New research published last week in the journal Microbiome says we’re more like our dogs than we might like to think, especially when it comes to the microbes we carry in our digestive tracts.
Our gut flora–what scientists call the massive community of microorganisms that live in our digestive tracts–play vital roles in out health. Many of these microbes are harmless but some are actually beneficial, aiding in the digestion of certain foods, improving absorption of some nutrients, strengthening the immune system and keeping harmful bacteria and other “germs” in check.
But that community of microbes is also greatly influenced by the foods we eat. A diet high in non-soluble fiber, for example, supports populations of helpful bacteria. Diets high in simple sugars, by contrast, support pathogens that have been implicated in autoimmune diseases, cancers and certain liver conditions.
But do those links also hold when it comes to our pets? The researchers behind this study say it does. They studied stool samples of 64 dogs and found that when they manipulated the dogs’ diets by altering the ratio of proteins to carbohydrates they were able to see changes in the bacteria shed in the dogs’ stools.
This study only looked at two breeds but the authors say it provides a baseline for future research. Potentially, a better understanding of how gut microflora change with diets could lead to healthier, fitter dogs and, possibly a deeper understanding of our own digestive systems and its role in our wellbeing.