A healthy community of microbes in the gut maintains regular daily cycles of activities.
A healthy community of microbes in the gut maintains regular daily cycles of activities.PHOTO: WEIZMANN INSTITUTE
By LARRY M. GREENBERG
Updated Feb. 27, 2017 3:33 p.m. ET
New research is helping to unravel the mystery of how disruptions to the bacteria in our gut, caused by an unhealthy diet or irregular sleep, can lead to a number of diseases.
Such research could someday result in new treatments for obesity, diabetes and other metabolic conditions by restoring the health of the gut-microbe community, known as the microbiota. Researchers are exploring how to do this through individualized diets and mealtimes or other interventions.
When gut microbiota are healthy, they maintain regular daily cycles of activities such as congregating in different parts of the intestine and producing metabolites, molecules that help the body function properly. A disruption of the gut’s circadian rhythms is communicated through the bloodstream and upsets many of the body’s other circadian clocks, especially in the liver, one of the main metabolic organs, according to a studyby Israel’s Weizmann Institute of Science published in the journal Cell in December.
The gut’s circadian rhythms and those in other organs “dance together in a very profound way and go up and down in coordination with each other,” says Eran Elinav, a physician and immunologist at the Weizmann Institute and one of the study’s lead investigators. “By controlling the gut microbiota, you can modify many physiological capabilities” throughout the body, he says.