Writing Exercise #15 –

PROMPT: Imagine yourself as the head of a funding agency (like the National Institute of Health) in which your job is to look at proposals for research projects and decide what projects to award funding to. Based on your readings this term, discuss a research project (or projects) that you would be most excited about funding as they relate to learning more about microbial influences on human health. As part of your response, consider what are we likely to learn from the project and how that might be important in future healthcare decisions.

If I was the head honcho of a funding agency like that of the National Institute of Health, I would most likely award funding to a project that aims to determine the specified importance of microbial exposure in America in modern day. The reason I would fund a project of this nature, is because I believe it is so extremely important to understand how microbial diversity in the gut microbiome is on human health. However, we already think that the see the importance of the microbiome on human health, so this leaves other areas to be explored. Microbial diversity and exposure to microbes, are what I believe to be the major player here in human health. I would fund a project that places focus on hygiene practice in America and the correlation with microbial diversity in the gut microbiome. I believe that Americans may be too clean and inside too often. We have almost eliminated microbial exposure from dirt, grass, soil, etc. because we aren’t outside near as much as our ancestors were. Also, the cleaning products used regularly in American households are so strong that they work to eliminate all microbes in the home. There are already statistically significant studies that have concluded that those who live on farms are less susceptible to allergic disease because they have more microbial exposure on a daily basis than the ordinary person. So, I think that Americans may be entirely too clean, and that there are changes that are needed to be made in the near future if we want to continue to lead healthy lives as a global population, deep into the future.

Writing Exercise #14 – Reflection

PROMPT: Part 1: Set a timer for 3 minutes, and make a list of as many human non-infectious diseases that you can think of that are influenced by microorganisms.

  • Depression
  • Anxiety – Other mental health disease
  • Alzheimer’s
  • Obesity
  • Atherosclerosis
  • Diabetes
  • Inflammatory Bowel Disease, GERD, Gastric Ulcers
  • Gastric Cancer
  • Allergic Disease
  • Asthma
  • Immunodeficiency Diseases

Part 2: Refer back to your Writing Exercise #1 that you completed the first week of class. Reflect and discuss how your responses have changed from week 1 to week 10, and what the most important topics you will take away with you once you have completed the course.

After my reflection on the initial writing exercise, I noticed that my new list was both longer and easier for me to list just based off of my own knowledge and memory. When I composed the first list, I remember having to search the web to help myself narrow down exactly what might be influenced by microorganisms. After going through the course, I learned a lot about microorganisms and just how they can affect our bodies. What I learned is that the gut microbiome has a very large influence on our health and how our bodies operate and respond to their environments.

The main thing that I learned is that there are many indirect connections that microorganisms have with our bodies. Indirect connections have been pinpointed as the driving force for many of the issues that I listed above, especially in the most recent years. We have learned in this course, that the relationships between microbes in the gastrointestinal tract and human health are much more important than we have ever thought that they were. We are starting to see that microbial influence on non-infectious disease works in reciprocation as well, and both are extremely important to be aware of. Research has started to show in recent years, that certain non-infectious diseases may also have a large impact on the diversity and colonization of the microbial cells in the gut as well.

I have taken some things away from this class that I am sure will help me as my life goes on, especially in my career. The most important thing that I have taken away from this course is that the gut microbiome is extremely and incredibly complex. Not only is it complex, but scientists have only just begun to peel back those layers of complexity, and we are quickly realizing that we hardly know anything about the processes and mechanisms of the gut microflora, or the extent of the influences that microbial cells have on human health.


Writing Post #12 – Mental Health States

PROMPT: Describe how microbial communities in the body could influence brain and mental health states. Then, describe how brain and mental health states could influence microbial communities in the body. In what ways might these promote health and/or disease?

The human gut microbiome is home to over 100 trillion microorganisms, most of which researchers have no real idea of the functions of. We do know, however, that the gut microbiome is an extremely influential being in the human body. In recent studies, the microbiome has been labelled by some as, an entire new organ system in the body. The reason for this is that we have been finding in recent years, that the gut microbiome is influential on things such as allergic disease, gastrointestinal cancer and other GI illnesses, asthma, obesity, and even human mental health. The microbiome could certainly influence brain and mental health states, given all of its functions. The gut microflora help to assist in digestion, absorb nutrients, produce vitamins for overall health and immune system function and efficiency. These are a list of several things that ma contribute to human mental health state. The gut microbiome also has a major influence on the gastrointestinal tract. Poor bacterial diversity in the gut has been known to lead complicated gastrointestinal diseases. The science is still very new, and there is little really known about the influence of the gut microbiome, but it is extremely clear that the bacterial abundance has some kind of influence on the brain and states associated with it.

