As most of you are aware, I was in Austin this past weekend to listen to doctors, researchers, and holistic practitioners shed light on their areas of expertise. This year’s conference focused on the microbiome. What is the microbiome? Well, in short, it is all the organisms that live within us and result in our health, or lack there of. I often say that we are nothing more than walking houses for the bacteria that have taken up residence. I’ve been saying this since I learned that we have 10 times the amount of bacteria in our body then we do cells! That means that we are not eating for 1 (or 2 for you preggers out there), we are eating for about 1.5 trillion! That’s right. Every time you put something in your mouth or environment, you are either helping beneficial bacteria to survive and thrive or you are opening the door for opportunistic bacteria to wreak havoc. Based on the abundance of their existence, 99% of the DNA material being expressed is not even yours. Take a moment and let that sink in. You are nothing more than a hotel. How clean your hallways are, how good your vibes are, how efficiently your operation runs is all dependent on your staff: the bacteria.
In cell physiology, I teach students about organelles. Organelles are all the things living within the cell membrane that help accomplish cellular tasks. Organelles are things like lysosomes, rough and smooth endoplasmic reticulum, vesicles, and mitochondria. If I just lost you, hang on for a sec. Mitochondria are considered the powerhouse of the cell because of their ability to produce ATP, aka the cell’s energy. What a great member of a cell’s staff, right?! Well, you may be shocked to know that thanks to a woman scientist by the name of Lynn Margulis, we now know that mitochondria actually used to exist as its own free-floating bacteria. Yup. They existed on their own and decided to take up shop inside of us instead! ( Side note: the longer I study science, the more women pop up as huge contributors to our understanding of things. I hope my teachings inspire more young women to ask questions, seek answers, and make more major contributions to the world. It will be my most important legacy.)
If we know that bacteria existed on Earth prior to humans, and we serve as their home, and our health is a reflection of their health, what we can do to make sure they are healthy? Asking this question will only allow us to open doors that will create a better quality of life and a better health status for us as humans. Metaphorically speaking, making sure our bacteria are happy will majorly improve our hotel vibes. Just sayin’. There is NOT a single disease or disorder that doesn’t have some impact from bacterial function. We all think of digestive disorders when we think about gut bacteria, but we should also start recognizing things like autism, diabetes, anxiety, MS, diabetes, obesity, and depression are also directly related. Stool tests can be a great tool to see what bacteria you’ve got going on and how they are doing. 1g of poop contains 100 million terabytes of information, and if you know computers, you know that’s a crazy amount of information for such a small quantity of poop. You clean up baby diapers with more than 10x’s that amount of poop; let’s be honest!
The take home message here is that you are only as healthy as the bacteria living within you. You create an environment for that bacteria based on your diet, exposure to toxins, medications taken, and lifestyle choices. This environment that YOU created is either helping you or hindering you. Working with a doctor that recognizes this significance may be the key to unlocking underlying issues that may be keeping you unhealthy. If you have frequent infections, take antibiotics or heartburn medications, or suffer from an autoimmune disease, diabetes, or psychological issues, I encourage you to read, become informed, and makes changes to create a healthy internal environment.