Science A Little Bit of Knowledge
posted by January 21 at 7:29 AMon
You know that thing you wrote saying that the inside of a body is sterile? Well, it’s not. Without bacteria and fungus in our bodies, we wouldn’t be able to digest food. And there are more of them than there are of us. Frankly, I’m really surprised to hear something so wrong, repeated so many times in a column, from someone who professes to be “Science.”
(name was here)
Ph. D. candidate, Dept. of Biology
Your assertion “Unless you’re sick, the inside of your body is sterile—free from bacteria, virus, and fungus” is patently false. In reality the number of bacteria in your gut outnumber the number of human cells in the rest of your body. I think this is important for people to know. John Mayer was (besides horrible) wrong: Your body is not a wonderland. It is an ecosystem.
The skin is essentially a giant anti-harm bag for our other organs, but the inside of the body is not sterile. The upper GI tract has loads of fungus, bacteria, and enzymes living in it that help to digest our food, do nothing, or make us really unhappy. In the lower GI hepatitis, e coli, and lots of other nasties are routinely found. Maybe when you said “the inside of your body” you meant the parts sealed inside, without direct access to the outside, like the abdominal cavity, vascular system, muscles, and so forth.
From my article:
Most of the surfaces where your insides meet the world are deep within your body, in the long tubes of the gut or the branching tree of the lungs.
So, yes. I understand the gut is filled with bacteria, good bacteria that help you digest food, create vitamins and many other useful things. Did you know if those bacteria—perfectly harmless within the gut tube—get inside the body cavity all hell breaks out? Usually the adventure ends in death, or at least a long course of strong antibiotics.
An exception you could have dinged me with? Chlamydia (well, a kind of Chlamydia) actually does grow within many people’s blood vessels.
I ache, long, wish for a question about the gut, diarrhea and the long tubes within the body. Ask. Ask!
A teaser: one of the proposed contributors to the obesity epidemic is a change in composition of bacteria in the gut—from less efficient to more efficient. Wild!