Saturday, November 03, 2007

SF Gate Column on "You big, fat pile of bacteria"

There is an interesting column on about microbes living in and on people. By Mark Morford, SF Gate Columnist

He talks about eating earthworms as a kid.
Of course, it turns out, biologically speaking, that big, dirty earth-muncher probably did my immune system, my intestinal tract and all the happy bacteria therein a world of good. It's true.
Furthermore he says
we as an overpampered culture are probably not getting enough nasty buggy immune-system-boosting microbes in our diet, in our meats, in our mouths. And therefore we should probably, you know, eat a bit more crap.
I am not sure I would go as far as suggesting eating crap, but I second the notion that we as a society have to stop being obsessed with getting rid of all bacteria. Bacteria are overall good.


  1. Yeah - bring back the Plague!

    An epidemic or two never did anyone any harm.. (yes, I am being sarcastic. But to be serious: I'd rather live in a society that has to deal with increased levels of autoimmune diseases, possibly as a consequence of improved hygenic practices, than one in which a sizable fraction of the population dies from some infectious disease or other before they reach 40).

    That said, some people probably have taken things too far - antimicrobial soaps, etc.

  2. fair enough Ian ... but I think we do not have to make a choice

    I think we can embrace the random / not very harmful microbes while at the same time warding off pathogens by doing things like cooking our meat, and not having massive feedlots where virulent pathogens spread and by treating infections appropriately and so on. But we shoudl avoid trying to sterilize our world.

  3. Agreed.

    We may have gone slightly too far; if so, we'll learn to readjust.

    P.S. My mother has a photo of me eating a huge lump of soil when I was four or five years old (she obviously wasn't over concerned with hygiene)!

  4. Along the same lines, a recent article entitled "Eat Crap: Why Americans Should Eat More Excrement" by Kent Sepkowitz, MD, was posted at

    Kent's credentials: Director, Hospital Infection Control, Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center; Professor of Medicine, Weill Medical College of Cornell University.

    He makes some good points, but I admit that I've not been able to influence any of my friends to change their attitudes even with this kind of info.

  5. William Hsiao11/14/2007 9:19 PM

    Here's another relevant article from CBC