How do microbes affect our brain and do they affect it at all?

People who are far from science, argue something like this: “if scientists are engaged in any problem, then it deserves it, that is, it is scientific.”

Well, to be honest, what only these scientists do not do. Scientific search goes in different directions, sometimes-in completely unexpected. Of course, the effect of intestinal microflora on the body could not remain without attention of microbiologists and doctors. And this is absolutely correct and completely logical. Intestinal microorganisms-our symbionts, organisms that cooperate with our body, bring us some benefit. Where there is cooperation, there is always mutual influence.

But let’s immediately understand the difference between the words “influence” and “manage”. The word “influence “implies a certain influence, and the word” management ” – subordination. We don’t obey microorganisms. In our actions we are guided by our reason, our will. And microorganisms, as already mentioned, have no mind. In any case, to date, no species of intelligent microbes have been discovered. To be told, trained, like dogs or cats, bacteria don’t respond.

But you must admit that the phrases “our microorganisms cooperate with us” and “our microorganisms control us” are perceived quite differently. The first-quietly, and the second – with great interest. Oh, do they control us! It can’t be! And so on. Of course, for the title of an article in the “unscientific” media or for the title of a quasi-scientific book, the word “manage”will be used.

A small deceit – Ah, think what is the importance of just one word! – may give rise to another myth, “based” on a solid scientific basis.

He sees a thoughtful and meticulous man, who used to check everything and clarify, in the newspaper article titled: “Our real brain is in the intestine!”The article tells that as a result of research in such a scientific Institute, in the laboratory of Professor Ivanov, it was established how intestinal microbes control the human body.

A thoughtful and meticulous person does not hurry to believe what is written. First you need to check-whether there is such an institution and whether there is such a Professor. Great Google confirms that the Institute and the Professor exist in reality, and in addition introduces the numerous scientific works of Professor Ivanov. Scientific, pay attention, and not a little bit like “Germs cure disease” or “Germs return the youth.” A solid scientist working in a solid institution, I want to believe. And then there’s Google gives dessert information that in the laboratory of Professor Ivanov studied the effect of intestinal microflora on the human body. After such a “dessert” even Thomas the unbeliever will believe in the truth of the information contained in the article. Will believe that our real brain is in the gut and that microbes control all our actions, as was said in the article…

In fact, Professor Ivanov and his laboratory staff studied the effect of an enzyme secreted by one type of symbiont bacteria on colon peristalsis. That’s all.

That’s how myths are created.

Take another example, with mice, these basic laboratory animals. Studying the effect of microflora on the body, scientists divide mice into two groups, one of them destroy all intestinal microflora with antibiotics, and then expose both groups of mice to various factors and compare the results.

“You can learn to set up experiments in a week, but it takes years to learn how to correctly evaluate their results,” said British scientist James Maxwell, the “father” of classical electrodynamics.

Intestinal microflora on its effects on the body can be compared with the body. Of course, the body, deprived of one of the organs, loses along with the body part of its capabilities. For example, the body’s resistance to adverse environmental factors decreases. Agree that this is logical. Removal of intestinal microflora leads to disruption of the normal functioning of the digestive system, which will certainly affect the body’s resistance. If the digestion worsened, then after it wait for violations of other functions.

Mice that have intestinal microflora will be easier to tolerate stress than mice without microflora. Also, “normal” mice will grow better, multiply more actively and hurt less.

Is it possible to say from this that the centers (that is, the governing structures) of stress, growth, reproduction, and resistance are in the microbial population of the gut?

Actually, you can’t, but if you really want to, you can. It is better not to meddle with scientists with such conclusions-without disputes and discussions just laugh. But for people far from biology and medicine, such conclusions may well impress. Especially given the fact that our XXI century is very generous with shocking, but at the same time – real, scientific discoveries. If scientists have been able to create a synthetic bacterial cell, what else can be surprised?

The synthetic bacterial cell is not a myth, but the real truth. In 2010, American geneticists from the Institute for Genomic Research (Institute for Genomic Research) under the leadership of the founder of the Institute Craig Venter created a synthetic chromosome, which is then transplanted into a bacterial cell, deprived of their genetic material. As a result, the cell began to divide according to a “synthetic” program, and as a result of this division, cells that previously did not exist in nature were obtained. To put it bluntly, this is not a scientific achievement, but a real miracle.

