New Research Links Immune System and Health of Gut Bacteria
The gastrointestinal tract is very important in a person’s health. Most people think of heart or lungs first as being the most vital organs, which they are, but without being able to eat, poop, or absorb nutrients, our body wouldn’t work properly. The underdog of organs has now been proven to be linked to a healthy immune system.
The gut is an amazing part of the GI tract, digesting food, getting nutrients ready for the body to absorb and send them to where they need to be. Not only does it hold all of our food and drinks, but it is able to contract and relax, creating chyme that will be sent to the duodenum and small intestine. Through a complex system of glands, blood flow, the stomach secretes 1,500 to 3,000ml of gastric juices daily, adjusting to the different foods we ingest.
These juices come from several glands within the gastric mucosa; cardiac glands (secrete mucus and pepsinogens), chief cells, oxyntic, mucus, parietal, and endocrine. Parietal cells secrete the glycoprotein that is necessary to absorb Vitamin B12.
Each of these glands/cells work together along with peristalsis to break down the food we eat into chyme that is then dumped into the duodenum. The emptying process alone involves neural impulses, hormones secreted by the small intestine, and chyme. If any of the steps is interrupted, the patient develops health problems.
The Immune System and Your Gut
It has been thought for a long time that the immune system is linked to the bacteria in the gut; now there is research to prove it. The article, "Immune System Affects Gut Bacteria Evolution," by Instituto Gulbenkian de Ciencia states, " Our health is strongly dependent on the diversity of bacteria that inhabits our intestinal tract and on how the immune system tolerates it or responds to the pathogenic bacteria to prevent disease." When a person's immune system is depressed, correspondingly, the gut bacteria changes creating a domino effect on the host's decreasing health. This finding is especially useful in patients with Inflammatory Bowel disease, suggesting that a custom treatment is needed.
The lead researchers, Isabel Gordo and Jocelyne Demengeot are the first to show the link between the immune system and gut bacteria. Their research focused on Escherichia coli which is the first bacteria to colonize in newborns. While in mice with healthy immune systems, the growth of bacteria was predictable, in those lacking lymphocytes(white blood cells- very important in the immune system), there was an unpredictable variations.
"We observed that this feature is due to changes in the composition of the community of bacteria in the intestine, which is more similar across individuals with a healthy immune system, and is quite diverse in animals with an immune compromised system," said Demengeot.
The immune system can regulate the microbes in the gut. When that goes awry, there is no way to predict what is going to happen to the bacteria in the gut which leads to the understanding that treating those with IBD on an individual basis rather than a blanket therapy will be the new standard of care.
IBD's are a group of diseases causing chronic inflammation in the colon. The two main IBD's ones are Crohn's and Ulcerative Colitis. Crohn's can manifest in any place from the mouth to the anus in a patchy pattern, where UC is only in the large intestine in a continuous pattern. While UC affects the inner lining of the colon, Crohn's can invade the entire layers of the mucosa which often leads to surgery. Both present with diarrhea, abdominal pain, and cramps.
Medicine makes new strides daily, new procedures, research, medications that help patients live a healthier life. This exciting new information proving that our health depends on what our gut and GI tract are doing. Those of us who work in the GI labs know how important eating, digesting, absorbing minerals and vitamins, and of course pooping is to our patient's. If a patient cannot eat, they lose weight along with their natural defense to fight disease. We see how miserable they are when suffering from reflux, constipation, IBD, and the hundreds of other disorders of the GI tract.
This research will allow doctors to treat patients with more individuality, obtaining better results. This is exciting for the future of medicine. Paying attention to our body as a whole instead of one system alone is a better way to stay healthy. A car does not run without a battery, just as our body does not run without a heart. We are created in a magical and complicated process in which each system relies on the other.
Instituto Gulbenkian de Ciencia, "Immune System Affects Gut Bacteria Evolution." Dec. 2, 2015. ScienceDaily. 15 Dec. 2015. Web.
Paddock, Catherine PhD. "Immune System Influences Evolution Of Gut Bacteria, Study Shows." Dec. 3, 2015. MedicalNewsToday. 3 Dec. 2015. Web.
Last edit by Joe V on Jun 17, '18
About Brenda F. Johnson, BSN, RN
Joined: Oct '14; Posts: 229; Likes: 845
RN at Gi Lab; from TN , US
Specialty: 25 year(s) of experience in Gastrointestinal NursingFeb 2, '16Joined: Jan '12; Posts: 316; Likes: 414thanks for this informative article!! isn't 70-80% of a person's immune system inntheir gut?