If there’s more of them then there are of me, am I even “me“?
I don’t expect it to be a phrase that’s easy to answer. I don’t even want it to come to a definitive answer.
Really, I just want you to see how much we owe to our own microbiota.
First, we’ll start with a little background.
There’s only one place in your life that’s entirely free from bacteria. Where you’re protected, walled-off, barricaded from the harms of microorganisms.
Care to wage a guess where?
The second we hit the world, we’re under attack. Bacteria lurk on every surface. Invisible to the eye, but not the immune system.
“Help!” we cry out, but our tender brains can’t quite form the words. All that’s uttered is a battle cry the likes of which can only be found in stories of Braveheart.
Amidst the turmoil we have but one saving grace, Moms immune system.
It’s already done the work, built the antibodies, defended itself, all it needs is to simply exchange the information. So it uses the simplest way possible, feeding.
It’s no secret that Dietitians are strong advocates for breastfeeding. Truly nature’s most perfect supplement.
So how does all this tie back to bacteria? Well, every good plant requires that first delicate seed.
In this case, the plant is the gut biome, and the seed is the breast milk itself!
There are many remarkable things on earth, most of which pale in comparison to human procreation.
It turns out, breast milk favors only certain bacteria, encouraging more of the “good”, and less of the “bad” ones.
But so what? With such a fragile environment, the benefits ought to wear off in just a few weeks, a month if you’re lucky. Right?
Exclusively breastfed babies had roughly a 34% reduced risk of being overweight during childhood, compared to children exclusively formula-fed, according to a new analysis of data from a study involving more than 15,000 children.
This isn’t just a one off thing. A range of studies have proven the effects of duration breastfeeding on reduced risk of obesity. In fact, indirectly, this may even be the reason for studies that show reduced risk of heart disease in formerly breast-fed kids.
What this tells us, in a roundabout way, is that bacteria seeded to us when we’re first born form the ecosystem that stays through our entire lives.
The first nail in the coffin for “Do my gene’s make me look fat?” and a massive win for the Environment and Immunology schools of thought.
So we know this much, our gut bacteria does at least affect who we are. Whether we are overweight or lean, whether we’re susceptible to heart disease, diabetes, who knows what else. You name the disease and it’s not unlikely there is some tie to our guts.
Be good to each other.
– Joshua Iufer, RD