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没有体内细菌 人就活不下去

The microbes in your body that you couldn't live without
没有体内细菌 人就活不下去

It began with what can only be described as an ingenious invention. It’s a fold-out sheet, with sticky tabs at the front and back, like a flattened starfish. The tabs stick to the loo seat. When in place, it forms a kind of hammock onto which the specimen is presented, ready for sampling. I slipped on the rubber gloves to prepare for the procedure.

这无疑是一项天才发明。它是一个在封面和封底有粘性拉环的折叠纸夹,看起来就像一只被压扁的海星一样。把拉环粘在马桶座上把纸夹展开,就构成了一个像吊床一样的集便器可供采样。我戴上了橡胶手套准备下一步的工作。

Once I had left my deposit on the hammock, I took a sample of the sample, with a tiny spoon, fixed to the inside of a blue lid of a test tube. I screwed the lid tightly back on to the top of the plastic tube. I wrapped it all in an icepack I’d frozen earlier, and the precious cargo was ready for dispatch.

把大便排在集便器上后,我用一个小勺采集粪样,把样本转移到一只试管的蓝色盖子内侧,然后把盖子拧到塑料试管上,最后把试管包在事先冻好的冰包里。这样,这个珍贵样本就采集完毕可供下一步检验了。

The destination – Map My Gut – promised to reveal what microbial life is lurking inside my bowels. I conducted the test for an episode of the BBC radio series The Curious Cases of Rutherford and Fry, exploring how much of our body’s weight is bacteria. In recent years, various findings have suggested that the microbes in our digestive system are far more important to our health and well-being than originally thought. But I’d soon discover that I was failing badly at keeping this bacteria thriving – and that certain diets can transform their fortunes.

样本的去处"看看我的肠胃"(Map My Gut)实验室将会揭示我的体内生存着哪些微生物。这次检验是为了BBC广播节目《卢瑟福与弗里奇事谈》(The Curious Cases of Rutherford and Fry)的其中一集进行的,这集节目的目的是研究细菌构成了我们身体重量的多大比例。最近,有多项研究发现,我们消化系统中的细菌对于人体健康的重要性超过了当初的预计。检验结果很快告诉我,我没能让体内的细菌健康生长——调整食物结构则会改变这些细菌的命运。

短杆菌(Methanobrevibacter)能够帮助我们从食物中获取更多热量

We contain, on average, around one thousand different species of bacteria inside our guts. And in total: well, it’s difficult to count, but there are trillions. And they are almost all doing useful work for us.

我们体内平均大约生活着1,000种不同种类的细菌。细菌的总数量很难统计,但应该在数万亿个的级别。我们体内的几乎所有细菌都对人体有益。

Our genomes contain around 20,000 genes, but our microbes carry around 500 times more. This allows them to perform some pretty awesome tricks – they help digest food, produce vitamins and minerals and even stop us from catching diseases by crowding out and killing infectious bacteria.

人类基因组由大约2万个基因组成,但是我们体内的微生物携带的基因数量却比这个数字多500倍。丰富的基因使它们能够完成很多有益的工作-协助消化食物、制造维生素和矿物质,甚至可以通过排挤或杀死感染菌而避免人体生病。

But they go even further than that: they have shaped who we are on the inside and out. As Ed Yong, author of I Contain Multitudes told me, “Our microbes help to build our bodies, they sculpt and renew our organs as we get older.

细菌对人体的作用还远不止于此:它们能够由内之外塑造我们的形象。《人体微生物的奥秘》(I Contain Multitudes)一书作者Ed Yong告诉我,"体内微生物帮助建造我们的身体,并且当我们变老时,它们塑造并更新我们的内脏器官。"

“Perhaps they may even influence our behaviour and the way we think. There have been lots of studies in animals showing that the microbes in their gut can influence their mood, personality and resilience to anxiety and stress.”

"它们甚至可能会影响到我们的行为和思考模式。有很多动物研究发现,动物体内的微生物会影响其情绪、个性和对焦虑和压力的反应。"

How much these results will carry over into humans is yet to be understood. But what we do know is that there’s a much bigger variation between people in our microbiome than there is in our genome. Our microbial makeup depends on our medical history, our location and our diet. It’s a signature that can be very different to even our closest relatives.

人体内部的微生物是否会对人产生类似影响还不清楚,但是我们已经知道,不同人类个体的微生物群系之间的差别甚至要大于其基因组的差别。我们体内微生物组成取决于服药历史、所在地区以及饮食状况。即便近亲属的微生物群体也存在着巨大的差别。

So that’s why I defecated on a paper tray, and scooped a bit out.

这就是我为何在纸盘上大便,然后采集粪样的原因。

I’ll admit to being a bit nervous walking into the office of Tim Spector, a professor of genetics at St Thomas’ Hospital, to receive my results. What would I discover about the mysterious inner world of my bacteria? What exactly would be lurking in my colon?

我承认,当走进圣托马斯医院(St Thomas' Hospital)遗传学教授蒂姆·斯派克特(Tim Spector)的办公室取检验结果时,我有些忐忑不安。我体内的神秘细菌世界是什么样的?我的结肠里到底潜伏着哪些细菌?

And the results? To be honest, pretty crap.

检验结果如何?说实话,不太理想。

“You are near bottom of the class. You’re in the lowest 10% of the population for diversity,” Spector told me, with just a hint of joy in his voice. The kind of joy a scientist has when they discover something, or someone, who is a bit unusual.

"你的得分在最低一档,你属于菌群多样性最低的10%人群,"斯派克特带着略显兴奋的语气告诉我。这种兴奋是科学家发现了某些不同寻常的事情或者人时出现的反应。

Diversity is one of the keys to a healthy gut, he explained, the idea being that different microbes perform different tasks, and a diverse workforce brings more skills to the table.

