WHAT A SURPRISE TO LEARN THAT OUR GUT HAS ITS OWN NEURAL “BRAIN”!…Think of the implications! This interview will likely take place around 2030, when scientists and our news media finally find out how to communicate with this brain, which surely has some great wisdoms…
CNN’s Sanjay Gupta: We are here today, proudly, with a first in human interaction, an exclusive interview with what we might call the “second brain”, the one that controls our appetites, immune systems, nutrient delivery, and waste processing. Gut Brain, how would you describe yourself?
Gut Brain: Well first of all Dr. Gupta, thanks for having me. I speak on behalf of billions of gut flora who do most of the work. I am simply their representative and coordinator. I am also secondary to the primary brain, who makes most of the conscious decisions for right or wrong.
Gupta: Well that’s a very modest assessment of yourself Mr. Gut Brain. But wouldn’t you consider yourself also an essential element, whose decisions are a matter of life or death?
Gut Brain: Let’s just say that I prefer to work subliminally, and stay out of the spotlight for the most part, but that I have a very strong veto power in what happens to the body, and if no one listens to me it could all hit the fan.
Gupta: You wrote a popular Washington Post Op Ed “The Key to Health:”, but…
Gut Brain: Sort of, the key to your overall health is close to your butt, more specifically your colon.
Gupta: Right. But getting back to those unsung heroes you mentioned, the gut flora, can you describe them for me?
Gut Brain: Well that’s a tall order as they are a quite diverse group. But a good analogy may be that they are like humanity itself, as they are virtuous ones, lazy louts, criminals, and different races all living in a sort of Democracy.
Gupta: A Democracy? How so?
Gut Brain: Well, basically, if they don’t cooperate shit doesn’t happen and their hotel burns down.
Gupta: You mentioned the word hotel, please elaborate.
Gut Brain: Well, while humans consider themselves to be solitary creatures, the gut flora considers themselves the living biome with humans a sort of temporary subsistence shelter, sort of like a hotel. Some are luxury hotels, others are flophouses depending on the health of the human. But considering that much of the gut biome will always find another hotel if this one burns down, it may not ultimately matter.
Gupta: You mean the gut biome doesn’t care about the condition of the human body?
Gut Brain: Well, let’s just say again, that the good bacteria do care (the same way good humans care about the environment) and bad bacteria don’t care (the way bad humans exploit the environment). Good bacteria like Lactobacillus control flooding (what you call diarrhea) and potholes (what you call ulcers), plus help train the immune system to reduce crime (what you call disease). Other gut flora good citizens are Bifidobacterium (which also control crime, defuse potential gas explosions, and even run fitness centers that control fat), Streptococcus Thermophilus (factories that process dairy products), and Saccharomyces Boulardii (which further prevent floods, crime, and gas explosions). These bacterial “good citizens” are always hoping the primary human brain will cooperate by initiating neo natal health (populating us with good baby-bacteria from parents via genetics, Mom’s milk, vaginal births, robust environmental cues like pets, preschool, and love). We also pray that that the big brain gives us enough of Nature’s #1 and #2 probiotics, fiber and water, which allow us to live in the land of milk and honey with tropical temperatures and plenty of rain and sunshine, while helping us to ward off the bad guys. (Watson, 2017)
Gupta: The bad guys?
Gut Brain: Yes, we don’t like to talk about it here, but our community is increasingly besieged by a criminal element, and also a lazy element that won’t stand up to this crime.
Gupta: What are you referring to?
Gut Brain: Well, we’re not here to tell the primary brain what to eat, we just ask for a balance. For instance those who eat more carbs and fiber favor the Prevotella Bacteria, while those that like protein and fat favor the Bacteroidetes family. We don’t favor one or the other, just that we all get along. And while I don’t want to speak bad about anybody here, our population can be dominated by Firmicute Bacteria, which are implicated in obesity and diabetes. Some of them can lead useful lives, but many choose the path of slothfulness, which doesn’t help our effort to fight off the really bad guys.
Gupta: Really bad guys?
Gut Brain: Yes, you know them as clostridium difficile, campylobacter, e coli, listeria, salmonella, and norovirus, and occasionally botulism, Hep A, staph, vibrio, and shigella. They are a form of organized crime that terrorizes the good bacteria in our community. (www.foodsafety.gov/food-poisoning, n.d.)
Gupta: But isn’t that why the primary brain has given you antibiotics?
Gut Brain: Well, at first antibiotics were thought to be the perfect weapon against these invaders, but then we were hurt by all the collateral damage. Sometimes they kill as many innocent bystander bacteria as they do the bad guys, and then it may take weeks to recover.
Gupta: Well, what is your suggestion?
Gut Brain: If humans had good neo natal health and good diets (including plenty of fiber, water, and a balance of carbs and fats and exercise), plus were careful where they hung out, the bad guys might not get a foothold in the first place. That way, the sheer numbers of good bacteria would allow them to make “citizen’s arrests” and not require doomsday weapons.
Gupta: Do you think the firmicutes and bad bacteria should be destroyed for all time, perhaps using a vaccine?
Gut Brain: Look, I know that may be possible someday but I don’t think its necessary. I’m an optimist, and believe that most firmicutes are simply a product of their environment (too many fats) and can be re-educated into being functional members of society with a healthy diet and exercise. Many firmicutes have been taught to ferment and help the micro biome using sauerkraut and kimchi, for example. The really bad guys? Well not so simple, but remember that they have a function in Nature too, just not in our human microbiome, per se. Once again, just give us the right diet, exercise, enough fiber and clean water, and we’ll do the rest. (Robertson, 2018) (Palmer, 2021)
Gupta: Is there anything else you’d like to say in conclusion?
Gut Brain: Well I don’t want to sound crude or scare anyone but…
Gupta: But what?
Gut Brain: Well, it’s nice to have heart, brains, nerve, and adrenaline, but it may be most important to have guts, keep your shit together, and be a tough asshole!