Remember when I was obsessed with the microbiome? I still am. I still think it holds the key to understanding our immune system and, by extension, human health and disease. I still think we’re being crowdsourced by microbes. Long after our idiocy, greed and hubris have destroyed any possibility of human survival on our planet, they’ll be happily bubbling away in a toxic pool somewhere.
The picture I painted of the microbiome was incomplete, I’m sorry to say. I’d like to introduce you to a little-known but critical player in the drama, a beastie that I only recently met, thanks to an interview with Monash biologist Jeremy Barr.
Everybody’s talking about the microbiome these days. If you’re not taking probiotics, you’re probably eating sauerkraut and swilling kombucha. I know I am.
What’s the Microbiome? I’m glad you asked. See, the human body is made up of about 10 trillion human cells. And that same body is also home to 100 trillion bacteria. Your mouth, nose, armpits, bellybutton, skin and especially your gut are teeming with thousands of different species of bacteria. Collectively, they’re called the microbiome. If you took them all out, they’d weigh about 2 kilos.
And then you’d die, because they play a crucial role in keeping you alive. Continue reading →
Last week, while I was writing about the word that is the same in every language, (huh?), Marc was traveling back to Switzerland to confer with his PhD students and check in on our first-born. When he landed, he sent me an e-mail: “In Geneva waiting for the train for Morges…..all the usual emotions of coming back somehow…”
I asked him on skype later if he felt homesick. A little, he admitted. Well, we had lived in Switzerland for almost ten years, three years longer than any other place we’d lived before. I think I made a sympathetic noise. But I can’t really relate, because I’m not really homesick for Switzerland. I’m still enjoying shopping on Sunday and all these yoga classes. Continue reading →
Hello, December. What happened to November? All of October I was busy with the Yoga Project, happily scribing away my impressions, downward-dogging my way into a new yoga comfort zone. And then it seemed that November just floated right on by. And then yesterday, December 1, I opened the New York Times (oh joy) and I realized that I had been subconsciously working on a blog post for the entire month. It’s long, but I hope you still read it.
I’ll call it the One Body Problem. Which is this: We only get one body. This is it. You get the body you were born with, like it or not. And then you die. Continue reading →
Gydle has been silent the entire month of November. No excuses, I just didn’t have anything to say. Then I woke up this morning and my brain was teeming with ideas. Was it something I ate?
First, I have a great gift idea.
I got an e-mail the other day from “American Gut.” Imagine my excitement! The Human Food Project is live on IndieGoGo. For only $99 and a stool sample, you can get a list of the microbes colonizing your gut. Upscaling is a bargain – it’s $180 for two samples, $260 for three and a mere $320 for a family of four! Continue reading →
I know I’m supposed to be in hibernation, but something came up that was so good I just had to share it with you.
You know by now that I am totally fascinated by the human microbiome, those trillions of microbes that make up most of the human organism. I’ve written here on Gydle about how microbes in our guts may implicated in a variety of ailments, from diabetes to Parkinson’s to obesity and irritable bowel disease.
You might also remember from last year that I’m also fascinated by the concept of crowdsourcing, a kind of data gathering approach that takes information freely and painlessly from tons of people who are just going about their ordinary lives. They’re mined for data while driving, surfing the internet, ordering things online, logging into websites, reading wikipedia pages, looking at the stars, pooping… Continue reading →
What with all the news about the microbiome in the headlines, running reports have taken a back seat at Gydle lately. Before I right that wrong, I’d just like to point your attention to another article in the New York Times – the number one e-mailed article today – about how we evolved along with microbes and viruses and other delectable parasites, and how our hyperclean germ-free existence is probably not that great for our health. Here’s a choice quote:
All kinds of exciting things have been happening, and I haven’t written about any of them. Some of them involve running, and they will appear in the next post. This one is about my other current favorite topic, the human microbiome.
Last week The New York Times had two very interesting articles, one about eating the weeds in your backyard, and another about the human microbiome. The first one speaks for itself. Apparently eradication can be dropped in favor of ingestion. Maybe I’ll give it a try. In any case it eases my weed aversion just that much more. The second article covers research being done in association with the Human Microbiome Project. Here’s my favorite quote:
Dr. Barnett Kramer, director of the division of cancer prevention at the National Cancer Institute, who was not involved with the research project, had another image. Humans, he said, in some sense are made mostly of microbes. From the standpoint of our microbiome, he added, “we may just serve as packaging.” Continue reading →
Seems the prudent thing to do. I don’t want it to decide that this body is badly managed and thus a waste of time, and chuck it for a healthier version. No, not just yet. I have some stuff to write still. So I’m treating my gut flora to a microbial playdate. I want the symbiotic ecosystem that is my body to function optimally.
Not long ago in one of my internet ramblings I stumbled upon kefir, a fermented milk product originating long, long ago in the Caucasus. The word kefir (pronounced keh-fear) is related to the Turkish word keif, which means “feel good.” Kefir is a drinkable probiotic made with either water or milk using a gelatinous matrix of yeast and bacteria that are curiously called “grains.” (They have no relation whatsover to real grains like wheat or oats.)
I mentioned in an earlier post that I have a sneaking suspicion that we’re being crowdsourced by bacteria. Remember? The human body has 10 trillion cells in it. We also each harbor about 100 trillion microbes. There is more microbial DNA in the human body than human DNA. That post.
We know relatively little about this huge population, but one thing we do know is that it’s not random. I claimed, back in May 2011, that perhaps humans are not so much organisms as we are ecosystems.
You might have laughed that one off, and I can understand your reaction. It’s a little unsettling to think that humans aren’t the center of the universe. Galileo encountered a little resistance, too. I can be patient.
But why? You might ask. Why would they want us to do their bidding? And what is their bidding?
Would it help you see my point of view if I told you that bacteria are controlling the weather, too?