Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Missing Microbes

I haven't read the book yet, although I am very inclined.

You can find it here
But here is an NPR interview of the book's author that I found very refreshing.  On April 14th, Terry Gross interviewed Dr. Martin Blaser, the director of NYU's Human Microbiome Program.

Dr. Blaser talks about the human microbiome --- the complex ecological community of microorganisms that live in our bodies and impact all aspects of our health.  We are only beginning to understand the function of many of them, but alarmingly, thanks to our modern life, many of them are already endangered.

Here is an excerpt from the interview:
"Since World War II, we've seen big rises in a number of diseases: asthma, allergies, food allergies, wheat allergy, juvenile diabetes, obesity. ... These are all diseases that have gone up dramatically in the last 50 or 70 years. One of the questions is: Why are they going up? Are they going up for 10 different reasons, or perhaps there is one reason that is fueling all of them.
My theory is that the one reason is the changing microbiome; that we evolved a certain stable situation with our microbiome and with the modern advances of modern life, including modern medical practices, we have been disrupting the microbiome. And there's evidence for that, especially early in life, and it's changing how our children develop."
 This made me glad that we
  • Avoid antibiotics unless there are no safe alternatives (Peter has never had any, and Cam and I haven't in our adult years)
  • Avoid harmful chemicals in all home and body products, not to mention food!
  • Consume raw dairy and other raw foods daily
 This made me want to
  • Get on the fermentation bandwagon!  I think my family needs to consume more probiotics.
  • Continue providing labor support and education to women in my area, to reduce the incidence of unnecessary cesarean births.


  1. I look forward to listening to that interview. Thanks, Meredith. I have thought about this subject a lot, but increasingly since I read this great article by Natasha Campbell-McBride: She gives a terrific summary about how the gut functions, and why most health problems, even mental ones, start there. Her book is called "Gut and Psychology Syndrome" and I've been dying to read it. I'm glad to see this problem start to get the attention is deserves!

    We don't use hand sanitizers or anti-bacterial soaps for this same reason. And remember that most public bathroom soaps contain Triclosan, which, as with any anti-bacterial soap, wipes out the good as well as the bad, to our collective detriment (I often carry my own soap in my purse, like a little Dr. Bronner's bottle). Here's some recent mainstream attention on this issue:

    Fermenting is easy. Go Meredith!! (For my favorite beginner's guide, you might try "Real Food Fermentation" by Alex Lewin. He includes easy-to-follow instructions and lots of beautiful pictures.)

    1. Amen on the soaps. Most people would think I'm crazy, but when I'm out-and-about I just stick with hot water if I don't know exactly what is in the soap. (Unless I am at a birth.) We use Dr. Bronner's and Clean Well at home.

  2. I join your confession: we do the hot water thing too (if I have no soap). Much better than wiping out all the little guys who are there to keep us strong!

  3. Thanks for posting, I'm definitely putting that on my to-read list! And we don't do anti-bacterial or hand sanitizer either. You know they use hand sanitizer in my boys' preschool and kindergarten every day?!? I didn't find that out until recently.

    1. Ugh! I know. They use it in the church nursery too. I haven't said anything, because I already expressed concerns about the sugary snacks ("but they're organic!"). But I think I probably should.

    2. We specifically opted out of hand sanitizer in nursery (I was surprised to learn I wasn't the only one). Ariel, could you opt out at K and pre-school? The problem is that washing with the wall-installed soaps is probably no better. I think both contain triclosan (I think you can find hand sanitizers that don't, but they can't be that much better as far as the microbes go). Maybe you could volunteer to buy some old-fashioned gentle (cheap) soap for your children's classrooms? Trader Joe's has a few.

    3. Crunchy Mamas makes a hand sanitizer, comprised of witch hazel and essential oils. I've been thinking of buying one for my nursery as an alternative.

  4. Great post and comments everyone! I'd never considered whether our nursery uses hand sanitizer or not. It is something to think about, though. Thanks for the food for thought! Thanks for the link, Meredith. I had wanted to listen to this, and missed it. I look forward to listening.