I’ve Got a Gut Feeling

According to recent research about the trillions of teeny tiny creatures that inhabit our bodies, known collectively as the body’s microbiome, there is now good evidence that these little critters are influencing our behavior.

That’s right, your brain is receiving messages from billions of bacteria, viruses and fungi. A substantial portion of these unseen critters spend their days chewing through the various bits of lasagna, Cheetos, Girl Scout cookies, shrimp po’boys, Ding Dongs, rice pilaf and, in the case of the Clown’s current wife, kale, that one ingests during any given day. They also frolic on your skin and lurk deep in your nether regions where they impact many important bodily functions, if you get my drift.

Of course, some of what goes down our gullets is not appreciated by our little, a.k.a. micro, friends. So, in those cases, they send messages to the brain that makes us act in ways that we might not otherwise. This could explain why some people take the mic at a karaoke bar, decide to invade Iraq or grab women by their privates. It’s not necessarily that they are complete idiots but rather an indication that perhaps they had mixed Big Macs with almond bear claws and Cheeze Whiz or some other gastronomical no-no. The gut bugs thus protest.

Laboratory tests on mice whose microbiomes have been artificially altered with antibiotics show big differences in such areas as obesity, seizure control, interest in the fine arts and sociability. Once the scientists have created the wanted altered result, they then feed some of a normal mouse’s stool, a.k.a. poop, to the altered mouse and the induced behavior  reverses as a result of the new microbes from the normal mouse’s stool. This protocol is known as a fecal transplant and assumes that the fecal of a normal mouse has the right combination of trillions microbes, returning the altered mouse to a state of normalcy.

According to Dr. Lester Apt, who specializes in creating non-social test mice and then turning them, through fecal transplants, into party animals, the difference, pre- and post- transplant, is quite astounding.

“Our loner mice like to be by themselves, communicating very little and even then, in one-word responses, ‘Yep’, ‘Nope’, that sort of thing. They adopt a similar attitude as Clint Eastwood in a “Fist Full of Dollars”. Of course they don’t have access to serapes, firearms or skinny cigars but their aura is clearly one of distain for the other mice.”

Following the fecal transplant, which usually involves some forced feeding and gagging, the loner mice become more sociable in just a few days. Within 10 days these mice have joined the Rotary Club and looked into becoming annuity salesmen.

The awareness of our microbiome is not new. In the 17th century, Dutch scientist Antonie van Leeuwenhoek (pronounced “Laid-der-hosen”), who had just received a shiny new microscope from Mrs. Leeuwenhoek (pronounced “Leap-frau-milch”), scraped some of the plaque from his teeth and smeared it on a slide. He was amazed to see hundreds of moving creatures darting about within the goo. Several of these little fellows held tiny signs that read “Je moet meer flossen” which roughly translates to “You need to floss more”.

Microbiome science holds great promise and is already being used to address human ailments. One of the most successful is a human fecal transplant to treat people with the stubborn intestinal infection caused by the bacteria Clostridium Difficile or C. diff. The earliest human test procedures of this treatment, while pain-free, often involved forced feeding and gagging. Today, the transplant can be done in less dramatic ways, including simply taking a poop pill with a time-release candy coating.

Having downed a Jersey Mike’s cheese steak for lunch, the Clown’s microbiome is now sending steady signals to his brain that they, all trillions of them, “would like a little down time in order to fully process the jalapeños and onions” and that he should “go take a nap”.

Say no more my little creepy, crawly friends.


Observoid of the Day: Being a fecal transplant donor does not pay well.

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