A Study Finds A Strong Link Between Gut Bacteria And Specific Metabolites In The Blood

February 18, 2023

Summary: Gut microbiota plays a crucial role in human health, especially in the treatment of complex regional pain syndrome and pancreatic pain. Any alterations in gut microbiota can increase the risk of various health disorders, including these two conditions. However, to date, there is limited understanding of gut microbiota, and there are no reliable tests to measure changes in the gut microbiota. A new study shows that almost 58% of the variance in plasma metabolites can be explained with the help of variance in the gut microbiota population. Thus, it is pretty likely that we may see the introduction of blood tests to understand changes in gut microbiota.

There are more than 100 trillion microorganisms living in the human gut. Yet, it is unbelievable how little we know about them. It is beyond doubt that they are not parasites but rather living in symbiosis. It is a mutually beneficial relationship between humans and microorganisms.

Over time, the human body has evolved to become dependent on these microscopic unicellular beings for its well-being. For example, they help train human immunity and provide vitamins, neurotransmitters, and various bioactive compounds. Studies show that any disruption in the population of gut microbiota leads to various health disorders, including complex regional pain syndrome and pancreatic pain. Changes in gut microbiota are associated with not just gastrointestinal problems but also various metabolic health issues. In addition, Dysbiosis even increases the risk of mental health issues.

Though there are many studies showings that changes in gut microbiota cause health disorders, there is one significant problem. Science still does not know what makes healthy gut microbiota. The reason science does not understand healthy microbiota is due to the massive diversity of the gut microbiota population. These are bacteria and fungi belonging to various classes, order, and species.

However, untangling this puzzle is essential if we want to understand the human body fully. Understanding the gut microbiota and its role in health would help us prevent various health disorders and even treat health conditions. Of course, it does not mean that we do not know anything about them. We do know a lot, but it is still the tip of the iceberg. Science knows that bacteria like lactobacillus are good for health.

There are many challenges in understanding the role of gut bacteria. Firstly, we need to understand what makes this massive population fully. Secondly, we need to understand what kind of nutrients and bioactive compounds they produce. At present, we only know that the total population of these microorganisms in the gut is in trillions, and they probably produce hundreds of beneficial bioactive compounds.

However, science is fast making progress in understanding the role of gut microbiota in health. Science already knows much about the metabolites produced by gut microbiota. In the new study of 8583 participants aged 50 to 64, researchers could find that about 58% variance of individual plasma metabolites was associated with gut microbiota population diversity. These numbers are massive. It shows that gut microbiota can significantly influence various body functions by making changes to these plasma metabolites. It appears that gut microbiota has a greater say in our health than imagined earlier2.

Further, by understanding how changes in various plasma metabolites are associated with changes in gut microbiota, we can better manage health conditions and understand changes in the gut microbiota.

Till now, the main way of studying the gut microbiota population is through microbiological studies of gut tissue or fecal material. However, it appears that by analyzing plasma metabolites, we can also understand much about gut microbiota. Moreover, these findings are clinically relevant since plasma tests for various metabolites are much easier to carry out than microbiological studies of gut tissues.

Hence, it is pretty likely that in the future, we may see blood tests that would be able to provide precise information about changes in the gut microbiota, help treat health conditions due to these changes, and even monitor the treatments.

By Gurpreet Singh Padda, MD, MBA, MHP