The world of Tzu Chi May 2021 (Vol.134)

2021 • 05 50 ellness Translated by Lee Hung Jiew Start O the Right Way and Listen to Your ‘Guts’ The total counts of internal and external microbes of our body outnumber the total body cells by about ten to one. With this comparison in mind, which is the actual “master” of the body? R ecently, I bumped into my daughter, Rui Jia’s paediatrician when we were out together. The doctor joyfully said to her, “I have not seen you for such a long time, you have grown so tall!” After greeting each other, I updated the doctor on Rui Jia’s health, “We have not been to your consultation for the past three years as Rui Jia has been well and healthy, for which I am grateful.” The doctor swiftly bent down and said to Rui Jia, “You must thank your mum, she gave you all the best stuff!” After a simple catch up, we bade goodbye and hopped onto the bus. Rui Jia was puzzled, “The doctor said you gave me all the best stuff, what are they?” I replied, “My intuition tells me she is referring to my insistence of breastfeeding you!” Back when I was searching for a doctor for Rui Jia’s regular check-up, I searched high and low for a paediatrician who supports breastfeeding. Finally, I met this doctor, who is patient and elegant. I briefly reiterated what the doctor had told me about the microbes in breast milk. Rui Jia was mesmerized. The moment I mentioned that there are as many as a hundred trillion microbes (such as bacteria, viruses, moulds, etc.) in the human body, most of them residing in our large intestine, Rui Jia’s eyes widened with amazement and she flooded me with questions. “How many zeroes are there in a hundred trillion?” “How did the bacteria get into our body in the first place?” “How did the bacteria in the cultured milk that I normally drink escape from gastric acid?” Frankly speaking, when I was educating the adults about probiotics, none of these questions came about! Adults are more concerned about: How much probiotics should one take? Should it be taken before or after meals? Will it make someone put on weight? So, I started explaining the basic knowledge to her. Who is the ‘master’? When I was young, my understanding of bacteria was that they are something that make us sick, and we take medicine (antibiotics) to extinguish them. Today, we know that this is not the whole truth, as bacteria are part of our body. The explanation is similar to a concept familiar to many parents, that “every child is unique”. Experts often remind us, parents, to avoid telling our children, “You know our neighbour, Ming, always gets a full score, look at you…,” but to teach our children in accordance with their aptitude. Similarly, the microbiota in each of our body, including twins, are also unique! I am not interested in TikTok, but am addicted to TED Talks. A few years ago, I listened to the talk delivered by Professor Rob Knight on TED Talks titled, “How Our Microbes Make Us Who We Are”. I remembered clearly that he said humans have ten trillion body cells, but the number