他解释说,菌群多样性是保持体内健康的一个重要因素,不同微生物会执行不同任务,多样化的菌群能够实现更全面的能力组合。

Not only was I lacking in variety, but the gangs of bacteria that were hanging out in my guts were less than savoury. My report revealed 65 times more Clostridium perfringens than average, and 211 times more E. coli – both associated with gastrointestinal disease.

我不仅体内菌群多样性较差,并且细菌种类也不容乐观。我的检验报告表明,我的产气荚膜梭状芽孢杆菌(Clostridium perfringens)数量比平均值高65倍,E型大肠杆菌数量则是平均值的211倍,这两种细菌都会引发胃肠道疾病。

“These results indicate you have a very unhealthy microbiome,” stated my report.

我的检验报告上写道:"结果表明,你体内的微生物群系很不健康。"

Now, I could make the excuse that I’d just been on a work trip and had probably eaten something dodgy. But according to Spector it would be unusual to tip the balance quite that far from a one-off infection.

我现在应当坦白,我刚刚出差回来,可能在外面吃了些不干净的东西。但是根据斯派克特的说法,一次普通的感染不会把原有微生物平衡破坏到如此地步。

But what about my good bacteria? Fewer than 100 species of bacteria cause infectious disease. The thousands of types of microbes found in our gut are, as the author Douglas Adams would say, ‘mostly harmless’. So how did I fare on the good guys?

那么我体内的益生菌呢?要知道,只有不到100种细菌会导致传染病。作家道格拉斯·亚当(Douglas Adams)说过,我们体内的数千种微生物"大部分都是无害的。"我是否缺乏友好细菌?

Top of the ‘most desirable’ list are microbes like Akkermansia and the tongue-tying Christensenellaceae. Both are associated with protection against weight gain. Methanobrevibacter helps squeeze more calories out of food, meaning you can eat less. Oxalobacter helps to prevent the formation of kidney stones.

排在"急需补充细菌"列表首位的是一种称为Akkermansia的肠道细菌和名字如同绕口令般的Christensenellaceae细菌。这两种细菌都可以防止肥胖。甲烷短杆菌(Methanobrevibacter)可以增加从食物中取得的热量,从而减少食物摄入量。草酸杆菌(Oxalobacter)有助于防止出现肾结石。

How many of these beneficial bacteria did I have? Zero.

这些益生菌在我体内有多少?零。

Not only was I dumped at the bottom of the class – my guts had been served a detention. And they weren’t allowed out until they took a long hard look at their behaviour and decided to change.

我的检验得分在最低一档-我体内没有足够的益生菌,我必须审视一下自己的饮食习惯,然后做出改变。

So what can I do to improve my microbiome? Variety is the key, apparently, and diversifying your diet helps diversify your bacteria.

该如何改善微生物群系?很显然,首先要提高多样性。品种丰富的饮食有助于促进体内菌群的多样化。

Fermented foods are especially good for encouraging a healthy microbiome. “People know about live yoghurts, but the next stage up which has five times as many microbes is kefir, a Persian soured milk,” Spector told me. Other fermented foods like miso soup and kimchi (pickled cabbage) are a delicious feast for your internal lodgers.

发酵食品尤其能够促进微生物群系的健康。"人们都知道活性乳酸菌酸奶,但有一种伊朗酸奶——克菲尔乳酸奶(kefir)的有益微生物含量比它要高五倍,"斯派克特对我说。味增汤和朝鲜泡菜(腌白菜)等其他发酵食品也对你的体内益生菌群大有好处。

If that all sounds a bit rich, then garlic, artichokes, bananas and whole grains are also good fibrous fodder. And the polyphenols in red grapes are one of the favourite meals of Akkermansia. Which I’m taking as a good excuse for another glass of red.

要是吃腻了上面几种食品,也可以食用大蒜、洋蓟、香蕉和全麦面包等等富含纤维素的食品。红色葡萄里的多酚是Akkermansia细菌喜欢的食物。我终于得到了多喝红葡萄酒的借口。

Probiotics, marketed to help boost our gut bacteria, are rarely worth investing in, as there’s little evidence the bacteria in them stick around to change your microbiome in the long term. They have been shown, however, to be useful in very young or old patients, and can prevent upset stomachs from taking antibiotics. Too late for my bad guts, clearly.

市场上出售的,号称可以促进体内菌群生长的益生素实际上不值得服用。理由在于:没有证据表明,益生素所含细菌能够在长时间跨度内改变人体内部的微生物群系。益生素只对婴儿或老年患者起作用,并且能够防止服用抗生素后的恶心呕吐症状。很显然,服用益生素对我来说已经太迟了。

Since these shocking revelations, I’ve had a total diet makeover. It’s been over a month now after the results, and I haven’t eaten meat since. Miso soup has replaced meatballs, and kimchi is the new cod and chips. Although the jar of kimchi cabbage smells so funky, my wife makes me keep it in the shed.

检验揭示的事实让人震惊,我必须要彻底改变饮食习惯了。拿到检验结果到现在已经有一个多月时间,这段时间里我一次肉也没吃过。味增汤代替了肉丸,朝鲜泡菜代替了鳕鱼和炸薯条。尽管泡菜罐子发出阵阵怪味,但我太太依然允许我把它放在屋里。

Only time will tell if I these changes will permanently alter my microbiome. But I know that now I am not just eating for me, but for the trillions of microbes that share my body. Who I am hoping won’t be dumped in detention for too long.​

只有时间才能知道,改变饮食习惯是否能够永久性地改变我体内的微生物群系。但是,我现在已经明白,我不仅是为自己而吃,同时也是为了喂饱体内数以万亿计的微生物们。
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