Doctor, Heal Thyself

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One thing I never thought about before I went to medical school was how much I would be exposed to various illnesses as a physician. I guess you could say it’s an occupational hazard, but it can be downright frightening when you are exposed to some of the most virulent microbes which circulate in communities and in hospital environments. You’re bound to catch something at intervals.

Most people think of hospitals as disease-riddled, and they’re pretty much correct. But there are other places which have the potential to make you too weak to whip a gnat.

One of the worst environments is the pediatric setting, in which walking Petri dishes, also known as children, traipse into the clinic and somehow fling their nasty germs onto you. Before you know it, you are struck with a horrific infection that require an army of medications before you begin to feel human again. I remember spending the majority of my time in every single pediatrics rotation I completed, whether it was as a student, intern, or resident, so ill that I spent my days feeling like I had been hit by a truck, with a pressure cooker for a noggin, fuzzy-brained and miserable from whatever pathogen those little brats had brought to me.

Another microbe-filled gathering place is urgent care, a setting in which I have worked regularly over the past couple of years. Last year, when I was working more shifts than ever, I contracted three upper respiratory infections which progressed to bronchitis, and developed acute gastroenteritis (stomach flu) twice. Thank goodness I always get a flu shot every fall, otherwise I am sure I would have been hit with influenza as well. I see patients who are so sick that they can barely stay awake during their exams, people who have no business being out in public.

I recently saw a young female patient with a 103 degree fever who looked very ill, so I tested her for strep throat and influenza A&B. The nurse on staff asked if I wanted both, to which I replied, “Absolutely. I wouldn’t be surprised if both tests lit up like Christmas trees.” And they did. She actually had both influenza A and streptococcal pharyngitis. Poor girl.

It’s my duty as a physician to care for others, and I take it very seriously. But I will admit that my attitude towards my own illnesses is similar to the attitude of the Black Knight. My attitude is that it’s “only a flesh wound”, or “just a scratch” when I am ill or injured, so when I finally break down and admit that I am ill or injured, I am definitely in a bad place physically.

I suspect this attitude is similar to that of other physicians. So keep that in mind when you see that your provider is under the weather. We are only human as well.

Those Filthy Beards

According to a recent New Mexico study in which beards were swabbed for cultures, it was determined that beards contain just as much fecal matter as a toilet. To be fair, some beards had normal amounts and strains of bacteria which were consistent with what a microbiologist would expect from swabbing facial hair, but a few had
enough enteric bacteria (bacteria found in excrement) to cause illness in humans.


Do yourself and others a favor and make sure to wash your hands frequently, scrub your beard clean at least once a day, and avoid touching your beard.

Body Bacteria and Brain Health

body bacteria

You can find my original post at:

By: Dr. Stacey Naito – Physician and IFBB Pro

We Need Microbes

The cells in our bodies are far outnumbered by the microbes which also take up residence there, but these organisms are beneficial to us in many ways. For example, we rely on beneficial bacteria to fortify our immune systems and aid in the breakdown and absorption of food particles in the gut. Scientists have recently discovered that the microbes which are found throughout our bodies also play a vital role in keeping the blood-brain barrier intact.

The Blood-Brain Barrier

The blood-brain barrier is a vital physical blockade which prevents harmful chemicals and pathogens from passing into the brain. Scientists in Stockholm discovered that the blood-brain barrier relies on the presence of gap junction proteins, which are similar to the gap junction proteins which are important for building the intestinal wall. They tested the integrity of the blood-brain barrier in developing and adult mice by raising mice in a sterile environment to ensure that they were germ-free.

The scientists then injected antibodies (which are too large to pass through the blood-brain barrier) into embryos developing within germ-free mothers, as well as embryos developing within mothers who harbored normal germs. While the embryos from the normal germ-containing mothers had intact blood-brain barriers which formed a tight seal by day 17 of development, the embryos which developed in germ-free mothers displayed antibodies in their brains, proving that the blood-brain barrier had not formed properly. The embryos from germ-free mothers also had far fewer intact gap junction proteins in the blood-brain barrier.

Microbes and Multiple Sclerosis

These findings suggest that microbes are essential for normal development of the blood-brain barrier. If antibiotics, or food items which have antibiotics, are taken while a woman is pregnant, they could result in defective blood-brain barrier formation in the child. Further research into the link between microbes and normal blood-brain barrier development could lead to possible cures for diseases such as multiple sclerosis, which involves unexplained mechanisms that make the brain more vulnerable to damage.