Our body uses ten times more microbial DNA than human DNA to perform our range of critical functions. Current studies find 90% of cells in the human body are bacterial, fungal, viral, or parasitic, & as technology increases, even higher percentages keep being found.
The microbiome, aka. microflora or microbiota, is the collection of all microbes & their genes; referred to more & more these days as an overlooked vital organ, as it plays many key roles in our daily operations. In a healthy person, these “germs” are found throughout the body, living in balance.
The human body provides a broad range of environments, & microbes are capable of thriving in all of them. Whether it’s our mouth, armpits, feet, skin, scalp, gut, stool, or vagina, each part of the body is home to a different type of ecosystem; like the various continents & regions of earth, each with their specific climates, with the inhabitants adapted to the characteristics of each location.
Composition of Human Gut Microbiota
Bacteria are found in very high concentration in our lower intestinal tract, up to 1012 – 1014 per gram of tissue (that number is a 1 followed by 14 zeros!), forming one of the most densely populated microbial habitats on earth.
Most bacteria cannot be cultured using traditional techniques, so we have always been vastly underestimating their numbers & species, as less than 1% of the human microbiota has been identified. Just the bacteria in our bodies harbor millions of genes, compared to less than 23,000 in the human genome. The combined genetic contributions of these microbes provide traits that are essential to us but not encoded in our own genomes.
Our main microbial tenants include:
- Commensal Bacteria that establish a symbiotic relationship with their host, benefitting both. Commensals help keep the opportunistic & pathogenic residents in check.
- Opportunistic Bacteria are found in low numbers in the healthy, but quickly proliferate when the beneficial bacteria are disrupted.
- Yeast & other fungi are normal inhabitants, but form a minority of total microorganisms.
- Viruses are by far the most numerous organisms in & on healthy people, measured in the quadrillions. Originally thought to be only pathogenic, today their many important benefits are being studied.
- Pathogenic Bacteria are commonly acquired through the consumption of contaminated food or water.
Where’d They Come From? & How’d They Get There?!?
Microbes form most of the world’s biomass. There are typically 40 million bacterial cells in a gram of soil, & a million in a gram (milliliter) of fresh water. It has been known for almost a century that humans harbor a similar microbial ecosystem.
At birth, our microbiota has low numbers & low diversity, as the womb has very few microbes, & until recently was thought to be sterile. The vaginal canal drastically changes its microbial makeup just prior to delivery, so that the species match much more closely to that of the intestine, in preparation for colonizing the baby’s skin, mouth, nose, eyes & ears on the way out.
Most that were breastfed & vaginally birthed still owe 75% of their microscopic world to their mother even as adults, since those two events are the major seedings of our microbiome. Environment, genetics, ethnicity, stress, close social relationships, & medication use also influence our early microbiota composition.
Then, as we move through life, we’re exposed to microbes from different people & places. Every home has a distinctive microbiome from the people who live in it; 24 hours after moving into a new home, it’s colonized with our microbes. Growing up in a rural environment or having childhood outdoor pets exposes us to a far bigger array of microbes, which strengthens immunity throughout adulthood.
Our diet has a direct impact on which species thrive in our gut, as there around one million microbes in every gram of food. If we change diets, from meat-eater to vegan, the gut bacteria changes accordingly. A high fiber diet in particular affects the type & amount of resident microbes, as dietary fiber can only be broken down by specialized enzymes from microbes living in the lower intestine.
Functions of Our Microbiome
Each localized area of us has a specific microscopic population that assists with functions specific to their niche. They influence our digestion, immune system, mood, cognitive function, metabolic rate, & especially the way that we age.
A healthy skin flora forms a biofilm that acts as a protective barrier from bacterial & fungal invasions, while also converting skin oils into natural moisturizers. Its imbalance can cause everything from eczema, to dandruff, & acne.
A healthy oral microbiome is made up of about 700 species that greatly reduce the risk for cavities & gingivitis, while also playing an important role in immunity & digestion, as the initial point of entry into the digestive & respiratory systems. It’s easily impacted by poor oral hygiene practices, smoking or tobacco use, or the consumption of acidic, processed, or sugary foods.
Our gut microbiome teaches our immune system which invaders are friends or foes, preventing our body from attacking crucial friendly gut bacteria. Microbes also stimulate tissue around the gut to increase production of antibodies when needed.
Microbes in our gut synthesize vitamins like K, B12, thiamine, & folate. In fact, the key enzymes needed to form the essential nutrient B12 are only found in bacteria, not in any plant or animal.
