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Non Invasive Biomarkers of Gut Function

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Gut physiology alters with age. Associate Professor Ross Butler discusses possible gut problems and non invasive tests to help diagnose these problems.


Hello. I am Associate Professor Ross Butler. I’m the Chief Medical Scientist in the Centre for Adolescent Gastroenterology at the Women’s and Children’s Hospital in Adelaide, South Australia. I joined the Editorial Board of the Virtual Gastro Centre two years ago and today I would like to share with you my insights on non-invasive biomarkers of gut function throughout our lives.

We are, as you know, living longer and as a consequence our health patterns are changing. This is particularly true for gut health. Indeed we are changing in a number of different ways, even in the younger age groups.

As we age our gut physiology changes too. These changes some of you will have experienced, and they may be things like flatulence and they may be pain. So too does our risk of the gut being adversely affected, such as irritable bowel syndrome or IBS, which occurs in about 15 percent of Australians. Reflux problems are quite prevalent as well, being about 10-20 percent of Australians. Food hypersensitivities are increasing, perhaps not alarmingly but in quite a large way, and this is occurring more frequently in the last 10-20 years. And of course colorectal cancer is one of the major cancers, and it occurs in, it peaks in 70 year olds.

Whilst relatively little research has been done in aged populations in terms of gut health, there are some things we do know, including, from a functional point of view, changes in gut motility. We know that our stomach empties differently in different age groups and under different circumstances. Transit time in the bowel, sometimes people think about this as constipation or diarrhoea, also seems to be becoming more prevalent. And as we get older we become more fragile and we become more prone to these things happening.

Up to one third of people over 50 years of age have a bacteria called helicobactor pylori which was first described by doctors Barry Marshall and Warren, from Perth in the 80s, and they showed that helicobactor pylori causes ulcer disease. However, of the one in three people over 50 who have helicobacter pylori, most of them are asymptomatic and only one in six get a disease related to the infection, for example they might get gastric ulcer or duodenal ulcer.

Colonic function also changes and the balance of bacteria change accordingly. So our fermentation patterns alter. We get bloating and flatulence and these appear to occur more frequently. As we age, the bacteria can start to live in the wrong place in the intestine. So instead of living in the large intestine further down, they move up to the small bowel and small bowel bacterial overgrowths can occur and these again can cause problems with gut function.

Indeed there are some new and individual food intolerances appearing as we age.

We now have a range of tests, and I guess I’ll just show you this one test, that’s called the FH2 pack, that are non-invasive, including some very new ones, to help properly understand altered gut function and aid in the management of your gut and why things have gone wrong.

Now GPs can use these and they’re very, very simple to do. They’re dynamic function tests and I’ll just show you now, how we do them. After we’ve taken the sample, we breathe into this container for ten second and we do this overtime and we can get answers from this telling us how our gut functions. Many of these brief tests can be used in conjunction with pharmaceutical and dietary or supplement treatments, to monitor the effect of these therapies.

I’d like to thank you for watching, and have a great day.

More information

human-digestive-system-100x100For more information about gut function visit Gastrointestinal System.
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Posted On: 24 August, 2007
Modified On: 25 October, 2017


Created by: myVMC