Tummy Trouble Part III: Gut Flora

The microorganisms in our guts are thought to be responsible for immunology, metabolic functions, and protection against outside pathogens. Healthy gut flora has been linked to long-term healthy outcomes and limited disease activity. Our bodies have spent many years developing these internal defense mechanisms that thwart outside microbial invaders. It has taken years and years of human evolution to complete perfect symbiosis between good and bad bacteria. This process begins as soon as a baby begins to exit the mother’s womb.

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Think about it. Years and years of genetic evolution happened without any scientist or microscopes hanging around documenting outcomes. Human cells have been mutating for hundreds and thousands of year on a micro level. They’ve been able to micro-edit who they do and don’t want at gut flora the party. How cool is that?!

The average human has many variations of good and bad bacteria living in and on their body (please visit Ed Young’s youtube page). The push to understand gut flora and its effects on disease activity has become popular in the past ten years or so. The past few decades have been a time of many medical advancements in the DNA department. Scientists are just beginning to unlock the ability to tame rogue cells by genetically altering a cells DNA. People with failing organs are receiving fresh new ones grown in petri dishes. In some cases people are receiving entirely new versions of their own cells!Image result for dna helix

People come down with viral and bacteria infections all the time. Some infections used to be considered a death sentence upon contraction. However, many once life threatening diseases are now cured with the improvements of modern medicineAlas, there is always an antagonist in every heroic story. The medicines that treat some infections are also known to wipe out some of the good gut bacteria along with the bad.

Many times after specific medical treatments, or taking antibiotic medications, the internal microbial ecosystem of a person changes. Think about gut bacteria as a bustling city. In this city, there are multiple members with specific duties related to the makeup of a healthy ecosystem. Now, imagine an invader comes and wreaks havoc on everything the members of the community have built. The community calls for back up ASAP. The backup comes in the form of a pill, and instead of targeting the invader, it drops like a bomb and kills off much of the good bacteria along with the bad. 

For instance, many people have dental issues after chemo. The lining of the mouth and teeth become dry or painful. It may become difficult to produce saliva or swallow. These powerful medications are known for healing, but there is always a catch. Many cancer survivors tell of stories regarding how their bodies have significantly changed after receiving certain therapies to kill or mute their cancer.

The cure of one disease may directly alter the healthy homeostasis of a person’s gut microbe. Antibiotic resistance and changes to a person’s gut flora have become really interesting topics that researchers have just begun to look at. There are so many things unknown about the power of the gut!



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