The human body and bacteria
Despite common knowledge, bacteria is something the human body cannot live without.
The false belief that bacteria is always bad is mostly propagated by the advertising industry, who try to promote the idea that we're constantly at risk of getting infections because of bacteria. This scares us, and we end up buying antibacterial soaps.
The truth is that not all bacteria is bad. Without good bacteria, our digestive systems cannot break down food properly. This puts us at risk of low Biotin and Vitamin K levels.
A study concluded that guinea pigs raised in a sterile environment are malnourished and die young because they aren't exposed to bacteria.
Bacteria is one of the primary teachers of our immune system. When our body is exposed to bacteria, it tries its best to fight it. Regular exposure can straighten out our immune system and teach it how to suppress infections more effectively.
However, bacteria can be harmful too. Let's take for example the staph bacteria that can be found on your skin.
As long as you don't get any cuts, the staph bacteria won't attack your body. But if you do, you set yourself up for a battle against a bacteria that can undergo mutations and become resistant to antibiotics.
How our eyes use bacteria to fight infections
Not so long ago, specialists were certain that our eyes lack a bacterial community. This idea is rooted in the defense mechanism of the eyes. Human tears contain compounds that are deadly to microbes.
In recent years, however, scientists found traces of bacterial DNA in human tears. But it doesn't stop there. Soon, more tests were done and a modified version of Corynebacterium mastitis was found.
Why are these findings relevant?
Research shows that even though we previously thought the superpowers of our tears are due to lack of bacteria, we find out that bacteria itself is part of the defense mechanism that helps kill microbes.
A study done on mice put this theory to the test. After removing the Corynebacterium mastitis in mice, their eyes became more vulnerable to infections.
In conclusion, a modified version of bacteria survives in our eyes. It not only survives, but it's now collaborating with our bodies to keep infections at bay.
How your gut is linked to your immune system and brain
A bit over 60% of your immune system's cell tissues can be found in your gut. It just so happens that your gut is the part of your body that is most exposed to unfriendly bacteria.
Unwashed vegetables, bad meats, and old foods are just among the few ways pathogens can attack your gut. Perhaps, this is why the immune system keeps its headquarters in your gut.
The immune system in your gut doesn't just protect you from pathogens. It also produces specialized cells that help your body defend itself from viruses.
In conclusion, your gut's health greatly influences your immune system. Without enough good bacteria in your gut, your body becomes weaker.
But your gut’s bacteria not only influences your digestion, but it also impacts your metabolism and immune system. Researchers at the University of California believe that bacteria can even influence the way we think and feel.
Emeran Mayer, a gastroenterologist at the University of California, believes there's a link between autism and your gut.
It seems that both mice and humans who suffer from autism benefit from Bacteroides Fragilis.
In a study, Bacteroides Fragilis was given to both humans and mice suffering from autism, and the results were astonishing. Both mice and humans experienced a change in behavior, with less repetitive behavior and an increased desire to socialize.
But autism is not the only ailment that can be helped with a healthier gut. Studies also show that depression and anxiety may be linked to changes in the gut bacteria.
Studies conducted on chimps demonstrate how interaction helps us “grow” good bacteria.The logic behind it is quite simple, the more we socialize, the more we expose ourselves to germs. Therefore, the relationship between brain and gut is a two-way street.
The brain influences the gut and the gut influences the brain, and ultimately our behaviors. Someone who is depressed will deepen their issues by choosing isolation. Less exposure to others means less good bacteria.
How to hack your gut and restore balance
There are many ways by which you can restore balance to your gut. But the first step is to remove all toxins from your diet.
You’ve probably guessed some of the usual suspects. Yes, grains, sweets, and artificial sweeteners can all irritate your gut. It’s also a good idea to avoid antibiotics when you can, or start taking a probiotic soon after you finished the treatment.
Anti-inflammatory medication such as Advil and Ibuprofen can also bring negative changes in your gut bacteria.
To make sure your gut’s bacteria flourishes, you need more than just the removal of inflammatory foods. Adding fermented foods can speed up the healing process since it introduces a number of good bacteria into your body.
Fermented veggies and products made from whole milk can help you populate your gut with “good” bacteria.
Sometimes, the problems you might have with your gut could be caused by stress. As I mentioned before, the relationship between your brain and your gut’s bacteria is a two-way street. This is why stress management is so important.
Stress takes its toll on all of your body’s function, and even though it might be impossible for some of us to find a way to control it, we all have something we enjoy doing.
Instead of thinking about doing yoga to manage stressful periods in your life, think about the things you love doing. It might be spending time with your pets or even playing a video game. Don’t eliminate all the fun activities from your life. Make time for them, and your body will thank you for it.
In conclusion, the way we eat and how we manage stress has a bigger impact on our immune system and brain than we thought before.
My Experiment: #1 Control, #2 Stress (DEFCON), & #3 Antibiotics
Antibiotics have saved millions of lives over the years. They’ve killed many microbes and pathogens and increased the quality of our lives.
However, studies show that antibiotics also attack our gut flora, not to mention that the irresponsible use of antibiotics can lead to antibiotic resistant pathogens.
There are many contradictory claims. Some researchers say that antibiotics don’t have a big impact on gut flora, or that the impact is merely temporary.
On the opposite end of the spectrum, there are researchers who believe that antibiotics can cause irreversible damage to our gut flora in large doses over extended periods of time. The damage caused by antibiotics can sometimes lead to dairy and gluten intolerances.
My experience with antibiotics and its effects on my gut flora
I did this experiment using Ubiome to sample my gut’s flora, compare it with other samples and track any changes in my own flora.
I’ve introduced into Ubiome's system three sets of testings samples, the first set was taken with no changes in my diet, lifestyle, stress levels or any type of antibiotics. This sets our control group of bacteria.
The second set of my bacteria sampling was immediately after DEFCON, a six day stressful event with little food, sleep and tons and tons of exercise.
With the 2nd group sampling, let’s start with the good news, likely due to the changes during DEFCON. My gut flora changed completely. Some of the changes were actually positive. For example, Firmicutes were lowered by at least 40% while Bactoroidedes were doubled. Both changes decrease the chances of obesity.
A study done on mice revealed that mice who had more Firmicutes and less Bactoroidedes had a higher body fat percentage by 15% despite not having a different diet from mice with a healthy gut flora.
This means that my gut flora will now be more likely to defend my body from gaining weight.
The bad news is that I also saw an increase in Kluyvera ascorbata, a bacteria that is associated with a large range of infections.
The third set of my bacteria sampling was taken after I’ve 10 days of antibiotics. During these 10 days I took Amoxicillin 875mg, one tablet per day, for 10 days. This led to some good and some bad news.
Antibiotics, which are normally intended to treat infections, stimulate a bacteria that is associated with a large range of infections. This is what happened in my case.
Also, the bifidobacteria population went down after I used the antibiotics. This type of bacteria is associated with aging, or at least diminishes with age.
At birth, humans have their highest bifidobacteria population. As they age, the population of this type of bacteria diminishes.
In conclusion, DEFCON and antibiotics did changed almost every aspect of my gut flora. However, not all changes were negative. My body is now better at managing weight gain, but I might have some issues with infections in the future. This ended up being true, as I had a month of sickness… although my child went to a new school around the same time. Yikes.