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Human friends help us, of course.  Today, I’m writing about our little friends.

The Human Microbiome Conference came and went and I stayed home.  Boo!

I did get invited to join the LinkedIn Group.  Yay!

I’m pretty excited to share some of the stuff I’m learning.  [tweetthis]My nerd brain is churning and a-buzz with awesome information about our guts and our brains.[/tweetthis] Maybe my gut is telling me something.

Our guts have over 1000 different species of microorganisms. Is it really that much of a leap to think our little buddies impact our mood and how we think?  Not for me.  I worked in a microbiology lab, culturing the organisms we wanted and keeping invaders out. I grew organisms in petri dishes and looked at them under the microscope.  I got to know these little guys, just by the look and smell of them.  Yup, we’ve got our old friend Pseudomonas. She smells like grapes.  Oh,Acinetobactor, I recognize your profile on MacConkey Agar.

Never mind, I digress.

Microorganisms, for the most part, need some of the same things as we do: food, water, air. And they get rid of waste, like we do.  Well, not the exactly same way we do, but microorganisms do have waste. The microorganisms in our guts can produce chemicals that get absorbed by us and impact our own chemistry.

“There’s been an explosion of interest in the connections between the microbiome and the brain,” says Emeran Mayer, a gastroenterologist at the University of California, Los Angeles.

Two particular bacteria, lactobacillus and bifidobacterium, seem to be linked with more serotonin in the body. A  study designed to increase stress kept mice swimming in water to near drowning.  Those with high levels of bifidobacterium and those given Lexapro (an antidepressant) showed the same decrease in stress hormones and increase in perseverance. (A bit mean, yes, deadly, no. All the mice got rescued before they drowned.) John Cryon, a neuroscientist from University of Cork, is developing a stress test for people, one that does not involve a near-drowning experience, to determine whether these microbes have the same stress lowering effects.

Autism is another area ripe with studies.  Seventy-five per cent of autistic people have some type of digestive problems: food allergies, gluten sensitivity, lactose intolerance, etc. It turns out people with autism have markedly different microbiomes than those without autism. Children with autism have fewer Bacteroides fragilis organisms. Mice with autistic behavior improve when B fragilis gets added to their guts from humans. As the mouse microbiome became richer in B fragilis, their behavior improved.

Just in case you think this is bunk science, the California Institute of Technology microbiologist Sarkis Mazmanian received the MacArthur Grant for his ground-breaking work on the microbiome and how it relates to autism and other neurodevelomental disorders. The last time I got this excited about a MacArthur Grant was when Donald Hopkins got the award for his work eradicating the Guinea worm disease. 

Two mice; the mouse on the left has more fat s...
Two mice; the mouse on the left has more fat stores than the mouse on the right. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Thanks everyone for the the positive feedback on my STEM Tuesday posts.

With the weather getting warmer, many of us are getting on the excercise and dieting as we anticipate baring more skin.  Me too.

Does the Human Microbiome impact our efforts? Guess what?  Big time.

Chemistry tells me that a calorie is a calorie, no matter where it comes from.  Eating fewer calories and moving more is the only way to be slimmer and trimmer.

“Eat less, Move more. That’s the key to staying thin,”

Doctor Heart told me. He’s correct, but that’s only part of the story.

Thin people have different microflora than obese people.

You know that old saying?

You are what you eat”

It’s sort of  true, but not in the way you might think.