Studies have shown in recent years also, that the brain can actually influence the microbial communities in the body. One of the things that I was able to read about is that the main influential factor from the brain on the gut is known to be stress/stressful situations. Stress related incidences, such as early life stress have been proven to lead to mental health disorders such as depression and anxiety. Another interesting point to be made is that many researchers claim that stress may greatly alter the microbial communities in the gut. Sexual and/or psychological abuse can certainly lead to high stress incidence. High stress results in an influx of cortisol in the brain, which has been linked to being influential on bodily functions including the immunological and metabolic systems.




Writing Exercise #11 – Peer Review

PROMPT: Reflect on the peer-review process with you as the reviewer. How did it feel to read and critique someone else’s writing? What did you learn that you can apply to your own writing as you revise your final essay?

The peer review process was an interesting one to say the least. I was constantly trying to make sure that I was reviewing the work properly. It felt odd to critique someone else’s work because if how unsure I am of my own. I tried to put myself in the author’s shoes, to see the work from their perspective, but it was rather difficult given we aren’t the same person. It is basically impossible to align your own thoughts as if they were someone else’s entirely. Because of this, I didn’t do much “critiquing at all.” Instead, I made a couple of suggestions but really just tried to ensure the author that the paper was good, because I believe it was intended to be good, and it was from a perspective other than my own. This process helped me learn that when I am writing, that I must make a great attempt to write from a more general perspective. I should leave things up for debate and question, instead of writing things with concrete ink. I believe that this process can help us all become better writers.

Writing Exercise #10 – Peer Review

PROMPT: Describe the process of peer review to someone who does not frequently read scientific articles. In your response, consider the pros and cons of peer review and how that might impact the credibility of the results that come from that scientific article.

The author of the work analyzes the data, forms an opinion, and once a paper is formed, the author then proceeds to get the paper published in a scholarly journal (in most cases). Before the author’s work can be properly published, the paper must be reviewed by a group of experts in the same field as the author. The experts in the same field are needed in case any of the data is insufficient, the writing isn’t appropriate for the audience, or the paper just is not done well enough to be published. The main idea regarding peer review is that it either challenges or validates the author’s  work. This is important because scholarly journals are where most researchers get their references, ideas, etc. A peer review decides whether an author’s work should be published in a scholarly journal or not. The pros of a peer review are that an author’s work will be published if it should be. A con of this process is that the peer review panel is anonymous but the author isn’t. This poses an issue regarding bias in some cases. If the author is known for something controversial, it may leave a sour taste in the mouths of the panel, and not be considered a credible reference for research.

Writing Exercise #9 – Decreased Exposure to Microbes

PROMPT: List and describe as many changes in human behaviors as you can think of that contribute to decreased exposure to microbes.

It is severely important for us to maintain an abundance of biodiversity regarding microbes in and on the human body. There are indeed, various behaviors that can either promote or suppress the biodiversity of a gut microbiome.

Potential risk factors that may contribute to decreased exposure to microbes:

  • Formula feeding rather than breast feeding – decreases exposure to microbes that are available in breast milk.
  • Kids not being able to or not wanting to play outside in the dirt and grass where microbes are heavily abundant.
  • Antibiotic treatments that are not completed or administered in the appropriate manner.
  • The heavy overuse of antimicrobial household cleaning products. (soaps, detergents, hand sanitizers, kitchen sprays, etc.)
  • Birth by C-section rather than a vaginal birth, where exposure to vaginal microbes is unavailable.

Writing Exercise #8 – Free Write


Step 1: Free write: What are some of the most interesting or surprising things you’ve learned and/or want to learn more about, in regards to microbes and human health? Set a timer for 5 minutes and type out your response. Please don’t edit or worry about correct grammar/spelling/sentence structure… just write!

Step 2: After your 5-minute timer is up, read back through your response and underline a word or short phrase that you wrote that stands out as being particularly interesting.

Step 3: Free write: Start your next free write with the word or phrase that you underlined in step 2. Set a timer for 5 minutes and type out your response. Please don’t edit or worry about correct grammar/spelling/sentence structure… just write!

Step 4: Reflection. Based on your free write exercises above, write about your thoughts on what you might do to begin preparing for your final paper.

The most interesting thing that I have learned about so far in this course is the major role that the gut microbiome plays in our everyday lives. It is crazy to think that the bacteria in our gut influence almost all the areas of our lives. With that being said, the one thing that I want to learn more about is how inflammation within the bacteria of our gut microbiome affects the human body long term. I want to know more about the benefits of the beneficial bacteria and the detriments of the detrimental bacteria. It is important to me to understand how a shift in our gut microbiome can influence our entire lives.

It is important to me to understand how a shift in our gut microbiome can influence our entire lives. The previous phrase is particularly interesting to me because I believe that the composition of our gut microbiome plays a more important role on the longevity of our lives than the majority of people think that it does. Studies have shown that our gut flora and the inflammation associated with it has a large influence on many of the health issues in the world today. Correlations have been made between inflammation in the gut and obesity, diabetes, high blood pressure, and various other cultural issues. These things are important to me because I believe that the gut microbiome will play an extremely large role in future when it comes to longevity and the idea of treatment methods in humans.


