Speaking from the gut for immune health

B0007180 Villi from the small intestine
Villi from the small intestine (Photo credit: wellcome images)

Intestinal cells communicate with probiotic gut microbes for a healthy immune system

The human body is swarming with bacteria and other microbes that outnumber our own cells by more than ten to one. From the soles of our feet to the follicles on our head and every crevice in between, trillions of microbes form specialized ecosystems collectively known as our microbiota. Far from being mere freeloaders, many of our microbial ecosystems are comprised of essential residents – friendly bacteria called commensals. In the gut, these microbial allies help us to digest our food, synthesize vital nutrients such as vitamins, and keep pathogens at bay.

They also speak to us. By listening to the chemical chatter of our microbial lodgers, epithelial cells that line the inner surface of our gut can distinguish friend from foe.

Learning to decipher the chemical cacophony is critical to the development of a healthy immune system, and when the system breaks down, debilitating conditions like inflammatory bowel disease can take hold.

It turns out that our microbes are listening to us, just as much as we are listening to them. And according to a team of Finnish researchers, the dialogue between us and our microbes changes the way that both of us behave. Continue reading “Speaking from the gut for immune health”