We ALL, every THING, come from the same source and same terrain. We ARE intrinsically interconnected to every kingdom in the taxonomic rank: animals, plants, protista, fungi, eubacteria (single-celled bacteria) and archaebacteria (the most recent addition to the kingdoms of organisms). That means we are linked to microorganisms like bacteria, fungi, and viruses for better or worse, in sickness and in health, til death do us part.
By now the word microbiome has finally started to trickle into mainstream consciousness even though most people haven’t the faintest idea what the term means. It’s just like what happened with the word “gluten” or “gluten-free” about 10 years ago when these took root in our media and grocery stores. So what is the microbiome and why should YOU care about it?
Vast As The Milky Way Galaxy
Our microbiome is the totality of all the microbes—bacteria, fungi, protozoa and viruses and their genetic elements that live on and inside the human body. Notice I said “genetic material” because the genes of the trillions of collective microbiota act as a pool of potential activation and function for you and me. Much of this microbiota genetics is part of every single function in our body. More importantly we, the human host, SHARE genetic material and nano particles with our neighboring bacteria, viruses, plants, animals, insects, etc. That’s right, WE benefit from this incredible and diverse primordial soup.
Probably one of the largest and most intricate segments of the larger microbiome is known as the gut microbiome. The trillions of bacteria and other microorganisms calling the gut home are collectively known as gut microbiota. This invisible ecosystem is as vast and mysterious as the Milky Way Galaxy and it is networked with key body systems such as the brain, nervous, endocrine, and cardiovascular. It is this all-important multi-system connection (or matrix) that paves the way for preventing and healing many chronic health conditions.
Despite its predominance, the virome, another key internal ecosystem, remains one of the least understood components of the gut microbiota. The human gut virome includes a diverse collection of viruses that infect our own cells as well as other commensal (beneficial) organisms, directly impacting our well-being. The gut virome and the gut bacterial microbiome share similar pathways and interact in both health and disease.1 Since all the microorganisms share, thrive, and rely on the same terrain, scientific studies today need to encompass the complete spectrum of microbiota if they are going to uncover its role in human health and disease.
Our microbiome and all the various microbiota are happening FOR YOU not TO YOU. They are not inherently bad nor are they things that need to be killed, sterilized, purged, eradicated, or whatever phrase you want to use for negating that which you either don’t understand or are afraid of.
The trillions of microscopic organisms in our microbiome take part in normalizing blood pressure, stimulating hormones, digesting food, controlling appetite, regulating metabolism and they even instruct the immune system and impact emotions and mood.
These tiny microbiota even influence how your genes are expressed—whether they are turned “on” or “off” and will create a health condition. If you dive into the science of epigenetics, you will see that most disease is not the result of your genes alone, but more importantly it’s your environment and what you’ve exposed your genes to through your lifetime that matters most when it comes to poor health outcomes. In the inner terrain world, it’s about diversity, competition for space/resources, and balance, that either creates optimal health or promotes disease in the body.
Incredibly, one of the most important functions of the trillions of microbiota in the gut is to act like a giant message hub of bidirectional communications between the gut and brain via the nervous system. They signal the release of hormones (your chemical messengers in the body) in order to respond to stress, memory and all the intricate biological mechanisms that keep the “lights on” every moment of your life.
Communication pathways in and around our cells were written in stone eons ago. Our microbial partners have been a part of and adapted to this intricate dance between our cells and the environment around them for thousands of years. This partnership can’t easily be eradicated, nor should it.
Our microbiota are also biological response modifiers because they are substances that have the potential to modify immune responses by introducing new genetic material and metabolites into the cell. So these immune modifiers can either enhance an immune response or suppress it. Some of these microbiota arouse the body’s response to an infection, while others can keep the response from becoming excessive.
Terrain Is Medicine
The best medicine to boost immune resiliency is not to take an untested and solidly verified shot that in many cases will cause a huge disturbance in the inner terrain for years to come and in some cases will produce egregious adverse health affects, but to find ways to nourish the microbiome, balance the internal terrain and harmonize all living organisms. Our microbiome although complex is rather simplistic in its basic survival needs—provide it with the proper food, water and air, and you’ll have a thriving ecosystem and healthy and vital body.
Terrain theory argues that if the body is well and balanced then the body will deal with overgrowth of more “opportunistic” microbes like viruses, that are just a natural part of life and the environment, without causing sickness.
What’s most important is working on the terrain, the body’s inner environment, and making it inhospitable to viruses, bacteria, parasites, etc. This is a practice done everyday and because of the body’s innate resiliency, the fruits of any labor in this area will be realized within a much shorter time.
The key is to balance the body chemistry through natural means: eating a nutrient-dense diet full of foods the gut microbiota thrive on, reducing stress so the endocrine system can rest, using breath to modulate blood pressure, moving and stretching to improve circulation, and so forth. From head to toe and inside to outside, we are a resilient and wonderful terrain.
It’s your agency and opportunity to create health and joy. Identify a self-care routine that you can do everyday consisting of a nutritional diet, thoughtful and prayer-full routines, movement, sleep and rest, and more. Even if it is hard and doesn’t always feel great, keep your eye on healthy goals and know you are getting stronger and healthier and thriving not just surviving.
- Your microbiome continually evolves and responds in kind to your fluctuating environment i.e., stress, emotions, food, toxins, pollutants and exercise
- Microscopic organisms take part in digesting food, controlling appetite, regulating metabolism and they even instruct the immune system and impact emotions and mood
- Our gut microbiota are linked to autoimmune disease, heart disease, brain/neurological conditions, leaky gut, IBS and obesity.2
- The immune system as we know it couldn’t exist without the microbiome
- Taking a gut microbiome “selfie” can help you identify infections, bacteria overgrowth, viruses, parasites, and imbalances in your gut flora.
1 I. Mukhopadhya, et al. The gut virome: the ‘missing link’ between gut bacteria and host immunity? Therap Adv Gastroenterol. 2019. 12:756284819836620.
2 DuPont, A. W. & DuPont, H. L. The intestinal microbiota and chronic disorders of the gut. Nat. Rev. Gastroenterol. Hepatol. 8, 523:531 (2011).
Disclaimer: the views and nutritional advice expressed in this publication are not intended to be a substitute for conventional medical advice. No information provided should be interpreted as a diagnosis of any disease, nor an attempt to treat or prevent or cure any disease or condition. All information in this publication is for educational purposes only and Aine-Marie and Advesta Health encourages its clients and members to continue to work in a partnership with qualified medical professional. If you have or suspect that you have a medical problem, promptly contact your health care provider or seek medical assistance. Reading, sharing, or downloading this publication does not establish a doctor patient relationship with Aine-Marie or any Advesta Health employee or consultant including any of our licensed health practitioners, coaches, dieticians or nutritionists.