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By Laura Stec

Manage Your Microbes

Uploaded: Jul 8, 2014

A creepy, crawly communiqué?

There is increasing info about the importance of microbiome ? our in-house bacteria, virus and fungi team that assist daily bodily duties. Supposedly these critters make up 70% -90% of our cells, which means we are more them than us!

I've been researching this wonderful advance in science for Manage Your Microbes, a cook class at Belmont Library on July 29th. San Mateo County Summer Library classes are free, fun and we hope you can make one. See a list of all the cook classes here.

Our biggest microbe metropolises reside in mouth and large intestine, followed by the skin and genital tract. It appears some of our flora friends are junk food junkies and others prefer their fruits and veggies. Said another way, some seem to specialize in breaking down plants and fiber, and studies show thin people house more of these guys in their gut than obese folks. Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis discovered that germ-free mice gained weight after receiving gut microbes transplanted from an obese person, but not when the microbes came from a lean person.

Thin people appear to house a higher diversity of microbiome as well, which makes sense. Diversity in nature, agriculture and society make it stronger and healthier. Why wouldn't the same be true in and on our own bodies?

Dr. Martin Blaser's new book, Missing Microbes, hypothesizes that the lack of microbes might cause or contribute to today's modern illnesses such as asthma, food allergies, juvenile diabetes, obesity and autism. He says two of the biggest reasons for microbe disruption could be 1) the overuse of antibiotics, and 2) the birth process itself. Science believes the fetus grows in a sterile environment. Baby's first exposure to the land of the living is the trip down the birth canal, where they bathe in, and swallow, an entire community of mom's bacteria. But the increase in Cesarean sections thwarts this key delivery system, possibly compromising a child's microbiome / immune system, which takes hold in the first three years of life. C-sections give baby more skin microbes rather than those found in the vagina, such as lactobacillus, a bacteria that helps baby digest mother's milk.

In regards to obesity rates, where globally the U.S. ranks #1, science is starting to question if antibiotics play a role in the dramatic increase. We use antibiotics to promote growth in livestock. Maybe the same thing occurs in humans? By age 3, a child in the U.S. receives an average of 4 courses of antibiotics, compared to a Swedish child's 1.4 courses. By age 10, those numbers increase to 10-11 courses in the U.S. and only 4 for the Swedes. If science proves there is a cost to the possible benefit, such as increased obesity, autism, or food allergies, we may hesitate before showering our children with antibacterial pills and gels.

If gut bacteria are proven to balance blood glucose levels, alter fat storage, and affect hormones that make us feel hungry or full, then the wrong mix might set the stage for obesity from the moment of birth.

What's an eater to do? Eat More Vegetables of course! (plus whole grains and fruits). No one has said the veggie-loving microbes hang out on the veggies, and if we eat a lot of veggies, we eat a lot of them, but....right? For ideas on how, please check out my Easy Seasoning list if you haven't already.

And for more ideas - we'll see you on July 29th.