Good things I’ve read this week

*Michael Pollan: Some of my best friends are germs.

Food writer Michael Pollan is always good value. He recently had his gut flora sequenced in order to find out which microbial species he shares his body with. It’s a long article but well worth reading to the end.

“Here were the names of the hundreds of bacterial species that call me home. In sheer numbers, these microbes and their genes dwarf us. It turns out that we are only 10 percent human: for every human cell that is intrinsic to our body, there are about 10 resident microbes — including commensals (generally harmless freeloaders) and mutualists (favor traders) and, in only a tiny number of cases, pathogens. To the extent that we are bearers of genetic information, more than 99 percent of it is microbial. And 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.”

Who would have thought that—

“Fecal transplants,” which involve installing a healthy person’s microbiota into a sick person’s gut, have been shown to effectively treat an antibiotic-resistant intestinal pathogen named C. difficile, which kills 14,000 Americans each year.

Yuk—but amazing!

Or that babies born by caesarean section may not have acquired  the necessary microbial flora usually picked up in the normal birth process—

“Most of the microbes that make up a baby’s gut community are acquired during birth — a microbially rich and messy process that exposes the baby to a whole suite of maternal microbes. Babies born by Caesarean, however, a comparatively sterile procedure, do not acquire their mother’s vaginal and intestinal microbes at birth. Their initial gut communities more closely resemble that of their mother’s (and father’s) skin, which is less than ideal and may account for higher rates of allergy, asthma and autoimmune problems in C-section babies: not having been seeded with the optimal assortment of microbes at birth, their immune systems may fail to develop properly.”

*Whole Health Source: ancestral nutrition & health

This is a fascinating blog I found recently and I’ve been ploughing steadily through the articles. The author conducts research on obesity and the regulation of body fat by the brain. He’s just completed a series of posts on the genetics of obesity—is it in our genes, or is it what we eat, or a bit of both?

*Energy and the economy—basic principles &  feedback loops

Gail Tverberg writes the blog Our Finite World, which is mainly about peak oil and energy issues, with a bit of finance thrown in for good measure. This latest post explains why an understanding of energy is vital to understanding the current human predicament.

“We live in an economic world. Economic models that were developed years ago were created based on observations of how the economy seemed to work at the time. As time goes on, it is becoming clear that early economists missed important connections. The most important of these is the role of energy and its connection to the economy. It takes energy to make anything, from a piece of steel to a loaf of bread. It takes energy to transport anything. Humans need energy in the form of food to continue to live. Clearly, energy should have a place in economic models.”

3 Responses to “Good things I’ve read this week”

  1. rabidlittlehippy Says:

    Wow. Absolutely fascinating about the gut flora. I wonder if the high c-section rates in many 1st world countries could be connected, along with other factors, with increasing rates of diseases like alzheimers, MS and other such modern illnesses. Makes one stop and think much about modern medicine. Antibiotics killing gut flora, oh, my brain is boggling at the possible connections that can be made from this. Thanks so much for sharing.


  2. Chris Says:

    This is a very good reason for why people should avoid taking antibiotics – unless it is absolutely necessary (ie: could be fatal without them).

    My diabetes specialist always harasses me to get my flu shots, but apart from my diabetes, I’ve always had a healthy immune system. I credit this to the fact I stopped taking medical prescriptions and started looking to food for my medicine. Just recently, I felt a cold coming on and ate many kumquats off the tree (unwashed) which made my lips numb!

    In under 24 hours, all signs of a cold have gone. Nature is our ally, not our foe. 🙂


  3. narf77 Says:

    I had recurring bouts of tonsolitis as a child and was constantly being given antibiotics. It only cleared up when mum got sick of paying for the antibiotics…maybe there was a lesson there! Not sure I would want to see what was swimming around in my intestines. Most probably bolshie and highly likely to take over the world if given the chance…best keep it inside my inner body circle much like we keep Earl inside his little compound around the house. The world really isn’t ready for my intestinal flora or Earl 😉


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