Planet Article – Becoming Probiotic

Planet Article – Becoming Probiotic

‘Becoming Probiotic – Health, ecology and our second brain’, Planet – The Welsh Internationlist Magazine/ Welsh and International politics and culture, Autumn 2023. ISSN 0048-4288.

The Greek physician Hippocrates stressed the importance of the human gut – whose web of neurons in the enteric nervous system now is widely referred to as ‘the second brain’ – as a pivotal indicator of health, immunity levels and illness: and furthermore, while there is much more research to do on this topic, poor gut health and lack of microbial diversity within it is now widely recognised as connected to many conditions, including allergies, auto-immune diseases, depression, anxiety, obesity and much more.4

Hippocrates said, over 2000 years ago, ‘All disease begins in the gut’.

The most common way that people nowadays seek to address the health of their gut is through products like kefir and kombucha that can now be widely found in shops. Kefir is a natural food originating in the Caucasus, the Balkans and Eastern Europe.

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Kefir is a powerful probiotic. Live yogurt is the familiar probiotic food in the Western diet, but Kefir is a more potent source of these strains of healthy probiotic bacteria. Organic starter culture can be used to make a constant supply of probiotics for kefir at home.5 Nutrients in Kefir include calcium, phosphorous, magnesium, tryptophan, folic acids, biotin, and Vitamins A, B2, B12, D and K. Tryptophan is believed to be a calming agent6 and calcium and magnesium help balance your entire system. Kombucha is probiotic tea fermented using starter culture called SCOBY (Symbiotic Colonies of Bacteria and Yeast). When fed with tea and sugar, the SCOBY produces a fizzy drink laden with probiotics. (I use SCOBY to create the materials for my sculptures.)

Covid-19 continues to be a challenge to the NHS long after lockdown has ended. Since the pandemic, scientists are actively researching gut microbiota dysbiosis and the connection with Covid-19. It appears that if you have this dysbiosis you have an increased risk of developing severe symptoms of Covid-19.9 Other studies have indicated that ‘Long Covid’ (post-acute Covid-19 syndrome or PACS) is linked to gut microbiome composition and that further studies should look into whether ‘microbiota modulation’ could help patients recover.10

Specific gut microbiome profiles reflects different symptoms in patients with post-acute COVID-19 syndrome (PACS). There is an intricate association between the gut microbiome and the long-term sequelae — common lingering symptoms after COVID-19 infection. Different microbial patterns may contribute to development of different PACS symptoms.’ Qin Liu et al., ‘Gut microbiota dynamics in a prospective cohort of patients with post-acute COVID-19 syndrome’ in Gut 71 (3) (January, 2022).


Future Material Bank Archive

The Future Materials Bank, Jan Van Eyck Academie, Maastricht has recorded the Scoby probiotic microbial cellulose under the catergories: Bacteria, Biodegradable, Bioplastic, Recyclable, Regenerative and Smart Material. It is a sustainable material for sculpture.

SCOBY Microbial Cellulose demonstration

SCOBY Sculpture

Prototype sculpture made using the Probiotic Microbial Cellulose

Connected/ Breathe-In/ Becoming Probiotic/ Becoming Plastic

Connected/ Breathe-In/ Becoming Probiotic/ Becoming Plastic