Microbiome. Not a vacation destination- it’s your latest organ

MicrobiomeThe human body contains over 10 times more microbial cells than human cells, although the entire microbiome (amount in your body) can weigh anything from about 200 grams (7.1 oz) to 1,400 grams (3 pounds)

The microbiome is being heralded as a “newly discovered organ” since its existence was not generally recognized until the late 1990s and it is is beginning to have potentially overwhelming impact on human health.

Modern techniques for sequencing DNA have enabled researchers to find the majority of these microbes – although the majority of them cannot be cultured in a lab using current techniques. Since some of the microbes in the human body can modify the production of neurotransmitters known to occur in the brain, it may also relieve schizophrenia, depression, bipolar disorder and other neuro-chemical imbalances.

It’s beginning to be believed that the human microbiome may have a role in auto-immune diseases like diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis, muscular dystrophy, multiple sclerosis, fibromyalgia, and perhaps some cancers.

However, a poor mix of microbes in the gut may also aggravate common obesity. The human gut microbiome, a complex collection of trillions of bacteria in the body involved in harnessing energy from food, is associated with obesity in adults and in animal models.

Now, a study conducted by the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia strongly suggests there is a link between antibiotics and obesity. Analyzing data from more than 65,000 infants, researchers found that the earlier babies received antibiotic drugs, the more likely they were to become obese later in childhood.

Jack Challem of The Nutrition Reporter says, “The lesson, whether you’re an adult or child, is to not take antibiotics unless they are absolutely necessary, and then to also take probiotics.”

Probiotics are believed to be beneficial bacteria that aid in digestion and immunity. You can get them from yogurt, probiotic drinks, or probiotic supplements. Because races of antibiotics can appear in the food you eat (unless you’re rigorously organic) and even in the water you drink, replenishing your micro-biome with probiotics from time to time may be a good idea.

Research is in its infancy, but as always, it would appear that a well-rounded, sensible, relatively unprocessed diet should keep us all healthy. But we knew that, right? It’s just sometimes hard to do.