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05 Apr 2016

Differences between men and women run deeper than previously realised, with research showing the effect of gut bacteria on your health depends on whether you are male or female.

Victoria University researchers have found that even when the balance of gut bacteria look the same in each gender, the results show that certain bacteria, such as streptococcus, lactobacillus and clostridium, can behave differently in males and females.

The researchers studied gut bacteria in chronic fatigue sufferers and found specific bacteria were related to debilitating symptoms.

The researchers say the findings could change the one-size-fits-all approach in which digestive issues, particularly in people with chronic fatigue, are treated.

Lead researcher and PhD candidate Amy Wallis said the research team found that high levels of streptococcus bacteria in the gut was related to more problems for men, but less for women.

“This, and other results with lactobacillus bacteria, show that caution is needed when using probiotics as, in some cases, it could do more harm than good,” Ms Wallis said.

With 70 per cent of the immune system sitting in the gastrointestinal tract, Ms Wallis said disturbance in gut bacteria is directly linked to physical health, and has been connected to autoimmune disease.

“There are trillions of bacteria in the gastrointestinal tract which play intricate and complex roles in achieving and maintaining both a balanced gut and optimal health, so an imbalance can have wide-reaching effects,” Ms Wallis said.

“We can no longer assume that a certain type of bacteria is going to do the same job in males and females, and now need to consider that each gender may respond differently to the same treatment.”

The research team also found evidence supporting the microgenderome in humans. Microgenderome is the relationship between bacteria, the immune system and sex drives.

The study was published in Scientific Reports.

Kirsty Waterford

Published: 05 Apr 2016