I just finished reading this article on NPR about gut bacteria, and I thought it was worth sharing. I find it reassuring that our particular kinds of bacteria are attracted to us and will find us even after they’ve been killed off. I shared a similar story a year or two ago, but back then I didn’t realize just how important bacteria would become in my life.
Gut bacteria has been on my mind a lot because of my mom. As I mentioned in my last post, my mom was diagnosed with leukemia earlier this year, and one of the big side effects of chemo and bone marrow transplant is that they have to do everything that they can to destroy your immune system. Your good bacteria is wiped out during that process, thanks to the mega-doses of antibiotics that are given to protect you while you are immune compromised from the chemo and transplant.
As a double-whammy, my mom is also unable to eat fermented and raw foods — including even many raw fruit/veggies — while she is in treatment. So, your good gut colonies are killed and you have no way to replenish them. Gut bacteria are so important for fighting infection (which is the number 1 cause of death during treatment), and yet they have to destroy them to keep the cancer away. It sucks!
Thinking that her good bacteria will find her and replenish is nice. It is scary to think of what we would do without our good bacteria. As the article says,
Right now, in your mouth, in your gut, on your skin, you are carrying about 10 times more bacteria cells than human cells. If you swallow antibiotics and kill a lot of them, a few weeks later, the same bacteria come bounding back. They’re staying.
“We are, in essence, only 10 percent human,” Dr. Roy Sleator, lecturer at Cork Institute of Technology in Ireland, toldÂ The Daily Telegraph. “The rest is pure microbe.”
On a side note:
As my mom has gone through her treatment, the stress (and eating out, due to not being home nearly as much) has led me into a nasty cycle of inflammation (plus antibiotics) and has thrown my good bacteria all out of whack too. The bad guys have been trying to take over. 😛 During her first 2 months of treatment, I had several cases of mastitis and bursitis. The suffix “-itis” means inflammation, so you can see the trend. Many things can increase inflammation in our body: stress, sugar and refined foods are especially big culprits. So, I’ve been trying to go on more hikes (to help me chill out), go to the gym (same), and to prepare healthy food ahead of time (foods that are also consistent with an anti-inflammatory diet) so we aren’t as tempted to eat out. It is amazing what a difference it can make.
In the end, this whole experience has already been a huge lesson on just how fragile our bodies are, and how important it is to give our bodies the right fuel and de-stress as much as it is possible. One common theme that I’ve noticed is that the overwhelming majority of cancer survivors that we’ve met were also people who transitioned away from the standard American diet and did things to nourish themselves, both inside and out. Research backs this up. Healthy diets and lifestyles give you the best chance of living cancer-free. It certainly isn’t a guarantee, but if I can make changes that will lead to greater health, then I want to do what I can. It sounds like my basic gut bacteria make-up will be here to stay, and that is fine by me 😉 I just need to get them healthy again!