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  • Writer's pictureM Barr, DAOM, IFMCPc

Listen To... Your Microbiota

The Dutch microscopist Antonie van Leeuwenhoek (1632-1723) is generally accepted to have been the first person to see his own microbes, around 1677 or so, when he turned his homemade microscope on his own feces and dental scrapings. We know from his writings that far from being repulsed by what he saw, he was enchanted. He described the microbes he saw as "little animalcules very prettily a-moving!"

And, of course, a relatively new-found appreciation for our inner critters or "gut buddies" has absolutely exploded over the past 10 years or so.

And from my vantage point, no one (or no group) has contributed more solid science (and awe) to the field than APC Microbiome Ireland out of Cork, spearheaded by professors Ted Dinan (MD psychiatrist & PhD) and John Cryan (PhD neuroscientist), whose 2017 book, "The Psychobiotic Revolution," I think I have shared excerpts from previously.

Now there are not one but two new books out of this group: one more research oriented and then this one, from professor Fergus Shanahan working with illustrator Laura Gowers. Their book is appropriately titled, "Listen To Your Microbes," and is kind of a picture book!

According to Shanahan, the microbes in this story have one clear message: "mind your microbes and they will mind you."

They dislike being referred to in imprecise human terms such as ‘good', ‘bad' or ‘superbugs', and are critical to many human behaviors and attitudes to health. They offer clear health messages with common sense advice regarding major public health challenges including: rising rates of obesity and chronic disease; resistance of microbes to antibiotics; drug interactions with microbes; and even climate change.

Blending science and art, Listen to your microbes explores the human microbiome from the perspective of our inner friends - our personal microbes - within the oral cavity and deep within the digestive tract.

"Although some oral microbes have been linked with various chronic inflammatory disorders, for most of us our personal microbes are associated with health - they protect against infection, shape the immune system and maintain metabolic health."

The book, in a playful way, communicates complex scientific research and fundamental principles about the wonderful world of microbes and how important our relationship with these creatures is to maintain a healthy and happy life.

The hardback book Listen to your microbes: a graphic story from their perspective by Fergus Shanahan and Laura Gowers launched in March. There even appears to be a kind of whimsical (but also a nice repository of other APC Microbiome videos) "Listen To Your Microbes" YouTube channel (here).


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