It’s become mostly widespread knowledge that living “too clean” is causing the human body trouble by not allowing it to become used to and prepared to fight certain bacteria and diseases. What isn’t yet widespread is the understanding that what we’re doing is contributing to the extinction of species that colonize the planet that is the human body. Just as we have caused or contributed to the extinction of species on earth through pollution or environmental changes, we are also killing off species that live within us and influence our growth and development. Does that sound like science fiction? It’s real science.
A recent article in Science News phrased it like this: “…many scientists now view humans as conglomerate superorganisms composed of thousands of species.” Yet another twist on the question of what makes us human! It’s not so much our human cells that are running things inside, it’s the bacteria breaking down what we eat and producing by-products that influence our health. Some bacteria produce substances that calm our systems so that our body cells don’t attack them – a basic symbiotic relationship or manipulation at its best?
Even actual brain development in mice has been shown to be determined, at least in part, by bacteria. When certain bacteria are absent in infant mice, the mice develop much less caution than normal mice. We don’t yet have information on human brain development by bacteria but it’s being studied. Wholesale slaughter of bacteria is apparently not the panacea we may have thought it to be. Destroying bacteria has reduced the incidence of stomach cancer in humans but at the same time, the lack of this bacterium is implicated in the rise of the cases of reflux (which damages the esophagus) and even may contribute to obesity.
Bacteria have colonized Planet Human. We have not arisen from the muck; we ARE the muck –contained ecosystems. We are sentient, walking bags of swamp water. Once again, what does it mean to be human? So far, most of the influence we have discovered comes from bacteria in the stomach. Perhaps the biblical authors knew more than we thought they did when they continually referred to the bowels as the source of distress, affection, and compassion. What of the biblical idea of all becoming one with God at death? Our bodies “return to the earth whence we came” and what’s waiting there? Bacteria. Or not just waiting, they’re already in us, part of us, even most of us since bacteria in the human body outnumber human cells!
THE WORLD WITHIN OURSELVES
It’s been shown that humans contain one of three different bacterial ecosystems, a division not unlike blood type. Research is in the works to determine how to restore the correct balance of bacteria in the specific ecosystem of each particular body. Probiotics/prebiotics anyone? The Environmental Movement may have taken on a new and much expanded meaning.