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Certain species of gut microbes can protect the gut Friends Tv Show Ross Geller Unagi Shirt wall helping to maintain its mucous membrane that stops the contents spilling into the bloodstream. Without that barrier, you may suffer from a “leaky gut”, which triggers, among other things, the release of pro-inflammatory cytokines, proteins that increase the blood flow around sites of infection and regulate the body’s immune response.
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While this reaction is crucial to fighting infection, these cytokines can also lead to a low mood and lethargy. It’s the reason we often feel tired when we’re ill – and over the short term, that response helps us to preserve energy to find the infection. But over the long term, it may lead to depression. Stress can itself increase inflammation, for instance, which can then affect the microbes in our gut. The result could be a kind of feedback loop.
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Gut microbes also influence how we digest and metabolize the precursors of important neurotransmitters like serotonin and dopamine. Our gut flora even has a direct line of communication to the brain, through the vagus nerve, which has receptors near the gut lining that allow it to keep a check on our digestion. Microbes in the intestine can, therefore, release chemical messengers that alter the signaling of the vagus nerve and, as a consequence, the brain’s activity.
To find out more about the vagus nerve, read Gaia Vince’s explainer over at Mosaic. Locally in the gut, there’s a lot of opportunities for the bacteria to communicate with the Friends Tv Show Ross Geller Unagi Shirt host systems including the nervous system, says Foster. “It’s a very dynamic, interactive, rich space. These pathways are not one-way streets however, so brain activity can also influence the gut flora composition.