web analytics

Oh. That explains it.


Have you ever wondered why gut bacteria is such a hot topic at the moment? I know I have!

Wellll…in olden times, you studied bacteria by making a culture. You’d sterilize a needle, drag it across a toilet seat, wobble it across a petri dish full of nutrient agar or some shit, and a week later you’d have — several streaks of fuzz!

Then you could take a sample of that fuzz, put it under a pretty high-powered microscope, and you’d see — something that looked like a corkscrew, something that looked like a hotdog or something that looked like a basketball. Because that’s it; that’s all the different shapes that microbes come in.

And that’s about all you could do. You could try feeding some to a mouse, but that’s not very sporting.

A majority of important microbes — particularly gut microbes — won’t grow in a culture at all. We’ve been studying the ones that will. Turns out, e.coli isn’t a very numerous or important gut bacterium at all, it just LOVES to grow in a petri dish. Huh.

Easy DNA analysis is what changed all that. They can grind up poop samples and get a pretty good idea of what your intestinal rainforest consists of. Even better, they can look at the genes and tell what some of them do.

They can even culture more of the buggers, now that they can isolate strands and work out what they live on. Turns out, gut bacteria are madly picky eaters — which is why certain meals affect your guts fast and hard.

Week Two of my microbiome studies continues apace.


Comment from ExpressoBold
Time: May 22, 2017, 9:58 pm

Technical question:
Are “gut bacteria” considered “flora” or “fauna?”

Comment from Ric Fan
Time: May 22, 2017, 10:23 pm

Please tell me you’re not subjecting poor Uncle B to stool samples. 🙂

Comment from Mitchell
Time: May 22, 2017, 11:16 pm

Contra Ric up there, but please tell me you ARE subjecting him to stool samples! It’s more amusing for me that way.

Comment from Feynmangroupie
Time: May 22, 2017, 11:37 pm

Wait, if everyone has pretty much the same baseline gut bacteria (question: do different cultures have errmmmm different cultures in their guts) then why am I able to eat habanero sauce covered wood pulp in an axle grease reduction with a side of chitlins, but I know lots of people who view mayonnaise as a bit spicy. It isn’t even something that I worked up to; I think I’ve always been this way. Perhaps it was all the dirt I ate as a kid.

Comment from dissent555
Time: May 23, 2017, 12:50 am


If they could talk, the stories they could tell.

Comment from durnedyankee
Time: May 23, 2017, 1:01 am

Three legged stools? Or four legged?
Samples of them? Is there a door to door stool sample salesman? You know, like the old Fuller Brush man?

do any of these stools look like an Ottoman?
Can we still say Ottoman?

And I’d heard that we inherit some of our bacteria from our mammy and pappy (can I still say mammy?)
AND that we annihilate the little devils when they put us on antibiotics.

Comment from Uncle Al
Time: May 23, 2017, 1:48 am

@Feynmangroupie – I don’t quite see how “everyone has pretty much the same baseline gut bacteria” given the news last year or two about the success of fecal transplants.

As for the spicy stuff, maybe it has to do with the population proportion of your gut bugs that metabolize capsicum into something that doesn’t make the “morning after” feel like a bullet wound.

Comment from Feynmangroupie
Time: May 23, 2017, 1:54 am

Uncle Al,

I just meant that we all start out with the same bacteria, I would assume. I know that lifestyle and or disease will kill the good bacteria but I was just wondering if there was some kind of genetic predisposition towards certain foods, not just cultural adaptation. Assuming that one hadn’t grown up eating a type of food that would would give others a negative reaction.

@Dissent…most likely they would all just talk shit! 😀

Comment from Bob B
Time: May 23, 2017, 5:03 am

It seemed as if e. coli nearly killed me about 10 years ago. I ate the recalled spinach, just before it was recalled. Major sickness, complete with vertigo, screaming headaches, vomiting and diarrhea.
The vertigo was worse than that time when, as a teenager, I got drunk on cheap wine. I was cold sober, clinging to the floor, trying to crawl to the bathroom. The only thing worse was the shigella I got from the baby carrots the following year.

Comment from Timbo
Time: May 23, 2017, 6:34 am

Just watched a video on farts courtesy of David Thompson’s website. Turns out, if I understood correctly that people’s farts vary in quality and intensity due to different beasties in the intestine. And sex of course. Women’s farts have greater potential to offend.

Linking to it is beyond my pay grade, but I believe the item was titled, “something for the ladies”.

Comment from durnedyankee
Time: May 23, 2017, 10:56 am

@Feynmangroupie – I’d read somewhere, and taken from anecdotal dinner conversation with Hispanics, that they start eating spicy food early in life.

I’ve also worked with Asians (India all the way across to Korea) who could layer hot on hot, on already burns my face off hot. Same observations from them, though from the Indian guys they noted that as you go further south in India (if I remember correctly) the food gets spicyer.

All that meant to imply there does seem to be some built up ‘immunity’ involved as well as probably gut bug genetics.

Comment from Deborah HH
Time: May 23, 2017, 12:31 pm

Chemo-therapy for cancer left me with peripheral neuropathy (numbness in my hands and feet) and apparently—my taste buds! I could never eat hot and spicy before chemo (I am so white I reflect light), but now I can. Oh I’m not wolfing down hot peppers with wild abandon, but I don’t rake them aside either. A few weeks ago, Husband and I shared a plate of fried shrimp drenched in sriracha aioli—delicious! The next day I could barely talk because the sriracha burned my throat (all the way down … ), but it hadn’t scorched my tongue while I was eating it.

To make you laugh: http://theoatmeal.com/comics/sriracha

Comment from Brother Cavil, dolphin brain in a jar
Time: May 23, 2017, 1:30 pm

Did anyone have Roger Moore in the pool?

Comment from Wolfus Aurelius
Time: May 23, 2017, 1:36 pm

Comment from ExpressoBold
Time: May 22, 2017, 9:58 pm
Technical question:
Are “gut bacteria” considered “flora” or “fauna?”

I’ve usually seen them referred to as “intestinal flora.”

One of my cats is on a food supplement, a powder I need to add to his prescription food (ask me how much fun it is having a cat with irritable bowel syndrome), and it’s labeled “flora.” You’d think it would be the other way around, as “flora” is usually for plants and “fauna” for animals; but maybe bacteria are considered closer to plants as far as evolution goes.

Comment from oldowan
Time: May 24, 2017, 12:01 am

Hey, Weasel…

Any linkage?
I am a congenitally, casually-but-deeply-curious person…

Tell more about your studies…

Write a comment

(as if I cared)

(yeah. I'm going to write)

(oooo! you have a website?)

Beware: more than one link in a comment is apt to earn you a trip to the spam filter, where you will remain -- cold, frightened and alone -- until I remember to clean the trap. But, hey, without Akismet, we'd be up to our asses in...well, ass porn, mostly.

<< carry me back to ol' virginny