The birth of the holobiont blog – and baby

I had to choose a subject for the very first post of this blog. What shall I talk about? How do I kick off this blog? Mmm, let me think…

This website is part of my final project to graduate in Genetics. Its title is “Diet, the Microbiome and Epigenetics.” When I read this title in the list of proposed subjects, I knew it was for me. In fact, I’ve been interested in all three subjects for a long time. In a way, it seemed as if destiny was pushing me in this direction.

I’ve been interested in diet pretty much my whole adult life but specially since I became a mother. Suddenly, I was not just responsible for myself but also for this tiny human being I had in my arms. A search for a more wholesome healthy lifestyle began, for me and my family, and the food we put in our mouths and fed our baby with was a big part of our new life.

My interest in epigenetics began when, still in my first year as a student of Genetics, I heard about this “new” Science. Epigenetics is like the “translator” between the environment and our genes. The impact of the environment in how our genes behave is greater than once thought. This means we are not victims of our genes any more and that we have more power over our health than we used to believe. The responsibility is back in our hands too. If lifestyle affects our health through epigenetics then, to a large extent, we decide how well we are by the lifestyle choices we make. We need sound scientific evidence and willpower to be the healthiest we can.

The Microbiome is my new love. Well, not so new. In 2014, pregnant with my second child, I was navigating the Spinning Babies (a website I highly recommend for mums to be) when I saw an advert that caught my attention. It linked to a crowdfunding page for a new documentary called “Microbirth.” The page explained at length what the film was about and I decided there and then to support the making of this film. The message was worth spreading. I bought a package: the DVD with the documentary (that would be sent to all crowdfunders when it was finished) and the right to host a viewing of the documentary at a public venue or privately at home. The 20th of September 2014, just a month and a half before the birth of my baby, was the worldwide simultaneous premiere. I, together with Gill from the Association for Improvements in the Maternity Services (AIMS), hosted the premiere at the Chapter Cinema in Cardiff.

The Microbirth premiere in Cardiff

The film features many Scientists actively working on the field of the Microbiome, as well as health professionals like midwives, obstetricians, neonatal doctors, etc. They all have a message: the events surrounding birth impact the kind of microbiota a baby acquires and this, in turn, impacts future health. Globally, the impact is socioeconomic. To learn more, watch the film or read here about what I now call the “birth of the holobiont baby”.

The message is important and relevant to all of us. Not just for future parents, scientists or midwives. Our audience was composed mainly by mums, doulas and midwives. Where were the obstetricians, and the hospital managers? And what about the policy makers? These people have power and can influence hugely how our babies are born. They need to be informed too. I was disappointed there was not a single representative of them.

Never mind. The viewing was a success and afterwards we were all chatting about it over tea, coffee and delicious cakes (made by Gill).

Engaged in conversation after the film
Gill, my little Sofía and I. Proud of the success.