Scientists Claim: Antibiotics Make You Fat

It isn’t the job of a bac­teri­um to make you sick or kill you.  Like all oth­er organ­isms, bac­te­ria just want to sur­vive and pass their genes onto the next gen­er­a­tion.

The bac­te­r­i­al species that destroys its host wouldn’t last too long.  It would be like a fam­i­ly that tried to keep warm by set­ting fire to the rug.  Sure, Mom, Dad and the kids could warm their hands for a few min­utes, but before long their house would be a pile of ash­es.

If infec­tious bac­te­ria kill the patient, they have no place to live.  A bad plan for long term sur­vival.

That’s why, of the mil­lions of bac­te­ria liv­ing in our diges­tive tract, only the occa­sion­al few are poten­tial agents of dan­ger­ous infec­tion.  The oth­er 99.99% have evolved over the mil­len­nia to live in har­mo­ny with us.  And we’ve evolved to live in har­mo­ny with them.  In fact, we often derive ben­e­fit from the organ­isms liv­ing inside us.

Sci­en­tists con­tin­ue to dis­cov­er new aspects of the mutu­al­ly sym­bi­ot­ic rela­tion­ship of human and bac­teri­um.

Here’s a new exam­ple of our deep­en­ing wis­dom about the ben­e­fi­cial role of our inter­nal flo­ra, report­ed in the June 2012 issue of Sci­en­tif­ic Amer­i­can.

About 25 years ago, sci­en­tists dis­cov­ered that pep­tic ulcers were caused by the pres­ence of a par­tic­u­lar species of bac­te­ria – Heli­cobac­ter pylori.  In most cas­es, once a patient took antibi­otics to wipe out their inter­nal colonies of H. pylori, the ulcers went away.

Antibi­otics became a rou­tine treat­ment for ulcers.  As result, ulcers are a much less com­mon cause of dis­tress.

But there’s more to the sto­ry. 

Before the antibi­ot­ic era, col­o­niza­tion of the stom­ach with H. pylori was extreme­ly wide­spread.  Yet only a small frac­tion of peo­ple har­bor­ing the bac­te­ria ever got pep­tic ulcers.   Is there an upside to our rela­tion­ship with H. pylori?

The first ben­e­fit of H. pylori to be dis­cov­ered is its role in reg­u­lat­ing stom­ach acid.   If the stom­ach churns out too much acid, it isn’t good for you – you get heart­burn and acid reflux.  But it isn’t good for the bac­te­ria either.  To pro­tect itself, H. pylori emits a sig­nal­ing mol­e­cule that turns off stom­ach acid pro­duc­tion when it’s too high.  That’s good for the human host, too.

But there’s more.  Researchers have now dis­cov­ered that H. pylori plays a role in appetite reg­u­la­tion.

Before you eat, your blood­stream has high lev­els of the hunger-sig­nal­ing hor­mone ghre­lin.  In peo­ple with H. pylori in their stom­ach, ghre­lin lev­els dimin­ish after eat­ing.  Then you know you’ve had enough to eat.

But if you’re lack­ing H. pylori, your ghre­lin lev­els remain ele­vat­ed.  You don’t know that you’re full so you keep stuff­ing more in.

Mar­tin Blaser, one of the sci­en­tists lead­ing the research, spec­u­lates that peo­ple with­out H. pylori, such as chil­dren giv­en antibi­otics to treat ear infec­tions, are the most like­ly to gain weight.

Along with our seden­tary lifestyle, super-sized por­tions of soft drinks and fries, and hor­mone-laced meat, we might soon be adding antibi­ot­ic use to the list of cul­prits con­tribut­ing to the obe­si­ty epi­dem­ic.

There’s much more we need to know.  But for now, we’re learn­ing that only a few bac­te­ria are pathogens.  It’s not us ver­sus them.  There’s a del­i­cate sym­bio­sis that’s evolved between our hor­mon­al sig­nal­ing sys­tems and the organ­isms that live inside.

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About Ronald Lavine, D.C.

Dr. Lavine has more than thirty years' experience helping patients alleviate pain and restore health using diverse, scientifically-based manual therapy and therapeutic exercise and alignment methods.

His website, askdrlavine.com, provides more information about his approach.

Please contact him at drlavine@yourbodyofknowledge.com or at 212-400-9663.

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