Germs are the tiniest organisms, bacteria, and viruses and they are all around us. They are in your chairs; they are in the air we breathe and they’re on our skin. Every time we shake hands, push a shopping cart, or go to the gym, we interact and spread those germs. We try various means to protect ourselves from those germs. We use antibacterial soap and hand sanitizer cleans and antibiotics. These treatments sure kill the bad bacteria, but also interfere with the beneficial bacteria that depend on every day for a living. Some of these beneficial bacteria associate with us and help protect us from infection and help us digest food. We call these associated microorganisms, the human microbiome.
The human microbiome can be defined as the collection of microorganisms that live on us and in us. Some of these microorganisms are there to stay only for a few moments, whereas others are lifelong partners. Scientists are beginning to understand that these microorganisms have a significant role in our human health and wellness,
You already know that we interact with microorganisms, good and bad. We can spread a cold by means of coughing and sneezing or even by touch. You know about bacteria in your mouth that cause cavities and you know bacteria on your skin that cause acne or body odor. But now you have the choice to intentionally interact with healthy bacteria. You can go to the grocery store and choose foods that will aid in your digestion. You can go to the store and buy soaps that will promote a healthy skin microbiome and you’ve probably bought yogurt to help you with your stomach flu.
How Much Do We Know?
How much do we know about these microbial communities and our health? Can we change what’s there and have a better way to deal with cavities and acne and digestion, so we feel better and look better?
Those people who work at micro biologics are committed to a safer healthier world. Every day they get the opportunity to interact with scientists studying infectious diseases and using microorganisms to tackle some of our most difficult problems including water quality, food safety, and drug-resistant organisms.
Human microbiome research is a global affair. The US started funding research in this particular area in 2007 and other countries have also initiated research programs with sufficient funding. Together scientists have done a lot to advance the knowledge of microbiomes. They’ve developed new ways to sample the microbiome and instrumentation to measure what’s there.
What is Normal or Healthy?
Our microbiome is so complex that it complicates our understanding of what is healthy and our ability to influence the microbiome to the desired results still is unclear. We know that we’re a host and we have a lot of microorganisms that live with us. We coexist as a superorganism. Recent estimates suggest that we may have as many microorganisms living on and in us as our human cells. They only make up one to two percent of our body mass because of their small size.
Our microbiome is formed when we are born, and it develops rapidly over the first few years. Microorganisms differ between people but there are similarities between you and your spouse and your immediate suggesting that contact and genetics have an influence. Our microbiome changes with our age, what we eat, and how much physical activity you include in your daily life.
Microorganisms in our gut receive digested food from our stomach. The microorganisms present, use the nutrients present in the gut to grow and produce small chemicals or metabolites like vitamins, amino acids and even some neurochemicals. Our bodies receive these metabolites, some of which they use for energy, but others use them as signals for the rest of our body and our brain.
Our body also has a physical interaction with our gut microbiome. It constantly senses what is there, recognizing familiar microorganisms and identifying new ones. This physical interaction and these signals together form a feedback loop, where this information is received and stimulates the metabolism and physiology, and immune system. Our body responds to this feedback mechanism by promoting the growth of some healthy organisms in the gut and reducing others.
So, you can imagine how certain lifestyle choices could change the composition of the microorganisms in your gut and have a ripple effect on your health. The gut microbiome is quite different between active and sedentary individuals. Active individuals have a diverse microbiome. They have enrichment and bacteria that produce small metabolites that are related to improved cardiovascular health. So, make sure to keep exercising to keep your gut and consequently your body, healthy. Other factors such as diet and antibiotics should also be taken care of to keep your body’s microbiome healthy.