For every cell in our bodies, there are about 10 “non-human” cells. These are microbial residents of our gut, skin, eyes, and nasal passages and are referred to as the “microbiome” and research of its role in human health has revealed enough surprising discoveries that the National Institute of Health has launched an International Human Microbiome Project.
The human microbiome refers specifically to the community of microorganisms that live in and on the human body and their collective genome, which interacts with our host genes. These microbes are affected by everything in our world that we touch or come in contact with. Bacteria, yeast, molds, dirt, and the types of food we eat all impact this sub-system culture.
Gut bacteria aid digestion by breaking down otherwise indigestible plant fibers into short-chain fatty acids that intestinal cells can access. Recent research suggests that gut bacteria influence many other metabolic functions, so much so that some experts now regard it as a “hidden” organ system, capable of interacting with its host down to the DNA expression. As a result, the microbiome’s role in conditions as varied as irritable bowel syndrome, obesity, Type 2 diabetes, depression, and autoimmune disorders is under intense scientific scrutiny. So, how does the microbiome become altered in a way that will affect the host, and how does a host build better microbiota? Continue reading What is a Microbiome: The Garden Within Our Bodies