Thursday, August 27, 2015

A worthy cause: Help fund a "Patient Centered Probiotics Reference"

UPDATE 8/27/15 - May have had a brain cramp on this.  See comment from Richard Jefferson.  Not sure this is in fact a worthy cause.

As many know I expend a lot of energy railing against overselling of the microbiome. And one aspect of this is the misinformation that is out there regarding probiotics. Well, this looks like it might help provide an antidote to some of the BS that is out there: This is a crowdfunding effort to create a curated resource with information on scientific studies of probiotics.
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From their site:
In his book, "Follow Your Gut", Dr. Rob Knight cited several examples of how your gut microbes can affect your mood, the functioning of your immune system and inflammatory diseases. He suggests that you consult your physician or pharmacist to recommend probiotics that have randomized, placebo controlled trials backing them or failing that, you can survey the latest research published in scientific journals yourself. I know this is not a simple task for the regular consumer. A master reference of probiotics that you can refer to when making decisions on what products to purchase would be a handy thing. Dr. Knight notes in his book, that " patient centered resource exists that compiles this data." If someone were to go ahead and do a google search for this information, you'd have to wade through a lot of marketing material from companies trying to sell you stuff. By focusing on the peer reviewed scientific literature, we eliminate all the marketing material. The research reports are then read and summarized by our scientists (curators) who put it in our reference database in a language you don't need to be an expert to undestand. My colleague, Dr. Stephan Schurer, of the University of Miami Medical School, and I have built databases as tools for researchers to search for new drugs. We built these by extracting & summarizing research published in scientific journals. We propose to use a similar approach to build the probiotics reference. The money we raise will go to purchasing subscriptions to the scientific journals (like Journal of Gastroenterology and Gut Pathology) so that we can download the relevant research articles. It also goes to pay the part time curators who will read the journals and enter the key information into the database and lastly it goes to the costs of hosting a website and licensing of necessary softwares. Please help us in any way you can. We greatly appreciate monetary pledges, but also we need you to tell your friends and spread the word about our project.
Definitely seems like a worth project

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

TWIMO: This week in microbiome overselling - how the microbiome destroyed the Ego, Vaccine Policy, and Patriarchy

Well.  I guess thanks are in order to my friend and colleague David Pollock who pointed me to this on Facebook and asked if it fit the mold for an Overselling the Microbiome Award: How The Microbiome Destroyed the Ego, Vaccine Policy, and Patriarchy.  And, well, it certainly does.  This is just so so so so so painful I do not really even know what to say.  So I am just going to quote some of the worst parts here for everyone to think about

A bold beginning

The relatively recent discovery of the microbiome is not only completely redefining what it means to be human, to have a body, to live on this earth, but is overturning belief systems and institutions that have enjoyed global penetrance for centuries.
 And more boldness

A paradigm shift has occurred, so immense in implication, that the entire frame of reference for our species' self-definition, as well as how we relate fundamentally to concepts like "germs," have been transformed beyond recognition
Got to invoke some Copernicus

a Copernican revolution when it comes to forming the new center, genetically and epigenetically, of what it means in biological terms to be human
A little side throw at vaccines

This concept is of course intellectually infantile, and if you do some investigating you'll find it was never quite grounded in compelling evidence or science.
And of course, the patriarcy must be attacked too

The microbiome has also fundamentally displaced a latent patriarchal prejudice concerning the relative importance and contribution of the man and woman towards the health and ultimately the continuation of our species.
And the microbiome is clearly trying to counter the patriarchy

it follows that most of our genetic information as holobionts is maternal in origin. 

if 99% of what it means to be human is microbiome-based, and if the mother contributes most, if not all, of the original starting material, or at least the baseline and trajectory of future changes in the inner terrain, then her contribution becomes vastly more important than that of the father.

This is perhaps the best part:

In other words, being born in a hospital via C-section and vaccination, will produce, genetically and epigenetically, a human that is so different – qualitatively – from one born at home, naturally, that they could almost be classified as different species, despite sharing nearly identical eukaryotic DNA (remember, only 1% of the holobiont's total). 
And let's attack men some more

In light of the new, microbiome-based view, the male role in protecting the health of women and children will be irrevocably downgraded in importance, not just professionally and medically, but biologically.
And then, well, this

The birth process, also, has been described as the closest thing to death without dying (it is ironic that anesthesiology, which could also be described in the same way, makes obstetrical interventions like C-section and epidural possible, at the same moment that it negates the spiritual experience of natural birth/women's empowerment we are describing), offering women a window into the 'in between' and a direct experience of Source that men, less likely to experience it naturally would later emulate and access through the various technologies of shamanism.
And all of this then justifies environmental protection

This means we can't simply live in a hermetically sealed bubble of shopping for organic, non-GMO certified foods at Whole Foods, while the entire planet continues to go to post-industrial hell in a hand basket.  Our responsibility becomes distributed across everything in the world, and every impactful choice then becomes relevant to the fundamental issue and imperative at hand. With the microbial biodiversity in Big Ag, GM-based agricultural zones fire-bombed with biocides, by the very same corporations that either own or distribute the "organic brands" we all love to think will save our bodies, if not the planet, we need to step deeper into our activism by stepping out of the diversions and palliative measures that don't result in lasting change.
 I think the words speak for themselves.  But not for me.  Or my microbes.