Writing Exercise #7 – Infant Microbiome

Prompt: List and describe potential factors that the mother or the infant could be exposed to that could influence the colonization of the microbial community in the newborn infant (in positive or negative ways).

Several factors influence infant colonization of the gut microbiome, and this is important because the gut microbiome plays a major role in infant development. There are different microbial colonization patterns that are associated with the development of an infant. Understanding microbial colonization patterns can assist in an infant’s neurocognitive development and their disease life course risk. Things that can affect these microbial colonization patterns are:

Surgical vs. Vaginal birth – Vaginal birth is important for the vertical transfer of vaginal-perianal microbes from the mother as the infant is delivered through the birth canal. These microbes may not be transferred through surgical birth.

Exposure to antibiotics – Can affect the trajectory of the microbial colonization diversity. It has been discovered that antibiotics exposure to infants in the first 1000 days also may play a role in the development of early-onset obesity and neurocognitive developmental delays.

Infant feeding patterns – Most important during the first year of life. The gut microbial profile differs widely in newborns that are breast-fed vs. those who are formula fed. Breast fed babies have been shown to have an abundance of the prebiotic Bifidobacterium. It has also been found that formula-fed babies have a more diverse flora, but diverse with the wrong abundance of bacteria. E.coli, staphylococcus, streptococcus, and Clostridium are often found in babies whoa are exclusively formula-fed.

Maternal effects on Infant Microbiome during the first 1000 days:

  1. Stress
  2. Infection
  3. Antibiotics exposure
  4. Obesity
  5. Feeding patterns


  • Yang I, Corwin EJ, Brennan PA, Jordan S, Murphy JR, Dunlop A. 2016. The Infant Microbiome. Nursing Research 65:76–88.

Writing Exercise #6 – Philosophy on Antibiotics

Prompt: Describe your personal philosophy about how and when you have taken, or would take, antibiotics. What experiences or prior knowledge do you have that shaped that personal philosophy?

In my prior experiences, I have and have not taken antibiotics seriously. I definitely take them seriously now, but I didn’t used to care very much about them, just from lack of knowledge really. I, personally feel that antibiotics are both taken advantage of and taken for granted. Taken advantage of because there are so many people that misuse them, don’t use them, give them away, flush them down the toilet, etc. They are taken for granted due to all of the same reasons. Many people don’t stop to think just how helpful antibiotics are in certain situations, and how detrimental they can be in others. In other situations, people think they are needed because they may be helpful, so they will get a few from a friend after self-diagnosing an illness. These are all issues that deserve addressing because antibiotics are important, especially for the future and for our well-being.

With that being said, I take antibiotics only when and if they are prescribed to me by my doctor. It is important to be diagnosed and then prescribed antibiotics by a doctor. The prescribed antibiotics are administered in their respective dosages for a reason. It is also important to remember that it is all done by the doctors for a reason, that is, if you trust your doctor I suppose (I do). Also, when given antibiotics, take the entire prescription, even if you feel better after the first couple of days. They are still inside working to get rid of whatever the sickness is, even after you feel better.

I have learned what I know about taking antibiotics from being in college and working in the medical field with doctors. It is always stressed to me that antibiotics are no joke and should not be misused at any cost. The reason being, is that we do not want antibiotic resistant bacteria and pathogens to become so resistant that our medications no longer work in the future. TAKE YOUR MEDS!

Writing Exercise #5 – Food Choices

Prompt: What choices do you make in terms of food/nutrition/product use and consumption that may have an impact on your microbial communities? Consider choices that are intentional, and choices that are perhaps non-intentional.

So, first I want to say that I believe that everything that we consume affects our microbial communities in our guts. Now, I do however, make some choices to consciously give myself a chance of benefiting those tiny organisms in my intestines. Some of the things I have started doing intentionally in the past couple of years to benefit my gut microbiome are:

  • I take a probiotic supplement (capsule) daily with my first meal.
  • I make it a point to drink 4-6 ounces of raw kombucha 5-6 days a week (DELICIOUS).
  • I eat fermented foods: yogurt, kimchi, beer (lol), kiefer, and sauerkraut. This is easy because I like all of these things.
  • Lots of garlic in my diet.
  • Overall, I try to eat healthy every day, not just for my gut health but for my overall health.
  • Greens (spinach, kale, broccoli, spirulina)

The intentional choices have been placed in my daily routine in order to benefit my gut health, overall health, etc. The non-intentional choices can most definitely have an adverse affect on microbial communities. Without doing any research, here is a list of things that I believe are probably bad for my gut.

  • Sugar-Free energy drinks (Bang, Monster, Red Bull) – These are full of weird stuff that we can’t pronounce and sugar alcohols that are probably no good.
  • Protein powders/bars – Once again, the sugar alcohols really scare me when I think about them.
  • Fried Foods – Inflammation causing food.
  • Potato Chips
  • TACO BELL – Every college kid knows we eat a little too much of this after a good weekend
  • Too much beer?