2020-06-19 10:58
by Lisa Keilhofer
  Last edited: 2020-06-22 10:18

The gut and its bacteria are the latest stars

Our gut
Our gut has gained that many credits in the public perception that it is sometimes even honored as “second control center of our body” (Picture: ©ryanking999 - stock.adobe.com)

We went to the magazine store for you and looked what is up these days (apart from Corona). And we are delighted to tell you (roll of drums): it is the gut microbiome! GEO and GEO kompakt (GEO 06/2020; GEO kompakt Nr. 59) have it on their covers. The discipline formerly ridiculed as “poop science” turned out to be in fact pretty important, also to the average pooper, and is nowadays in the center of attention. GEO stands as a token for all the glossy brochures with scientific emphasis and mainstream readership. Almost every living room holds a collection of one of these magazines and every once in a while, you find yourself standing in front of that collection, flipping through a random edition, wondering what was freshly researched only 10 years ago. Or, quite the opposite, sometimes you also wonder about facts that have apparently been known for 10 years, already, and still no one seems to care. Let’s hope it’s the first scenario for the gut microbiome.

A not really new discipline

Strictly speaking, science on the gut microbiome is not exactly brand-new. One of the articles interviews Dr. Dirk Haller, who lectured on the gut microbiome as many as 20 years ago, but was ridiculed, at best, and sometimes also found a bit gross. “Fecal transplant” as a therapy, also today is kind of intimidating to most and far from being standard, but the acceptance has risen.

In fact, our gut has gained that many credits in the public perception that it is sometimes even honored as “second control center of our body” (next to our brain). Apart from digesting our food, it is an immune organ, home to trillions of microbes and constantly in interaction with our brain. What is now official, we knew all the way by intuition. This proves sayings like “gut feeling”. The Asian language and culture see our guts even as center of the body and the door to life.

Read more about the gut microbiome:

>>> Fountain of youth - it lies within your gut

>>> The intelligent stomach - our second brain

News on our inner values, worth reading

We do not want to recite every paragraph, because the articles are all too worthwhile to just read a brief summary. Most people already have a rough idea how our digestion works and that starting from the mouth through stomach and gut, the system sorts out and eliminates pathogens. An important point is that especially our Western medical science has seen our brain as the only control center of our body and completely neglected our gut in therapies. The direct connection between brain and gut is the vagus nerve and it plays an interesting role. Information from the gut is forwarded to brain areas responsible for emotions and mental constitution.

So, the gut is communicating with our brain. If the brain experiences a high stress level, the gut slows down its productivity to safe energy and send it to the colleague on the upper end. The correlation between stress and gut diseases like irritable bowel syndrome and the interplay of intestinal disorders and depressions indicate the strong connection of the two high performance centers within us. The article is talking about a kind of “database” the brain is creating based on information from the gut. Every new situation is checked for parallels with already experienced situations stored in that database. And before our ratio starts calculating, the data check throws out a tendency and pushes the brain towards a certain decision. And this makes absolutely sense. It is only due to our lacking understanding of our genius gut that we often dismiss those “decisions from the gut” as second-best. Instead, they are based on experience and therefore just as valid as the decisions from our “other” brain in our head.

Permanent repelling of pathogens

One separate article in the GEO was dedicated to our immune system. “Every second”, pathogens are entering our body and constant, well-coordinated defense is necessary around the clock to prevent infections. For sure, it took a great deal of self-control for the author (Maria Kirady) not to explicitly draw the more than obvious parallel to the new Corona virus (even if she is specifically describing a bacterial infection).

The reading reminds of a war scenario with biochemical weapons from the next millennium. And still, those processes are ongoing each and every second within us. The human body is the setting for battles of organisms several thousand years of age that are fighting for our bodies as their living space with us realizing nothing at all or very little of these fights. In any case, it is a good idea to support one’s immune system as much as possible.

What does science recommend?

The reader is searching for a specific answer to that question in vain. Most gut microbiome research was with rodents in the lab. As serious scientists, Haller and his colleagues are hesitant to present “the simple solution”, too. Presumably, there is not the one and only super bacterium that we can pop as a pill and resolve every physical and mental illness we are suffering from. Instead, Haller sticks to advising “the old basics”: lots of fruits and vegetables, whole grain and dairy products, and little meat – that should do for the beginning. And we are best off if we treat our body as the thing it is: a densely populated and complex ecosystem with a biodiversity worth protecting in order to fight off diseases and keep a positive mental setting.

More articles about nutrition:

>>> Microbiome diet and nutrition

>>> Best foods for your microbiome

The author Katharina von Ruschkowski nails it: Our gut is not the only thing in charge of our mood, but it creates a kind of atmospheric basis, a carpet of mood. This is one of the sentences that we should highlight with marker pen to find it when we take the magazine from the shelf in 10 years from now. Will we say: “wow, this was new back then, it sounds so obvious nowadays”? Or will we say “Oh God, we know that for 10 years now and still don’t act accordingly”? It is up to ourselves…

Lisa Keilhofer
Lisa Keilhofer
Author

Lisa Keilhofer studied at the University of Regensburg. She works in internationalization and as a freelance editor.

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