Let’s agree at once that further conversation at us with you will go “in all seriousness”, that is from scientific positions. Remember that intestinal microbes allegedly control us, we will no longer. Clearly, they don’t. The hypothesis of the universal Masonic … that is, all-organization microbial conspiracy is not confirmed by anything concrete. It’s just a beautiful fairy tale, nothing more.

“In the dark, dark bowels were insidious germs that ruled his master so skilfully that he did not notice as long as he smart people weren’t told about it. And there was those microbes without number and account, and power they possessed great… ” and so on. If desired, the whole “Microlab” to write with “Microtissues”, because the tales to write and compose songs – it’s no bags to carry and not roll the stones.

We will begin our serious conversation with the method of committing the crime, that is, with the method of exposure of intestinal microbes on our body as a whole. In General, that is, not on the wall of the colon “at the place of residence”, but on the whole body, on different organs and systems!

Microbes living in other places will be discussed in the following chapters. Now in the center of the of our attention are representatives intestinal microflora, as the most “influential” our symbionts, ostensibly able manage us. Microorganisms that live on our skin or, say, in the vagina, no one ever gave mythical management functions, they were not awarded such an honor.

Way to one-through blood. But here it is necessary to take into account that in the colon, where our microscopic roommates mainly live, not all substances can be absorbed. Sometimes it comes to wasteful absurdity-the necessary vitamins are not absorbed by the body,but are brought out! So the intestinal microflora, even from a theoretical point of view, is not enough possibilities to control our body.

Do not forget about our internal protective barriers, the strongest and most difficult to penetrate of which is the blood-brain barrier that separates the circulatory and Central nervous systems. The cells that form the walls of the small capillary vessels that feed our brain are very tight to each other. Through the narrow gaps between the cells can pass water and dissolved substances in it, that is, substances with small molecules. The dense layer creates a mechanical barrier to the penetration of substances from the blood into the brain, but it is not limited to mechanics. On the surface of the cell membranes of the inner layer is a lot of active enzymes that can break down various substances. Substances with large molecules penetrate from the blood into the tissues not through the cracks, but through the so – called “cell channels”-bind to special proteins located on the cell membranes, penetrate into the cell, pass through it and exit the cell on the other hand, previously freed from the protein – “conductor” [19]. The enzymes in question break down the substances passing through the cell at the time of their transportation. Thus, the mechanical protection of the brain from the effects of” foreign ” substances is supplemented by chemical protection. Otherwise, it could not be, because the brain is the most important organ that controls the whole body, and managers should be protected and protected. Many substances necessary for the brain for life, produced directly in the brain, at the place of their application. This happens even when these substances are produced by other organs. For example, dopamine, which makes us feel good, is produced in the adrenal glands as a chemical precursor to the hormones norepinephrine and adrenaline. But despite this, the brain has its own “dopamine factory” that produces dopamine for the brain. “It is better to duplicate the production than to weaken the protection” – something like this argues Nature.

Microbiologists are not yet familiar “by name” with all of our intestinal microflora, but actively acquainted with it – discover new species of microorganisms and study their livelihoods. In the process of studying, many discoveries are made. Every now and then there are articles about new substances that produce representatives of our microflora. Coming out of a small scientific world in our big world, this information, figuratively speaking, “acquires wings” and turns into a myth, another conditional “brick” laid in the Foundation of the imaginary microbial omnipotence. “Look what they produce, these insidious germs! It’s a “sedative” from the tranquilizer group! [20]and here is another substance – “stimulating”! Help! We are controlled by microbes!»

Before you shout “guard”, you need to remember about the blood-brain barrier, through which not every substance can pass. This, first. And secondly, you need to assess the amount of a particular substance produced by microorganisms, and think about whether it is enough to have an impact on our body. “How much?”- this is a very important issue that can not be ignored.

With microorganisms, the same pattern is observed as with plants. Speaking about the next “first aid kit from the garden”, that is, about the “incredibly useful” plant for health, people list the substances contained in it, without thinking about their quantities, which often turn out to be negligible. It is rare that a plant can seriously claim the title of a medicinal plant.

