If you are a hypochondriac or suffer from compulsive hand washing or a cleaning disorder, stop reading now! You are warned!
Since a few years popular advertisements tried to convince us to take probiotics as supplements.
Of course the fact that our digestive system plays an important role in our health is not new. Already Elie Metchnikoff, who was awarded the Nobel Prize in 1908 for his work on immunity, stated: “death begins in the intestines”.
But more and more we are finding confirmation that our intestinal system is a unique habitat for a lot of organisms with which we live in symbiosis.
New research indicates that we host many hundreds different species of germs in our digestive system. But not only there, also the rest of our body can be considered to be a complex ecosystem for many different micro organisms, called our microbiome.
They are not cells, but singular living organisms with their own DNA, which decided that the human body is a great place to be. In total we constantly carry about 5 pounds of foreign material with us; our lower intestine contains 1014–1015 bacteria, that is, there are 10–100 times more bacteria in the gut than eukaryotic cells in the human body. (Foster, McVey Neufeld). Our human microbiome is as individual as our fingerprints are.
Let’s talk about our intestinal microbiome: of course, its composition greatly depends on what one eats, diet is a main factor here. Like in most communities the majority are the good guys and a minority of bad guys. But changes in diet, infections, stress, the frequent or heavy use of antibiotics gives the bsad guys are a chance to dominate.
The latest research finds a strong relationships between health parameters and the microbiome. Even stronger, our microbiome even influences our mood, anxiety and depression by the direct and indirect effects on the immune system, the hormonal system and the autonomic and the central nervous systems.
The metabolism of our gut microbiota also is capable of metabolizing proteins and amino acids, therefore influencing the levels of amino acids and the level of neurotransmitters for which those amino acids are the precursors. To the extent that they can be called psychobiotics.
You’d better be kind to your little friends and travel companions.
For some further reading:
Maczulak, A: Allies and enemies: How our world depends on bacteria. FT Press, NJ,USA, 2011.
Wilson, M: Bacteriology of humans. An ecological perspective; Blackwell Publ. 2008.
Wilson, M: Microbial inhabitants of humans. Their ecology and role in health and disease; Cambridge University Press, 2005.
Sekirov, I; Russell, S.L; Antunes, L.C.M: Finlay, B.B: Gut Microbiota in Health and Disease; Physiol.Rev, Vol.90, 2010, pg.859-904.
Foster, J.A; McVey Neufeld, K.A: Gut–brain axis: how the microbiome influences anxiety and depression; Trends in Neurosciences Vol. 36, No. 5, 2013, pg.305-312.
Chen, X; D’Souza, R; Hong, S-T: The role of gut microbiota in the gut-brain axis:
current challenges and perspectives; Protein Cell 2013, Vol.4, No.6, pg.403–414
Forsythe, P; Kunze, W.A: Voices from within: gut microbes and the CNS; Cell.Mol.Life Sci. DOI 10.1007/s00018-012-1028-z
Cho, I; Blaser, M.J: The Human Microbiome: at the interface of health and disease; Nat. Rev. Genet.; Vol.13, No.4, 2012, 260–270.
Vrieze, A; Hilleman, F; Zoetendal, E,G: The environment within: how gut microbiota may influence metabolism and body composition; Diabetologia, Vol.53, 2010, pg.606-613.
de Vrieze, Jop: Allemaal beestjes; Maven Publishing, 2014 (in Dutch)
How a cell really looks like.
In our physiology books we see the pictures of the cells and synapses giving us a mental image of what they look like and how they function.
Until recent, it was almost impossible to have a realistic view of our synapses. However last week the first true life picture and video show what the synapses really look like, and it’s a mess. Chock-full of “stuff”, not the nicely organized and spacey picture that we knew.
Have a good look at the video in the link below and wonder about the beauty of the science that made this possible and the complexity of our cells.