Share Facebook
Crohn's Disease Forum » General IBD Discussion » Some of My Best Friends Are Germs


12-22-2014, 06:42 PM   #1
Nym
Senior Member
 
Nym's Avatar
 
Join Date: Sep 2014
Location: Wollongong, New South Wales, Australia
Some of My Best Friends Are Germs

Some of My Best Friends Are Germs
Michael Pollan
The New York Times Magazine, May 15, 2013

I can tell you the exact date that I began to think of myself in the first-person plural — as a superorganism, that is, rather than a plain old individual human being. It happened on March 7. That’s when I opened my e-mail to find a huge, processor-choking file of charts and raw data from a laboratory located at the BioFrontiers Institute at the University of Colorado, Boulder. As part of a new citizen-science initiative called the American Gut project, the lab sequenced my microbiome — that is, the genes not of “me,” exactly, but of the several hundred microbial species with whom I share this body. These bacteria, which number around 100 trillion, are living (and dying) right now on the surface of my skin, on my tongue and deep in the coils of my intestines, where the largest contingent of them will be found, a pound or two of microbes together forming a vast, largely uncharted interior wilderness that scientists are now just beginning to map.

I clicked open a file called Taxa Tables, and a colorful bar chart popped up on my screen. Each bar represented a sample taken (with a swab) from my skin, mouth and feces. For purposes of comparison, these were juxtaposed with bars representing the microbiomes of about 100 “average” Americans previously sequenced.

Here were the names of the hundreds of bacterial species that call me home. In sheer numbers, these microbes and their genes dwarf us. It turns out that we are only 10 percent human: for every human cell that is intrinsic to our body, there are about 10 resident microbes — including commensals (generally harmless freeloaders) and mutualists (favor traders) and, in only a tiny number of cases, pathogens. To the extent that we are bearers of genetic information, more than 99 percent of it is microbial. And it appears increasingly likely that this “second genome,” as it is sometimes called, exerts an influence on our health as great and possibly even greater than the genes we inherit from our parents. But while your inherited genes are more or less fixed, it may be possible to reshape, even cultivate, your second genome.

Justin Sonnenburg, a microbiologist at Stanford, suggests that we would do well to begin regarding the human body as “an elaborate vessel optimized for the growth and spread of our microbial inhabitants.” This humbling new way of thinking about the self has large implications for human and microbial health, which turn out to be inextricably linked. Disorders in our internal ecosystem — a loss of diversity, say, or a proliferation of the “wrong” kind of microbes — may predispose us to obesity and a whole range of chronic diseases, as well as some infections. “Fecal transplants,” which involve installing a healthy person’s microbiota into a sick person’s gut, have been shown to effectively treat an antibiotic-resistant intestinal pathogen named C. difficile, which kills 14,000 Americans each year. (Researchers use the word “microbiota” to refer to all the microbes in a community and “microbiome” to refer to their collective genes.) We’ve known for a few years that obese mice transplanted with the intestinal community of lean mice lose weight and vice versa. (We don’t know why.) A similar experiment was performed recently on humans by researchers in the Netherlands: when the contents of a lean donor’s microbiota were transferred to the guts of male patients with metabolic syndrome, the researchers found striking improvements in the recipients’ sensitivity to insulin, an important marker for metabolic health. Somehow, the gut microbes were influencing the patients’ metabolisms.

Our resident microbes also appear to play a critical role in training and modulating our immune system, helping it to accurately distinguish between friend and foe and not go nuts on, well, nuts and all sorts of other potential allergens. Some researchers believe that the alarming increase in autoimmune diseases in the West may owe to a disruption in the ancient relationship between our bodies and their “old friends” — the microbial symbionts with whom we coevolved.

These claims sound extravagant, and in fact many microbiome researchers are careful not to make the mistake that scientists working on the human genome did a decade or so ago, when they promised they were on the trail of cures to many diseases. We’re still waiting. Yet whether any cures emerge from the exploration of the second genome, the implications of what has already been learned — for our sense of self, for our definition of health and for our attitude toward bacteria in general — are difficult to overstate. Human health should now “be thought of as a collective property of the human-associated microbiota,” as one group of researchers recently concluded in a landmark review article on microbial ecology — that is, as a function of the community, not the individual.

Such a paradigm shift comes not a moment too soon, because as a civilization, we’ve just spent the better part of a century doing our unwitting best to wreck the human-associated microbiota with a multifronted war on bacteria and a diet notably detrimental to its well-being. Researchers now speak of an impoverished “Westernized microbiome” and ask whether the time has come to embark on a project of “restoration ecology” — not in the rain forest or on the prairie but right here at home, in the human gut.

lots more http://michaelpollan.com/articles-ar...nds-are-germs/
12-25-2014, 06:47 PM   #2
David
Co-Founder
 
David's Avatar
 
Join Date: Feb 2006
Location: Naples, Florida
Something I've been pondering a lot lately is what all of these preservatives do once in our gut. If McDonalds hamburger doesn't rot for weeks because of all the preservatives, what do those preservatives do to our microbiome?
01-03-2015, 01:43 AM   #3
Nym
Senior Member
 
Nym's Avatar
 
Join Date: Sep 2014
Location: Wollongong, New South Wales, Australia
Something I've been pondering a lot lately is what all of these preservatives do once in our gut. If McDonalds hamburger doesn't rot for weeks because of all the preservatives, what do those preservatives do to our microbiome?
Hi David, I'm not keen on waiting to find out. I've never eaten a McDonalds burger because my son began rubbing his throat after one, and out of loyalty to the traditional Aussie burger / Fish & Chips shop where the patty is freshly rolled and cooked while you watch. However, it's just not the same since they began using vegetable oil. Many years ago I found out that wine preservative 220 triggers asthma in me. Dried apricots come a close second.

Scientific references http://fedup.com.au/factsheets/addit...ves#references

History of sulphites
Sulphites destroy thiamine
Sulphites associated with a full range of food intolerance symptoms especially asthma
Salad bar deaths
Number of sulphite sensitive children
How to avoid sulphites
Sulphites in minced meat and sausages
Children's sulphite intake
Sulphites in potatoe products
Sulphites in wine
Exceeding the limit
The rise and fall of sulphites

http://fedup.com.au/factsheets/addit...-preservatives

Food Additives to Avoid

http://mphprogramslist.com/50-jawdroppingly-toxic-food-additives-to-avoid/

My new year resolution may include having tote bags printed up with some of these additives so I can scare supermarket shoppers
Reply

Crohn's Disease Forum » General IBD Discussion » Some of My Best Friends Are Germs
Thread Tools


All times are GMT -5. The time now is 02:58 AM.
Copyright 2006-2017 Crohnsforum.com