Rat Microbiomes and Metabolites; a Way to Learn About the Human Stress Response?

Stress, Development, and the Microbiome  

Stress, the sort that persists and comes from sources beyond our control, can be detrimental to our health,  and even more so to the young (Luna R. et al. 2015). When outside sources of stress are present from a young age, normal development and the adult stress response is impacted in a way that makes healthy coping with stress more difficult throughout life (McEwen et al. 2011) (Eliand L. et al. 2013). Environmental stressors can not only cause developmental changes and impact overall health but can also cause changes to a person’s microbiome or the sum of microbes that coexist with an individual. Which could in-turn alter the sort of metabolites a person secretes (Verbeke K et al. 2015).  

Sprague Dawley rat from Charles River Laboratories Source: crivier.com
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The Future of Predicting Cancer Could Involve Microbes


Colorectal Cancer (CRC) makes up a large proportion of cancer in the United States. CRC occurs in two locations, the colon and rectum. It is the 3rd most diagnosed type of cancer in the U.S., and in 2021 it is estimated there will be just over 100,000 cases of colon cancer and around 45,000 cases of rectal cancer leading to more than 50,000 deaths (American Cancer Society, 2021).

Colorectal cancer causes the third most cancer-related deaths among men and women separately, and if you combine into one population it causes the second most. The actual death rate of CRC has decreased in the last couple of decades due to increase in effectiveness and quantity of screenings (e.g. colonoscopy) which look for signs of CRC, including polyps (small clump of cells that can be cancerous) located in the rectum/colon (Stewart and Carter-Templeton, 2017). Even with the ability to screen and look for physical changes in the colon/rectum, many people still die from CRC and it is a major problem facing the field of oncology and medicine in general.

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Are Your Microbes Making You Anxious?


Anxiety and depression are at an all-time high, with more diagnoses and higher disability ratings (Spitchak, 2020). Mental health disorders like this have been linked to inflammation in the gut, as the immune system is activated by stress (Spitchak, 2020). Cognitive Behavioral Therapy and anxiety-reducing medications like benzodiazepines are the current gold standard for managing long-term chronic stress and anxiety, as well as short-term needs like panic or anxiety attacks (Ballenger, 2000). These methods do help, but some people have drug-resistant depression, and others simply prefer a greater variety of options to manage their symptoms. Getting outside more has long been accepted as a mental health boost, both from the calming peaceful environment to the vitamin D exposure, to the clean air, and even the soil microbes (Asprey, 2021). A less conventional option than a simple walk may exist and appears to be emerging after 16 plus years of research by Chris Lowry, who has been working with the soil bacterium M. vaccae since the early 2000s.

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Sleepless Nights, on the Relationship between Insomnia and the Gut Microbiome


Sleep disorders can have a major impact on health, and when sleep cycles are disturbed this can increase the risk of additional disorders such as cardiovascular diseases or obesity. ‘Sleep disorder’ is a vast term that can be applied to anything from sleep quality to length of time spent asleep, and can include a variety of disorders such as sleep apnea, narcolepsy, restless legs syndrome, and predominantly insomnia. Insomnia is a disorder where individuals have trouble falling asleep, or staying awake and also focuses on quality of sleep. Insomnia doesn’t stem from a single source in the human body. It has many unknown factors contributing to its condition. So, one of the best ways to move forward in helping treat insomnia is by looking at the various aspects of the body that contribute to it, starting with the human microbiome. 

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How does IBS impact the gut microbiome?


What is IBS?  Irritable Bowel Syndrome is a functional bowel disorder.  Functional GI (gastrointestinal) Disorders are defined as being related to how your gut and brain work together: this can make your intestines more sensitive, which can change how the muscles associated with your gut contract.  IBS is most often associated with abdominal pain and cramping, changes in bowel movement and excess gas.  Though IBS is non-fatal there are significant impacts on the quality of life of those affected, leading to mobility issues, chronic pain, and increases in anxiety and depression.  While IBS is often a diagnosis of exclusion and the exact cause is not known, some risk factors of IBS are family history; if you are young (under the age of 50), are female, or have mental health issues, like anxiety or depression (1).   IBS has also been known as a spastic colon, spastic colitis, and mucous colitis. Continue reading “How does IBS impact the gut microbiome?”

