|How the microbiota, in the form of a biofilm, acts like a collection of different organs comprising a fully-fledged denizen of our gut, a guardian angel that protects and nourishes us. Here we will discuss some of the ramifications of that notion. |
The care and feeding of your intestinal guardian.
written by SCOTT C ANDERSON repost with permission/ Substack.com
How the microbiota, in the form of a biofilm, acts like a collection of different organs comprising a fully-fledged denizen of our gut, a guardian angel that protects and nourishes us. Here we will discuss some of the ramifications of that notion.
The Secret Creature Within Us
But they’re just microbes
You might think that a microbiota can’t really be a multicellular organism like us. Complex as a biofilm might be, it still seems like a mere collection of bacteria. But our own cells are similarly collective: the mitochondria that help to power our human cells are descended from bacteria captured in our misty evolutionary past. They swim around in our cytoplasm like bacteria in a biofilm. Like a biofilm, some of the mitochondrial genes have been outsourced to the cell nucleus, another case of profligate gene swapping. We are as much a patchwork as a biofilm is.
Just because bacteria are nominally single-celled organisms, don’t knock them. You were once a single-celled organism as well. As a fertilized egg, you were full of potential, but ridiculously vulnerable. Lewis Thomas, author of The Lives of a Cell, said, “It is not a simple life to be a single cell, although I have no right to say so, having been a single cell so long ago myself that I have no memory at all of that stage of my life.” From that tender beginning, your package of genes unfolds, cell by cell, until your body is formed.
A biofilm may not have the same exquisite packaging as an egg, but it still manages to inherit a sophisticated blueprint for creating a microbial community.
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The concept of a microbiota needs rethinking. Far from a rough assemblage of self-interested free agents, the microbiota is better described as a multicellular, multi-organ creature. It dines on our regularly scheduled buffets, and in return, provides us with protection and extra nutrition.
Nature may be red in tooth and claw, but she has also found a way to shepherd us through the deadly thicket of pathogens carpeting the planet. Without our microbiota, we wouldn’t last the day. The least we can do is to properly attend to our benefactor.
Your mother anointed you with bacteria in the birth canal and with mother’s milk, not to mention hugs and kisses. When you started solid food, she also told you how to take care of this vital birthday gift: eat your veggies. Your microbes particularly enjoy those with lots of fiber like onions, lentils, artichokes, asparagus, beans, and berries.
To supercharge your gut, eat fermented foods like yogurt and sauerkraut. Also, go easy on the antibiotics. Your guardian microbial angel will thank you with smooth bowel movements, good health, and a cheerful mood.
That’s a pretty hefty lift for a batch of mere bacteria. But for the amazing creature that resides in your gut, it’s all in a day’s work.
Hopefully you have a new appreciation for the complexity and importance of your microbiota. Whether you want to accept it as a multicellular creature or just a batch of bugs is up to you. But there is a real upside to eating for your microbiota, so give it a try.
How the microbiota, in the form of a biofilm, acts like a collection of different organs comprising a fully-fledged denizen of our gut, a guardian