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Health July 2018

Beckoning Biome Benefits

By Carrie Luger Slayback

In truth we are walking petri dishes, rife with bacterial colonies from our skin to…our guts, our bodies housing ten times more bacterial cells then human cells.

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“Experiments on mice suggest that bacteria actually help in the process of slimming by suppressing a hormone that facilitates fat storage.”

Remember playing “cooties?” We’d chase each other, touch, and sing out, “I gave you my cooties!”

Hints that cooties are a good thing keep showing up. Dr. Stefano Guandalini, University of Chicago authority on gluten sensitivity, believes the current prevalence of autoimmune diseases may be the result of the antiseptic environment parents create for kids.

WebMD’S Dr. Thom McDade of Northwestern University says, “Just as your baby’s brain needs stimulation and input…to develop normally, the young immune system is strengthened by exposure to everyday germs so that it can learn to adapt and regulate itself.”

What about adults? How important is our personal germ collection? Scientific American’s Melinda Wenner says, “in truth we are walking petri dishes, rife with bacterial colonies from our skin to…our guts, our bodies housing ten times more bacterial cells then human cells.”

Bacterial cells, smaller than human cells, enter through mouth and nose, then “travel to the esophagus, stomach and/ or intestines — locations where most of them set up camp.”

Until recently, we took antibiotics to kill germs that caused illness, never suspecting we were destroying bacteria that contribute to our health.

Here’s the latest: Our biome does us a lot of good. First, the Scientific American article cited above teaches us that “bacteria produce chemicals to help us harness energy and nutrients from our food.” Studies seem to show that gut bacteria have a role in “ability to synthesize vitamins and digest complex carbohydrates.”

Looking at the role of the microbiome in obesity, we like our cooties even more. “Experiments on mice suggest that bacteria actually help in the process of slimming by suppressing a hormone that facilitates fat storage.”

Intestinal bacteria also appear to regulate the density of immune cells which help a variety of immune functions. “For example, Wenner says UC Santa Cruz researchers observed that the H. pylori bacteria, present in the gut, while believed to protect against esophageal cancer and asthma, cause ulcers or stomach cancer in 10% of us. However, other bacteria, possibly, the Clostridium species, are “potential candidates for a protective effect,” keeping the ulcers and
stomach cancer at bay.

The Economist’s 2012 article “Me, Myself, and Us,” says the trillions of bacteria, 100 trillion in the gut alone, can be looked at as another organ. Each of us is an ecosystem, with a microbiome that functions as part of digestion and the immune system.  

Recent discoveries point to links between heart disease and autoimmune responses resulting in asthma, eczema and multiple sclerosis which seem to result from “some component of the microbiome…" The Economist sums up our close relationship with our cooties like this: “Our bacterial cells and human cells exist in a symbiotic relationship. Humans “shelter [and feed] the microbes, and they are integral to the hosts well-being.” However “in bad times, the
alignment …can break down…the microbiome can cause disease.” It goes on to ask:  “If gut bacteria are making you ill, can swapping them [with a healthy person] make you healthy?”

Don’t hold your nose; read the next paragraphs to discover a low-cost cure to an intractable infection.

Drug resistant C. difficile kills 14,000 people a year, mainly in hospitals. Last chance treatment involves heavy-duty antibiotics which destroy the patient’s entire biome. If the treatment fails, the C. difficile returns, “with a vengeance.”

Dr. Mark Mellow of Baptist Medical Centre, Oklahoma City, pioneered a treatment of collecting small amounts of feces from a healthy person, and preparing it for an enema to fight C. difficile. Therefore “an entire bacterial ecosystem is transferred from one gut to another.” It “often does the trick,” cures the infection. Readers may experience revulsion but patients whose lives are threatened by drug resistant infection, must feel gratitude for their new disease-
fighting biomes.

So there you have it. Welcome the gift of cooties when you’re in no condition to run away, anyway.

 

Carrie Luger Slayback an award winning teacher and champion marathoner, shares personal experience and careful research. Contact her at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .'; document.write(''); document.write(addy_text40040); document.write('<\/a>'); //-->\n This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.