Most people have heard of the human microbiome: the internal ecosystem of microscopic organisms that coexist within our bodies. It’s becoming one of the leading areas for research and exploration as modern science begins to appreciate the fundamental importance of this system and the role it plays within our lives and Health.
For over 20-years, BiomeTech and its scientists have been focussed and researching how the human microbiome is interconnected to us and the world outside of ourselves.
By current estimates we are actually only 10-50% human. Our human cells (blood, bone, muscle, skin, nerve, hair etc,) are much larger in weight and volume, but for every one of these cells, there are another 1-9 cells that are non-human. These other cells are microorganisms (microbes for short): bacteria, yeasts, fungi, protozoans, viruses and archaea (organisms originally misclassified as bacteria), the vast majority of which live in the oxygen-deprived depths of the human bowel.
In total, we each have approximately 3-5 lbs weight of microorganisms in our gut and whilst these microbes are considered to be “simple” life forms, collectively they contain anything from 2-20 million genes, all of which collaborate in running our bodies alongside our 21,000 human genes. Essentially, the genes of our microbiome act as a second genome which augments the activity of our own.
Numerically, by cell count, and genetically, in terms of volume of genetic information, we are more microbial than we are human; more “them” than “us”, so it might be more accurate to view our human selves as an intricate ecosystem of species, rather than as a single organism. A super-organism if you will: a community of co-existing and interdependent organisms, cooperatively responsible for running and maintaining the body that sustains all of those species. More like a rainforest than a single plant or creature within that forest.
We have evolved to live with these microscopic colonists over tens of thousands of years and they are essential to our health and well-being. This is something that most modern science is only just beginning to comprehend, and this new understanding is rapidly transforming our understanding of many diseases, from allergies to Parkinson’s, autoimmune disease to autism, obesity to mental health. A healthy microbiome regulates an astounding proportion of our physical and mental health.
Microbes act upon our food to produce essential vitamins and micro-nutrients.
- They enhance our metabolism and control our digestion: affecting our weight, our gut health, our body’s ability to control blood sugar levels. They are responsible for producing the vast majority of our most important neurotransmitters (serotonin, dopamine and GABA) affecting our central nervous system and our mental health, our ability to think clearly, to feel positive, hopeful, calm and productive.
- The microbiome is responsible for a large proportion of our immune system, affecting our resistance to infection and inflammation.
- It produces peptides and hormones responsible for our sex-drive, helps to regulate our pituitary gland and has a significant role in the connection between the endocrine and nervous systems.
- The microbiome is literally a master organ, as vital to our livelihood as other major organs within the body. And yet optimal functioning as a human relies upon the existence of a healthy microbiome: the correct balance of the right life-enhancing and supporting microbes, being fed the correct foods.
The microbiome is literally a master organ, as vital to our livelihood as other major organs within the body. And yet optimal functioning as a human relies upon the existence of a healthy microbiome: the correct balance of the right life-enhancing and supporting microbes, being fed the correct foods.
For a moment, let us look at the soil on this planet as an illustration: With the development of agriculture in ancient civilisations, there appears to have been an innate understanding and appreciation amongst many early agriculturalists of the fundamental importance of the soil: its structure, its content, the interconnected nature of all species. Clearly there was no scientific understanding at that time of the microbes present, nor their specific roles within the soil. But there was an awareness of the need to disturb the soil as little as possible, to feed and nurture the soil by adding biochar (a compound that supports microbial life, formed by combusting rather than burning organic matter) and to allow the species within the ecosystem to work synergistically.
With the advent of industrialisation and large scale agriculture, much of this understanding was lost. We began to plough soil, disrupting the delicate structure of this ecosystem. We introduced mono-cropping, and repeated planting of the same crops in one area, depleting the soil of nutrients. And by the end of the second world war, with large amounts of pharmaceutical and synthetic compounds at our disposal, we began adding industrial fertilisers and pesticides to the land: ostensibly with the intent of increasing crop production, but at the cost of almost entirely destroying the natural balance of microbes within the soil.
Today, the majority of farmed soil on planet earth is technically little more than dead dust, containing very few microbes or living organisms and potentially only able to support crops for another 50-60 years.
By comparison, a single tablespoon of soil in its optimum, virgin state would contain more billions of microbes than there are humans on the planet. And modern science is only just beginning to explore and understand precisely how these microbes function.
What is now being discovered, however, is that returning soil to this optimum level of health produces crops that are nutritionally superior and incomparable to anything we as humans have been eating for generations. Plants transplanted into this type of soil have been seen to change within 45 minutes and to have a nutritional content that has never before been analysed or appreciated.
And so it is with our human bodies and our microbiome: we have taken pharmaceutical drugs: antidepressants, anti-anxiety medications, hormone treatments, contraceptives to name but a few, but particularly antibiotics, which on the one hand have saved us from life-threatening infections, but at the cost of destroying the delicate balance of beneficial microbes within our bodies.
We have used recreational drugs: marijuana, CBD (which does the same genetic damage as marijuana), cocaine, heroin, ecstasy, ayahuasca, DMT, iboga, LSD, and more.
We then go on to use the legal accessible Daily Drugs such as caffeine, nicotine, alcohol, chocolate, sugar - all of which have had a negative impact upon our microbial ecosystem and our cellular health.
We have been exposed to previously unheard of levels of toxins within our environments. We’ve eaten crops sprayed with pesticides (a form of antibiotic), we’ve consumed meat and dairy from animals laden with antibiotics and growth hormones. And given the damage done to our soils, the foods we consume are nutritionally deficient in many ways.
Even the water we drink may be “clean” by many definitions, but no general or municipal water treatment can screen for pharmaceutical residues (all of which can enter the water cycle from farming, industrial production or excretion by other humans) which we then ingest when drinking tap water.
In a relatively short space of time in terms of human history, we have faced all these assaults, along with unprecedented levels of continual emotional and mental stress, all of which further affect us on an epigenetic level.
Even if we personally have managed to avoid exposure to these assaults, our parents, grandparents and ancestors have most likely been affected by them to some degree and it is now understood that we inherit much of the epigenetic damage done to our genetic material in previous generations.