4 Things About Gut Health Even Experts Admit They Don’t Know | HuffPost Life

What if millions of tiny beings lining your digestive tract were controlling much more than the direction of your food? A walk through your local health food store quickly shows the extent to which misinformation and confusion around gut health abound — you see hundreds of choices for prebiotics, probiotics, fermented foods and more claiming to help protect you from cancer, depression and everything in between. But do they work? And is the gut really that powerful?

The elusive and mysterious study of the microbiome (the bacteria and other microorganisms that live in our bodies) and the potential powers our gut health holds, is one area doctors still have much to learn about ― even those who study it every day. Experts themselves say they have just scratched the surface in their understanding of how gut health affects the rest of the body and mind.

“Unfortunately, our understanding of their importance and function is lagging way behind what is advertised in the media. For example, we are dealing with a whole spectrum of species of germ in the gut but only have antibiotics that kill almost all germs indiscriminately,” he said, adding that it’s really not surprising that even experts in the field even have “no idea” about the importance and function of germs.

The fact that gut bacteria can change so quickly is what makes it hard to pin down, but that also gives experts hope that controlling these changes can improve other medical conditions.

Therefore, the study authors concluded, diet alone might not be the only factor contributing to weight loss. “Your gut microbiome can help or cause resistance to weight loss and this opens up the possibility to try to alter the gut microbiome to impact weight loss,” lead study author Christian Diener, a scientist at the Institute for Systems Biology in Seattle, said in a statement.

Farhadi said the microbiome plays an important role in immune function. When there is stress in the body, it makes the intestines more permeable, giving bacteria more access to the immune system. This can alert the body that germs are nearby and activate an immune response. Scientists know this much. But it may go further than that.

“What if this is exaggerated? What if this turns into a vehicle that your immune system picks up and starts fighting itself, in autoimmune disease? Like Crohn’s disease, like inflammatory bowel disease, rheumatoid arthritis … maybe this is a mechanism for the mechanism to go haywire … for function to start not behaving.”

This is why he isn’t surprised that diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis are treated in part with probiotics. “We kind of crudely know that the gut and autoimmune processes can have some connection. … We want to work on that front.”

“We don’t know much, but we have some evidence,” Farhadi said of the connection between gut health and mental health. “There are a lot of studies on the role of bacteria in depression, our moods, our confidence, and other studies that show when we go through stress, the composition of bacteria changes.”

There’s more to learn, and much we don’t know: “We have trillions and trillions and trillions of bacteria,” Bedford said. “And only because we use so many antibiotics, so many processed foods now ― all of which affect the microbiome ― we are finding more and more things that occur when that microbiome is altered.”

This content was originally published here.

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