Of Molehills and Microbes

I’m taking a detour away from telling you about the parts of Dr Perlmutter’s book that I want to share with you, to explain a little more why this book and the premise of this book chimed so much with me.

As I said – I am not so much a scientist – as a bit of a science junkie. I love to read scientific articles and learning is my drug of choice. LearningIMG_0384, however, doesn’t only come from books – it can come from observation.

The basic premise of this book is to say that our gut biome – those billions of bacteria that inhabit our gut (to say nothing of those that are so intimately a part of us, of our very cells, that if they malfunction we are unable to generate energy – the mitochondria) are essential to our well-being. That they have to be the right bacteria in the right proportion to each other to produce the health, both mental and physical, that we should have.

All animals require the correct gut bacteria. When we kept goats, shortly after the new kids were born we would find a nice fresh molehill, preferably in a ‘clean’ paddock where the animals didn’t usually graze, and take a nice trowel-ful. This would be placed in a plant-pot saucer and put in the corner of the goat-house or pen. Why? Because this ensured that the kid got the right bacteria – because they knew what to do with this molehill earth – they ate it.

The recently published longitudinal study known as The Life Project, which began studying a cohort of people in the UK in 1946 – with new cohorts added every ten years (until recently) – has flagged up the difference in the microbiome (biota) of people born by c-section* as opposed to those born vaginally. Where the former have a much restricted complement of bacteria in their microbiome – compared to the latter.  (*our rates of c-section run at 26%)

This method of birth, and the expanding use of antibiotics around birth which cause similar skewed bacteria in the gut, have been shown to produce a higher susceptibility to asthma, allergies and other related conditions in their later lives.

The only one of my four boys to have any allergy like symptoms is the one who was on antibiotics for five years to prevent kidney damage. He, literally, grew out of needing them but can be affected by asthma-like reactions to mould and dust and has sporadic eczema. At this late date he is trying to balance his gut bacteria since I read this book. . . we’ll see (he’s being my guineapig)

That antibiotics are good – that they have brought health where there was death – is undisputed. However, how many of you find that there is the time after you have been treated (and cured) by a course of antibiotics where your body seems sluggish – the normal daily routine is often out of step – and only returns after a while. In my experience plenty of live yoghurt always helped to reinstate normal patterns quicker than if not ingested.

Add to these the fact that being brought up on a farm or in the countryside with animals gives a significantly lower risk of developing chronic inflammatory diseases (such as asthma, type 1 diabetes (T1D), multiple sclerosis (MS), and also inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) and we have the basis of believing that the contents of our gut really do affect our lives, both mental and physical.

So, just a few reasons that this theory chimes with that which I already had as a basis of my own understanding – and the fact that so many of these physical conditions are demonstrated by inflammation is leading towards a possibility that this could also be what happens inside the brain.

“You must eat a peck* of dirt before you die”  runs the old adage – maybe we ought to emulate the goats and get our ‘old friend’ bacteria from the start – anyone for nice fresh molehill?

Have you any observations that back -up (or refute) the premise that our gut bacteria can affect our whole health?

* In case you were wondering – as was I –  a peck is a dry measure of two gallons)

 

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2 thoughts on “Of Molehills and Microbes

  1. What I don’t understand is why my kids have developed allergies – I mean my house was never that clean! LOL!
    Seriously though, it’s not rocket science is it, ‘effective against all household germs’ has to be also effective against those ‘germs’ we need to keep our immune systems healthy.
    On a similar subject I was fascinated to learn the link between weaning babies before they are 6 months and the incidence of asthma and eczema – I suspect that is the reason for my kids problems.

    • Hi Nicky,
      I understand where you are coming from. . dusting and vacuuming have never been my favourite jobs either. However our household dirt is not generally inhabited by the ‘old-friends’ bacteria. (Though more likely if you have a dog or someone who works on the land in your family) As for the allergy pathway, this can be triggered by many things along the way, though a compromised gut biome now seems to be a major trigger. . .how this happens is another part of the story, and multi-faceted at that!
      Great to hear from you! – Ann

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