Writing Exercise #15

If I had the opportunity to fund a research project that relates to learning more about microbial influences on human health, I would be most excited to encourage more research on Crohn’s Disease. One of my very close friends has this disease and it has been a whirlwind of unknowns as he has sought treatment over the last two or so years. He has had skin and fecal samples taken, been hospitalized, attended support groups, tried numerous different kinds of medications, and so much more. He has stayed incredibly positive through it all, but it’s so hard to imagine the frustration that he goes through on a daily basis, not only because of the symptoms he suffers from, but also because of the lack of concrete knowledge that exists for this disease. There’s always the dreaded question of “what comes next?” when the previous treatment step failed. Funding a research project that could delve deeper into the unknowns of Crohn’s could provide further information regarding its cause, and eventually its treatment. It’s possible that more can be discovered about where exactly this disease stems from. If we know more about the root cause, we can investigate ways to prevent the disease from happening in the first place and even find a cure that can help the people who already suffer because of it. I hope that in the future more research is done, and that it provides some answers. Many of the articles and studies that we read in class proved to be inconclusive when it came to Crohn’s disease which shows just how essential finding answers should be. I look forward to the future of research in this area and hope that someday, my friend gets the answers he wants and needs.

Writing Exercise #14

Non infectious diseases caused by microorganisms:

  • asthma
  • gastritis
  • stomach cancer
  • ulcers
  • allergies
  • lactose intolerance
  • Crohn’s disease
  • H. pylori or C. difficile infection

Three minutes goes by quickly! I was so impressed that I was able to list the first five within three seconds of my timer starting because that was more than I was able to list when I wrote Writing Exercise #1. I have clearly learned a lot, retained information, and was able to pull from my readings to remember which non infectious diseases we discussed and how microorganisms influence them. From this course, one of the most important topics that I will take away is how important it is that we take care of our bodies and keep in mind that we are hosts to some pretty incredible microorganisms that help us regulate our systems. Diet, exercise, general life experiences, and medication use are all such important factors in keeping our bodies healthy!

Writing Exercise #13

  • Can experiments detect differences that matter?
  • Does the study show causation or correlation?
  • What is the mechanism?
  • How much do experiments reflect reality?
  • Could anything else explain the results?

When interpreting scientific literature, all of these questions are extremely significant and necessary to ask when determining the validity and relevance of what you are reading. The importance of asking whether the experiments can detect differences that matter is for determining how relevant the study or experiment is. How will it contribute to the scientific community and to future research? This is essential because if it is not asked and thought about then the article could be a waste of time, money, and effort. When asking if the study shows causation or correlation, it’s meaning to question if the study is valid. Does it actually show results in some manner, whether positive or negative? Incorrect conclusions can be drawn from results if this question is not analyzed correctly. Asking what the mechanism is poses an important factor to consider because this will let you know the details behind the previous question (about causation and correlation). It can also fuel further research if the mechanism is only hypothesized. Asking how much the experiments reflect reality is extremely important because eventually the goal is usually to make it to human trials so if the experiment is about mice and has no way of advancing to humans, there isn’t really much of a point in that sense. In regard to simply discovering how things work and the mechanism in humans is known to be the same, the mice thing doesn’t really matter. However, it’s still an important question to ask in that case because if it isn’t relevant or applicable to anything, it goes back to being a waste of time and money. Finally, wondering if anything else could explain the results is essential because it can lead to future research if other things can explain the results. It also validates the study.

Writing Exercise #12

Many neurotransmitters are produced by microbes. Without these microbes, neurotransmitters would not exist and there would be detrimental effects to your body. Vice versa, the release of certain neurotransmitters can influence what microbiota exist in the body.

Mental health is a large determinant of the types and amounts of microbiota that are in the body. For example, if you are very stressed out, your body becomes stressed and reacts accordingly and can cause dysbiosis which is when the number of organisms is severely decreased. This itself causes increased susceptibility to diseases that affect the gastrointestinal system like leaky gut syndrome. There is also a connection between autism, a mental health disease, and numerous forms of gastrointestinal diseases such as IBD which suggests that there may be a connection between the health of the gut with the brain. Differences have been found in the numbers of bacteria in the gut of people with ASD and people who do not have ASD, which also supports the previous hypothesis that there is a connection between the health of the gut and the brain.

Writing Exercise #10

Scientific peer review is a process by which other members of the scientific community who specialize in the field that the paper or article was written review the work. This not only validates the work that was done, but it also shows that other people in the field are recognizing the research. However, it’s often difficult to find article that are peer reviewed. It’s also difficult for the scientists who are trying to publish to get peer reviews because it takes a lot of time. It is also common for peer reviewed articles to only be accessible to those who have a subscription to the material, which is a con not only for the viewer who doesn’t want to pay but also to the publisher and the researcher because they have a smaller audience.

Writing Exercise #9

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

1. A change in diet (decreased exposure to microbes from foods that are cooked versus raw)
2. Hand washing (WITH soap!)
3. Washing food before eating or cooking it
4. Cleaning the house often
5. Where you work (do you work in a sterile hospital area versus in a daycare)
6. Living with other people (the more people you live with, the more microbes you’d be exposed to)
7. Taking daily supplements of probiotics
8. Taking frequent showers and actually washing your body instead of just rinsing off

Writing Exercise #7

There are many ways that a mother can influence her fetus’s microbial community while in the womb, both positive and negative. Her own gut microbiota can influence the baby’s, so the conscious choices she makes in nutrition will be a factor in what the baby is exposed to. She will have to make healthy decisions in her diet since the fetus is also feeding off of her. The mother’s weight gain or loss will also affect the baby because it is directly connected to her and her health. Healthy weight gain that is expected during pregnancy is crucial for supporting the baby, but if she loses weight then there is a chance that the baby will not get the nutrients it needs and therefore its gut’s microbiome will lack in diversity. There can also be bacteria in the amniotic fluid, exposure to antibiotics that can affect the fetus, and even factors such as smoking, social interactions, or hygiene of the mother that will influence the child’s exposure to microbes, whether good or bad depending on the situation (smoking and alcohol is bad; good hygiene and healthy social interactions are good!). However, the child is not only affected during its time in the womb. During birth, the baby is exposed to numerous different types of environments that will ultimately play into what kinds of microbes find their way into his/her system. Then, the foods and liquids that the baby is sustained on for the first part of its life will develop the specific types of “normal” gut microbiota that the baby will host. Every step of the child’s development is essential to the growth and prosperity of its microbiome!

