Isolated microbiome; is this a thing, or just some woo-woo idea of mine?
August 14, 2014 5:35 PM Subscribe
Is there any theory or study that would justify (or falsify) the idea I currently suffer from a lack of - for want of a better term - cootie biodiversity? Am I less healthy because my microbiome has been turned into a monoculture?
OK, so bear with me on this one.
We are each of us a little forested planet of our own, with other species that live in and on us; our guts are full of bacteria good and bad, our skin and hair are awash in little animals, fungi and other flora good and bad, etc. This is an established concept, as far as I can tell.
Personally, I've been socially isolated for a while - I live alone, don't date, etc. I don't think I've had any physical interpersonal contact other than what might occur on public transportation for like, a year. And I'm noticing that I've become more prone to digestive issues, skin conditions, etc recently and just generally less physically healthy. I'm actually more emotionally healthy than I've been in quite a while, and I 'feel' great - but physically it's like Ive got some vitamin deficit or something.
Is there any theory or study that would justify (or falsify) the idea I have that at least part of this is due to a lack of - for want of a better term - biodiversity? Am I less healthy because my microbiome has been turned into a monoculture?
I started thinking of this when asked about the kind of thing I missed from romantic relationships and living with people, and one thing that came up for me was "this pillow smells like Jane" or even "I can still smell Jane on me from last night". I think of this kind of thing, especially the second one (being based on um, prolonged skin-to-skin exposure / transfer) with a weird science nerdy romanticism - "We smell the way we do because of our microbiomes, and now I smell a bit like you - we've colonized each other! Our cooties have expanded their territories! Your kangaroos have migrated to my veldt and my zebras are in your outback!"
But now not being involved in that kind of thing anymore, I'm wondering if there's anything to an idea of health benefits to exposure to 'alien' microflora/fauna. Or maybe just the health detriments of -lack- of exposure?
I'd say that it's not unreasonable to theorize that our health is improved by being challenged occasionally. And maybe even to the popular trope that 'a little dirt is good for ya', and that things like some allergies and environmental sensitivities might be due to the relative sterility of modern living - our bodies have evolved to defend against 'invaders', and with nothing to fight off, that mechanism end of as auto-immune reactions, attacking itself for lack of opposition from elsewhere.
I may be totally making this up as a crackpot theory of my own. Or maybe this is something that's actually been studied? Any Mefite input would be appreciated, from actual science, down to anecdata - "Oh yeah, I'm an _______ and me and my colleagues can totally tell when someone's been living alone for a long time. It's not a hygiene thing at all really, which is what I thought when I started; but yeah, we can totally point out the lonely widow by smell" or whatever.