“We have completely changed our association with the microbial world.  There is a price to pay for our good intentions.” ~ Scientific American, June 2012

There is a fascinating article in June 2012’s Scientific American titled: “The Ultimate Social Network: Your Inner Ecosystem” that discusses how our intestinal microbial flora is changing with modern life, and the consequences of those changes.  If you think you’re alone in your body, you’re quite mistaken: bacteria cells actually outnumber human cells by a factor of 10:1.  And while the thought of those little buggers might gross you out, many of them actually have beneficial impacts on how our bodies function.  Here are some highlights from the article:

  • Newborns, which are sterile in the womb, pick up beneficial microbes in the birth canal and then from breastfeeding, touching other humans, surfaces, pets, etc.  It doesn’t take long- late infancy, for their microbial environment to develop trillions of cells
  • Many bacteria complete functions that our own cells can not, such as produce specialized substances that are beneficial to the body or provide a regulation system for various functions.  For example, certain bacteria in the gut synthesize enzymes that create B12 – a critical vitamin that is difficult to find in nature
  • Bacteria in the gut also help to digest food for us by breaking down long and complex molecules into digestible pieces
  • H Pylori, which is most commonly villainized as the cause of stomach ulcers, actually has a beneficial regulatory effect on appetite.  In years past as many as 80-90% of us has H Pylori in our stomachs, where post-meals it would decrease ghrelin, which stimulates appetite.  One study found that individuals treated with antibiotics to remove H Pylori gained more weight than those [...]