WE KNOW FOR A LONG TIME THAT BACTERIA LIVE INSIDE AND OUTSIDE OUR BODY, but right now everyone is paying close attention to them. American nutritionist, founder of NutritionFacts.org and bestselling author of “How Not to Die: Discover Nutrition that Prevents and Cures Disease” Michael Gregor focuses on how bacteria are affected by the food we eat; in the publishing house ” Eksmo ” this year there was published a book by the German student Julia Enders “Charming intestines. As the most powerful organ governs us ”- now the author is writing a doctoral dissertation on intestinal microorganisms; cosmetic brands like Dior began to produce cosmetics that work to maintain the correct microflora of the skin, and DuPont uses bacteria to invent new materials. Let’s figure out what caused the excitement around bacteria and what we should know about their effect on our lives.
Why are you interested in bacteria right now?
In 2003, the international project “Human Genome” was completed – scientists from all over the world deciphered human DNA. It is the largest collaboration between scientists from different countries in the history of biology, and it marked the beginning of many new opportunities. “In each of such world projects as launching a man into space, creating nuclear weapons or decoding DNA, there are many third-party technologies that then reach energy, telecommunications and medicine,” says Dmitry Alekseev, director of the development and research department of the biomedical holding Atlas “. – And now a lot of new technologies for DNA research have come to medicine. It turned out that the methods of decoding the genome are universal and suitable even for microbes – and we have a lot of them, for example, not only bifidobacteria and Escherichia coli live in the intestines ”.
Of course, decoding the bacterial genome is used not only in medicine. Serious investments are being made in this area, and therefore its popularity is growing. “Each unexplored bacterium is fraught with a lot of money for a businessman. Now all kinds of development and money are directed precisely at studying these bacteria, – explains Alekseev. – For example, projects are already underway to create non-woven clothing using bacteria. Of course, microbes still do not weave fabric on the mannequin, as they would like, but they are already creating materials for such clothes. “
Where do bacteria come from in us?
Intrauterine presence under the protection of the placenta creates sterile conditions for us, but already at birth, passing through the birth canal, we get acquainted with the first microbes. Scientists are sure that the best bacteria for the formation of defense mechanisms in a child are the bacteria of his mother, therefore, for example, doctors around the world do not recommend specifically washing the breast before feeding (of course, normal hygiene must be maintained). There are even ideas that after a cesarean section it is useful to apply the mother’s vaginal microbes to the baby’s skin – however, there is no single opinion on this yet .
“In addition, the habit of dragging everything into our mouth at a young age exists not only in humans, but also in most mammals – this is how we collect bacteria from the environment and train our immunity,” says Alekseev. “What gets into the baby’s mouth also penetrates into the mother’s body, including through the skin of the nipples, and by the next feeding, the mother provides the child with the correct immune response in milk and teaches him how to react to different bacteria.”
What are bacteria doing inside us?
The intestines are a paradise for bacteria: it’s wet, dark and there is food all the time. The main goal of bacteria is to take a sweet spot and not let anyone else in. “A lot of microbes enter us through our mouths. Of course, they are slightly digested in the hydrochloric acid of the stomach, but they still reach the intestines, says Alekseev. – If certain bacteria had not already lived in the intestines, then any “enemy” could settle there, that is, beneficial bacteria protect us from harmful ones. The second thing they do is to digest those food leftovers that we did not have time or could not digest ourselves. “
In the breakdown of food in the intestines, not only enzymes are involved – bacteria are also working on this. In the process, they release various nutrients (for example, vitamins), which are then absorbed. At the same time, we cannot say that we do not need harmful bacteria at all – they keep local immunity and beneficial bacteria in good shape, so that they are constantly ready to fight for territory in the event of an invasion of parasitic microbes from the outside. “Good bacteria are hard workers who do everything very slowly, but professionally. And the bad ones do everything only for themselves, not caring about the environment in which they live, and, accordingly, about our health, ”says Dmitry.
