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From bugs to buttermilk

Epidemiological and molecular aspects of gut health
PhD ceremony:Ms E.F. (Ettje) Tigchelaar-Feenstra
When:December 14, 2016
Supervisors:prof. dr. C. (Cisca) Wijmenga, prof. E.J.M. Feskens
Co-supervisor:prof. dr. A.P. (Alexandra) Zhernakova
Where:Academy building RUG
Faculty:Medical Sciences / UMCG
From bugs to buttermilk

In the Netherlands, one in ten people suffers from gut complaints (functional gastrointestinal disorders), with potentially a high negative impact on their daily activities. Diagnosis and treatment are not straightforward, and are often impeded by multiple factors playing a role in gut health. Therefore, it is important to improve our knowledge about gut health to aid future diagnosis and treatment of this prevalent disorder. In this thesis I describe our research on several aspects of gut health. The major focus is on the interaction between the gut microbiota and environmental factors, and on its link to gut health. We found associations between microbiota composition and 126 factors including stool consistency, smoking and buttermilk consumption. In addition, I describe associations between food intake and gut complaints. I found, for example, a lower intake of fibers and a higher intake of meat by people with gut complaints. With regard to the relation between overall wellbeing and gut health, I found an association between more severe gut complaints and a lower quality of life. In the thesis I also present the results of our search for a biomarker panel to aid diagnosis of gut complaints. For this panel, we identified a combination of eight components originating from blood or feces that best differentiate between patients with severe gut complaints and healthy controls. We found a correlation between this biomarker panel and the severity of gut complaints.