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

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

Ask Professor Microbe: Should I buy refrigerated probiotics?

Ask Professor Microbe: Should I buy refrigerated probiotics?

“Hey Professor Microbe” – the text from my next-door neighbor read – “What probiotics are better for me to buy, the ones on the shelf or the ones that are refrigerated?” Professor Microbe (Anne @mostlymicrobes): “Why are you buying probiotics?” Neighbor: “General gut health” PM: “Don’t! Spend the money on PRE-biotics – fruits, veggies, and live fermented foods.” Probiotics are quite the established health fad with over 36.6 billion USD in sales in 2015! WOAH! In general, we don’t need them. The average person who eats a healthy diet full of fruits and vegetables feeds their own personal “probiotics” in their digestive system, primarily the large intestine. Feed what you have. Think whole grains and “Eat a Rainbow” of different colors and kinds of plants. My favorite gut microbiome-food book talking about good eating and the gut microbiome is The Good Gut. For an idea of what my family and I eat, check out my Instagram feed or #feedthemicrobes. “When should a healthy person take probiotics?” Pretty much just after taking wide spectrum antibiotics. These antibiotics kill many different kinds of bacteria – invading pathogens and your native microbes (tetracyclines, cephalosporins, aminopenicillins (ampicillin, amoxicillin)). For people with medical issues, I