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Friendly yeast gobbling bacteria could help treat Crohn's disease

Kathleen Blanchard's picture
Yeast gobbling bacteria could help Crohn's disease

Researchers from the UK and American recently discovered how a yeast gobbling bacteria could help treat Crohn's and other autoimmune diseases. For the first time, scientists have pinpointed a specific immune boosting bacteria that is stimulated when we consume bread,beer and other fermented or yeast containing foods rich in carbohydrate.


The researchers discovered how Bacteroides thetaiotaomicron that is a dominant human gut bacteria could contribute to nourishing the cells in the intestine to provide a protective effect against Crohn's disease. Wade Abbott, with Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada, and his team of students at University of Lethbridge biochemistry found the bacteria has the ability to convert yeast into beneficial fatty acids that nourish the walls of the intestine.

Prebiotics could help fight infection, Crohn's and more

The discovery means there is hope that an effective prebiotic could be developed to help fight infection as well as treating Crohn's and other diseases that are the result of a faulty immune system. Yeast can be beneficial to the body but only with the help of so-called good bacteria.

The study

The study showed B. thetaiotaomicron converts substances known as yeast mannan to mannose that is difficult to break down in the gut.

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Researchers fed mice a diet that consisted of fifty-percent leavened bread, baked fresh at the Zingerman’s Bakehouse in Ann Arbor, Michigan to study the effect of gut bacteria that specifically breakdown yeast.

As an aside, but not discussed by the researchers, the finding seems to support the notion that cultured foods and fish oils, soup stocks and fermented vegetables that are part of the SCD Diet seem to help Crohn's disease sufferers.

"If you don’t have those bacteria, like what’s found in Crohn’s disease, where they have less of these bacterium that’s where you start to get the negative side effects,” Abbott said. He adds the finding doesn't suggest adding beer and bread to the diet, but rather it highlights the importance of yeast for stimulating friendly, healing gut bacteria.

The researchers say the gut bacteria has evolved over 7,000 years to help humans digest complex carbohydrates. “The more you understand about how complex glycans are degraded the more you can think about developing sophisticated prebiotics that target the growth of specific beneficial bacteria,” said Harry Gilbert, Ph.D., professor of biochemistry at Newcastle University in a University of Michigan press release.

“One of the big surprises in this study was that B. thetaiotaomicron is so specifically tuned to recognize the complex carbohydrates present in yeasts, such as those present in beer, wine and bread,” says co-author of the study Eric Martens, Ph.D, assistant professor in the U-M Medical School’s Department of Microbiology and Immunology. He added that even small amounts of yeast consume daily have the ability to stimulate friendly gut bacteria.

Nature 517, 165–169 (08 January 2015) doi:10.1038/nature13995

Image credit: Wikimedia Commons
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