Today’s understanding of what it means to be clean and healthy is changing. While commercials are imploring us to kill bacteria wherever possible with antibacterial gels, soaps wipes and sprays, there is more to the story. Researchers are just starting to understand the important role that ‘germs’ play in many of our body’s processes.
Scientifically speaking, these ‘germs’ are your microbiome. The microbiome is made up of trillions of microbial cells that live in and on our bodies. It is a complicated ecosystem made up primarily of bacterial cells but also includes fungal, archaeal and viral cells. It turns out, the vast majority of the microbiome is beneficial and plays an important part in process like digestion, synthesising vitamins and maintaining a strong immune system.
Why are we just finding this out?
Ever since people have been able to look through a microscope, we have known our bodies are host to other organisms, but they were very difficult to study. Scientists were only able to grow a fraction of the different cells that are found in the microbiome in petri dishes so they could be studied. So, only those that grew were studied and much of the microbiome remained a mystery until the 1980’s when DNA sequencing became available. This analysis was able to show more accurately the makeup of the microbiome. From this scientists have been able to understand that for each of us, our microbiome is unique and it is constantly adapting and interacting with our cells. In fact, the cells of the microbiome out number our own human cells by a factor of 10:1. In 2008, the National Institute of Health began the Human Microbiome Project to more fully characterize the components of the microbiome and to look for correlations with health.
Why is the Microbiome important?
With all the new information becoming available there have been numerous findings showing the microbiome to be tied into our health and well being. For example, correlations have been found between gut bacteria and conditions like obesity, ulcers and irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). Studies have even linked the microbiome to other conditions like chronic sinusitis and eczema and even having an effect on moods. So, while we have all been well aware that ‘germs’ can be at the root of our illness we now realize they are also can be an integral part of our healthfulness. It is hoped that with further research we will be able to understand how different components of our microbiome play a role in diseases and by working with our microbiome we can be healthier.
Over the next series of posts we will be discussing how your microbiome keeps your body working. We will look at the microbiome at work in essential functions such as digesting food and synthesizing vitamins. Also, we will look at studies such as how the microbiome has been linked to obesity, mood disorders, eczema, chronic sinusitis and many gut disorders such as IBS (Irritable Bowel Syndrome).
If you have any questions or you would like to know more, contact us, we’d be happy to help.