2008.11.12 The guts of the matter

Written by David Green.

By DAVID GREEN

Start with the crook of you elbow. Looks clean. Maybe you just took a shower so you know it’s clean.

Sure, but that depends on your definition of “clean.” There’s a lot of bacteria living there—six tribes of bacteria make their home in your elbow.

Wash it off with soap and there are still a few hanging around, like about a million in each patch of skin the size of your fingernail.

This shouldn’t bother you. Don’t go to work with the antibacterial soap, because bacteria doesn’t equate to dirty. You can have a very clean elbow pit and still serve as a kind host to millions and millions of bacteria.

And all those little guys give back to you. They eat the fats that your skin gives off and that helps moisturize the skin.

Biologists call these bacteria commensals. It’s from an old Latin word meaning that everyone eats at the same table. You help them; they help you.

Now if you move down the arm a few inches you’ll discover a new set of bacteria, a few different tribes. When scientists check out a sample of people, they find that most everyone has the same tribes in various parts of the bodies. There are at least 20 different niche areas of the skin for bacteria groups to reside and about 500 different species of bacteria.

There’s a lot going on out on the skin, but that’s only the outside and we’re just getting started. Bacteria cells outnumber our own human cells by about 10 to 1. We’re a minority in our body.

Of course it doesn’t start out that way. An unborn baby has a sterile gut, but it picks up stuff immediately through the birth canal, through breast-feeding, through a parent’s touch, etc. Bacteria take over quickly and make themselves quite at home. There are trillions and trillions of bacteria living in our gut, and that’s the way it’s supposed to be.

Where is this tale going? Well, let me tell you right now, in case you have something better to do, it really isn’t going anywhere. I’m simply fascinated by this subject and I have to tell it to somebody.

In the program I was listening to, it was explained that humans are designed to fully digest seeds. It takes gut bacteria to get the job done, but gut bacteria varies from place to place

Take oats, for example. Someone living in Brazil might get about 80 percent of the protein out of oats. An Inuit living in the far north is likely to get about 98 percent of the protein. Different cultures, different gut bacteria.

Now scientists are looking at obesity from the prospective of what’s known as your intestinal floral. You know how some people can eat and eat and eat and never gain any weight. Their bacteria aren’t breaking down the food as efficiently; a lot of the value is just passing on through.

This brings up the question of obesity and gut bacteria. Can obesity and certain diseases be controlled by changing the bacteria present? A fascinating new field of study has begun. What should stay and what should go?

Critics of this approach are going to frown upon changing your flora to accommodate bad eating habits. It makes you wonder what the normal, correct flora to have inside.

When my friend Willie Mow last visited, he talked a lot about what’s known as the Paleolithic Diet. Some people call it the Caveman Diet or the Hunter/Gatherer Diet. It refers to the diet that humans ate for the first couple million years of their existence, before agriculture was developed.

Out with the grains, legumes, dairy products, salt, refined sugar, and processed oils; in with lean meat, fish, vegetables, fruit, roots, and nuts. In other words, out with most everything you probably eat now; in with what you should be eating.

Supposedly, it’s the fuel that we were designed to live on. It’s the fuel that our gut bacteria would be happiest with.

So think like a cave man. Go out and bring down a squirrel. You’ll hear little songs of joy emitting from your intestine.

  • Cecil
    THE MAYOR—Cecil Schoonover poses with a collection of garden gnomes that mysteriously arrive and disappear from his property. Along with the gnomes, someone created the sign stating that he is the Mayor of Gnomesville. He hasn’t yet tracked down the people involved in the prank, but he’s having a good time with the mystery.
  • Front.rest
    TAKE A BREAK—Last Wednesday’s session of Stair District Library’s Summer Reading Program ended with a quiet period in a class presented by yoga instructor Melany Gladieux of Toledo. Children learned a variety of yoga poses in the main room at the library, then finished off the session relaxing. Additional photos are on page 7. Area children are invited to visit the library today when the Michigan Science Center presents a flight program at 11 a.m. and roller coasters at 1 p.m.
  • Front.batter
    THE DERBY—Tyler “Smallpox” Flakne of Minnesota’s Home Run League All-Stars goes for the fence Friday night during the National Wiffle League Association’s home run derby in Morenci. This year the wiffleball national tournament moved from Dublin, Ohio, to Morenci’s Wakefield Park. During the derby, competitors had two minutes to hit as many home runs as possible. The winner this year finished with 21. See page 6 and 7 for additional photos.
  • Front.green Screen
    OUT OF THIS WORLD—Elizabeth McFadden and Elise Christle pose in front of the green screen as VolunTeen Noah Gilson makes them appear as though they are standing on the Moon. More photos from the Stair District Library’s NASA @ My Library program are on page 12.
  • Front.snake
    Lannis Smith of the Leslie Science and Nature Center in Ann Arbor shows off a python last week at Stair District Library's Summer Reading Program.
  • Front.fireworks
    FIREWORKS erupt Saturday night over Morenci’s Wakefield Park during the waning hours of the Town and Country Festival. Additional festival photos are inside.
  • Pipeline Spread
    LINED UP—Lengths of pipe were put in place last week along the route of the Rover natural gas pipeline that will stretch from Defiance, Ohio, to Ontario, Canada. Topsoil was removed before the pipes were laid out. The 42-inch diameter pipeline is scheduled for completion in November.
  • Front.rock Study
    ROCKHOUNDS—From the left, Joseph McCullough, Sean Pagett and Jonathan McCullough peer through hand lenses to study rocks. The project is part of Morenci Elementary School’s summer camp that continues into August.

Weekly newspaper serving SE Michigan and NW Ohio - State Line Observer ©2006-2017