So do not rush to be horrified by microbial omnipotence or admire them. Look at the root!

It’s good that you and I have to “throw away” not all the useful products of the intestinal microflora. Some of them are still absorbed from the colon into the blood and used by our body.

For example, vitamin K2, necessary for our body to produce proteins involved in the process of blood clotting. But let’s not shout that microbes control our blood, deciding when to clot and when not. K vitamins are found in greens, various kinds of cabbage, cereals, bananas, meat… But that doesn’t make it possible to say that our blood is controlled by bananas or spinach, right?

Vitamin K2 with us pay for the rent of housing E. coli and several other bacteria. More precisely, they do not” pay”, but produce for their own needs – vitamin K2 serves as a carrier of electrons in bacteria in the process of anaerobic (airless) breathing. And we take this valuable substance from bacteria for our own needs.

Another important vitamin produced by the intestinal microflora and absorbed by our body is Biotin or vitamin H, aka vitamin B7, which is involved in several important metabolic processes. Biotin is produced by many types of bacteria, and in addition, we get it in more than sufficient quantities from food, so at one time it was believed that our body can not experience a lack of this vitamin. Food will not be enough bacteria compensate for the lack, and Vice versa. But it turned out that it is not only in the amount of Biotin, but also in the necessary for its assimilation enzyme called biotinidase. If the body has little biotinidase, then there will be a deficiency of Biotin on the background of its quantitative excess. That’s the paradox of the category of “seeing eye, eye itching”.

Any sane tenant is interested in keeping your home in order-in a timely manner to do both cleaning and repair. Microorganisms that live in our intestines take care of its mucous membrane, releasing substances that have a protective and anti-inflammatory effect. But they can also secrete substances that irritate the mucous membrane. It occurs at excessive reproduction of any organisms or at change of their vital activity under the influence of any factors. Most often, this factor is “uninvited guests” – microorganisms, normally absent in our intestines.

The most important useful function of the intestinal microflora is to protect our intestines, their habitat, from “intruders” that can cause various diseases. Protection is manifested in the fact that our symbionts occupy the intestine, that is, an ecological niche, and resist microorganisms-aliens, producing substances that are detrimental to them.

At the same time, our microbes stimulate the immune defense against outsiders, releasing substances that irritate the mucous membrane of the colon. Yes-and from inflammation of the intestinal mucosa, the body can benefit, since local factors of immune protection, that is, acting “on the spot”, in the lumen of the intestine, are activated. Antibodies (proteins capable of suppressing the activity of viruses and bacteria) are produced, the production of macrophages (cells that absorb and digest microorganisms) increases.

Intestinal microorganisms stimulate the immune system not only by irritating the mucous membrane, but also by the very fact of their presence in the intestine. Although they are symbionts, received the “right of residence” in our body, but still for our immune system, they are not their own, but others’. Therefore, the immune system “looks after” the microflora, maintaining a high content of immune cells in the mucous membrane of the colon, that is, it is in a state of moderate tension, in a state of increased activity.

Alien microorganisms in our digestive tract have a hard time – if hydrochloric acid does not kill them in the stomach, then the enzymes in the small intestine will kill, and if the enzymes do not cope, then the intestinal microflora will finish. Rarely what microorganism is able to pass all these protective barriers and cause disease. But some do.

Pathogens that affect the colon, or have a strong protective shell, or can cause damage in small quantities.

For example, Entameba histolytic, the causative agent of amoebic dysentery, penetrates into the human body in the form of cysts – a temporary form of existence, characterized by the presence of a dense protective shell. Cyst transcend any hydrochloric acid or aggressive digestive enzymes, it quietly reaches the colon, turns into an amoeba and begins to” gnaw ” the mucous membrane. But the causative agents of bacterial dysentery [21] from the genus Shigella do not form cysts, but they can cause the disease in minimal quantities. Literally one or two dozen of Shigella is sufficient for the development of dysentery.

If you, despite all the above, continue to “train” your immune system, washing your hands as little as possible, then imagine how easy it is to put in your mouth with unwashed hands a little Shigella or amoebas… you do not need to suck your fingers or lick your palm. And take food with your hands, too, is not necessary. It is enough to touch a finger to the lips (this is periodically done by all people), and then hold the place of touch with the tip of the tongue.