Writing Exercise #8 (Free Write)

First five minutes: Regarding microbes and human health, I was really interested in how many diseases were starting to be related to the inbalance of microbes in the gut. Especially in cases of diseases we normally didn’t think to be caused by our “healthy microbes” like obesity, IBD, or even ulcers or other chronic illnesses like gastritis. The complexity of the population of microbes in the human gut is astounding, but I was really surprised that scientists were trying to group together what was “normal” for a human which made no sense to me because I can’t really understand how the genetic diversity of humans can allow for normality. Everyone has a different environment, different diets, allergies , and even different daily portion sizes and things like medications and habits that can change the types of microbes in your gut. How can the bacteria be accustomed to all of these things? I guess that specific taxa and genus specificities can be grouped together, but can one species live in all of these environments and become used to all different kinds of factors that affect it? Either way, it’s cool that the differentiation of the “normal” (or what they think is normal) bacteria can become indicators for diseases of the gut.
Second free write: The bolded word I chose to do this next free write about was “imbalance”. The imbalance of the normal gut microbiome has been a way for scientists and doctors to identify what kinds of diseases are linked to the different species of bacteria that are found in the gut of a patient, whether or not it is considered normal. I wonder if they can become indicators before the patient starts to see side effects of the disease or if they can be indicators of other diseases that aren’t in the gut? Or maybe diseases that are in the intestines, colon, or esophagus instead of just in the stomach? I was also very curious about the treatment of such diseases that are caused by the imbalance of certain bacteria. I specifically remember one type of organism that was connected to the level of inflammation in the stomach, and when there was a lack of this bacteria due to some disease, the swelling of the stomach increased because that bacteria was not there to balance it out. Is there a way that something like probiotics can treat that? In regards to either replenishing the loss of the bacteria that was helpful or just replenishing all of the helpful bacteria that an antibiotic would kill off, assuming the patient is taking antibiotics to kill off whatever is causing the stomach to swell from this disease. How do probiotics even work? Are they live cultures? Or are they just nutrients and such that can help to replenish the little bacteria that may be left after the antibiotic treatment?

For my final paper: I think it would be really interesting to write about the imbalance of certain bacteria and how this imbalance leads to specific symptoms of illnesses found from the gut. Another idea would be to research probiotics because it seems like I have a lot of questions about them and how they work and to what extent they can treat these imbalances.

Writing Exercise #6

There is a lot of controversy about antibiotics because of the studies that have shown health consequences from consuming them (whether it’s regularly or over a short period of time). While part of me knows that these studies hold true and there are definitely risks to taking antibiotics, such as developing antibiotic resistant bacterial strains and compromising your gut microbiome, another part of me completely worships the ground that antibiotics walks on. They are so successful in treating bacterial infections and even preventing them from happening when a patient is especially susceptible to contracting one. I think when antibiotics are taken as directed for no longer than 2 weeks, they can be successful in their treatment. And personally, depending on the severity of the case and what exactly the infection is of course, taking a good over the counter probiotic or eating a lot of yogurt and fermented goodies can significantly help the “good” bacteria that your body hosts that are also being killed off by the antibiotics.

I’ve had my fair share of times when I’ve needed to take antibiotics, and each time they have helped my condition so tremendously that I can’t imagine my body treating itself without them and having a successful recovery. I’ve had multiple UTIs, sinus infections, and ear infections in my lifetime. This is probably too much personal information, but I am extremely susceptible to UTIs and have had to take antibiotics for them so often that I actually developed a sulfa-drug resistance and had to switch antibiotics halfway through treatment because it wasn’t working anymore. To me, it’s crazy how quickly these buggers can adapt for survivability. I’ve always wondered, what happens when I run through the next course of antibiotics for some kind of infection and by the end of my life, the bacteria in my body are resistant to everything the doctors try to treat me with? Is that even possible? Antibiotic resistant bacteria are honestly one of the most terrifying things on the planet so I hope that as a society we are able to either continue developing drugs to combat them or find a way to get less infections so that they can’t develop resistance when we do have to treat them.

Writing Exercise #5

In terms of food, nutrition, and product use that can affect my microbial communities personally, I have to make a lot of very conscious choices based on the way I react to certain foods. For example, I’m very lactose intolerant. I get awful stomach aches, intestinal pain, and other rather gross side effects when I consume milk products. Therefore, I have to make the decision to not consume these foods otherwise my bowel is entirely cleaned out and I probably lose a lot of bacteria in the process. I actually went and looked up how lactose intolerance affects the gut microbiome whether you have eaten milk products or not, and found a really interesting study at this website (http://www.pnas.org/content/114/3/E367.full) that gave a lot of information about this specific question (who would have thought!?). In short, I am lacking lactose-fermenting bacteria that people who can digest lactose would otherwise have. More importantly, galactooligosaccharadies help with that! The whole article was actually extremely fascinating and it’s exciting to know that studies that actually apply to me personally are being conducted (because I feel like a lot of the studies I read are about super intense diseases that I don’t have or know anyone who has them).