Nutrition By Darren Giant among men A few years ago one of my heroes died and the human race lost a Giant of a man not merely because he stood 6 foot 9 inches tall. Who are your heroes? Is their height one of their defining characteristics? Does size really matter!? I began reading Michael Crichton books as a kid. I bet many of you did the same. A unique quality about Crichton’s stories was the melding of cutting edge scientific fact with sci-fi (science fiction) that had the potential to transform lifestyles. Like many of you I’d wager, I first became aware of his immense talent fiction in creating engaging thrillers through the best selling hit that later became a wildly successful movie series franchise, Jurassic Park. I went on to read most of his other books and continue to read them to this day. Michael Crichton sold over 200 million books, thirteen of which were made into feature films including three of my favorites, “Timeline”, “Sphere”, and “Rising Sun” and for an encore he created the hit TV series “ER”. At the time of his death in 2008, he was well into the writing of “Micro” (later finished by a selected writer of visionary science, Richard Preston). Micro turned out to be a pulse-pounding page-turner that “reveals a universe too small to see and too dangerous to ignore”. Tree trunks: The Swarm around us “MINUTE CREATURES swarm around us … objects of potentially endless study and admiration, if we are willing to sweep our vision down from the world lined by the horizon to include the world an arm’s length away. A lifetime can be spent in a Magellanic voyage around the trunk of a tree.” –E.O WILSON (Preface from Micro) SMALL is the new big: The Swarm within us MINUTE CREATURES don’t only swarm around us, they swarm within us too. They may also soon be worthy of endless study and either admiration or fear or perhaps both. I first heard the term Probiotic around 10 years ago. I had no idea what it meant and had no real desire to find out. Growing up in the Western Medical Society, I had a family doctor and became familiar with the use of drop-in medical clinics, for ease of use and convenience. Although I rarely got seriously sick, I was constantly getting colds and catching flu bugs and frequently lived with various other impediments like chronic fatigue, headaches, sinus problems, etc. Every once in a while when I did get really sick or when friends and family got really sick, something called Antibiotics got called in to save the day. I had no concept of what they were either and again no real desire to find out. I knew these were different than normal prescription medicine because there was always a lot of ooohing and ahhing when these were being talked about or used. They were important, powerful, and special apparently. The Gut-brain and The Microbiome When I finally got sick and tired of being sick a few years ago, I started reading everything I could find on health and disease and one word that kept coming up was Probiotics. Eventually I learned that we all have microscopic bugs living inside of us and even more shocking that there are multiple strains/species with millions and billions of these miniature lifeforms all coexisting and living symbiotically within our tree trunks. That is…. if we are willing to sweep our vision down from the world lined by the skin and other organs to include the world a microscope away. Have you ever been outside in nature and taken a moment to bend down and smell the flowers? Or watched the ants or other micro-sized creatures climb mounds of dirt or slide down blades of grass? This world teeming with tiny microbes in our stomach/gut is commonly called our Gut-Brain or officially the Enteric Nervous System while the world teeming with tiny microbes in our entire body is called the Microbiome and today leading molecular biologists, nutritionists, and health care practitioners are studying both carefully to learn their secrets. What they are finding is a large correlation between the health of one’s gut and their overall health. The Microbiome is defined as: the totality of microorganisms and their collective genetic material present in or on the human body or in another environment. These microorganisms are tiny lifeforms we can’t see that appear to affect our health immensely one way or the other. When they affect our health positively they are called good gut bugs or Probiotics. Antibiotics are substances produced or derived by microorganisms that kill both good bugs and bad bugs or at the least prevent their growth. Prebiotics are the substances that enhance the growth of Probiotics. From these simple definitions, it seems easy to conclude that it might be risky to take Antibiotics or at the least potentially harmful to the delicate balance of species of microorganisms coexisting in your gut. It becomes even more of a no-brainer when you factor in that your Gut-Brain (to be discussed in much more detail in a further post) may actually be the more powerful and intelligent of your two brains. My Gut-feeling for Probiotics The world has tilted lately. From Quantum Physics to Nanotechnology to Epigenetics, SMALL is certainly the new big. Size matters but it’s time to rethink exactly what size matters most–and at least consider the world of micro and how it may affect your health. I know it can feel weird drinking beverages or swallowing tablets that you know to be comprised of millions or billions of tiny lifeforms and it was odd for me at first too. But from Kombucha (guest post coming soon about why all the rage about Kombucha) to Protein Bars to Multi-Vitamins, I now receive daily injections of new life to my gut-brain, my microbiome, and my entire eco-sphere. I have a gut-feeling (more on gut-feelings and scientific physiological intuition in a future blogpost) that says I am happier and healthier for them. I wonder… Is SMALL going to be the new big for you too? To your micro-health!