The human body is a host to trillions of microbes, or bacteria. Some of these are helpful while some may be harmful. In order to understand what gut microbes are; we must understand what the human microbiome is. The human microbiota consists of a wide variety of bacteria, viruses, fungi and other single-celled organisms that live in the body specially in our intestine,skin, oral cavity,nasal cavity etc. The microbiome is the name given to all the genes inside the microbial cells.
Now, we are faced with the question of what is a gut microbe? The gut microbiota used to be called the micro-flora of the gut. In 1996, Dr. Rodney Berg, of Louisiana State University’s Microbiology and Immunology department wrote about the gut microbiota, summing up its “profound” importance. He said,
He goes on to say: “The indigenous micro-flora stimulates the host immune system to respond more quickly to pathogen challenge and bacterial antagonism, exhibits colonization of the gastrointestinal tract by overt exogenous pathogens.”
This symbiotic relationship benefits humans, and the presence of this normal flora includes microorganisms that are so present in the environment that can practically be found in all animals from the same habitat.
However, these native microbes also include harmful bacteria that can overcome the body’s defenses that separate them from vital systems and organs. The gut microbiota of each individual is different and unique like our fingerprints. It heavily contributes to how a person fights disease, digests food and even their mood and psychological processes.
Why is the human microbiota important? Microorganisms have evolved alongside humans and form an integral part of life, carrying out a range of vital functions. They play an important role in influencing both health and diseases, like:
- Celiac Disease
- Heart Disease
The human microbiome has an influence on the following four broad areas of importance to health :
Apart from absorbing energy from food, gut microbes are essential to helping humans take in nutrients. Gut microbes may also use their metabolic activities to influence food cravings and feelings of being full. From the moment an animal is born, they start building their microbiome. Humans acquire their first microbes from the entrance of their mother’s cervix during birth. The microbiota can affect the brain, which is also involved in digestion. Some have even called the gut microbiota a second brain. Small molecules released by the activity of the gut bacteria trigger the response of nerves in the gastrointestinal tract.
Bacterial populations in the gastrointestinal system have provided insights into gut conditions, including Inflammatory Bowel Disease ( IBD), such as Crohn’s Disease and Ulcerative Colitis. Low microbial diversity in the gut has been linked to IBD as well as obesity and T2D.
According to the Centre for Disease Control and Prevention ( CDC), approximately 1 in 10 people in the United States have diabetes, and one of those, around 90% have type 2 diabetes. The cells of a person with type 2 diabetes are not able to process blood sugar properly, affecting a key way they receive energy. For their study, the researchers took samples from 40 people who had severe obesity. Half of the participants had type 2 diabetes, while the other half showed signs of insulin resistance but did not yet have diabetes. The researchers found that there was a clear difference in the gut microbiome between people with diabetes and people without. In particular, they found that the greatest amount of bacteria was in the liver and the fatty material connecting the stomach and the colon. Both these areas are important for the regulation of metabolism. In these regards a large number of research evidence is pouring in medical literature. Notably there are some consistent trend in research findings. Among the commonly and consistently reported findings, the genera of Bifidobacterium, Bacteroides, Faecalibacterium, Akkermansia and Roseburia were negatively associated with T2D, while the genera of Ruminococcus, Fusobacterium, and Blautia were positively associated with T2D . Lactobacillus genus, while frequently detected and reported, shows the most discrepant results among studies. Interestingly, different macro-metrics of microbial communities, such as several indexes of diversity and the Bacteroidetes/Firmicutes ratio that have been previously suggested as markers of metabolic disease did not show consistent associations with T2D. Bifidobacterium appears to be the most consistently supported by the literature genus containing microbes potentially protective against T2D. The second most commonly reported genus was Bacteroides. Eight studies have reported associations between the abundance of this genus and T2D
While the study’s findings are tentative, they help make clear some areas of research that may be productive going forward. It is believed that Microbiota modulates inflammation, interacts with dietary constituents, affects gut permeability, glucose and lipid metabolism, insulin sensitivity and overall energy homeostasis in the mammalian host . The next research will focus on crystal clear understanding the causal relationship between specific genera of gut bacteria, and pathophyiology of diabetes and obesity ;with the possibility of determining if some bacteria may be helpful in combating diabetes.
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