The White House’s NMI – Out Of Sight, Not Out Of Mind

Multiple sclerosis is the degeneration of the nervous system so the nerves are not able to carry messages. Recent research has shown that what a patient eats has some influence on the disease. Francisco Quintana of Harvard Medical School said:

“For the first time, we’ve been able to identify that food has some sort of remote control over central nervous system inflammation.”

“What we eat influences the ability of bacteria in our gut to produce small molecules, some of which are capable of traveling all the way to the brain. This opens up an area that’s largely been unknown until now: how the gut controls brain inflammation.”

This is likely the first study to actually link our gut microbes—the microbiome—to our health. There will be many more to come. The White House, upon the petition of a team of scientists in 2015, has just announced the National Microbiome Initiative (NMI), “to foster the integrated study of microbiomes across different ecosystems, and is hosting an event to bring together stakeholders vital to advancing the NMI.”

I wrote  here in my recent blog on the microbiome:

“ …the microbes living with us in our body: skin, mouth, hair, gut… number ten time more than our own body cells—with more genetic material than our own DNA. Many have become linked to our body metabolism—it’s to a parasite’s advantage to help its host live—and killing them often disturbs our own health in subtle ways. There is evidence that our indiscriminate use of antibiotics has led to many modern diseases from obesity to autism to allergies. Worse, microbes fight back by becoming more virulent in a vicious cycle.”

The White House  initiative attempts to unify all aspects of microbe research, involving multiple governmental agencies, private and public research foundations, and universities. Training of personnel is also a priority—with massive public and private funding, including $100 million from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. It states:

“Microbiomes are the communities of microorganisms that live on or in people, plants, soil, oceans, and the atmosphere. Microbiomes maintain healthy function of these diverse ecosystems, influencing human health, climate change, food security, and other factors. Dysfunctional microbiomes are associated with issues including human chronic diseases such as obesity, diabetes, and asthma; local ecological disruptions such as the hypoxic zone in the Gulf of Mexico; and reductions in agricultural productivity. Numerous industrial processes such as biofuel production and food processing depend on healthy microbial communities. Although new technologies have enabled exciting discoveries about the importance of microbiomes, scientists still lack the knowledge and tools to manage microbiomes in a manner that prevents dysfunction or restores healthy function.”(My italics)

Basic research has never come so close to our daily lives as now. But what do we do? Best advice: avoid food that has lists of ingredients on its label. Get plenty of food without any labels: fresh vegetables, fruits, grains, fish, chicken—most of them have friendly microbes that will help us digest and use food, not to mention fend off diseases (Canned and jarred food has to kill off everything). Groom your body’s natural microbes to fight for you and get off antibiotics and any drug as soon as you can manage.

For a deeper understanding of microbes and their far-reaching effects on our Earth and our lives: where they came from, how they got here and why they matter—read this book which I reviewed here.

It’s not just our lives, the whole Earth’s lives are at stake here—maybe we could stop bickering about our own narrow beliefs and work to save the Earth instead?

Yes, it’s that SERIOUS.

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