosaccharides Increases the Percentage of Natural Killer Cells and Reduces Colitis Severity in Smad3-deficient mice.

J of Nutr. 2012:142(5).

 Gopalakrishnan A, Rondini EA, McCaskey SJ, Gurzell, EA, Langohr I, Clinthorne J, Gardner EM and Fenton JI.

J Nutr. 2012 Jul;142(7):1336-42. doi: 10.3945/jn.111.154732. E



The gut microbiota plays an essential role in intestinal immunity. Prebiotics, including galacto-oligosaccharides (GOS), are fermentable fibers that beneficially affect the host by stimulating the growth of specific microbial populations. We investigated the effect of GOS on colitis development and on immune variables in Smad3-deficient mice treated with the pathogen Helicobacter hepaticus. Mice were supplemented daily with 5000 mg GOS/kg body weight 2 wk prior to infection and 4 wk postinfection, a time period during which colitis severity peaks in this model. Mice (n = 4-8/treatment at each time) were killed preinfection (0 d) and at 3, 7, and 28 d postinfection to evaluate immune variables in the spleen and in mesenteric lymph nodes (MsLN) by flow cytometry. Colon and cecum samples were collected for histopathologic analysis. Fecal pellets (n = 8-9/treatment) were collected prior to infection to measure relative changes in Bifidobacterium ssp. and Lactobacillum ssp. by real-time PCR. GOS significantly reduced colitis severity in response to H. hepaticus (P < 0.0001). This was associated with a significant increase in the percentage of NK cells in the spleen (P < 0.001) and in MsLN (P < 0.001) at 3 d postinfection and a 1.5-fold increase in fecal Bifidobacterium ssp. (P = 0.003). GOS stimulated NK expression of CCR9, a chemokine receptor involved in lymphocyte trafficking to the gut preinfection (0 d) in the blood (P = 0.02), spleen (P = 0.033), and MsLN (P = 0.017). In addition, GOS stimulated colonic IL-15 production 3 d postinfection (P < 0.001).

These data suggest that GOS reduces colitis by modulating the function and trafficking of NK cells and may provide a novel therapeutic strategy for individuals with inflammatory bowel disease.


This is genius work. Just by changing the type of gut fiber, the researchers were able to increase natural killer cells, an important part of immune response.

Dr. Fenton will be a guest on the livingthecrway expert teleconference series in January.

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