The Microbiome — A Universe Within

Viewpoint — Dr. Greg Quinn

The family of germs that live in our intestines can be friend or foe.  This can make the difference between health and vitality or disease. Our diet makes the difference. 

We are 60% water. There are more bacteria and fungi in us and on us than there are human cells. Stated another way, we are basically a beaker of dirty water with a few human cells. Yuck.

This does beg the question…what does it mean to be human? We co-evolved with our bacterial and fungi friends. Most of the bacteria live in our gut and they have a symbiotic relationship with our human cells.

Consider that our bodies consist of approximately 30 trillion human cells.  There are approximately 100 trillion microbes in our intestine. Human DNA has 23,000 genes. All the microbes in our gut have collectively about 2 million genes. And, those genes are talking to our human genes. Like a symphony, activities necessary for life are coordinated. With atoms constantly flowing in and out, we are more of a beautiful, mysterious, dynamic process than merely a noun, called the body. 

As we become more acquainted with this microscopic society that resides in our gut we have named it the microbiome. It consist of approximately 2,000 different species. The science of the microbiome is in its infancy but the learning curve is very steep. We do know that many diseases are related to (if not directly caused by) an imbalance in our gut bacteria. This imbalance now has a name, as well: it’s dysbiosis. Asthma, autism, obesity, dementia, Parkinson’s disease, diabetes, heart disease, and colon cancer are known to be associated with dysbiosis and the list of diseases is growing.

Once again, the adage, “you are what you eat” resonates. As it turns out the best way to establish a healthy microbiome is to eat a diverse array of fruits, vegetables, grains and fiber. So, take care of your microbiome and it will take care of you.