Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Modern Medicine May Not Be Doing Your Microbiome Any Favors

I subscribe to NPR's Fresh Air podcast, and an episode came up recently that really rang all of my bells.

Since autism invaded our life, I've been doing an insane amount of research. Much of what I've learned has pointed back to gut flora, and how crucial it is that we have healthy and diverse good bacteria in our guts.

Just for a very basic introduction, we all have good bacteria and bad bacteria in our guts (known collectively as our microbiome). Many things affect what bacteria is in our guts and which of those strains thrive inside us, including our mother's gut flora, how we were born, whether we were breastfed and for how long, our diet, our hormones, and the medicines we take. Unfortunately, the bad bacteria is stronger and more aggressive than the good stuff, so it tends to take over easily.

So much of Terry's interview with Martin Blaser, author of Missing Microbes: How the Overuse of Antibiotics Is Fueling Our Modern Plagues (affiliate link), reinforced what I'd already learned about the gut. I was blown away, though, when he started talking about how babies born via c-section had different (and poorer) gut flora, because they don't get exposed to the good bacteria that other babies get when they pass through the birth canal. He said his wife is researching something that I've only every heard extreme hippies talk about, which is the importance of, in a c-section birth, swabbing the mother and transferring that good bacteria to the baby manually. I was just so excited to hear that a real scientist is studying it! If you are pregnant or ever hope to be pregnant, you really don't want to miss this interview!

My one critique of this interview is that he doesn't mention diet as a factor in our gut health. As a doctor who is an expert on the human microbiome, I have to assume that he is aware of this, but his focus for this book and interview was limited.

Regardless, another interview from NPR, this time on Science Friday, makes a good companion piece to the Blaser interview. If you are interested in learning more about how diet affects your microbiome, I'd highly recommend reading or listening to this interview with Michael Pollan about his new book, Cooked: A Natural History of Transformation (affiliate link). I heard this interview several months ago and it has really stuck with me.

I'm so encouraged by the things that we are learning about the gut microbiome and its importance for health. I'm so eager for this information to make its way through the medical community and through the population at large. There is so much that needs to change about the average American (or any developed country, really) lifestyle if we are going to be healthy people and have healthy children and grandchildren.

If you are interested in a really beautifully made and easy-to-understand introduction to all of this, then you may enjoy this video below. I've watched it probably a dozen times now, and I still enjoy it every time.

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for this, Stacy. Facebook is definitely a struggle for me as well. I had intended/hoped to pull back for Lent, but couldn't withdraw completely as you did because I had committed to do social media promos for Pick Your Portion for the whole month of April while the editor is on maternity leave. I tried to cut way back, but eventually found myself sucked right back in :/ For me it's not so much the covetousness or pride (though those are certainly there, I'm sure) but the time-suck factor.

    This post was a needed, helpful push to DO something instead of passively, lazily acknowledging "yeah it's a problem" but ignoring the problem. Instead of logging off altogether, at this point I've opted for extreme pruning. I ended up going through my news feed and clicking "unfollow" for a vast majority of my friends list. I realized: why am I spending so much time thinking about the lives of people who would not even be IN my life at ALL if not for Facebook? I didn't unfriend--if those people find my posts edifying, great; plus I would love to still be *able* to be in touch with them--but I pared my news feed down to only the people with whom I interact in real life, or else am close enough to that we would still be in touch still (if nothing else than sending Christmas cards) if FB didn't exist. Plus a few exceptions of course ;)

    It was hard, and I don't love it as a solution--I wish FB still had the "only show important updates" option, because I'd love to hear news of weddings or engagements or new babies and what have you. It was hard to feel like I was cutting people out of my life--but I tried to be ruthless, reminding myself that every "no" to a good thing is a yes to a better thing. I'm hopeful that this will help me just by way of there being significantly less to look at on my news feed = no reason to check so frequently or spend so long scrolling.

    I did also take the app off my phone a while back. We don't use much data anyway, but I was checking it more than I needed to when on wi-fi.

    Anyway...glad I can keep up with your lovely pics/lovely heart and life on instagram.