You Got Guts
Research is increasingly showing that maintaining healthy gut bacteria is a great way to prevent disease. The general idea has been that friendly gut bacteria stimulate the immune system, keeping foreign or bad bacteria from invading.
But the story may not be that simple.
Researchers in Japan have found that gut bacteria are not just passive participants in keeping the body healthy. They are involved in a feedback system that promotes the production of good immune response cells, and reduces the number of bad inflammatory immune cells.
To investigate how bacteria interact with the body’s immune system, scientists separately tested both mice with immune system irregularities, and germ free mice in sterile chambers that were transplanted with different bacterial communities when they became young pups.
They discovered that the immune system responds differently to the quality of bacterial communities. Rich and balanced bacterial communities seem to be perceived as part of the body. They triggered friendlier, maintenance type immune cells and antibodies in the mucus. Poor and unbalanced bacterial communities were perceived more as foreign invaders. They induced the production of inflammatory immune cells and high powered antibodies that can damage the gut.
This study should have an impact on the way we think about immune related disorders, suggesting disorders may have less to do with us, and more to do with the healthy bacteria we associate with. By providing probiotics or through transplantation of balanced bacterial colonies, we can use those colonies to improve the immune system. We can also help correct the faults caused either by inherited deficiencies or by aging.