When we think about our hormone system A.K.A the endocrine system, the gut is typically the last thing we think of. Traditionally, our understanding of the hormone system is made up of key organs including the brain, thyroid, adrenals and ovaries or testes. Each are responsible for synthesizing and secreting hormones that carry their own specialist message targeting specific cells and influencing their function. However, the explosion of research in the field of gastroenterology and microbiology in recent years has really shaken things up. It appears we’ve neglected our largest endocrine organ, which resides in the gastrointestinal (GI) tract.
Our diet and gut bugs influence gut hormone secretions and thereby our mood, metabolism and appetite.
What is the microbiome?
The gut is home to a highly complex microbial ecosystem, comprising of bacteria, yeast, fungi, bacteriophages and other viruses, protozoa and archaea. I like to simplify and refer to them collectively as our gut bugs. They, along with their genes and metabolites, live along the entire GI tract; that’s everything between the mouth to the rectum. They are densely populated in the caecum and colon and perform several functions that heavily influence our health and physiology. Most recently, that includes the discovery that they influence secretions of our so called gut hormones.
The mucosal lining of the gut are made up of epithelial cells, which include a subset of specialized cells known as enteroendocrine (EE) cells. Whilst they account for only 1% of the total cell count in the gut, due to their ability to synthesize and secrete hormones, they are now considered the largest endocrine organ in the hormone system. Their hormone expression profile is vast, primarily influencing our mood, metabolism, appetite and satiety. It’s remarkable.
How can we support our gut hormones?
What excites me most is, there’s mounting evidence that these cells sense the luminal nutrient environment of the gut and are differentially responsive to many dietary compounds as well as the conditions i.e. ecology of bacteria in the intestine. To put it simply, our diet and gut bugs influence gut hormone secretions and thereby our mood, metabolism and appetite. And not to get too complex, evidence shows that the microbial-mediated release of gut hormones (so that’s the hormones our cells make in response to our gut bugs) may, in turn, influence other gut-hormone releasing cells. This means there is extraordinary opportunity to influence our gut hormones with probiotics and other targeted gut health nutrients.
Suzuki, K., Jayasena, C. N., & Bloom, S. R. (2011). The gut hormones in appetite regulation. Journal of obesity, 2011, 528401. https://doi.org/10.1155/2011/528401
Disclaimer: The statements made in this blog post are for educational and entertainment purposes only. They are not intended to diagnose or treat any individual or condition. If you are concerned about your health please consult your licensed medical doctor before changing your diet or taking supplements. This website uses affiliate links, which means the author may earn from products and services recommended although it should be noted that this is not at an additional cost to the consumer.