Only one combat outsiders protective effect of the intestinal microflora is not limited. Microorganisms are able to neutralize many toxic substances trapped in our intestines. This is achieved in two ways-by binding the molecules of poisons to molecules of substances that are produced by microorganisms, and by binding the molecules of poisons to the shells of microorganisms themselves. Lyrics with the romantics can sing the nobility of microbial symbionts who sacrifice themselves, neutralizing the poisons. Yes-sacrifice, because as a result of attachment of “unnecessary” molecules to the cell membrane microorganism often dies. “Bound” molecules of poisons can not enter into any reaction and can not be absorbed into the blood. The way they have one-out with feces.

If the struggle of microflora with strangers is an active process-our microorganisms recognize strangers and produce against them some certain substances, the neutralization of toxic substances is a passive process. Substances that bind poisons are produced by microbes not episodically-purposefully in response to the appearance of poison in the colon, and constantly for their own needs, in the process of their normal life. And the” attachment ” of toxic molecules to cell membranes also occurs not purposefully. Proteins, which bind molecules of poisons, are produced by microbes for themselves, and not as an”antidote”. Detoxification [22] action of microorganisms in this case can be compared with the action of activated carbon, which “collects” molecules of substances, ensuring their excretion together with feces.

Please pay attention to the fact that most of the action of intestinal microflora on our body is local, that is, manifested in the colon. Microbes digest what our enzymes could not digest, secrete substances that act on the mucous membrane, occupy an ecological niche and resist “intruders”, stimulate or slow down peristalsis and water absorption…

But microorganisms can also have a systemic, that is, a General effect on our body. Of course, not as pronounced and not as global as the proponents of the theory of microbial omnipotence, but still can.

Mainly, the intestinal microflora, as it should be “though their own, but strangers”, acts on the immune system. Microorganisms can produce substances that stimulate the immune system, as well as “personal contact” they can activate lymphocytes, the main cells of the immune system. Lymphocytes fight with foreign agents both through the production of antibodies, and” hand-to-hand”, with contact interaction. Leukocytes also regulate the activity of other cells of the immune system. In the intestine there is a so-called lymphoid tissue that produces lymphocytes. It is represented by isolated inclusions on the inner surface of the intestines, so that microorganisms are very convenient to contact with lymphocytes. And activated, roughly speaking “ready to fight”, lymphocytes then penetrate the blood and spread it throughout the body. Conventionally, our intestinal microflora can be considered an additional organ of the immune system.

The effect of our intestinal symbionts on the immune system is scientifically established, we can say-proven, and actively studied. Scientists are close to creating bacterial Immunostimulants – drugs containing live bacteria that stimulate the immune system.

“Live” drug in some cases may be preferable to “inanimate”, that is, a chemical substance. However, chemicals have one very significant advantage over microorganisms – it is not difficult to ensure their presence in the body in the right doses. In order to be sure of this, it is enough to estimate the patient’s body weight and some features of his body (for example, the presence of liver or kidney disease), and then calculate the daily dose of the drug and determine the frequency of its administration.

With microbes, the situation is much more complicated. The patient takes a certain amount of live bacteria, calculated during clinical trials, but how these bacteria will behave in the body of a particular person – this is, as they say, grandmother said in two. Perhaps they will take root well in the colon, quickly multiply to the desired amount (if microorganisms do not interfere with reproduction, they do it very quickly) and begin to do their job – to stimulate the immune system. But it might go wrong. Bacteria-stimulants will not be able to take root in the intestine, because they will suppress other microorganisms… Or they will not be able to multiply to the desired amount… Or under the influence of their neighbors, they will become inactive and will not stimulate the immune system… Based on all this, we can understand why bacterial preparations can rarely be considered “drugs of choice”, that is, the main, leading therapeutic factor. So strongly rely on the help of microorganisms is not necessary. To paraphrase the old wisdom, we can say: “hope for microbes, but do not help yourself!»

Treatment with bacterial preparations, as “live”, “non-chemical” and therefore seemingly harmless (which in fact is not so), has spread among fans of all natural. Scientists have just had time to identify the problem and begin to study it, and the sale has long been “unique” live bacteria that are cleaned and vessels (how, I wonder, they do it – “brush” wield?), and the level of glucose in the blood is lowered, and blood pressure is stabilized, and the work of the cerebral cortex is stimulated, and many other things do… But if you carefully consider the packaging of this “wonderful” drug, you can find the words “dietary Supplement” … Then you can not explain, right?

