Gut Health and Noisy Guts

The hills are alive with the sound of music – gut music that is. If you are thinking that the musical lyrics of ‘wind’ is what we are talking about here, that is certainly one kind of chorus but the other is your actual gut sounds.

Gut health has never been more topical and buzz words like microbiome, bacteria, bugs and the like are bandied around a lot these days aren’t they?

The gut microbiome refers to the different microorganisms living in our gastrointestinal tract, including bacteria, viruses, yeast, parasites and fungi. There are 38 trillion microbes in our microbiome, most of which live in our large intestine or colon.  If we lay our intestines flat – it would be large enough to cover the area of a tennis court! Please don’t do that at home. Or anywhere really.

Like our fingerprints, we each have a unique gut microbiome colonised by approx. 160 bacterial species – we only share a small number of these with each other. The function of the microbiome is not completely understood but research is showing us that if we look after our internal environment, we increase the good bacteria in our gut.

Putting the gloves on

Both good and bad bacteria live side by side in our intestinal tract. I often imagine them having a punch up! And this leads me right into rumbling tummies and noisy guts.

The Noisy Guts Project is the brainchild of Nobel Laureate, Professor Barry Marshall. The team are developing an acoustic belt that records gut noises so doctors can accurately diagnose and monitor gut disorders and diseases.

You might recall that for decades the medical fraternity believed that ulcers were caused by stress, spicy foods and too much acid. Wrong. Barry and Robin Warren proved that the bacterium Helicobacter Pylori is the cause of most peptic ulcers. This discovery has provided a breakthrough in understanding a causative link between H. pylori infection and stomach cancer.  Needless to say, Professor Barry Marshall and his team are experts in gut health.

Is your rumbling tummy trying to tell you something?

Functional gastrointestinal diseases, such as Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) are extremely common, affecting up to 20% of people in western countries.

IBS symptoms include pain, bloating and altered bowel habits. It can be debilitating, embarrassing, and have a huge impact on quality of life.

Current methods for diagnosing IBS typically include invasive tests, such as colonoscopy to exclude diseases such as Crohn’s and colitis. These tests are costly, uncomfortable and carry risks, and still do not provide a positive diagnosis for IBS.

Belt Up

The belt used in this study will work similarly to the way in which an ECG monitors your heart rate. The end result is a safe, non-invasive tracking and diagnostic tool.

The researchers have conducted one study already using a very basic version of the belt, and the results were excellent. They were able to diagnose IBS with 87% accuracy and that success prompted them to move forward with the project and work with product developers to produce more comfortable and robust sensors for the belt. The current aim is to build and test diagnostic software adapted to these new improved sensors.

Your Support

Professor Barry Marshall and his team of researchers are currently looking for volunteers from two groups: people with healthy guts and those with a diagnosis of IBS.

This study is exciting – it really is. If you would like the opportunity to find out more about the kind of music your gut is playing (and perhaps discovering a better play list), click on this link here to complete a quick online survey about your gut health. This allows the researchers to work out if you are a suitable participant, and which group you fit into.  

If you decide to be part of this study I would love to hear about your experience and any outcomes too.

Hands up if you have a noisy gut?

P.S. We all do but there are different types of noises……