Question Your World: Does Gut Bacteria Impact Body Temperature?

Posted: March 27, 2023

In the last few years, we’ve seen a lot of big breakthroughs in the world of medical science, but there’s one particular subject area that seems to be popping up more and more often. And when it does, it ranges from impacting our emotions to cardiovascular strength. So, what is it? Microbes in our gut! Of which there are many, about 50 trillion or so! Now they're even involved in conversations about our body’s own temperature. Let's look at today's big question: does gut bacteria impact body temperature?

Connections between microbes in the gut and the nervous system have been studied for years, but a recently published article is now shedding light on how our gut microbes may be related to our body temperature

Researchers studied a small sample size of 116 subjects with sepsis, a complication from an infection. When someone experiences sepsis, their body temperatures will often fluctuate. Studying the variations in the subject's gut bacteria showed correlations with the patient's temperature trajectories through their illness. A specific bacterial family was observed to correlate with subjects who experienced temperature fluctuations. 

Image credit: Getty Images

But wait, there’s more! This study was also conducted on mice. The mice, too, experienced fluctuations in temperature associated with the same family of bacteria. 

While this does not mean that a specific gut bacteria equals body temperature, it does show that there is a connection between the two. This information is helpful in approaching another interesting phenomenon that’s been happening here on Earth for the last 150ish years: our body temperatures have been lowering. 

Of course, many things have changed in the last century and a half that could also potentially impact our collective lowering body temperature. After all, the gold standard of 98.6F was established all the way back in 1868 when science had fewer samples, thus lacking diverse sample sizes. Not only that, technology has enhanced itself many times over, we have access to medicines and drugs that impact biological processes, and we’ve even got climate control in our homes. These and many other variables factor into why the average human temperature is dropping.  

Now researchers have evidence to show that gut bacteria also could factor into the story of the changing human body temperature. Stay tuned as more research gets published ... if you can stomach it!