Understanding your gut

Understanding your gut


If your gut doesn't work - your immune system doesn't work

The crucial role of the gut and its bacteria - get wiser on your new best friend

August 2016 \\ Category: The Gut


During the last decade researchers have discovered, that the gut and its 100 trillion (yes, 100 trillion!) bacteria, play a HUGE role in our well-being and how we can avoid diseases. The probiotics (the beneficial gut bacteria) are all involved in a wide range of biological and biochemical regulatory functions which is vital for our immune system and the functioning as human beings.


Some more stunning facts to digest: the gut is responsible for developing 80% of our immune system, responsible for 95% of the Serotonin production (the main neuro transmitter responsible for our mood), and contains more neurons than the spinal cord.


We have instinctively always known, that the gut plays a major role in our life, hence the expressions "gut-feeling", "gut-wrenching" and also having "butterflies in our stomach" when we are nervous. So gut feelings are not just fantasies - but they are real nervous signals which guide much of our live.


The gut is in many research studies mentioned as the Second Brain (=the enteric nervous system) and has become "the new black" in terms of understanding health, curing and prevention of diseases - and for our general well-being. This second brain is centered right in our solar plexus.

We now know that gut-feelings are real nervous signals from the gut to the brain guiding our lives

We are in a sense a walking, talking mass of microorganisms. Our body contains 10 times more bacteria than it contains human cells. So the bacteria outnumbers the human cells 10 to 1...! 95% of these bacteria are good for us. This fact can also be a bit challenging as it goes against our childhood learning that bacteria is considered bad for us and we should do everything in our power to kill and destroy them. But we need to revise this view and and start to treat, feed and take good care of these 2 kilos of small friendly creatures.


Science have spend billions of hours and euros finding life other places in the universe, but everything points in the direction that it might be a really good idea to start inside ourselves - and explore the life here. The researchers have just started to scratch the surface. The more we learn about these bacteria, the more questions arise.


There are some good reasons why the gut has not been researched more until now. One can easily imagine that a doctor rather wants to be credited for his research in the brain's functions rather than in the intestines's functions... - We have been taught that intestines are only good for one thing - making poo... However we need to acknowledge how much the gut is in control. In many cases the signals from the microbiota controls the brain - read more about the super-highway between the gut and the brain, the Vagus Nerve, here, sending 90% of the signals from the gut to the brain. Another reason for the lack of research is, that it has been extremely difficult to recreate the environment of the intestines in a laboratory. 80% of the bacteria in the gut do not tolerate oxygen. We can implant a new heart and make brain surgery, and other extremely complicated operations, but we have almost no idea about how to recreate what is inside our intestines because the environment is so complex...

If we don't take good care of our 100 trillion small bacteria friends, they will mess us up, and possibly make us sick.

One of the most important - and maybe surprising facts - to know is, that 80% of the immune system is produced in the gut. The immune system protects us against all diseases. Not only flue and allergies but also against the really serious diseases as e.g. cancer. The immune system is a collection of billions of cells that travel through the bloodstream. These cells move in and out of tissues and organs, defending the body against foreign invaders - from pollon to the growth of abnormal cells (=e.g. cancer cells).

Imbalances in the gut bacteria, has a huge impact on a weak immune system

Knowing that 80% of the immune system is formed in the gut, leads to the next obvious conclusion: like any other good fighting army, a healthy immune system needs good food, which will help the billion of immune system cells grow and protect us. We need whole, unprocessed anti-inflammatory food to serve the gut as well


Scientists from Harvard also state that "Doctors are learning now that one of the best ways to quell inflammation lies not in the medicine cabinet, but in the refrigerator" (2). Quite a statement from some of the most respected scientists in the world. However, it seems that the doctors have not been listening as they are prescribing more chemically produced medicin than ever before.


Therefore, it is so important that you take charge of your own health and learn about the benefits of anti-inflammatory food.


One important food group in anti-inflammatory food is both prebiotics and probiotics that helps to repopulate the gut with good bacteria.

