Staying up late a few weeks ago and talking with friends (don’t get around that much these days), somehow I brought up the subject of the microbiome and the recent findings that each of us has as much non-self DNA as our own DNA from all the microbes that inhabit, mostly symbiotically, our bodies along with us. (Now you understand how exciting it is to rap with me late at night and why it might be important to have an open bottle of decent wine handy). One friend was aghast and felt creepy knowing that, while I rejoiced in being a community, but then I have always liked a bit of a mess and believed that the seeming chaos of an estuary is needed for creative fertility. I also think that life as it has evolved on Gaia is based on such symbiotically complex environments that include other life forms. I recently read a report that the most astounding variety of life forms is found in the turf of a meadow, which I happen to have out my front door.
But back to humans. We have long known that the flora in our guts were important for efficient digestion and recent studies say what our gut friends influence whether we are fat or thin. Now I see a report in Science News (April 24, 2016) that researchers have found a link between mental health and our gut flora as they influence our mental states, e.g., the experience of depression. Indeed, when the flora from a depressed rat (don’t ask) were transplanted to a happier one, that one then showed signs of depression. Rats reared free of bacteria had different development of brain areas. Researchers are now working on the hypothesis that the flora affect the metabolism of hormones and neurotransmitters in the gut (where by the bye most of our dopamine is synthesized) and the flora also produce neurotransmitters that we share. So it is important to eat and drink vital biotic foods such as live vinegar, fermented foods, yogurt, etc., and especially after a course of antibiotics.
This morning I was looking at Wikipedia about lichens, a true symbiosis between algae and fungus, that live a long time, grow steadily albeit slowly, can withstand harsh conditions, etc., and followed a reference to the word ‘holobiont.’ Like holograph, where a piece of the picture contains the whole of the image, holobiont refers to an organism as an integral community that evolves together. We and our microbiome comprise one hologenome with parts evolving differently and affecting our survival and contributing to the whole’s reproductive success. We and our microbiomes have evolved together and some of the positive traits we have are due to our little buddies. Now that is one delightful mess of chaos with direction. Yes, it takes a community to raise a child, and yes, it also appears to take a community to be a child. This seems so congruent, so in keeping with the nature of life here on Gaia and it affirms this old farmer-philosopher’s belief that we need to respect the organic world more and mistrust humanity’s rather ignorant efforts in the darkness to control our environment through chemical, especially genetic, manipulation, yet still enjoy our burgeoning knowledge of ourselves and Gaia.
So find some good wine made the old school way without additives and chemical manipulation, share a glass with friends (and all of their inhabitants), and together travel on.