Sunday, March 6, 2016

Antibiotics and the Guinea Pig Microbiome

After the vet diagnosed me with a uterine mass that was most likely cancer, I was put on a variety of different medicines. Several weeks ago, I was able to stop taking the Enroflaxacin, which is an antibiotic. Antibiotics are a type of medicine that you have to be careful with. Part of the reason for this is that the overuse of antibiotics can give rise to bacteria that are resistant to antibiotics, making them less effective of a treatment.

There's another reason you need to be careful with antibiotics, though. Antibiotics work by targeting bacterial cells in your body, but not all bacteria are bad. Your body has friendly bacteria in it that do good things that help keep you healthy; for example, some good bacteria can help your body digest things that it wouldn't be able to digest on its own. Also, when the friendly bacteria are killed off, that leaves room for other bad bacteria to move in and multiply. For example, humans who take antibiotics for too long may kill off the friendly bacteria in their intestines, and a bad bacteria called clostridium difficile can move in and cause nausea, inflammation, and other symptoms. 

This ecosystem of bacteria living inside our bodies is called the microbiome. According to a scientific study, the guinea pig microbiome has even greater "bacterial richness" than humans! There's still a lot we don't understand about how the microbiome works, but there are a couple things that do seem clear. First, it's probably good to eat a varied diet to encourage microbiome diversity. Second, you'll want to be careful with antibiotics, and only take them when necessary, and only for as long as necessary.

Check out this colorful, tasty salad. I like helping my microbiome!
And so does Broccoli (om nom nom)

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