In what is the first study that looks at this correlation, a study from Newcastle University indicated that while smokers’ microbiome lacked the presence of certain strains of beneficial bacteria, vapers’ microbiome was intact, just like that of non-smokers.
Gut flora or microbiota is the complex community of bacteria that live in the digestive tracts of humans and other animals. When the populations of our gut flora are in balance they are beneficial to us, and help us with food digestion and the prevention of a number of conditions.
On the other hand, an unbalanced microbiome has been linked to all sorts of conditions from obesity and food intolerances to serious neurological conditions and cancers. There are a number of known factors that may lead to an unbalanced microbiome, amongst which the consumption of antibiotics, an unhealthy diet and bad habits such as smoking.
“The bacterial cells in our body outnumber our own human cells and our microbiome weighs more than our brain, yet we are only just beginning to understand its importance on our health, “ said lead author of the study was Dr Christopher Stewart from the Institute of Cellular Medicine at Newcastle University.
The researchers from Newcastle University, examined samples of the gut bacteria of smokers, non-smokers and vapers, and found significant changes in the gut bacteria of the smoking participants, with an increase in a strand of bacteria which is linked to an increased risk of colon cancer and colitis. Smokers were also found to have a significant decrease in the beneficial bacteria or probiotic Bacteroides, a lack of which has been associated with Crohn’s disease and obesity.
E-cigarettes safer than cigarettes on the gut
In contrast, the gut flora of e-cigarette users was the same as that of non-smokers. “More investigation is needed but to find that vaping is less-damaging than smokingon our gut bacteria adds to the incentive to change to e-cigarettes and for people to use them as a tool to quit smoking completely,” said Stewart.
Dr. Stewart added that since more people are switching to the safer alternatives it is important that more comprehensive research about the products is carried out. “This research comes as we see a huge increase in the numbers of people using electronic cigarettes and it becomes increasingly important that we understand the effect on the human body.”
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