A Condensed Summary
For every human cell in our body, there are 10 resident microbes. We are not just bearers of our own genetic information but theirs as well. Nearly 99% of the genetic information we carry is microbial. Often called the "second genome." You're inherited genome is more or less fixed, it is possible to cultivate and shape your second genome.
Creating the wrong kind of internal ecosystem, and loss of diversity, and proliferation of the wrong kinds of microbes can lead to diseases, infections, and obesity.
In transplants of a healthy person's microbiota to a sick person's, the results have been positive in treating metabolic syndrome and infections that were resistant to antibiotics.
Our microbes also have a huge impact on training and modulating our immune system.
It starts the moment we are born
When we are born, our gut starts out in a blank state. Shortly after an infant community of microbes assemble in the gut. Then with introduction of solid foods, the microbe community changes until around age 3 when it resembles an adults. Certain elements in human breast milk are there solely for the purpose of the microbes, to create healthy gut flora.
Mother's milk is the only mammalian food shaped by evolution, is the Rosetta stone for all food. The gut of bottle fed babies are not optimally colonized with microbes.
Most of the microbes that make up the baby's gut is acquired during birth, a microbially rich and messy process that exposes the baby to a whole variety of maternal microbes. Babies born of c-section do not get all the necessary microbes at birth. Which may account for higher rates of allergies, asthma, autoimmune disease, and their immune system may fail to develop properly.
(The fault does not lie with the women, like antibiotics, c-sections are far too often overly prescribed or out of the control of the women. The same goes for breastfeeding.)
Modern life is killing our gut -- Literally
less diverse and healthy gut microbes in modern cultures compared to rural native cultures. A big part of the reason being excessive use of antibiotics not just in healthcare but in the food system. Consumption of processed foods which has been cleansed of all bacteria. And also the over sanitizing of our life.
We also spend less time outside, in contact with plants and the soil. Also the lack of being raised by a community of people where microbes from hand to hand are being spread. We have a culture of avoiding touching unless we hand sanitize after.
Healthy gut bacteria is why some people may get food poisoning while another person may have the same meal with little ill effect.
Our gut bacteria also plays a role in the production of neurotransmitters like serotonin, enzymes, vitamins, and other essential nutrients. They also affect the immune and metabolic systems. Which may regulate our stress and temperament, digestion, appetite, and satiety.
So why do we rely so much on bacteria to do things and not ourselves? Because its more efficient, bacteria can evolve and adapt and go through generations much quicker than we can. Which has been a huge key to our survival. Its our connection to the wild, to evolving out of huts and we are losing it rapidly. Some microbes are nearly extinct in western microbiomes.
The Brain Communication
A big nerve known as the vagus nerve, which runs all the way from the brain to the abdomen, was a prime suspect in how the bacteria communicates with the brain. And when researchers cut the vagus nerve in mice, they no longer saw the brain respond to changes in the gut.
Gut microbes may also communicate with the brain in other ways, scientists say, by modulating the immune system or by producing their own versions of neurotransmitters.
Our immune system
The microbes engage with the immune system to lower inflammation to serve its own best interest. Preventing things such as type 2 diabetes to acid reflux.
Farmers for years have been using antibiotics on livestock for years to make them gain weight. The drug favors bacteria that makes the animals gain weight and we do the same to our kids. By 18 most western kids go through 10-20 courses of antibiotics. Antibiotic residue is also found in meats, milk, and even sometimes water. Also chemical antimicrobials found in hand sanitizer to vegetables. Even one round of antibiotics devastates the gut microbiome. It will eventually bounce back to normal but the more rounds of antibiotics the less likely it will bounce back at all.
Another huge problem is the lack of fiber in the western diet which deteriorates the microbiome and excessive preservatives and emulsifiers in food.
The biggest health problem currently scientist find are from excessive inflammation which can lead to diabetes, cancer, heart disease, obesity, etc. One theory is that it starts from the gut.
Probiotics may be a waste of money
People are using probiotics to cultivate their gut but due to poor regulation, very few brands if any carry the exact species stated on the label.
What can we do?
- Go and play outside.
- Start a garden.
- Eat less processed foods, eat more real foods.
- Sanitize less.
- Take less antibiotics. A lot of Americans ask for antibiotics for colds and flus (and are often given it) even though cold and flus are caused by viruses and the antibiotics will have 0 effect on it.
- A certain amount of fermented foods.
- A biodiverse diet.
- Lots of fiber.
- Less sugars and salt.
- More real plants not fiber supplements.
- Eat local, make friends with the farmer's markets.
Rethink the cleanse and detox, it may do more harm than good
This may make you reconsider any cleanses and detoxes you may have planned as it may flush out some of these friendly germs.
How it affects our mood and our brain
It is now even being studied for its benefits to a healthy mind and stress management and may be the future of psychology as part of an evolutionary psychology perspective. When anxious mice were given the gut microbes of the calm gregarious mice, their personalities changed. And when the calm mice were given the microbes of the anxious mice, they too became anxious. It may also play a role in learning and memory. They call it the microbiota-gut-brain-axis. It may affect everything from our behavior, cognition, pain, and mood. Prescription probiotics then may be the future treatment of anxiety, mania, bi-polar, and depression.
Sam Yang from an early age has been obsessed with connecting the dots between martial arts and efficiency, health, mindset, business, science, and habits to improve optimal well-being. For more info, join his newsletter. You can also connect to All Out Effort on Facebook and Twitter.