Me and My Microbiome

Screen Shot 2016-08-23 at 12.16.51 PMIf you don’t already know what your microbiome is, you soon will.  It’s the hot new thing in the advancing study of health and aging. Basically, it’s a bunch of microbes, some good and some bad, that live in your body and mine. Well, actually it’s trillions of microbes and can account for 1-3% of body mass. Some are bad, but many are good.

About twenty years ago, scientists began to do research into the microbiota in the gut, suspecting they might have a role in the immune system. That’s when people started telling you to take a probiotic after an antibiotic, remember?

That research has progressed past pure science, and you can now have your biome sequenced the way you can have your genome done.(23andMe). Early adopter that I am, I had my genes sequenced before the FDA stopped 23andMe from releasing health information, and I found out I had an increased risk of Parkinson’s disease, and no special risk for anything else except some conditions women get when they are of child bearing age. Fortunately, I passed all of those — the genes didn’t express. Now I’m trying to get the Parkinsonism gene not to express. It turns out you can do that by fostering your immune system.

That, for those who know me, is the reason I turned vegan five years ago. I know that genetics doesn’t doom you to illnesses of aging, it simply predisposes you to them. You can still save yourself, as I clearly did without knowing it by exercising, not smoking, and phasing in and out of vegetarianism through my entire life.

So now they’re finding out that the bacteria in your gut influence your immune system, and that — guess what — you can influence your biome. So I just signed up with ubiome to have my microbiome sequenced.

And after I did that, I was wandering around their site and found the following research:

1)dogs can share bacteria with and between people, and couples who cohabit with a dog have more bacteria in common than couples who don’t. I cohabit with one roommate and five dogs. Apparently, I  have many microbes in common with my dogs, and not so many in common with other dogs.

2)children who grow up with a dog have less tendency to develop allergies and asthma, giving strength to the hypothesis that young children need exposure to bacteria and dirt to develop their immune systems. Dogs make houses dirtier, and this is good for children.

3) The University of Arizona is doing a study to find out whether giving dogs to older people will improve their health. They’ve given dogs adopted from the Humane Society to people over 50 who’ve never had one or not had one for a while. Their theory is that good bacteria from the dog will be transmitted to the owner, causing a health improvement.

So if you were putting off getting that dog…

I’ll let you know my results when I get them.





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