“Germs” and your immunity

The human gut is not “inside” you. Technically speaking. We’re basically a pipe- open at both ends. The lining of the gut is covered with what is called a mucosal layer.

This mucosal layer is covered with microbes. Bacteria, fungi, viruses, phages. These microbes outnumber our immune cells 200,000 to 1.

Not a typo. I repeat-200,000 to 1.
How does the immune system manage to distinguish between the harmless, mostly helpful microbes and the ones that create trouble?

How does the human body keep “out” these microbes from getting to places that they should be getting to?

Look at that ratio again. It’s like having a single policeman to manage a cricket stadium like Lords. The audience is there to party. If things get out of hand, a pitch invasion is going to take place. And all those highly paid celebrity cricketers are going to get manhandled.

The body needs to be efficient. It can’t have immune cells outnumbering and swarming the microbes that are in the stands. It needs to keep the audience happy. The police force can’t be too aggressive. It can’t be too relaxed. It’s a fine balance.

So the body uses the audience (microbes) themselves to help in defending the pitch. It’s a system of cooperation and it works on trust and communication (something that is lacking in policing and governance these days)

As soon as the microbes sense a troublemaker entering the body through any of the portals (stadium gates) they will send messages across to the gut. Yes, the microbes also send the message across, not just the immune cells at the portals. The gut is where most of our immune system hang(police) out. The immune system recieves descriptions of the trouble makers and are usually waiting for them, when they turn up in the stands after passing through all the preliminary defences like high acidity in the stomach.

Even at this point, each of the immune cells have to pick out from a crowd of 200000, the correct troublemaker. If they get to them early enough, problem solved. If they don’t, these troublemakers start tearing up the stands to increase their own numbers and lethality. The longer they hang around, the larger their numbers get, and the bigger the immune system response has to be , to control them. If the immune system turns up late and find that a section of the stands is completely infested, they will decide to go hardcore and kill everything in sight. They will send out calls for reinforcement. Signals will be sent out city wide that there is trouble brewing and that it might spread outside the stadium. That’s the point when you actually start feeling sick. If the troublemakers get out into the wider city, you’re going to feel even worse. At some point, when things get out of hand, your immune system will decide to set fire to everything, in the hope of bringing back things under control- Cytokine storm!

A well trained immune system that can move fast, identify whom to attack and whom to spare and know exactly how much force to apply to deal with trouble, is what keeps you healthy. This immune system training is done by the microbiome. Not by you. The longer you have held on to a healthy microbiome, the more well trained your immune system will be.

Most of the time, these trouble makers are dealt with promptly. Thanks to the help from the law abiding microbes who realise that the survival of their host is advantageous to them.

Our health depends completely on how healthy our microbiome is. How good the communication between those microbes and our immune system is. How good the communication between those microbes is.

The healthier your body, the more comfortable your microbes are going to be, and the harder they will fight against microbes that care less about your health. I realise the picture I’m painting is anthropomorphic, but it is a useful way to visualise the concept.

How could you improve your own microbiome?
1. Avoid processed foods
2. Avoid medicated, anti bacterial skin care products.
3. Cut back on skin care products. All you need is soap, really. Everything else you think is necessary, is there, because of your dysfunctional lifestyle and diet- deodarants, lotions etc.
4. Avoid empty calories (grains and sugar)
5. Avoid over sanitization that kills your own microbiome
6. Contact with soil-walk barefoot, gardening without gloves, swim in the sea, streams and rivers
7. Being less terrified of the fruits and vegetables you eat. Wash with water. Don’t soak in disinfectant. Don’t bombard with UV, Gamma rays and laser.
8. Don’t be germ phobic. Build your immunity, turn those microbes into your allies.
9. Ensure a variety of fiber in your diet to feed your microbes. Taking two capsules is isabgol is not fiber.
10. Avoid antibiotics unless they’re need to save life or limb. The healthier you are the less and less you’ll need them.
11. Avoid plastics
12. Avoid water that continues to stink of chlorine
13. Avoid using pesticides, weedicides and anti microbial cleaning solutions in your living areas
14. Get friendly with animals. Get a dog. Hug a cow.
15. Go for treks and long walks in nature.
16. Stop stressing out over silly stuff, your microbiome reacts to your mood
17. Get Sun 🌞
18. Get sweaty.
19. Grow vegetables at home and eat them raw, unwashed. If you can’t trust your own garden, what can you trust?
20. Make and consume fermented foods
21. Eat Street food
22. Stay away from long shelf life foods
23. Avoiding caesarean sections, opting for natural birth whenever possible.
24. Breast feeding over bottle feeding at all costs.
25. Periodic fasting to keep populations of microbes that get too well entrenched with your dietary habits, under check.
26. Hug friends and family (with their permission, of course)

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