The Human Microbiome

One of the essential factors of health is keeping your microbial levels in harmony. Why? Because we have 10x more bacterial cells in our body than human cells. This ecosystem is paramount for our immunity as well as keeping our organs healthy, they are so necessary to help us function that any disturbance may cause ill health. Having started my career as a microbiologist The Human Microbiome project peaked my interest as it was undertaken to map out bacteria, viruses and other organisms that harbour within us. This five year project was launched by National Institute of Health studying over 10,000 different organisms which are part of a healthy human being.

What is fascinating is that we may have similar bacteria performing a function such as breaking down sugars but bacterial species differ from one person to another, for example bacteria on my tongue will differ from the one on yours. We have our own microbiome signature. 

Bacteria supports our body functions but too little or too many can cause disease. Not only that but the project also discovered disease causing bacteria are present in everyone’s microbiome which seem to coexist with the healthy bacteria.  This means we need to reconsider how we use antibiotics and how to enhance friendly bacteria in the body to prevent illnesses occurring. As we enter the age where many bacteria are now resistant to antibiotics, what options will we have to prevent disease spreading? 

It is worth considering that there are numerous herbs with antibiotic and antiviral properties. The chemistry is too complex in plants for microbes to become resistant to for example garlic, cloves and thyme are excellent microbial antibiotics.  We also have prebiotics available to us, substances which enhance good bacteria such as chamomile and FOS (fructo-oligosaccharide) and of course fermented foods. The latter haven’t really played much of a role in the western diet but they are becoming ever more popular as we see how bacteria can benefit our health. I have worked with individuals who have managed to ease their gastrointestinal infections simply by taking fermented foods or probiotics. More research is being done in this area but what is making inroads is the use of faecal implants where large doses of bacteria from healthy individuals can be transferred to help those severely lacking in bacteria and thus helping to improve certain digestive disorders. 

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