An increasing amount of evidence is coming to light suggesting that human moods, emotions and perceptions can be influenced by the type and number of microscopic life forms inhabiting our gut, according to an article in Scientific American magazine. Scientists say a time may even come when we treat mental illness and depression with probiotic supplements, and that the bacteria, viruses and fungi that inhabit our gut — making up what is called the gut’s microbiome — may be an indicator of our ability to handle stress and what diseases we will be vulnerable to over the course of our lives.
It has been observed in the animal kindgom that some microorganisms can influence behavior in their hosts. The single-celled protozoan Toxoplasmosis gondii has been shown to make rats less frightened of cats and perhaps even cause them to be drawn to the smell of cats’ urine. This makes the rat more likely to be eaten by a cat, whose digestive tract is a necessary stop in the organism’s reproductive cycle.
Some scientists, like Jaroslav Flegr, who was profiled in the Atlantic in March of this year, have theorized that Toxo can have a similar effect in humans, producing the “crazy cat lady” effect, wherein people become inured to the stench of cat wastes. Flegr, who is himself infected with Toxo, has shown that people carrying the disease suffer from slower reaction times and impaired judgment. Men who are infected with Toxo were shown to be more introverted, suspicious of other people’s motives and less concerned with others’ perceptions of them. Infected women, on the other hand, were more “outgoing, trusting, image-conscious, and rule-abiding than uninfected women.” via Studies suggest that microbes can control our minds | The Raw Story.
This reminds me of another subject regarding how tiny microbes can have great effect on our health:
I am convinced, after reading several studies on this and similar subjects, that I know someone who could benefit from what I call a “poop shake.” The fecal matter of an individual with a healthy digestive tract is introduced into the tract of an unhealthy individual who may be suffering from an unhealthy balance of microbes. With an astounding 90% success rate in treating the notoriously nasty Clostridium difficile bug, it is much more effective than even the most aggressive antibiotic treatments, with no side effects beyond the gross-out factor. The “doo-doo donor” is often a family or household member, which optimizes results and keeps the exchange in the family.
Significant hurdles hamper this controversial treatment, the biggest obstacle being the FDA and the regulatory process. Insurance companies are not eager to cover a procedure that is not FDA-approved. Drug companies are not happy about the treatment, because poop is free, unlike powerful and expensive antibiotics. I propose that an enterprising drug company develop a “poo pill” that delivers all of the healthy microbes without the nasty smells and connotations that a fecal transplant entails.
Though it isn’t advised, one can concoct one’s own poopie smoothie using the fecal matter of a healthy individual and an implement to inject one’s own digestive tract. Having had a nasty case of Salmonella in the past, I can imagine that a prolonged and severe case of explosive diarrhea could lead one to take drastic measures. Thank goodness my illness lasted only a week, though it was several months before I could even look at a piece of chicken. It’s still my least favorite meat. Pray I never get sick from eating bacon…I love bacon.
Now, I know I have been making light of this subject a bit with my scatological references, but I truly believe that major advancements in public health are possible. Studies suggesting that children exhibiting symptoms of autism have abnormal gut flora. Unhealthy microbial balance is implicated in a wide variety of illnesses and ailments. Use of probiotics and fecal transplants could possibly change lives. What do you think? Would you drink a Shit Slurpee if it would cure what ails you?