Read about the background of pre- and probiotics - and how you get it - here.


Another way of treating the bacteria is by reducing the intake of sugar. A normal person consumes 40% too much sugar everyday - and the good gut bacteria do NOT like this. It effects the immune system and create chronic diseases. Read more about the obscene amount of sugar we in the Western world eat every day and how it impacts us, here.

Harvard researchers say that many cures for diseases can be found in the fridge - not in the pharmacy

Preventing diseases with probiotics


Science of the microbiota strongly points in the direction that it might be possible to prevent chronic diseases with probiotics. Highly respected research institutions around the world have found that the gut directly impact the following diseases:


  • Type-2 diabetes - Researchers have found that there are 2 specific bacteria - Prevotella copri and Bacteroides vulgatus - present in the gut which increases the amount of specific amino-acids. These amino-acids increase the risk of developing insulin resistency and thereby type-2 Diabetes. Therefore, they conclude that Type 2 Diabetes is caused by the wrong bacteria in the gut and can be helped by changing the bacteria in the gut. (3) (4)
  • Cancer - Research, published in The Journal of Cancer Research, concluded that the bacteria - Lactobacillus johnsonii - play an important role in the development of lymphoma (cancer of the white blood cells).

Another gut bacteria - Helicobacter pylori - may according to researchers from University of Nottingham (LINK) - cause stomach cancer and duodenal ulcers (a break in the lining of the stomach), by deactivating a part of the immune system involved in regulating inflammation. A third study from The Icahn School of Medicine in New York, shows that a specific combination of gut bacteria can casue the development of colorectal cancer. Researchers from The National Cancer Institute have also found that immunotherapy and chemotherapy were less effective in mice lacking gut bacteria. Such treatments are working significantly better in mice with a normal gut microbiome. (3)


  • Overweight and obesity - By studying pairs of twins researchers at King's College London have found out that the little known bacterial family - Christensenellaceae minuta - is more common in people with a low body weight. What is really interesting, is that when these bacteria were transplanted into fat mice it reduced their body weight. (3) (6)

So it seems like a specific group of microbes can actually protect us against obesity


  • Mental health - Gut bacteria produce a number of neurochemicals that the brain uses for the regulation of physiological and mental processes, including memory, learning and mood. 95% of the body's supply of serotonin is produced by gut bacteria. A study published in the journal Psychopharmacology concluded, that prebiotics - may be effective in reducing stress and anxiety as well as lower levels of the "stress hormone" cortisol. (3) (5)

Not many of us are likely to think about how gut bacteria affect anxiety, depression and stress, but they actually play a very important role.

When our gut is not working properly we have less resilience and are much more prone to stress and depressions. We need to have a strong gut in order to have the energy to deal with our psychological challenges. It is a bit like Maslows hierarchy of needs. If we don't have the sufficient biochemical strength we won't be able to deal with our emotional challenges. You could argue that some psychologists/psychotherapist would benefit from a better understanding of the biochemistry of their patients/clients.


  • Eczema - Eczema is a skin condition caused by a combination of genetical and environmental factors. It is thought that pollution and increased hygiene have a correlation whit the presence of eczema. Over the last years attention is also being paid to the correlation between eczema and our gut microbioma.

The microbiota of an adult person is composed by permanent members (autochthonous species) and transient members (allochthonous species). The majority of our gut bacteria (97%) are anaerobes (meaning that they do not need oxygen for growth), and only 3% are facultative aerobic (they can live with or withour oxygen). Children and adults suffering form Eczema and atopic skin had shown a variation in the proportion of aerobes/anaerobes organisms. Microbiota of children aged 18 months suffering from eczema harboured a larger number of aerobic microorganism (specially clostridium) (7)(8). These results may leave the door open to consider new ways of supporting the treatment of these pathologies.


