I’ve recently been thinking about how to profile immune system responses and functioning (that is, turn the entire complex set of mechanisms and cascades into a profile that can be measured and categorized). I have no idea how naive this idea is although I am fairly sure others have had it, or similar ones, before me. I wrote up some of my thoughts as part of a job application and I am fairly certain that, since it is lengthy, this document either will not be read in its entirety or it will be dismissed. I have come to realize that whether a person is thought to have anything of value to contribute is a huge factor in whether people are listened to at all, or their contributions valued. It will be a nice surprise if I’m taken seriously.
I’ve also decided, today, to revise this website to take out comments on my attempts to fund and progress with research to do with the original purpose of this website, the crowdfunded Project: Cancer-Fighting Gut Bacteria, because in hindsight and in their entirety, they are actually extremely depressing. I hope to move forward in future with more summaries of published articles and reviews on work to do with gut bacteria and the immune system, and there has been plenty in recent years, even this year some involving COVID-19.
I’m also, without explaining my thought processes, going to encourage people to eat yogurt or other dairy products containing lactic acid bacteria until there is a pandemic cure. Lactobacillus, the genus of the bacterium I wanted to work with and did a preliminary week of work with in 2014, is one such; Bifidobacterium another. The probiotics commonly found in dairy products plus the dairy are what I suspect will be very helpful for avoiding the worst symptoms of COVID-19. It’s possible there’s some vegan alternative to be found which may be as helpful but based on what I suspect to be the case, it’s important to include dairy. I still need to do some more reading to see if I can figure out alternatives for non-dairy consumers (sauerkraut and kombucha exist but I’m not sure if the probiotics in them are as useful without the “growing media” of dairy in the background). I realize this paragraph is very mysterious but it’s potentially quite important and if anyone takes my ideas seriously, they either are not allowed to talk to me or I have not been able to talk to them.
I’ve given it a lot of thought. I haven’t been to a scientific conference in over four years, and my skills have atrophied with both disuse and the fact that I’ve been distracted by both illness and attempts to pursue my first love in life, writing fiction. My scientific career is basically on life support and I see no long-term future for me in science except perhaps as a science teacher or communicator. I’m hanging up my lab coat (metaphorically, since I do no bench work and haven’t for about five years) and picking up my stylus and I’m going to spend more time and effort in figuring out ways I can package information about things I understand so that the general public finds it interesting. This is another reason I am revamping this site to remove a lot of the “update” type posts and paragraphs describing my attempts to work independently as a serious scientist.
In future, I hope to spend more time each week on posting useful, brief summaries of current research into the gut microbes that influence animal (and human, we are animals) health, and venture also into debunking a lot of marketing claims for probiotics which sound good but are not based in actual science. There are a lot of factors which will impact whether a probiotic is effective: not just the probiotic strain(s) (although that is important), but your health and medical history, including immune system challenges and antibiotic use, what you eat, how much you sleep and whether you keep a constant sleep cycle during night or day, how much exercise you get, your genetic makeup, and what microbes already exist in your gut. I am not aware of a single clinical study which has tried to take all of these into account, and indeed, I don’t know that this is even feasible. In any case, I’ve read all kinds of claims about probiotics which just aren’t established with the current state of research, and I know from experience that companies will take one trial that seems to work and champion the microbes involved as cure-alls when in fact they have a use, but that use is naturally limited. I am not here to sell probiotics, not even the one I wanted to study which one can buy and which has been or will be involved in clinical trials (I have heard good, but vague, things about human interactions but have not seen any data).
The advice I gave out earlier in this blog still holds: get enough sleep, get exercise, eat the sorts of foods your doctor is always telling you to eat (whole grains, leafy greens and colorful vegetables or fruits, don’t overeat on meat and fatty or sugary foods, sensible portions, avoid snacking, avoid empty calories), and my personal recommendation for a probiotic is to do all of these things as well as eat yogurt/kefir if you possibly can. If dairy is impossible, it’s possibly the case that vegan options for food containing lactic acid bacteria (sauerkraut, kombucha) might be useful. Please just remember that probiotic pills won’t help at all unless they land in an environment in which the bacteria can thrive and function to help you, so it’s important to not just take the pills and change nothing else about your lifestyle.