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Upcoming WDHD will focus on the gut microbiota and nutrition – Opening up new horizons to improve human health

(Shanghai, 23 September 2013) The huge diversity of the microbial life within our intestines is going to be the topic of next year’s World Digestive Health Day (WDHD). Its motto will be “Gut Microbes – Importance in Health and Disease”. This has been announced by the World Gastroenterology Organisation (WGO) on occasion of the ongoing Gastro 2013 Asian Pacific Digestive Week (APDW) / World Congress of Gastroenterology (WCOG) in Shanghai (China). The event will be supported by Danone Dairy, which maintains a long-standing partnership with the WGO with the goal to increase awareness, understanding and management of digestive health worldwide. The jointly organised campaign “Love Your Tummy” has emerged from this cooperation. 

“The insights we have recently gained on the impact that gut microbiota has on a multitude of disorders has clearly shown that everyone can contribute to maintaining their own health through taking proper care of the microbiota, with diet being one of the most important factors to take into account,” says Professor Francisco Guarner, Chairman of the upcoming WDHD, which will be celebrated on 29 May 2014.

Entitled “Gut Microbes – Importance in Health and Nutrition”, the WDHD campaign aims to inform the lay public, as well as healthcare professionals, on the significance the multifarious life forms inside our guts have for our wellbeing. “It is becoming increasingly clear that a well-balanced and diverse microbial gut community, particularly with regard to its bacteria, is key to one’s health. It helps to prevent a broad range of digestive and immune system-related disorders and is a powerful helper in making efficient use of the food we consume and providing the body with the energy it requires. A properly composed diet is a prerequisite for a beneficial functioning of the gut microbiota. Conversely, an imbalanced and less diverse microbiota is closely linked to a number of diseases that range from irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) and inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) to obesity, metabolic syndrome and diabetes,” says Professor Eamonn Quigley, Chairman of the WGO Foundation, who spoke about the diagnostic and therapeutic potential of the gut microbiota at the WCOG/APDW. As he points out, even psychological disorders such as depression and anxiety may be linked to the gut microbiota.

Recent research has revolutionised knowledge of the intestine’s inner life

Over the past several years’ gastroenterological research activities have produced a wealth of findings that have truly revolutionised our understanding of the inner life harboured by the intestine. It has been discovered that myriads of bacteria symbiotically living within the human gut form a biological society that profoundly influences our health. The intestinal microbiota, formerly known as “gut flora”, can be regarded as a whole organism in itself, including the incredible amount of at least 100 trillion bacteria, belonging to more than 1,000 species, and weighing between 1.5 and 2kg. The gut microbiota consists of 10 times as many cells as there are human cells in the body. The gut microbiota’s metagenome  – the so-called “microbiome”  – turns out to be much more diverse than the human genome.

Gut microbiota plays a crucial role in maintaining one’s health

This vast microbial community is connected not only with the gut, but also with the nervous and immune systems through a multitude of pathways, mediating a permanent exchange of signals that run both ways. So it comes as no surprise that, although in many cases the precise causal relationships have still to be determined, the gut microbiota plays a crucial role in the physiology of the entire human body. “We think it is about time that doctors, as well as patients and the general public, take into account that the gut microbiota is a key player when it comes, not only to disease management, but also to maintaining one’s health in daily life,” says Prof. Guarner. “What makes for a healthy microbiota composition is the beneficial bacterial strains out ruling the potentially harmful ones. Apart from medication – particularly the intake of antibiotics, which might damage the gut microbiota – nutrition is the most important environmental factor that interacts with the various microorganisms of the intestine.“ This is where prebiotics and probiotics come into play: prebiotics are fibres which serve as “food” for beneficial bacteria, thus influencing the gut microbiota in a positive way, while probiotics have proven to be helpful in conditions such as bloating, flatulence, abdominal pain or IBS. The positive effects of probiotics are generally undisputed, and currently a number of studies are under way to establish precisely which outcomes are induced by which bacterial strains.

Prevention by daily diet

“It is quite clear that the gut microbiota and how it interacts with us, its host, is of major significance for doctors and their patients as well as for the general public, and we are convinced that WDHD 2014 will help to get this message across on a global scale,” says Prof. Quigley. “Therefore, it matches perfectly WGO’s principal goal to raise awareness of digestive disorders and of the fact that, through diet, prevention is, to a large extent, in everybody’s own hands.” In organising WDHD 2014 WGO will be supported by its long-term partner Danone, which is also involved in the ‘Love Your Tummy’ Campaign, launched in 2012. In relation to WDHD 2014, the goal of that particular campaign is to draw public attention to the importance a proactive approach, on a daily basis, to one’s diet has for maintaining digestive health.

About the World Gastroenterology Organisation (WGO)

The WGO is a federation of over 100 national societies and four regional associations of gastroenterology representing over 50,000 individual members worldwide. Formed in 1935 and incorporated in 1958, WGO focuses on the improvement of standards in gastroenterology training and education on a global scale. Its mission is to promote, to the general public and healthcare professionals alike, an awareness of the worldwide prevalence and optimal care of digestive disorders. http://www.worldgastroenterology.org

About World Digestive Health Day (WDHD)

Every 29 May, the WGO celebrates the World Digestive Health Day and initiates a worldwide public health campaign through its national societies. Each year focuses on a particular digestive disorder or other gastroenterology topic in order to increase general public awareness of prevention and therapy. WGO member societies participate by arranging events in their regions to commemorate this day. http://www.worldgastroenterology.org/world-digestive-health-day-year.html

About Love Your Tummy Campaign

‘Love Your Tummy’ is a global educational campaign from the World Gastroenterology Organisation (WGO) supported by Danone to increase awareness, understanding and management of digestive wellbeing.

The ‘Love Your Tummy’ campaign provides interactive information and tips to assist people’s understanding of how diet and lifestyle changes can help them self-manage their digestive discomfort whilst encouraging them to talk to their healthcare professional if they have any concerns. www.loveyourtummy.org

About the Gastro 2013 Asian Pacific Digestive Week (APDW) / World Congress of Gastroenterology (WCOG)

The combined APDW/WCOG is running from 21 to 24 September 2013 in Shanghai, China. The organising partners are the Asian Pacific Digestive Week Federation (APDWF), the Chinese Societies of Digestive Diseases (CSDD), the World Endoscopy Organization (WEO) and the World Gastroenterology Organisation (WGO). http://www.gastro2013.org/

About Danone Dairy

Danone's conviction is that food plays an essential role in human health namely through the impact that the gut microbiota may have on wellbeing. That is why Danone Dairy has been collaborating with the WGO in many ways since 2008 – the most recent project being the support of the WDHD 2014, with the aim to increase public knowledge about the links between the gut microbiota and digestive health, in line with Danone’s mission to “bring health through food to as many people as possible”.