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My younger son, B: "Without bacteria, would we be dead?"
B: "So, we're alive because of another living thing?"
B: "That's pretty crazy to think about."
Indeed it is. But it's absolutely true. Bacteria are vital to our existence. In fact, the first oxygen on Earth was produced by bacteria - cyanobacteria to be exact. Since then, bacteria have adapted and thrived and helped humans change and grow as a species. Bacteria influence not only our digestive function and nutrient extraction; they also affect how our brains function: "There are a variety of disorders related to microbial-induced BBB [blood-brain barrier] dysfunction, which may cause anxiety, depression, autism spectrum disorders (ASDs), Parkinson’s disease, Alzheimer’s disease, and even schizophrenia" [source] On the other hand, beneficial microbes help digest and extract nutrients from our foods, create vitamins (including K and B's) and short-chain fatty acids (SCFAs) like butyrate (which protects colon cells), can help reduce or eliminate pathogenic microbes, and more! You can see why it's important to mind the microbiome - keeping our good microbes happy and healthy and keeping the trouble-making microbes to a minimum is crucial to healthy function.