Bone and Bugs: How Your Gut Influences Your Bone Health

Our gut bugs count for more than you might think. Not only is research turning up links between the gut and nutrient absorption, diabetes, heart disease, obesity, and many other conditions, but it’s showing that our bones are affected too. We have over a kilogram of bacteria, fungi and other organisms living in our gut. Although some of them can make us sick, many are important for everything from extracting (and making) nutrients from food to strengthening our gut barrier and developing our immune system.
Our gut acts like a barometer for what’s going on outside: are food and nutrients plentiful (and it’s a good idea to build bone and store minerals), or is the body under stress?

In healthy stomachs and intestines, there’s a thick layer of mucous protecting the cells on the inside of the gut. The protected cells can then close ranks on anything harmful that makes it past the mucous. Where there’s inflammation in the gut, the mucous and the cells don’t guard against bacteria or their products, and white blood cells signal for reinforcements.

This inflammation causes fewer bone building cells and more cells that break bone down to be stimulated which may result in net bone loss. Inflammation in the gut can be caused by low fibre diets or high-fat diets and conditions such as diabetes, poorly managed coeliac disease, inflammatory bowel diseases, and rheumatic conditions. Bacterial balance is affected by antibiotics, illness, gut surgery, diet, and some medications.
How do we restore balance? The heavy hitters are nutrient-rich diets high in fibre and other prebiotics, exercise and, for vulnerable guts, probiotics.

Firstly, varying your diet to achieve a range of prebiotics encourages balance. Prebiotics are essentially the parts of our food we don’t digest, so our bacteria feed on it instead. Lactose, soluble and insoluble fibre and resistant starch are all examples. You should include a wide variety of fresh/frozen vegetables, fruit, legumes, nuts, whole grains and even dairy (fresh or fermented) to improve the variety of good bugs in your gut.
Exercise has been shown to improve the balance of bacteria in the gut. There is early evidence that some probiotics, such as lactobacillus reuteri (naturally found in meat and milk), may help to preserve bone mineral density in mice with compromised guts. To grow your ‘gut garden’, go to the Australian Dietary Guidelines:

For more useful information on bone health, please contact us at, or (07) 3391 5510.