Bugs & Genes, Mice & Poop, Worms & Shrooms: 24 Take-Aways from the Microbiome Symposium


Loving the Microbiome Symposium

This time of year seems to be nonstop conferences, symposiums, presentations, meetings, and chats. I’ve been trying to catch up with the Storify collections for all of the ones I’ve been attending or lurking in recently. The Microbiome Symposium was a HUGE one!

In case you didn’t know, I’m fascinated by the microbiome, and have been for years. I’ve been tracking research about it, playing with personal microbiome testing services, finagled my way into being the liaison librarian to the Host-Microbiome Initiative here on campus, and doing my level best to make myself a useful collaborator with them. This all gained me access to the day-long Microbiome Symposium sponsored by Cayman Chemistry, where a few of us live-tweeted. I want to take just a brief moment to talk about some of the highlights. But in case you don’t have time, here is the number one most important critical thing to remember (the rest are in no particular order):

NUMBER ONE: Eat fiber. Lots of fiber. Many kinds.

2. What we don’t know about the microbiome is how all the species interact.

3. Microbes are sort of little factories that make all sorts of chemicals, drugs and poisons (which aren’t regulated by the FDA).

4. Liver and bile are way more important than we expected. To the gut. Yeah, really.

5. Nutrients from food are not one-size-fits-all. What you get out of your food is tailored by your microbiome.

6. The reverse is also true! What you eat tailors your microbiome!

7. What we don’t know about the microbiome is how it interacts with the rest of what our body does, say, for example, exercise.

8. We might be able to predict different diseases by watching changes to our microbiome, like cancer and diabetes.

9. If we can spot predictive changes early enough, we might be able to head them off by changing diet.

10. Most of the bacteria that show colon cancer seem to come via the mouth. So brush your teeth!

11. Don’t eat fiber? Changes your microbiome. Degrades mucosa. Erodes protection from mucus, first line defense. Triggers inflammation. OOPS!

12. It’s complicated.

13. Complexity is important. Eat the rainbow.

14. Fiber is IMPORTANT. Especially eating a diversity of fiber. Try counting how many different plants are in your meals.

15. A diet poor in what make the bacteria happy (fiber, a.k.a. microbiota-accessible carbohydrates, a.k.a. MACs) has immediate impacts on them, long term impacts on us.

16. Diet is a tool to engineer (program) our bodies to meet our goals. What are your goals? Optimize yourself, your health, and your mood, with food!

17. Break the chain, it stays broken. (Once you kill off the diversity of bacteria in your body through poor diet, they don’t tend to come back.)

18. How do you get a diversity of bugs in your gut again? Fecal transplants.

19. Avoid antibiotics whenever possible. but especially early in life.

20. Bugs I want to remember: FLVR = Faecalibacterium prausnitzii, Lachnospira multipara, Veillonella parvula, Rothia mucilaginosa.

21. High fiber diets help protect against allergies, and allergens, and asthma.

22. High fiber diets help protect against different types of gut pain.

23. About probiotics: Dead bacteria don’t work. They have to be live, the kind you keep in the fridge.

24. This isn’t regulated territory yet, the FDA has little sway. Be cautious about product claims.

Now, those were the official take aways, but there were some deeply intrigued nuggets in the hallways conversations and posters as well. There was a lot of unofficial buzz around fungus, and worms (helminth therapy). Things to watch for in the future. Here’s the Storify, if you want to dig into this more deeply.

And in the meantime, I found ANOTHER Storify from a symposium that focused on microbiomics, so here’s that (from Cell Symposia as #CSMicrobiome) as a bonus.

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