How Bacteria Rule Over Your Body – The Microbiome

Microbes are everywhere, on your phone, in your water bottle, on your hands before you wash them, on your hands after washing them, and literally everywhere else on you! Microbes are everywhere at all times, and there's nothing we can do about it. So millions of years ago we made a pact: they are given shelter and food, and in return, they work for us. But the more we learn about this pact, the more it looks like a cold war ...

Photo by CDC on Unsplash

 Inside the mother’s womb, humans begin to be sterile. When we are born through the womb, billions of bacteria from our mother cover every part of our body. It is an essential part of human health. Children born by cesarean have a high rate of asthma, immune system diseases and also leukemia. Our bodies not only accept the invasion of microorganisms, they welcome it. For millions of years, we have co-evolved to better coexist. Breast milk for example, contains special sugars to nourish and maintain certain groups of microbes, master others, and help regulate the immune system. You have to wait two years before you have a mature community of germs. Each human has their own microbiome, made up of bacteria, viruses, fungi and other organisms.

We have three types of visitors to - and into - our bodies.

First : Quiet passengers going about their business, and are politely ignored.

By their presence, they take the place of more aggressive intruders.

Secondly : Harmful visitors, but with whom we have learned to live,

for example: bacteria that secrete acid that melts our teeth if we don't brush them. They would like to take up as much space as possible, and we would like to prevent them. But we cannot totally get rid of it.

In third place : Cool things our bodies want to keep

Most are a community of 380 trillion bacteria, of over 5,000 different species, which live in our intestines.These microorganisms help us digest food, and extract more calories from things that we cannot digest on our own. Unfortunately, our intestines are the perfect weak spot for intruders, they are therefore guarded by a powerful army: our immune system. To survive, our microbiome has co-evolved with us to be able to communicate with our body. The main thing is to be able to ask the immune system not to kill them. But they also have an interest in keeping our intestines healthy, some therefore produce a messenger substance which educates our immune system, and others stimulate our intestines to regenerate faster. But in recent years, It has been shown that our microbiome is much more influential than that! He might even be talking directly to our brains.

90% of the serotonin in our body is produced in the intestines.

Serotonin is an important messenger substance for our nerve cells.Some scientists believe that the microbiome is the origin, to communicate with the vagus nerve, the information highway of our nervous system. Other examples are bacteria that stimulate immune cells in our intestines, to send some kind of alarm signal to the brain. There, it activates immune cells that help the brain to regenerate. Since the brain decides what we eat, The microbiome has an interest in keeping the brain healthy. A new scientific field has appeared, and we are on the verge of understanding how these complex systems interact inside our bodies.

Photo by CDC on Unsplash

How much our microbiome influences us and our behavior?

Take depression for example, Healthy rats fed with gut microbes from people in depression started showing signs of anxiety, and symptoms reminiscent of depression. And a study in early 2017 showed the link between microbiome and intelligence by bringing together a certain batch of bacteria in newborns with better motor and verbal performance. But it could also influence our everyday life. Fruit fly trials have shown that their microbiome influences which foods they prefer. It could mean that your microbes can tell your brain what food he should provide them. However, it is not a one-way street. The basis of our microbiome comes from our mother, but it grows and changes depending on what we eat.

The infinite loop 

The organisms in our intestines consume different foods, some like fiber and green vegetables, others like sugar and starch, and others love fat fries and butter. Our intestines are a garden in which we decide what grows and what hatches. If we eat healthy, we favor bacteria that like healthy food. If we eat a lot of junk food, we prefer bacteria that love junk food. Life is hard, and we can be trapped in a vicious circle. You spend a dirty quarter of an hour eating lots of burgers, fries and pizza. This is great for "junk food" bacteria, they multiply endlessly, and take the place of bacteria "green vegetables". But worse, they send signals to the brain to continue on this path. It makes you want more junk food. What still favors these bacteria, which makes you want junk food, and so on. This kind of self-powered circles could play a big role in obesity.

 But it's important to clarify that you can fight this process, or even cancel it, by eating healthy and favoring good bacteria. Beyond being overweight, our microbiome has been linked to others serious illnesses like autism, schizophrenia, and cancer. One of the warning signs of Parkinson's is actually bowel trouble. If your body is overrun with bacteria that want to harm you, there is often only one solution: you bring in an army of good soldiers. It's very easy, you're just transplanting healthy poop. You do this by literally transferring poop from a healthy person right down to your intestines. This method is already used to treat diarrhea, caused when C. difficile bacteria invade our gut microbiome. But we don't know everything about everything that comes into play in this phenomenon.

We will never be alone

For example, a transplant from an obese donor treated a woman’s diarrhea, but helped make her obese afterwards. This led another study to try to reverse the effect: Faeces transfers from skinny people to obese people gave them a more varied microbiome, and made them less sensitive to insulin, phenomena that occur when people lose weight. We need a lot more research to really understand how our microbes can make us healthy or sick. But whether we like it or not, We need our microbiome, and it needs us. We will never be alone in our bodies, but we have gained a powerful ally there, if we can keep this peace.

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