Puppies Are (almost) Better Than Probiotics
Is there anything on this planet better than a furry face, tongue out, ecstatically greeting you at the door after a long day’s work? And we’re not just talking about your beau with a scruffier-than-usual 5 o'clock shadow.
We also aren't the first to pick up on the joys of furry companionship — our ancestors have been living symbiotically with pets for millennia. It’s widely believed that dogs can be traced back from groups of wolves that lived alongside European hunter-gatherers up to 30,000 years ago. But pups, and pets in general, aren’t just a source of unconditional love to nourish our spirits; in fact, there is growing, substantial evidence suggesting that our four-legged BFFs have a positive effect on the health of our microbiome.
The ultimate bond ~
The deep love between a pet and its owner not only provides an emotional boost, but a highly physiological one; the serotonin and dopamine that floods the brain and the microbiome — the second brain! — should not be underestimated. Beyond the happiness factor, there is a reduction in cortisol, and that suppression of stress makes way for a blossoming internal garden. Scientists are exploring how people with aging immune systems can utilize pets to change their bacteria game. There is currently a case in Southern Arizona, studying those aged 50 or older, who are being paired with dogs of their choosing from the Humane Society. Researchers will study their microbiota, as well as their diet, immune system and physical activity in a three month period, and (super bonus!) the participants can choose adopt their dog after the study is over, or not. The idea here is that the dog’s puppy-love-germs and warm disposition will encourage a strong microbial community within their maturing owner.
Their dirt can actually make us cleaner ~
The Hygiene Hypothesis suggests that exposing young children to dust and pet dander — and the buggy bacteria that go along with them — can bulk up their immunity and keep kids from a lifelong bout of chronic allergies and asthma. That’s just one more reason to think fondly of ol’ Fido.
Licks of love make our gut smile ~
Also currently trending in Arizona: researchers are conducting a study to learn more about the microbes on your dog’s tongue, and how they affect your own inner universe of bacteria. We know that the more diverse strains that your body is exposed to, the more thriving your microbiome becomes (hello, 11 strains from Botanical Bodies!). When your dog licks your face, scientists are excited by the fact that we only share about 16% of the same microbiota strands. Ergo, lots of variety in germs makes for a happy healthy belly! Could it be kimchi for the face? The jury’s still out, but knowing that all that slobber is sweet for our health is reassuring.
Fur-children shake up your relationship (in a good way) ~
While having a pet may diversify your germ portfolio, it may also strengthen the microbial bonds you have with your human roommates. A study conducted at UC San Diego showed that couples who live together with a dog share many microbiota strands, with their dog, obviously, as the intermediary (think of all the petting and lap time split between you two!). All the more incentive to keep everyone in the house healthy and thriving with fibrous veggies, deep dark greens and fermented foods. This is truly the definition of mi casa es su casa.