Originally published April 21 2015
Like any ecosystem, our bodies host trillions of bacterial cells that affect our everyday health
by Julie Wilson staff writer
(NaturalNews) The human body contains trillions of cells and not all of them are human; in fact, many of them are microbial, organisms which are so minuscule that the human eye cannot detect them.
Microbes are made up of bacteria, archaea, fungi, protists and viruses, each of which have their own set of unique genes.
Together, these microbes are considered to constitute the "human microbiome," a term that is still relatively new but is being used more frequently as research continues to emerge in this field of study.
The human body plays host to trillions of microbes that all play a fundamental role in many life processes. Scientists are beginning to learn that the collection of microbes that constitute the human microbiome are not random and are likely set up to complement each other and the human host, as described in a report from the American Academy of Microbiology.[PDF]
Hundreds of thousands of different types of microbes exist in the world, but only several hundred of them live on humans. Microbes are found all over the body, including on the surface of the skin, in pores and sweat glands, and in the linings of nasal passages, lungs, and digestive and urogenital tracts.
The body's various microbiomes play a crucial role in health and disease
Understanding the way the microbiome plays a pivotal role in health and disease is very young science; however, research indicates that this ecosystem is very important to our overall health.
While there is not yet any evidence indicating that certain mixtures of microbes are responsible for causing specific diseases, research does suggest that they likely play an important factor, one that may have been previously ignored.
A disturbance in the microbial "community" may contribute to the onset of diseases. Such disturbances could be caused by a number of things, one of them being antibiotics.
For example, antibiotics can alter the gut's natural microbiome, which may result in uncomfortable symptoms such as diarrhea and inflammation, and even set the stage for infections of such pathogens as Clostridium difficile, a bacterium that's often accompanied by fever, abdominal pain and diarrhea.
Asthma, diabetes, obesity, cancer and heart disease have all shown to be influenced by the microbiome. While the gut microbiome is widely known for its influence on health and disease, other microbiomes such as in the mouth, skin, vagina, lungs and stomach are also considered influential.
Where do we get our microbiomes?
Most of the microbial cells living on our bodies come from other humans. Newborns are coated with microbial cells when born vaginally. Infants born via C-section receive their microbes through human touch, both from the mother and contact with other humans.
It's unclear if the mode of birth has permanent effects on the adult microbiome, but scientists do think early changes have lasting effects.
Infants are also exposed to microbes through breastfeeding. In addition to providing important nutrients, breastfeeding transfers many different kinds of microbes that populate the baby's gut and help build the immune system.
The partnership between microbes and different forms of life
Humans aren't the only ones with a microbial community, as they exist nearly everywhere in nature including the soil, the ocean and in plants and animals. The partnership that microbes have with plants and animals dates back billions of years where scientists believe microbes existed in every possible ecological niche.
Previously, knowledge of bacterial diversity was limited to 5,000 different species; however technological advancements have led scientists to estimate there to be at least 1 million different species of bacteria.
This diversity is the result of more than 3 billion years of evolution, during which time bacteria learned to exist and thrive in nearly every type of environment.
As scientists continue to unlock the secrets associated with microbes and their hosts, we're sure to gain an even better understanding of the importance of natural health. Making sure not to disturb natural cellular
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