Gut Instinct: Brains on Bacteria

Man meditating holding phone with digestive system and brain shown as connected.
(Image:   https://atlasbiomed.com)


You are what you eat, or so many people have been told. Researchers today are discovering that this age-old saying may be even more true that previously thought. “The Human Microbiome Project (HMP) was a United States National Institutes of Health (NIH) research initiative to improve understanding of the microbial flora involved in human health and disease’(7). Actually, the human microbiome project is a continuing effort of scientists from across the globe working together to better understand how all of the microbiological members of the immediate human environment (the microbiome) interact with our daily lives. The human microbiome is vast network of trillions of microorganisms that live in and on the human body including bacteria, fungi, parasites, and viruses(9). According to the National Institute of Health’s website, the human body is made up of 1-3% of microorganisms by mass(1).       Continue reading “Gut Instinct: Brains on Bacteria”

The Scoop on Poop: Possible Links Between Gut Microbes and Autism Spectrum Disorder


Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is a developmental disorder that affects communication and behavior (NIMH,  2019).   The CDC reports that about 1 in every 59 kids is identified with ASD (CDC,  2019).   It is very common for children with ASD to have some degree of gastrointestinal (GI) issues, such as constipation, diarrhea, and abdominal pain (Hsiao, 2014).   It is estimated that between 30-50% of children with ASD also have GI problems (Buie et al., 2010, McElhanon et al., 2014), but it is unknown why this is and what is causing it.   Scientists have looked into an imbalance of the gut microbiome (all the living organisms, such as bacteria, within the gut) as a potential factor in causing ASD symptoms and have found differences between the gut microbes of ASD children and neurotypical, or ‘normal’, children (children with no mental disabilities) (Finegold et al., 2002, Adams et al., 2011).   The researchers think that reductions in beneficial microbes and increases in harmful microbes could be causing ASD symptoms and associated problems.   However, we lack evidence to determine if the differences in microbes are actually the cause of the ASD symptoms, or if the ASD is causing the differences in microbes. Continue reading “The Scoop on Poop: Possible Links Between Gut Microbes and Autism Spectrum Disorder”

What Did I Eat? Or How Did the Critters in Your Food End Up in Your Gut


They always say that you are what you eat. In recent years, there have been an increasing amount of   studies looking at the various microbes that live in and on you, and how your habits impact them. These large number of microbes are what comprises your microbiome. Understanding how they are impacted by lifestyle is becoming a well studied area of microbiology. Previous studies in this field have shown that certain types of these microbiota can have positive or negative effects on the overall function of an   organism (Human Microbiome Project Phase II). Certain types of microbes have shown to be associated with various diseases of the gut. Many of these microbes have the ability to cause major health concerns among the human population, such as Irritable Bowel Syndrome, obesity, and autoimmune disease (Pittayanon et al., 2019 and Marietta et al., 2019).  

Being able to characterize our differences based on diet can begin to help us be able to get our microbiomes to a “healthy’ state, (what is relatively healthy for the individual, not necessarily an overlapping term for everyone). This will also help with these diseases so they don’t plague the population in such high amounts as they do now. We can potentially do this through looking at the nutrient content within our chosen diets and how that diet relates to the number of microbiota and subsequently how those microbiota impact the body. That’s exactly what the authors of a recent study did (Losasso et al., 2018). Continue reading “What Did I Eat? Or How Did the Critters in Your Food End Up in Your Gut”

Does Gut Microbiota Influence Lipid Metabolism in the Sexes?


Differences between human males and females can be large or small; one of our largest problems in the more recent years may be influenced by a very small thing, or things rather. It turns out that the microbes living in our gut can affect our metabolism of fats (Eldin et al, 2016), impacting fat storage and digestion in the body.

In the paper by Baars et al (2018), the authors investigated the differences in male and female lipid (fat) metabolism, responsible for the breakdown and storage of fats (Goldberg, 2018),  by looking at their gut microbes. These authors are researching this difference in lipid metabolism based on the previous study done by Sugiyama, M. G. and L. B. Agellon (2012) that suggested that microbes and host sex can influence the metabolism. In this study, the authors are testing whether or not the bacteria in our gut has an effect on the lipid metabolism in our bodies, specifically between males and females. Continue reading “Does Gut Microbiota Influence Lipid Metabolism in the Sexes?”

Little life-forms inside your head!

A little bit of background

What in the world is ADHD you might ask? ADHD stands for Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder and it is a common mental disorder that is found in school-aged children, but can also affect many adults (Parekh et al. 2017)! Symptoms of ADHD include inattention, impulsivity, and/or hyperactivity. If you have ever driven a vehicle without power-steering, you might have experienced the vehicle steering less sharply than what was intended by the driver. Some people describe their experience of having ADHD as if their brain is doing this! With ADHD, you might find yourself having to put in a lot more effort in a specific task just to avoid going off of the road. Continue reading “Little life-forms inside your head!”