As modern technological innovations are the direct outcome of scientific research, scientists can no longer afford to stand aloof from social problems….The scientist has convinced society that his efforts deserve to be generously supported because he has become one of its most effective servants. As a penalty for his dependence on public support and for the influence that he has gained he cannot escape being made responsible for his activities, even if their results are different from what he had hoped.
– Rene Dubois, The Mirage of Health
What’s a microbiome? Composed of trillions of tiny life forms–bacteria and fungi–my microbiome lives inside me (on me too). It forms at the moment of birth, (which is one of the many wonders of natural childbirth, I get some of mom’s microbiome breast-feeding as well). My microbiome gains new beings from those who live around me, (my dogs swap with me). I have 30 trillion cells in my body; I have 100 trillion bacteria and fungal cells. Of the fifty phyla (classes of sorts) of bacteria, between eight and twelve are found in humans. Six of them account for 99.9 percent of my bacterial cells in my body. Collectively they weigh about 3 pounds, which is about the same as my brain. There are around 10,000 different species….inside me (hopefully). One milliliter of the contents of my colon contains more bacteria then there are people on Earth!
(Image courtesy of Wikicommons)
My microbiome is an ecosystem. Healthy ecosystems are diverse and resilient. Turns out my microbiome serves many functions. While I provide room and board; my colon bacteria break down fiber and digests starch, up to 15 percent of the my food calories is extracted by bacteria in my colon. Other bacteria make vitamins, turn starch into sugar, digest lactose and make amino acids. Almost all of the chemicals in my bloodstream are derived from the activities of bacteria. Turns out that metabolizing drugs, bacteria do this for me too.
Bacteria are part of my immunity system; let’s call it microbial immunity. When my microbiome is healthy, there isn’t much room for pathogens, long term residents inside me inhibit outsiders. My good bacteria far outweigh and outsize the pests and parasites called pathogens. I like to keep my microbiome happy. It’s not too hard. I’m a firm believer in natural immunity, so I tend to give my microbiome opportunities to work out. Unfortunately, our conventional medical approach hasn’t been paying much attention to the microbiome and the damage caused by antibiotics.
Physician Martin Blaser recently publish Missing Microbes: How The Overuse of Antibiotics Is Fueling Our Modern Plagues which my microbiome and me highly recommend. Much of my blog comes from Dr. Blaser’s work, but I’ve written about bacteria from the start of my writings on ecological medicine. Antibiotics are necessary and vital aspect of clinical medicine of today. The challenge is: how does my microbiome compete in this new environment of pharmaceutical consumption? Antibiotics destroy pathogens yet cripple friendly bacteria—most of them. Dr. Blaser starts with heartburn, GERD, reflux, showing the clinic evidence that H. pylori, often thought of as the cause of these maladies, more likely occurs in persons who had little or no H. pylori in childhood. Dr. Blaser’s research shows that H. pylori regulates stomach acidity. Why no H. pylori in childhood? Antibiotics given for other reasons killed them off.
Allergies? Turns out H pylori helps regulate allergic responses. What if antibiotics make us grow bigger, and fatter? What if they are implicated in diabetes or inflammatory bowel diseases? The list goes on. Modern plagues partially have their origin in this ecological genocide! Dr. Blasers thesis points to an ecological perspective, we are living in a web of life. Our wholeness is interdependent. Our medicine depends on the environment we swim in, and it swims in us. Dr. Blaser warns of Antibiotic Winter in which so many of us have lost the biodiversity necessary for future generations. THIS IS SERIOUS!
(Copyright: Science Photo Library)
Choices make a difference.
- Choose caution! Only use antibiotics when truly necessary,
- Choose foods without antibiotics
- Choose cleaning products without bactericides
It’s not scary really. We can heal if we nurture ourselves and our interior and exterior environment. Make choices today for your health so that others can live as well tomorrow, including our invisible friends, inside of us.