How many of us thought that an old phrase “my gut feelings are…” would actually turn into a hot topic among researchers today? So who exactly speaks from our gut?

We know that our intestine is home for various microorganisms as well. They are present in our gut since one or two years post birth. The interesting part is, are they so blended with us that they are capable of signaling to our brain as well.

Who are they?

The bacterial population inhabiting small and large intestine comprises both gram positive and gram negative bacteria. Major genera are Clostridium, Lactobacillus, Escherichia, Proteus, Klebseilla and Enterobacter. Together they form the enteric micro biota. Their numbers and species may vary according to age and diet.

What do they do?

Apart from helping in digestion of food, they also provide immunity against certain pathogens. They detoxify harmful substances and aids in absorption of nutrients. Researches have proved that they help in the production of vitamin B and K as well.

What if they plan an exodus?

Sometimes due to various physiological factors, our ‘good bacteria’ decide to take a toll on us. With the increase in their numbers they migrate to different organs of our body causing infections. Commonly caused infection is urinary tract infection and inflammation of colon. Some species of Enterobacter have the capability to cause skin infections as well.

You are what you EAT.
Image courtesy: Neurosciencenews

Are these the only roles played by them?

“The gut feelings” weren’t largely understood properly until the recent researches proving the importance of gut micro biota in various aspects like mood swings, anxiety, carvings for certain foods as well as role in diseases like Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s. Studies on gut-brain axis show that these microbes are capable of sending signals to the brain which can cause changes in mood as well as hunger conditions.

Ever wondered why we get a chocolate (or any sweets’) craving during stress conditions or diarrhea, bloating, etc.? These microbes are present in very specific numbers in our body hence any shift can cause such changes. For instance, in case of diarrhea, some amount of gut microbes are removed from the body, this can cause the remaining microbes to send signals to the brain that an energy source is required for their growth and multiplication.

Diseases like Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s also show increased level of gut micro biota in the patients.

Overuse or misuse of antibiotics can also cause similar effects as apart from killing the pathogenic bacteria, they can also harm the required bacteria.

It’s a long way from gut to brain. How do microbes bridge this gap?

The tenth cranial nerve- Vagus Nerve is the star player in this game. It has neurons in various organs of the body like heart, visceral organs (especially intestines), heart and larynx. Hence it can control varied tasks as heart rate, gastrointestinal peristalsis, sweating, and quite a few muscle movements in the mouth, including speech (via the recurrent laryngeal nerve), swallowing, and keeping the larynx open for breathing.

Since the gut is majorly innervated by Vagus nerve, signal produced by any shift in gut microbes is picked up by this nerve and is likely to affect other organs as well. This might be the explanation for stress eating.

Studies have shown that they are known to secrete polypeptides which are structurally similar to hunger regulating hormones, hence causing craving for food.

Other effects are anxiety and aggression as they release mood enhancing chemicals.

It is really amazing to know that something commensal in our body is capable of taking control of our behavior as well. So next time if someone’s having a mood swing, blame it on their microbes! With the growing realization of importance of gut microbes, current researches are focusing on how these microbes are manipulating the host.

http://www.geneticengg.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/09/maxresdefault-1-1024x576.jpghttp://www.geneticengg.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/09/maxresdefault-1-150x150.jpgUpasana GuptaHealth and MedicineAlzheimer,gut bacteria,gut health,microbes,Parkinson's,pathogen,vagus nerveHow many of us thought that an old phrase “my gut feelings are…” would actually turn into a hot topic among researchers today? So who exactly speaks from our gut? We know that our intestine is home for various microorganisms as well. They are present in our gut since one...When Nature and Science meet, Magic happens !