With the advancement of technology, scientists have been finding new and more accurate ways to study the human gut. One of those ways includes studying medieval latrines dating back as far as 9,000 years ago. Can the secret to a healthy gut flora be found in an ancient toilet? Scientists think so.
The Key to a Healthy Gut May Lie in Ancient Toilets
A team of scientists led by Piers Mitchell, a paleontologist at the University of Cambridge, analyzed two medieval latrines, and discovered a curious find. They took samples from a 14th-century latrine in Riga, Latvia, as well as from a 15th-century toilet in the Old City (the Christian quarter) in Jerusalem. The team managed to separate fecal matter from the environmental contaminants in the soil, and their main discovery was that our modern, industrialized lifestyle is changing the microbes residing in our intestines.
Our Guts Can’t Keep up With Modern Industrialization
According to Mitchell and his team, the main problem is that our intestinal microbiome is struggling to adapt to the aftermath of globalization. Everything around us is changing at a rapid pace, including the food we eat and the antibiotics we take, yet our genetics are still pre-industrial.
Mitchell argues that many modern illnesses, like inflammatory bowel disease and the increased rates of allergies, are the result of modern substances that affect the gut, which we aren’t able to cope with.
How Can an Old Toilet Offer a Solution
Scientists believe that, by studying the pre-industrial microbiome, they can understand how humans developed their internal ecosystems. Ancient specimens have a lot more microbes than we do today, which means we have lost many of the good bacteria in modern times. Mitchell and his team believe that these types of studies can lead to adequate treatments to rebalance or reintroduce our inner microbes. By introducing the lost pre-industrial-time bacteria, we would be able to fight some diseases.
So, if the secret to a healthy gut-scape lies in a toilet, you can be sure Mitchell and his fellow scientists will stop at nothing to find it.