Bacteria Really are Good- Even during Pregnancy

Bacteria Really Are Good- Even During Pregnancy

A recent article in The New York Times Science section broke new ground in our understanding of how very closely connected our cells are to bacteria.  

We have long known that bacteria live on our skin and in our gut, but until recently the insides of our body were considered completely sterile, only our cells, no others, no bacteria certainly.

Now researchers in Houston's Baylor University have looked at over 300 placentas from healthy pregnancies and examined their interiors for evidence of bacteria being present. http://stm.sciencemag.org/content/6/237/237ra65 

I was astounded to read that the average placenta is about 10% bacteria, by weight.  So a 1 pound placenta is about 1 and half ounces bacterial.

Not only that, but the bacteria deep inside the placenta are from a variety of sources.   Mainly Mom's mouth, but also her gut and genital area.

It has been known for a very long time that when we chew, or brush our teeth, a spray of oral bacteria enters our blood stream, but it was thought the body cleared out all these bacteria.

Now we know that they are put to use.

The article notes that the deeper areas of our skin and our eyes also are about 10% bacterial!

A very compelling set of observations is beginning to connect the nature of the bacteria in the placenta to the chances of the baby reaching full-term at a good weight, or facing premature birth or low birth weight.

This is not to say all bacteria are good, but of the thousands and thousands of bacterial species that live on (and in) us, only a dozen or so can cause disease.  The rest appear to be essential to our cells working, that is, to our health.

It goes well beyond this or that stray bacteria offering a bit of help.  Our body is made up of cells, and the bacteria amongst us are cells too.  Our body needs these bacterial cells in order for our cells to work well.

This is now proven in the gut.  The loads of bacteria in our intestine are absolutely necessary for the cells of our intestine to do their jobs- digest and absorb food, etc.

It is still far too early to know how to support the bacteria essential for our health and well-being.

But even now, we know enough to say that the #1 hazard or risk in using antibiotics is the disruption and damage they cause to the bacteria we all depend on to live.

New research reveals that bacteria live deep inside of us, specifically, in our babies' placentas.  As much as 10% of a placenta is actually made up of bacteria.  These bacteria may play a major role in determining of a pregnancy will reach full-term and if the baby gains good weight.

Yes, bacteria can cause terrible disease, but only a tiny number do.  The vast, vast majority of bacteria are essential to our health and well-being.

Dr. Arthur Lavin

Thanks to Ms. Carolyn Stulberg of The Alexandria School for bringing this article to my attention.

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