ScienceOnTap: Microbiome and You

Occasionally, we get a scientist drunk. We put them on stage, put a beer in one hand and a microphone in the other and see what happens. Then we take questions from the bar crowd. This week’s victim was Dr Lisa Sardinian, who knows all about what we don’t know about the gut.

And the lecture was informative, and funny, and included new information since the last time we had Dr Sardinian in the hot seat (and she actually wanted ice water this time, so it wasn’t quite a regular SOT). But a couple of the points got me thinking.
FIrst, why does Massachusetts do all the gut and poo research? I mean really, most of the studies were from there. I think they are a little obsessed.
Ok, then, the normal method of gaining a healthy, varied gut biome is that as you leave the sterile womb (which, how do they know it’s sterile? Anything the push into there would contaminate, right?), you squeeze out a tunnel with a light at the end, and in the process swallow some vaginal biome. This multiplies and thus mom gives you your starter pack – unless you were C-sectioned, at which point your gut bacterial more closely resembles what is found on the skin of health care workers. (Note: they’re experimenting with giving c-sec kids a swab from mom’s privates, in Massachusetts of course, but studies are early).
As you grow and experience, your gut bacteria change until about 3 years of age when you have developed your adult base biome. Unless you were malnourished, famine like, in which case it takes longer.
Oddly though, breast fed babies have a less varied gut than formula babies.
And now we get into the co-evolution.
Seams that mothers milk has a couple complex sugars that mammals can’t metabolize. When formula milk was developed, they left these out, thinking wtf dude, why bother? But it turns out that those sugars feed gut bacteria on the mucus side, and pass nutrients through to the cells, and that without this process the babies aren’t developing quite the same digestion, or at least not at the same rate. These bacteria have been living in our guts since our tiny vertebrate stage, they in no small sense made us what we are today.
I’m not sure who is farming whom.
Note that when you eat chocolate, you are feeding certain bacteria that secrete dopamine, one of the only 2 things you ever enjoy (the other is serotonin). These brain chemicals, originating from your gut, give you that pleasurable sensation, And it’s all for you – those bacteria don’t even have a nervous system. This is the carrot that gets us to eat what the biome wants.
So bacteria is necessary to us and in a bit of control of us…and then we develop antibiotics and overuse them for growing meat animals larger or attempting to treat upper respiratory illnesses (spoiler: antibiotics do nothing against a virus), and thus we are selecting for antibiotic resistant strains of …everything. Uh oh.
And then there was the FMT conversation. Not delivered in smoothie form, thank you very much, this is a means to transport biome from a healthy gut to an unhealthy gut and does a bang up job of curing c.dif and other ailments in a way that makes modern humans shudder. At least it’s a pill form.
Hmm. When dogs do team grooming and close encounters of the butt kind, are they getting a booster biome?
For further reading , we are suggested to read anything by Michael Pollan ( and Missing Microbe by Blaser. (

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