Q: I've experienced some microbial imbalances that have led to intestinal issues. Can wine be included as part of a healthy diet to help prevent this from happening again? -Pauly, Beverly Hills, Calif.
A: Before we get to the wine, let's talk about your gut. Microflora, or microbiota, are groups of microorganisms (such as bacteria, fungi and viruses, among others) that live on and within our bodies and can help us maintain our health and well-being. Without some of them, we couldn't survive; others can cause harm to the point of sickness or death.
When it comes to our digestive system, microbiota are essential, but the balance of these helpful little friends can be thrown off by poor diets, some prescription drugs and antibiotics, disease and even genetic predispositions. Altered levels of the microbiota can result in weight loss, bloating, obesity, irritable bowel syndrome and colorectal cancers, among other diseases. Aware of how important the gut's microbial environment is to good health, scientists are homing in on this specific area of gastrointestinal (GI) study, targeting harmful microorganisms and working to encourage beneficial ones. One study from the Netherlands' University of Groningen suggests that wine can have a positive impact on the "good" microbiota in the GI tract; red wine has also been shown to kill some foodborne pathogens, and scientists have postulated that its antibacterial properties may reduce some of the symptoms associated with H. pylori infection. A 2012 study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition indicated that red wine could highly increase the amount of good bacteria in the gut. These studies all seem to suggest that a glass of wine might do your gut good, but as always, consult with your doctor to determine the best course of treatment.