Yes, I think the microbes that live in and on people are important, interesting, cool, and worthy of lots and lots of attention. However, I am getting sicker and sicker of the ways in which the effects of these microbes are, well oversold. So today I am starting a new series here on the Tree of Life – the “Overselling the Microbiome and Probiotics Award.”
And, we have a winner today. The winner is Stephen Barrie who has posted something at the paragon of high quality science – the Huffington Post (for more on the dubious science at Huffington Post, a good place to look is Bora’s Blog Around the Clock). Well, Barrie really takes the cake on this one
He starts off OK – referring to the number of microbes in the human ecosystem and even quoting Jeroen Raes, who does some great work.
Then he mentions how
“These bacteria have a profound influence on human physiology, your immune system, your nutrition, and are crucial for human life.”
OK I can go with this — maybe an exaggeration but still within reasonable confines. Then the woppers begin
“The health of your body and mind is largely tied to the health of your gut”.
Wow- that is one serious jump – from these microbes have a profound influence to the gut driving health of body and MIND.
Then he goes back to some OK territory again, discussing some functions known for gut microbes, like vitamin production, preventing infection, etc. But just after this he switches to the woppers again claiming that out of balance microbes can cause allergies, inflammatory bowel disease, eczema, arthritis, irritable bowel disease, obesity, autism and personality changes including paranoia, hostility, aggression and so on. Completely ludicrous actually. What we know about these issues is that researchers have found that microbial populations may be altered in people with these maladies. But that does not mean the alteration in the microbes caused these maladies. It could be that other factors cause both the malady and the microbial alteration or the malady itself could lead to altered microbial populations.
But wait, it gets a bit better. Now that he has established that microbes cause all these problems, he tells us how to
“avoid one of the emerging causes of both obesity and food allergies? Lower your risk of inflammatory bowel disease, irritable bowel disease, eczema, colon cancer (15) strengthen your immune system? All this while reducing any levels of paranoia or hostility (and retaining your Jon Stewart sense of humor).”
The recipe for prevention is as follows:
- Eat a low fat diet rich in vegetables, fruits and complex carbohydrates
- Limit consumption of animal protein
- Reduce sugar consumption
- Increase pre-biotic and probiotic intake
- Consume enough soluble and insoluble fiber to maintain a daily bowel movement. A slow bowel transit time leads to increased exposure of your body to toxic bowel contents.
- Reduce dietary sulfate consumption.
Again, I am all for more research into the microbiome. And I think microbes that live with us must have all sorts of positive and negative effects on our health. And yes, I understand why “probiotics” and “prebiotics” are getting lots of hype. But because Barrie has gone from what must be a gut feeling (sorry) to making medical claims without evidence and prescribing treatments to cure ailments that probably don’t exist, he is the recipient of my first “Overselling the microbiome award”.