Really enjoyed Michael Pollan's piece in the NYTimes Magazine a couple weeks back about "the 100 trillian bacteria that make up your microbiome."
...it appears increasingly likely that this “second genome,” as it is sometimes called, exerts an influence on our health as great and possibly even greater than the genes we inherit from our parents. But while your inherited genes are more or less fixed, it may be possible to reshape, even cultivate, your second genome.
It's a fascinating read, especially having just welcomed a new baby into the world. I've never been a germ freak, but I'm more excited than ever to let him lick the floor.
I'm 95% vegan (cookies, sushi), but it's good to know there's more that I can do to stay healthy, besides avoiding drugged meat and eating a shit ton of fiber. Pollan's on the front lines of the fight against industrial farming, but it's always scary how detrimental otherwise life-saving antibiotics can be to our bodily ecosystem.
Children in the West receive, on average, between 10 and 20 courses of antibiotics before they turn 18. And those prescribed drugs aren’t the only antimicrobials finding their way to the microbiota; scientists have found antibiotic residues in meat, milk and surface water as well. Blaser is also concerned about the use of antimicrobial compounds in our diet and everyday lives — everything from chlorine washes for lettuce to hand sanitizers. “We’re using these chemicals precisely because they’re antimicrobial,” Blaser says. “And of course they do us some good. But we need to ask, what are they doing to our microbiota?” No one is questioning the value of antibiotics to civilization — they have helped us to conquer a great many infectious diseases and increased our life expectancy. But, as in any war, the war on bacteria appears to have had some unintended consequences.
Lastly, I'm not surprised to find the probiotic industry is mostly a sham. Unless it's from your backyard, anything you're putting in your body that's unregulated seems fairly questionable. It might not hurt you, but who knows if it'll help.
These guys are trying to find out.
A long read, but very worth it.