Thursday, 15 September 2011

Guts, symbiosis and ecological disasters

Guts, symbiosis and ecological disasters

We are not alone; we are in a very real sense more alien than we are human, our bodies are phenomenally well colonised by bacteria, something like 10 to the power 12 in every gram so 10 with 11 naughts after it in every one gram of us. Trillions and trillions, in fact most of the cells in our bodies, around 90-95% of all the cells in the human body are bacteria in the large intestine alone. Saying ‘our bodies’ is so far off the mark, we really are not alone.

This symbiotic relationship is central to every function of us, we could not digest our food, move our muscles, feel, think, do almost anything without these relationships.

I have been repeatedly struck by the similarity between our relationship with the bacteria and a trees relationship with bacterial fungus. Again a tree can not live without this relationship, but the fungus needs the tree just as much as the tree needs the fungus, its hard to tell where one function ends and the other begins.

In the case of our relationship with our bugs its impossible to say who colonised who, it's striking but possible that the bugs built a human host to carry them around, now that’s an ego buster if there ever was one. We need them, they need us it’s a fantastic microbial dance that’s been developing for millions of years.

We often seem to have the illusion that because we hold our roots (guts) inside our bodies we are in some way separate from the world. It’s my feeling that this has lead to so many problems with human’s relationships with the planet; this feeling of separateness, and possible superiority from the rest of the eco system has, I feel been at the root (pun deliberate) of the devastating ecological practices we all are aware of.

So what am I saying? I think it would be fantastic to see us have a strong body/mind connection to our own bacteria as a way of realising the total interdependence of us as a species.
Now it’s possible that a compelling motivational factor for deepening this understanding could be living longer, being healthy, strong and not dying of some horrible disease.
It would be great for us to give what is the majority of our bodies some love, care and attention.
Take those pro-biotics, eat pre-biotic foods, get some more sleep (no more than that) try to manage your stress and love those bugs.

Space and ignorance do not allow a full explanation of the role of good bacteria in health; check out the links in the last post and if in the UK listen to this BBC podcast http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b00z6dvv

We're all 20 times more microbe than we are human.

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