  • Respiratory Allergies - The tolerance to low amounts of ingested allergens is defined oral tolerance. Without this regulatory system, any antigen entering our body could develop a systemic immune response. There is epidemiologic and clinical data supporting the idea that our mucosal immunologic tolerance can be disrupted by an altered gastrointestinal microbiota. Dietary changes, and use of antibiotics are main factors creating perturbations of our microbiota and can modify this “sensor” system for mucosal tolerances.

Several studies have demonstrated that fluids, particles and microbes introduced into the nasal cavity are largely found in the GI tract shortly thereafter (9). In other words, the gut ends up being exposed to the same antigens as the respiratory tract.

A study (10) was carried in mice inducing microbiota disruption in gastrointestinal bacteria with no introduction of microbes into the lungs. Mice were treated with antibiotics for five days and a single gavage of Candida. The effect was an altered microbiota with an increased number of yeast. At that point, mice where intranasally exposed to allergens, which cause an allergic reaction.

Bearing these facts in mind one can begin to piece a picture together of the relationship between alterations in the microbiota and the regulation of the immune response.


You may wonder how the brain can be so much affected by the gut? This direct connection between the gut and the brain is called The Vagus Nerve. This nerve is the biggest nerve in the human nervous system.

We probably all have learnt that the communication goes from the brain to the body. But research shows that this is not so. Actually 90% of information goes from the gut to the brain. Read more about these surprising facts here.



  • We contain over 100 trillion (1018) bacteria - which amounts to approx. two kilos of bacteria in our guts - this is called the microbiota.
  • 95% of the serotonin ("happiness drug") is produced in the gut.
  • The ratio is 90/10 of microbiome/human cells = we have 10 times more bacterial cells than human cells in our body.
  • 80% of the immune system is produced in the gut
  • 80% (approx.) of the gutbacteria species do not tolerate oxigen and are therefore very difficult (impossible) to grow in the lab.
  • One in four Danes has up to 40% less gut bacteria than the average recommended
  • You can change your gut bacteria in 48 hours by eating vegetables so unlike the genome, the microbiome can be nurtured and changed

We need to think about what we eat if we want to fight diseases. Many diseases and our general well-being, is highly affected by the trillions of bacteria in our gut. The most thought-provoking thing is, that we can do so much ourselves in order to change things and a healthy gut is vital to fight almost any instability in the body.


(1) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3539293/

(2) http://www.health.harvard.edu/staying-healthy/foods-that-fight-inflammation

(3) http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/290747.php


(5) http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4410136/

(6) http://www.kcl.ac.uk/newsevents/news/newsrecords/2014/November/Weight-influenced-by-microbes-in-the-gut.aspx

(7) “Distinct patterns of neonatal gut microflora in infants in whom atopy was and was not developing”. Marko Kalliomäki MDª, Pirkka Kirjavainen MSc, Erkki Eerola MD, PhDº, Pentti Kero MD, PhDª Seppo Salminen PhD, Erika Isolauri. MD, PhDa. Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology. January 2001.Article: Does the mirobiota regulate immune responses outside the gut? Mairi C. Noverr and Gary B. Huffnagle. Trend in Microbiology. December 2004.

(8) "Microarray analysis reveals marked intestinal microbiota aberrancy in infants having eczema compared to healthy children in at-risk for atopic disease"- Lotta NylundEmail author, Reetta Satokari, Janne Nikkilä, Mirjana Rajilić-Stojanović, Marko Kalliomäki, Erika Isolauri, Seppo Salminen and Willem M de Vos. BMC Microbiology January 2013.

(9) "Does the mirobiota regulate immune responses outside the gut?" Mairi C. Noverr and Gary B. Huffnagle. Trend in Microbiology. December 2004.

(10) "Development of Allegic Airway Disease in Mice following Antibiotic Therapy and Fungal Microbiota Increase: Rofe of Host Genetics, Antigen and Interleukin13". Mairi C. Noverr, Nicole R. Falkowski, Rod A. McDonald, Andrew N. McKenzie, and Gary B. Huffnagle. Infection and Immunity. 2005. Jan.








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