Mud Pies: Superfood for the Microbiome?

John L. Marshall, MD


September 14, 2016

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John Marshall for Medscape. You know, I've been thinking a lot lately about this whole microbiome thing. Are you into this yet? It's clearly important.

We're covered in bacteria: our insides, our outsides, mouths, GI tracts—everything. We've spent the past 20 years trying to insulate ourselves from this microbiome, whether it's [by using] hand cleaner or antibiotics that we're exposing our kids to.

When I was a kid, I got to go out in the backyard and play and make a mud pie. Remember those? And then I would eat the mud pie.

But today's kids don't get to do any of that stuff. You have to wash your hands all the time. In fact, you should just stay inside and text your friends. You shouldn't go out. And if you have even the slightest fever or runny nose, you don't go to school. You don't expose anybody to anything. And I think we've really done ourselves a disservice.

Did you see this the other day? There's a paint that was advertised during the Olympics, and the paint on the wall would actually kill bacteria. And then I got to thinking about this from a healthcare perspective.

There's a study out that basically suggests that there's a certain bacteria in your mouth that correlates with pancreatic cancer.[1] We've got right-sided versus left-sided colon cancer,[2] and maybe, just maybe, it's the microbiome inside of us that's causing different kinds of cancers.[3] And so we're just beginning to explore this really incredible world. I'm excited about it, so much so that we're inviting really smart people to this year's Ruesch Symposium in December here in Washington, DC, to teach us what is known about the microbiome and its relationship to GI cancers.

So, I know you want to wash your hands, you don't want to touch anybody, and all of that. In fact, I saw a guy in the grocery store this weekend. He was going to get one of those little hand carts to take around the grocery store, and he took a little hand towel, a sterilizer, [to wipe it down] to make sure he didn't get anything from that last person who touched that thing.

I argue that what we should be doing is sending our kids over to the Macy's at the mall and have them lick the door, right? Put your hands on the railing and the escalator and then make sure it gets into your mouth. I think we need to be training our microbiomes. We need to be exposing ourselves to these things to teach our immune systems a better way. And I'm hoping that maybe, just maybe, as we explore this deep sea, this natural world of the microbiome, that we in fact learn some very important lessons about cancer medicine.

Come join us in December for a really focused deep dive on the microbiome and GI cancers. John Marshall for Medscape.


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