What is your Microbiome?

Although I really never heard this word used in our health class when I was going to school, the term microbiome (also referred to as the microbiata) is an area of great interest to medical research today. In a nutshell, the name microbiome, refers to the array of microorganisms (bacteria, viruses, fungi, parasites) that we share our life with every day. Or as Dr. Robynne Chutkan calls it in her book ‘The Microbiome Solution’, “The zoo inside of you.” They live in us and on us; but don’t be alarmed because they’re actually our friends, at least most of them. Current research shows us that there’s more of them than there is of us. According to Scientific America .com our bacterial friends outnumber our human cells by a margin of 10 to 1. On one square inch of our skin we can have anywhere from 100,000 microbes on dry skin areas and up to 50 million microbes in moist or oily skin areas.; or one drop of fluid from our colon can host up to 50 million microbes as well. Also, in an article published on April 15th, 2020, National Geographic stated that there are enough viruses on our planet to assign one million to each and every star in the universe. That number is so large that it equates to the number 10 to the 31st power, so it should be no surprise to learn that we actually do share space with these microbes. This is so significant to human physiology that medical science is starting to refer to this colony of microorganisms as another ‘organ’ and this organ is uniquely yours. You can think of it as a finger print or your DNA which is your’s alone. Not the same as your neighbor; not the same as your parents and not even the same as your twin sister. Plus the microbiome you woke up with this morning may not be the same one you go to bed with tonight; that depends on how well you treat it throughout the day. This microbiome plays a fascinating¬† role in our day to day life and goes far beyond what we once thought bacteria was doing for us or to us. So put down that hand sanitizer because all bacteria are not bad.

Apparently, we have quite a symbiotic relationship with our community of microbial friends and we should be more of a willing host for them in exchange for what they give back to us.  For instance, they help us digest certain food and from that produce  vitamins. They protect us from disease causing bacteria by keeping the bad ones in check, plus they regulate our immune system. They have an impact on our weight, our mood, inflammation in the body and so much more. You see, when we die so do most of them, so it is in their best interest to keep us alive and healthy. In return we owe it to ourselves and to our symbiotic partners to keep them happy and healthy. The happier and healthier we keep them the more health benefits we receive. A viscious circle? Sure, but with so many benefits!