If you’ve talked to me in real life for more than five minutes this year, you already know that I am currently obsessed with bacteria.
I’m not a germophobe — quite the contrary: a host of new research shows that “good guy” bacteria — and there are billions of them on us — are extremely important in keeping us healthy. I blogged about this about a year ago after a report came out indicating that babies born by c-section are twice as likely to be overweight later in childhood. Apparently, the difference is that since those babies didn’t go through the birth canal, they weren’t exposed to the good bacteria that live there, which “paint” a newborn’s skin, and get into her nose and mouth (and down into her gut) in a vaginal birth.
More recently, an article in the New York Times outlined how bacteria may also explain why breast-feeding may be protective against celiac disease and gluten intolerance: probiotics (“good guy bacteria”) in breast milk, and pre-biotic oligosaccharides in breast milk (sugars in breast milk that exist not to feed the baby but to feed the good-guy bacteria that live in her gut) apparently help protect an infant’s gut from developing an inflammatory autoimmune response to gluten.
So, and here, today is another good piece, at Double X Science, called The Vaginal Ecosystem, which talks about changes in the bacteria that live in your birth canal during pregnancy. The plain language explanation is: the goo that lives in you changes while you’re pregnant because your body knows that a baby will be passing through and he’ll need to get a good coating of all your good gunk to get the best start in the world.
I guess the idea that you’re covered in germs (and that that’s a good good thing) is gross to some folks, but I think it’s awesome. Truly, you’re the Mother Ship, and your crew are the billion germs that keep you in good condition. Go hug and kiss your kid: he’ll be all gooped up with your protective good-guys!