There is an increasing interest in Faecalibacterium prausnitzii given its potentially important role in promoting gut health. Interestingly, it may be a useful biomarker to help in ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease discrimination (both inflammatory bowel diseases).
There are large population of F. prausnitzii bacteria in the normal human body, occupying 6–8%, even 20% among all kinds of microbiota (Zhang et al., 2017)
What Are It’s Health Benefits?
Faecalibacterium prausnitzii is consistently reported as one of the main butyrate producers found in the intestine
Butyrate has a crucial role in gut physiology and host wellbeing. It is the main energy source for the colonocytes (cells lining the colon) and it has protective properties against colorectal cancer and inflammatory bowel diseases.
Additional benefits include:
- anti-inflammatory properties through its capability to induce a tolerogenic cytokine profile
- Restoration of serotonin (a key neurotransmitter in the gastrointestinal tract that affects motility) to normal level (mice models treated with F. prausnitzii)
- Anti-nociceptive (anti-pain) effect in non-inflammatory irritable bowel syndrome (mice models)
At the extraintestinal level (outside the gut), butyrate exerts potentially useful effects on many conditions, including hemoglobinopathies, genetic metabolic diseases, hypercholesterolemia, insulin resistance, and ischemic stroke (Cannini et al., 2011).
How Can We Increase The Amount Of F. prausnitzii?
It remains a challenge to determine which factors have a role in maintaining the abundance of this bacteria in the gut. Many studies have shown that F. prausnitzii abundance is reduced in different intestinal disorders. It has been proposed that F. prausnitzii monitoring may serve as a biomarker to assist in gut diseases diagnostics.
- Only some members of F. prausnitzii population are selectively stimulated by inulin, a type of prebiotic
- Most of the isolates can grow on apple pectin and are able to use some pectin derivatives
- In addition, F. prausnitzii strains can also utilise N-acetylglucosamine, a constituent of the glycoproteins found in gut mucosa. Interestingly, it has been reported that treatment with this compound may improve Crohn’s disease
- It has been suggested that F. prausnitzii may rely on other species like Bacteroides for cross-feeding. Animal studies have suggested that the gastrointestinal tract requires prior preparation with Escherichia coli and B. thetaiotaomicron to colonize the gut.
- A Kiwi fruit supplement called Livaux has been shown to increase levels in participants with low initial F. prausnitzii concentrations (Blatchford et al., 2017)
As well as ‘feeding’ this bacteria, it’s environment needs to be considered. The optimal pH for F. prausnitzii growth ranges between 5.7 and 6.7
The authors make an important point on the bi-directional nature of F. prausnitzii and disease states:
Altogether, the exact role that F. prausnitzii has in the pathogenesis of these diseases cannot be established at this stage. On the one hand an external factor can cause a downshift in F. prausnitzii, but also this species depletion can be a contributing factor to disease aggravation. In this case, restoration of normal counts of this species should be explored as a way to achieve healing and/ or attenuate disease progression.
So when levels are low we may want to consider:
- Using the prebiotic inulin, apple pectin, or the supplements N-acetylglucosamine or Livaux
- Levels of E. coli
- Focus on food diversity within our diet
- Consider the overall health of the individual and whether an external factor may be causing the downshift
Testing Your Microbiome
You can assess your levels of Faecalibacterium prausnitzii via stool testing. Click here to order a stool test from Healthpath, and receive a personalised report of your results.