The Bugs That Slip Us a Mickey


In the post “Microbes, Mood and Obesity” we mentioned how various members of the gut microbiome community produce molecules that affect the human mind. Dr. David Jockers has zeroed in on a particular substance, ammonia, which wreaks on the body the following damages — “fatigue, muscle weakness, nausea, vomiting, headaches, diarrhea, back pain and accelerated aging” — and causes another list of maladies to the brain, such as “mood disturbances, insomnia, loss of coordination and dexterity, clumsiness, confusion and inability to concentrate.”

For Natural News he wrote:

This ammonia is taken to the liver and is turned into urea where it is excreted in the urine. When the body is producing excessive ammonia and/or when it is not filtering and excreting enough ammonia we can end up with very serious problems.

Most people excrete ammonia just fine, although some, genetically programmed to be incapable of metabolizing and eliminating the ammonia their bodies produce if they ingest the wrong things, are severely affected. The interesting part is this. Science had gotten used to the idea that the transformation of sulfur compounds into about four grams of ammonia per day is performed by “the body” — or perhaps “the intestines.”

It now seems that the bugs contribute the ammonia. Dr. Jockers writes:

The gut microbiome (full collection of microorganisms) metabolizes the amino acids into nitrogen compounds, which are used to repair cells. Some of the species present in our microbiome also produce ammonia when they break down amino acids. Some individuals have alterations in their gut microbiome to where ammonia producing bacteria are overpopulated.

Members of our inner microbial community produce a chemical that renders us tired, weak, nauseated, headachy, loose-stooled, moody, sleepless, uncoordinated, clumsy, confused and unfocused. Feeling like that can cause overeating, and overeating causes obesity. Now that we know how some of the gut bugs sabotage our health by squirting out juice that makes us several kinds of unhappy, what can we do about it?

Swallowing a bunch of antibiotics is emphatically not the answer, because it damages the bug families who inhabit us peacefully, and upsets their population balance, and the problems then worsen exponentially.

They are in our heads

In 2014, Norwegian researchers looked at the feces of 55 humans and found that the depressive patients were colonized by significantly greater numbers of certain bacteria, and meaningfully lesser numbers of other bacteria, than their non-depressed counterparts.

At Ontario’s McMaster university, writes Zack Fediay, researchers…

[…] were able to change the behavior of germ-free mice by colonizing their intestines with bacteria from other mice… This led naturally daring mice to become apprehensive and shy, for example, leading scientists to suggest that microbial interactions with the brain could induce psychological change.

The same journalist reports that at UCLA, scientists…

[…] showed through fMRI scans that women who ate yogurt containing active probiotics twice a day for a month showed a reduced reflexive response to photos of actors with frightened or angry faces.

In other words, it now seems entirely possible that the consumption of four particular kinds of microbes can allay human anxiety, without side effects. If this turns out to be accurate, it could change the lives of millions of people, including the emotional overeaters who are propelled by anxiety into unhealthy relationships with food.

What if the consumers of mood-elevation pills never bothered to renew their subscriptions? Pharmaceutical corporations are unlikely to fund research in this area, and who can blame them?

Your responses and feedback are welcome!

Source: “How your genetics and microbiome play a role in ammonia metabolism,”, 01/19/15
Source: “Depressed? Anxious? What If Your Bacteria Are Playing a Part?,”, 03/28/16
Photo via Visualhunt

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About Dr. Robert A. Pretlow

Dr. Robert A. Pretlow is a pediatrician and childhood obesity specialist. He has been researching and spreading awareness on the childhood obesity epidemic in the US for more than a decade.
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Dr. Pretlow’s invited presentation at the American Society of Animal Science 2020 Conference
What’s Causing Obesity in Companion Animals and What Can We Do About It

Dr. Pretlow’s invited presentation at the World Obesity Federation 2019 Conference:
Food/Eating Addiction and the Displacement Mechanism

Dr. Pretlow’s Multi-Center Clinical Trial Kick-off Speech 2018:
Obesity: Tackling the Root Cause

Dr. Pretlow’s 2017 Workshop on
Treatment of Obesity Using the Addiction Model

Dr. Pretlow’s invited presentation for
TEC and UNC 2016

Dr. Pretlow’s invited presentation at the 2015 Obesity Summit in London, UK.

Dr. Pretlow’s invited keynote at the 2014 European Childhood Obesity Group Congress in Salzburg, Austria.

Dr. Pretlow’s presentation at the 2013 European Congress on Obesity in Liverpool, UK.

Dr. Pretlow’s presentation at the 2011 International Conference on Childhood Obesity in Lisbon, Portugal.

Dr. Pretlow’s presentation at the 2010 Uniting Against Childhood Obesity Conference in Houston, TX.

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