Tucked away deep inside your body and even on your skin, is an invisible world of tiny little organisms – microorganisms – so tiny it takes a microscope to see them. This invisible world is called the human microbiome. Even though this secret world is only visible through a microscope, the activities of the organisms in it can make or break your health.
The human microbiome is made up of microbes such as bacteria, yeast, protozoa, and viruses. All of these microbes work either to promote health or destroy it. If the microbiome is dominated by probiotics – organisms that are beneficial to the human body, it will contribute to optimal health, but if dominated by pathogenic organisms –the kind of organisms that can cause sickness, our entire body will suffer.
According to “The human microbiome: ecosystem resilience and health,” by David A. Relman, the traditional medical way of looking at things has been to view one particular germ or condition to be at fault for a disease. This view is changing, as scientific study now points to a more complex picture where the vitality of an individual’s entire microbiome impacts whether or not pathogens are able to take root and create disease or if probiotics are able dominate and stop disease from taking hold.
The probiotic organisms on the skin and inside the body provide a protective barrier, like a secret army, between us and pathogenic organisms. Probiotics support life. Pathogens are organisms of decay that tear life down. Daniel Vitalis, a leading health and nutrition strategist, likes to compare the human body to a farm. Each person is responsible for taking care of the organisms that build the body and increase their vitality. If we do not take proper care of them, the organisms of decay take root and eventually take over.
When our body is in decay, the pathogenic organisms are basically trying to break our bodies down into dirt. Of course, people continue to feed their bodies to keep them alive, but at the same time, the pathogens will continue on their path of destruction and everything begins to fall apart. I believe this is one of the reasons why so many people today are plagued with diseases and disorders that are now being linked to problems with the microbiome.
When your system is weakened, your tissues are sick, and the probiotics are no longer there to defend your system. With the defensive army gone, pathogens are free to work destruction by breaking tissues down further. When the body lacks a healthy microbiome, probiotics are not able to alert the immune system to invaders or to destroy the invaders for you. Without probiotics, the immune system cannot function at optimal levels.
When probiotics rule in the system, decomposers cannot easily take root. Probiotics work to create an ecosystem in and on your body that is teaming with vitality. It is like a force field protecting and monitoring for invaders. They remove toxins and pathogens.
When decomposers show up, probiotics stop them in their tracks. They are able to send chemical signals to the human body to educate us how to recognize, target, and kill pathogens. They can also guard the system and overcome pathogens for us.
Take lactobacillus, for example. Lactobacillus is one of the most aggressive bacteria found in nature. When we cultivate our lactobacillus, providing the things it needs to flourish, it will seek out and destroy the decomposers for us. But if we let the soil of our internal farm become depleted and lacking in proper nutrition or if we add toxins to the soil, the lactobacillus will not thrive and will not be there to protect us from the disease causing invaders.
This is why we need to be “richly coated”1 with these friendly microbes – inside and out. But this is dependent upon us to provide a rich soil for them to thrive in. The soil of our body’s ecosystem.
A healthy microbiome is an integral part of the immune system. Without it our immune system will not function properly, which explains why so many auto-immune diseases are now being linked to lack of certain bacteria. It is clear that we need probiotics to recognize, target, and kill pathogens, as well as to help the body perform these functions for itself.
The vast majority of microbes in our bodies are bacteria. They cover our skin and can be found in our lungs and other tissues. Our skin is literally covered with them, but even more live inside our intestines. The importance of being covered inside and out with friendly bacteria cannot be overstated. To understand the scope of this issue, it is helpful to understand just how much bacteria we have in our bodies.
The number of bacterial cells living in the body outnumbers human cells by ten to one. Yes, that’s right – our bodies really are mini ecosystems or microorganism farms with ten times as many bacterial cells living in our bodies as there are human cells.
When the bacteria die, they are expelled through the colon as poop. To give you an idea of how much bacteria are working in your body, approximately 1/3 of the solid waste is dead bacteria. You have 2-6 pounds of live bacteria working for your body right now. Most of it is found in the gut and is called the intestinal flora.
This incredible amount of bacteria and other microbes is possible due to the tiny size of a bacteria cell compared to the size of a human cell. We need a microscope to see both, but when you do look into a microscope and view these cells together, the bacteria is small when compared to a human cell.
These bacteria are either going to be a probiotic army guarding our bodies and possibly our lives, or they are going to be a mob of pathogens working to tear us down and destroy our health. The key is to learn how to make sure our microbiome is made up of our secret army of probiotics.
The protective activity of the microbiome does not only take place in the gut. Bacteria help maintain the “integrity of the barrier function of the skin”2 and mucous membranes to keep out invaders before they make it into the body. Bacteria are also able to process and detoxify harmful chemicals that make their way into the body.
“These organisms are taking care of us. They are maintaining us. Our job is to make sure we create the right environment for them to live and we don’t alter that environment too much.” Daniel Vitalis1
The protective function of a healthy microbiome is of great importance, but that is only part of what it will do for us. This is part 1 of the series, Probiotics and Your Health.
1Vitalis, Daniel. Gut Rebuilding with Summer Bock: Symbionts and the hollow tube, how your micro-biome maintains you. 11-15-13
2Relman, David A., Nutr Rev. 2012 August ; 70(Suppl 1): S2–S9. doi:10.1111/j.1753-4887.2012.00489.x
The human microbiome: ecosystem resilience and health, Web: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3422777/pdf/nihms368383.pdf
Resta, Silva C., Effects of probiotics and commensals on intestinal epithelial physiology: implications for nutrient handling Web: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2754357/pdf/tjp0587-4169.pdf
Todar, Kenneth, PhD Web: http://textbookofbacteriology.net/normalflora_4.html
NIH Human Microbiome Project defines normal bacterial makeup of the body: Genome sequencing creates first reference data for microbes living with healthy adults. Wednesday, June 13, 2012. Web: http://www.nih.gov/news/health/jun2012/nhgri-13.htm
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Gut bacteria, Human microbiome, Fermentation, Microbiota, Probiotic, Intestinal health, Digestive health, Immune function, Immune system, Digestion, Beneficial bacteria, Detox, Detoxification
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