Book Review: Dirt is Good

Book Review: Dirt is Good

Dirt is Good: The Advantages of Germs for Your Child’s Developing Immune System answers parent’s questions about the microbiome and their kid’s health. Parents, hold on to your diaper bags, Dirt is Good: The Advantages of Germs for Your Child’s Developing Immune System seeks to answer microbiome-related parenting questions. Science writer Sandra Blakeslee teams up with microbiome scientists, Rob Knight, PhD and Jack Gilbert, PhD, to eloquently capture the answers to the hundreds of questions Rob and Jack have been asked by concerned parents. After a general introduction about the human microbiome, Dirt is Good starts with the interaction of the microbiome and human immune system in pregnancy. Continuing on through birth, first foods (both liquid and solid), the book touches on a range of topics organized loosely into chapters including the environment, conditions, depression, vaccines, and tests. There’s an amazing diversity of chapter topics. What Dirt is Good does well Talks candidly, clearly, and quickly about the current understanding of the microbiome and children’s health. Dirt is Good is clear about not overselling the microbiome and current probiotics. Throughout the book are stories of how their experience as parents and microbiome researchers change their ideas of cleanliness and health. What is

Microbial Trash is Human Treasure, Part II: MudWatt Captures Bacterial Poop!

Microbial Trash is Human Treasure, Part II: MudWatt Captures Bacterial Poop!

The soil under your feet hosts the world’s next clean, sustainable source of energy. Geobacter sp. and Shewanella sp., soil bacteria, “poop” electricity. Actually, their “waste products” are electrons, hydrogen, and carbon dioxide that can be captured in a Microbial Fuel Cell turning microbial “poop” into electricity. Capture the Waste! When any organisms breaks down food, it releases the energy stored in that food in the form of electrons. With most organisms, from mammals to microbes, the electron “waste” binds to oxygen, iron, or sulfur inside the cell(s) of the organism to conduct other processes. Electrogenic bacteria give off their electrons into the soil around them. An MFC captures those lost electrons using electrodes and wire to complete a circuit and generates electrical current. The energy harnessed can then light up a LED, run a clock, thermometer, or any of a number of other things. Electrogenic bacteria can be found naturally in soils all over the world. If the soil is stinky, you’ve found Shewanella and Geobacter having a party. In addition to giving off electron “waste” these electrogenic bacteria release stinky sulfur compounds. Think of the rotten-egg smell of mud in a swamp or marsh. I found a pot of

Microbial “Trash” is Human Treasure

Microbial “Trash” is Human Treasure

We humans have been treasuring and using microbial “trash” for tens of thousands of years. We eat and nurture microbes for their waste products – yes, you eat microbial poop. Metabolic by-products or “waste” would be more appropriate to say in a classroom/polite company, but really – it’s just “poop”. Yogurt, sauerkraut, buttermilk, kefir, bread, beer, wine, cheese, even chocolate, and coffee – are all tasty to us because microbes have eaten the sugars in milk or some plant part. With the exception of corn, whatever you eat goes into your mouth in one form and comes out the other end in a totally different form. Same with microbes. Bacterial Poop: Sugars to Lactic Acid Bacteria like Lactobacillus sp. eat lactose milk sugars and poop out lactic acid. That’s why unflavored, unsugared yogurt is tangy and slightly sour. Same thing with the buttermilk I’ve been culturing recently. YUMMY. Other Lactobacillus sp. eat plant fiber sugars and poop out lactic acid to make sauerkraut and kimchee. Check out a yogurt experiment my girls and I did a while ago. Yes, the girls roll their eyes when I say that they are eating microbial “trash”. Fungal Farts: Sugars to alcohol and carbon

Dear Beyoncé: May The Carter Twins Meet Helpful Microbial Life Partners

Dear Beyoncé: May The Carter Twins Meet Helpful Microbial Life Partners

An open letter to Beyoncé wishing her and her family well as the twins meet their microbial partners for life.  Dear Beyoncé, As you wait and prepare for the twins’ birth please don’t forget the invisible microbes that will protect, feed, and teach your babies for the rest of their lives.  Yep, I’m talking about “germs” or more politically correctly – “microbes”. Babies are “microbe magnets”. Those first microbes that baby encounters become their microbes for life. They are stuck together – life partners in sickness and in health. What’s cool is that these microbes are security guards keeping away diseases, chefs chopping up food to feed baby, and soothing Jedi masters who teach baby’s immune system what to kill and what to ignore. In my grandmother’s day, people in developed countries died from communicable diseases – polio, mumps, measles, yellow fever. Diseases that are spread from person to person by sneezing, coughing, or spread by insects, like mosquitos. Today people die from non-communicable diseases – diabetes, allergies, asthma, autoimmune diseases, and more. Our diseases today aren’t due to specific microbial pathogens. Vaccines, handwashing, clean water, sewers, and antibiotics keep these easy-to-spread microbial diseases at low numbers. Instead, today’s diseases

Book Review: “Your Baby’s Microbiome” is an Excellent Resource

Book Review: “Your Baby’s Microbiome” is an Excellent Resource

Your Baby’s Microbiome: The Critical Role of Vaginal Birth and Breastfeeding for Lifelong Health summarizes the latest scientific research on the benefits of vaginal birth and breastfeeding to an infant’s microbiome. Written for childbirth educators, doulas, midwives, lactation consultants, and interested parents, Your Baby’s Microbiome is packed full of detailed information on the microbial and epigenetic differences between vaginal and c-section births. For the parent debating between a scheduled c-section or vaginal birth – this book is a must read. Your Baby’s Microbiome provides all readers with the latest science – straight from the researchers – on how vaginal birth and breastfeeding are thought to influence gut microbiome establishment.   Sticks to the Data I greatly appreciated the restraint of the authors in discussing areas like water-birthing and in-caul births, where the research has not been done. They make it extremely clear that the research hasn’t been done, but then do provide thoughtful ideas from the data currently available. I find this extremely important for such a rapidly developing science. Perhaps the reason Your Baby’s Microbiome doesn’t over-reach is because the book was written from interviews with the scientists done for the documentary Microbirth. “The movie had to have one central message and we