You are your bacteria – how is Health related to diet?

The human body has approximately 1 trillion cells and it is an established fact and surprising to most of us that for every human cell of ours, there are 10 times as many bacteria. So it is plausible that our health issues are caused by an imbalance in bacteria.

http://tedfellows.posterous.com/how-microbes-defend-and-define-us explains the idea.
The BBC also talks about this: http://www.bbc.com/future/story/20120412-the-beasts-inside-you

http://www.tedmed.com/videos-info?name=Jonathan_Eisen_at_TEDMED_2012&q=updated&year=all&sid=177&vid=255 talks about how some microbes are not pathogens.


(image, courtesy of Eleanor Rose – http://www.flickr.com/photos/eleanor_irwin/ )

Some scientists want to know what the bacterial makeup of a healthy human being is, to gain some insight into how it gets imbalanced and causes some diseased states.
Some studies now claim to have completed this task: http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/06/120613184040.htm

Studying the microbiome or bacteria in us (as defined in an earlier post) is becoming an important aspect in Healthcare.
A good example of how a patient found a correlation between his health and gut bacteria is at http://www.cccblog.org/2012/02/29/the-patient-of-the-future/diagnosing certain conditions.

Many of our bacteria are responsible for synthesizing our food and breaking it down into chemicals that can then be used by our body and many gut issues can be directly linked to a microbe imbalance.
Hence, eating well is good for health, and altering some parts of your diet could help change the balance in your favor, only that it is currently more trial and error than an exact science. Add to it the ignorance of your physician and you’re preety much alone in this journey.
Parents of autistic kids may tell you that they sense that diet plays a role in their child’s condition but medicine does not know how exactly. Unfortunately, they force their kids on all kinds of diets and they too suffer with them to folllow it.
Scientists say that antibiotics (although unavoidable) may not be a good thing (it reminds me of pesticides with a spray and pray approach). Taking antibiotics destroys many different types of bacteria, along with harmful bacteria, and so cause an imbalance in our gut and this could in turn be harmful to us and might manifest in different ways. Hence many people take probiotics along with antibiotics hoping that their “good” bacteria will be restored.

http://www.webmd.com/digestive-disorders/tc/probiotics-topic-overview WebMD has an overview of probiotics.

Since most of the bacteria are in our gut and it is one of the few places, where the outside world meets our insides, diet can affect our bacterial makeup and hence our health.

This is why the probiotics industry is taking off, from a few million in 2001 to billions in 2012+.
Honestly, many of the products are not as effective because  the bacteria in them is weak or will be dead by the time they are ingested.
But many yogurts on the market are making money off this and claiming to be probiotic. There is no standard set for this, so it is easy to be probiotic. Simply add some bacteria during manufacture, although they may not be medically effective. Buyer beware.
But all said and done, your microbiome is important to your health and this field will grow in the future.

Another approach is to introduce the required bacteria (through the other end) by means of a fecal transplant (which is faster than probiotics) from a healthy person to a patient, but then again this is not controlled and the effects are not too well understood.
I’ll cover this topic in a future post and it initially sounds gross but then it sinks in to be a good idea.

This TED video explains a lot about bacteria: http://www.bbc.com/future/story/20120614-how-bacteria-talk

So, there is a relation between certain diseased states and the gut bacteria and expect more tests related to the microbiome in the future.

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About Ra

Software Engineer (worked in corporations to healthcare start-ups), Geek, Musician, Artist, Fellow Human - living in the covergence space of healthcare, software, interaction design, the quantified self and genetics, music and spirituality
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