The systemic effect of intestinal microflora on the immune system (forgive the author this clumsy pun, which developed by itself) is currently the only recognized in scientific circles action of this kind. Perhaps in the future scientists will discover something else, but for now we have what we have, and we must proceed from this. You can’t run ahead of a conventional scientific locomotive.

Are you impressed by the words ” a lot of articles have been published that link gut bacteria to certain aspects of our behavior…”? I want to know what’s wrong? Please-learn, nobody forbids it to you. But just be aware that you are reading – a scientific article or a fantastic one. And don’t expect to get rid of depression or allergies to pollen with prebiotics and probiotics.

I wonder why no one has yet thought of developing such an interesting topic as”Plants rule the world”? Plants serve us as food and raw materials for the production of many products, from fabrics to medicines. Plants produce vital oxygen. Plants can cause us allergies, and even – to kill us. And plants have a kind of intelligence, it was once written somewhere… So why shouldn’t plants rule the world? Or the whole Galaxy?

It is fashionable to attribute to intestinal microorganisms not only omnipotence, but also omniscience. There is opinion (utterly wrong) relatively moreover, that our precious symbionts can serve source of data about able of our health. Please note that we are not talking about the state of the colon, and the state of the whole organism as a whole! And conclusions are drawn based on … stool analysis. Enough has been said about the” perfection “and” informativeness ” of this method of research, there is no need to repeat it.

But even if you take a sample of intestinal microflora through a probe inserted into the colon, and analyze the material immediately upon receipt, so as not to “pervert” the result, there are still a few questions.

The first question – why the composition of our intestinal microflora is allowed to judge about the General state of our body? Why should I? Based on what? Ask any guesser on coffee grounds about it, sorry – “guesser on microflora”, and you absolutely will not hear the distinct answer containing accurate transfer of arguments. From you will prefer to get rid of with the help of common phrases and will emphasize the fact that with problems in the intestine, the whole body suffers.

Yes-suffers. Whole organism. And sometimes against infectious bowel diseases in General can die. But so what? Inflammation of the lungs also affects the whole body, but this does not mean that on the basis of only one x-ray of the lungs can be judged on the state of the whole organism. Simply put, the fairness of a statement does not mean the fairness of a reverse statement. For example, the fact that all professors were students does not mean that all students are bound to become professors.

The second question – how can you diagnose on the basis of little-known material? Let’s assume that the intestinal microflora contains complete and comprehensive information about the state of the whole organism. Admit. Purely conditional. But we have not yet identified, studied and counted all this microflora. If there is no complete information, what kind of diagnosis can we talk about? Is it not better to tell fortunes by cards or by coffee grounds?

Question the third and the last – with what to compare the studied result? Where is the standard with which you can compare the composition of this particular microflora? After all, while the microflora is not fully studied (see question two), then there can be no standard.

However, something similar, albeit remotely, exists in Chinese traditional medicine. Chinese doctors make some diagnoses (some, not all-all) based on the smell and amount of intestinal gases. These gases consist partly of air, which we swallow when eating and talking, and partly are the product of intestinal microorganisms. Thus, assessing the smell (that is, in fact-the composition) of intestinal gases, it is possible to draw conclusions about the predominance of certain types of microorganisms in the colon. Of course, this will be an approximate, not accurate method, and in General, to be honest, this technique is no good, it is of little use. As, to word whether said, and from the entire Chinese traditional medicine at all. Yes, the effectiveness of traditional Chinese methods of diagnostic treatment in our time is highly questionable. If you want to know, the “Western” (that is, our) medicine is widespread in China, and Chinese doctors use only a small part of their historical heritage.

And finally – about appetite and overeating. There is no evidence that our intestinal microflora controls our actions such as choosing and eating food. All conversations on this topic are a discussion of several hypotheses that serious scientists are not considered. So if you make regular raids at night to the refrigerator, then do not rush to blame your microflora. It’s not the germs that are to blame, it’s your lack of restraint, your lack of willpower.

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