Interestingly, beneficial bacteria feed mainly on plant foods, and when we refuse vegetables and fruits, we deprive ourselves of useful substances not only ourselves, but also our bacteria. As a result, if there are no plant fibers in the lower intestines, the entire environment is disturbed – an inflammatory process occurs. Even if it is light and does not manifest itself in any way, an imbalance arises in the defense mechanisms of our body – instead of more important things, the immune system is distracted by a sluggish inflammation in the intestines, and we can often catch colds or get other infections.
How bacteria affect mental health
Surprisingly, normal intestinal microflora also affects the synthesis of serotonin and dopamine – the main neurotransmitters of joy and pleasure. This means that the state of joy depends, among other things, on the health of the intestines, and this, in turn, on our nutrition. Treatment for depression should include not only medication and psychotherapy, but also the normalization of eating habits. “Recently, a link has been found between bacteria and anorexia. It turns out that one of the hormones that regulate satiety is very similar to a protein made by gut bacteria. And, apparently, a misinterpretation of the behavior of this bacterium by the immune system can lead to a violation of hormonal regulation of the feeling of satiety, says Alekseev. “In the case of depression, we also understand that the“ depot ”of neurotransmitters responsible for feelings of joy and pleasure is located in the intestines rather than the brain, and we can try to find nutrition to improve our mood.”
“Meeting friends or dating for food is not just a cultural tradition. Because of the food, our bacteria begin to increase the production of hormones of joy and pleasure, and the person is, in a good way, high, says Dmitry. For all the dangers of fast food, scientists do not insist on switching to a full healthy lifestyle. Alcohol, for example, does not negatively affect the good bacteria. In healthy people, it is absorbed earlier than it reaches the intestines, and at the same time provides disinfection from pathogenic microorganisms. “If you are going to, say, India, you can take alcohol with you and drink it in reasonable quantities throughout the trip,” advises Dmitry.
Antibiotics and weight
Everyone has heard that antibiotics harm the intestinal microflora – but when they are taken, according to indications, nothing terrible will happen. A slight malfunction of the microflora can manifest itself in the form of diarrhea, but usually everything normalizes on its own within a couple of weeks. It is much more dangerous not to finish the prescribed course of antibiotic or interrupt therapy – resistance can develop , and the next time with such an infection, the drug will no longer work. But the chronic intake of antibiotics in low doses, for example, if they are found in meat, can seriously harm.
“If in factories micro-doses of antibiotics are added to animal feed, they gain weight faster and produce more meat. This antibiotic remains in the meat, gets to the person, and the person gains weight in the same way, ”says Alexander Tyakht, head of the Atlas microbiota department . “Of course, this will not happen immediately, but after many years of regular eating with cheap meat products.” The bacterial composition of the intestine is influenced not only by antibiotics, but also by highly salty food – such food is inedible for bacteria. This is clearly shown by the famous Happy Meal project , in which a group of enthusiasts watched a cheeseburger and fries from McDonald’s for a year . After 365 days, nothing happened to the fast food meal – it only slightly decreased in size, but the bacteria did not eat it either inside or outside. McDonald’s commented on this fact very simply, saying that they add a lot of salt to their food.
Allergies and excessive hygiene
There is a so-called hygiene hypothesis of allergies and autoimmune diseases – it is that as the level of sanitation increases, people become more susceptible to allergic diseases. This phenomenon is noticeable in developed countries, where in the past few decades children grow up in an almost sterile environment – as a result, any contact is perceived by the body as a hostile attack, and the immune system is overly activated. Autoimmune diseases develop – allergic reactions, bronchial asthma, rheumatoid arthritis. Even for multiple sclerosis, there is a correlation with life in the developed countries of the northern hemisphere.
The centuries-old cult of Moidodyr taught more than one generation to wash their hands – but everything needs a measure. Not only is it better not to use antibacterial soap – progressive dermatologists are now advising to populate the surface of the skin with beneficial bacteria. The American company AOBiome produces Mother Dirt body products with germs that live on the skin, expelling harmful bacteria and replacing deodorant – sweat stops smelling. Of course, you can do without such funds, but you should understand that even hygiene can be too much.