Over two thousand years ago, Hippocrates considered that the things that we put into our bodies could affect our health. Now, at the time even air was considered to be a "food" and medicine was far from what it is today.
Indeed, where would we be (or ... would we be) without Alexander Flemming's discovery of penicillin. Amazingly he made this discovery only in 1928! Not even 100 years ago.
Did anyone ever say, "Discovery is discovery itself". Does that sound strange? When we think about the time line of medicine, it's truly astounding how far we've come in such a short time. But, once a concept is available to us, our little grey cells drive us to new adventures and revelations.
And that's how we encountered the Microbiome (the term used to describe the good and bad bacteria in and on our bodies). So, from 1928, let's get in the tardis and zoom forward to 2003 when the human genome mapping sequence was declared complete. This scientific breakthrough has accelerated our ability to understand what's going on in our bodies. Up until then, yes, we knew that our bodies had good and bad bacteria and in 1930 Yakult became available, proposing to feed our good bacteria.
However up until recently, we actually knew very little about our body bacteria. We needed the human genome mapping to complete and the further advancement of technology to enable scientists to uncover the trillions of bacteria existing in our guts. Up until then, only bacteria that were easily grown in petri dishes were known about. Now, we can relatively easily and cheaply identify many more.
And why is that important?
Well, the writings on body bacteria and how to fix microbial balance are prolific. Unfortunately, much of what is written seems to have rather stretched the truth of the matter. Now, perhaps I am wrong. I'm always the first to question anything I hear or believe (believe me that's a nightmare in itself - but that's another story!). But so far as my investigations can tell, we are only at the beginnings of the revelations that will arise from continued study in this area.
Whilst we are all led down many a path encouraging us to get on some train or other and believe in and buy miracle products, the scientists are beavering away trying to keep us safe. They now know the questions to ask and the new experiments and studies to undertake and have the technology to help. So, whilst we gaily go out and buy our probiotic yoghurts and supplements, scientists are looking into
- the effectiveness of different methods aiming to change our microbes (many don't survive life on the shelf, nor the acid in our stomachs)
- the side effects of proactively increasing some microbes (can we overdose?)
- the actual benefits and functions of each individual microbe (it's not a one size fits all thing)
Buy hey, why is a dog behaviourist even interested in this topic? Well, it transpires that our microbes don't just affect our health, but they also seemingly affect our emotional wellbeing.
Our microbial balance is now thought to be related to not only IBD and Colitis but also Autism, ADHD, Depression and Anxiety. WOW!! Eat bugs and fix depression!! (No, don't do this please...). But just imagine a future without the need for Flemming's discovery. Instead of treating illness with penicillin we can look forward to a future of various microbial treatments.
But, here's a thought.... Just imagine if the next significant breakthrough was made on the 28th February 2028. That would be 100 years to the day since the discovery of penicillin. The discovery of the bugs to awaken the bugs that the original bug killer killed!! (Antibiotics kill more than bad bugs - that's side effects for you - and why we need to take care.) 100 years to the day - what would my numerology friends have to say about that I wonder?
Anyway, in the mean time, we need to continue with the use of our current medicines and antibiotics - thank goodness that we have these treatments available to us. Absolutely necessary. But we can also endeavour to keep ourselves happy and healthy by eating the right foods.
The brain is indeed a complex organ and as if that wasn't enough, we actually have 2 brains. The gut brain and our head brain. Both need looked after to help with our health and happiness.
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Author - Anna Patfield , www.PawsAbility.co.uk and www.TheGoodDogDiet.com - a book which clearly and simply explains food and behaviour in dogs.