Short chain fatty acids (SCFA), like butyrate, are released from the gut microbes’ fermentation, helping to acidify the intestinal tract, which limits the growth of harmful bacteria. SCFA also stimulate immune cell activity, regulate intestinal permeability, have potent anti-inflammatory effects, regulate gene expression, & maintain normal blood levels of glucose & cholesterol.
The gut microbiome plays an important role in an unknowable amount of human functions, including:
- Breaking down ingested toxic compounds
- Competing with invading microbes, preventing them from getting a foothold
- Controlling blood pressure
- Controlling metabolism
- Controlling the storage of fat
- Creating blood vessels
- Decreasing inflammation
- Digestive motility
- Harvesting energy from nutrients via fermentation
- Immune system regulation
- Improves water & nutrient absorption
- Mental health
- Producing antimicrobials
- Replenishing linings of the gut & skin
- Supporting gut barrier integrity
- Vital role in preventing illness
Gut-Brain Communication Axis
The brain & the gut are directly connected via the vagus nerve, a network of neurons & signalling molecules linking the intrinsic nervous system of the gut with the central nervous system, nicknamed the gut-brain axis. The brain’s regulation of gut function has long been recognized, but only in the last decade has the bidirectional nature of this relationship been realized.
Gut microbiota interact with our central nervous system to regulate brain chemistry, meaning that the lil’ guys actually affect our response to stress, anxiety, & even memory. The brain neurotransmitter serotonin makes us feel joy & aids in digestion, 90% of which is made in our gut.
Although not perfectly understood, disruptions to our gut microbiome disrupt this key line of direct body communication & is associated with much higher rates of Alzheimer’s, autism, Parkinson’s, ADHD, anxiety, & depression.
Conversely, restoration of a healthy gut microbiome with diverse probiotics & prebiotics (the food of probiotic champions) alleviates symptoms of neurobehavioral & neurodegenerative diseases.
Disease Conditions of Microbe Disruption
In a healthy body, pathogenic & symbiotic microbes coexist peacefully. If the balance is allowed to be disturbed & can’t function properly, it’s known as dysbiosis & leaves the body much more susceptible to disease.
A higher diversity of microbes in the lower intestine is associated with better health. Chronic disease often occurs when microscopic populations are enabled to shift from their normal niche, into another one where they do not usually reside.
Those who suffer from the following conditions are more often affected by microbial imbalances:
- Acid Reflux / GERD
- Autoimmune Diseases
- Breast Cancer
- Cardiovascular Disease
- Celiac Disease
- Chronic Fatigue Syndrome
- difficile Infection
- Colon Cancer
- Crohn’s Disease
- Gastrointestinal Cancers
- Gastrointestinal Health
- High Blood Pressure
- Infectious Diseases
- Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD)
- Insulin Resistance
- Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS)
- Liver Disease
- Mental or Psychological Diseases
- Metabolic Syndrome
- Mood Disorders
- MS (Multiple Sclerosis)
- Osteoporosis / Bone Health
- Parkinson’s Disease
- Quality of response to cancer treatment
- Respiratory Diseases
- Skin Health
- Thyroid Disorders
- Type I Diabetes
- Type II Diabetes
- Ulcerative Colitis
Our microbiome also helps dispose of us after we die, as the immune system stops working, leaving our microbes to spread freely. The gut bacteria start digesting our intestines & the surrounding tissues from the inside out.
Advanced Toxins May Be Our Modern Frankenstein
Misguided mankind may be creating another runaway monster with the overuse of what can be lifesaving but toxic medicines & antibiotics. These were supposed to be our ultimate creation to help mankind, but instead have come back to wreak havoc on the smallest among us, our microbes.
Antibiotics without a doubt revolutionized modern medicine; however their toxic load that wipes out our deadly micro-foes is also deadly to our beneficial & necessary bacteria, leaving behind terrain suited more for opportunistic pathogens.
The taxa affected vary from individual to individual, but studies have found up to one third of the species are damaged by a course of antibiotics. Many of these taxa do not recover even after six months, & without appropriate counter measures, cause a long-term reduction in microbial diversity.
Other modern monsters attacking our gut microbiome include:
- Artificial Sweeteners change the gut microbiome & increase the risk of chronic inflammation, causing even more damage than the sugar being replaced
- Antibiotics in Livestock Feed
- Antimicrobial Products
- Ultrafine Particles in air pollution & nanoparticles put in our products for antimicrobial purposes, etc.
- Non-Antibiotic Pharmaceutical Drugs, such as NSAIDs & PPIs
- Genetically Modified Foods
Reseeding with FMT Bacterial Therapy
One of the most promising treatments for gut dysbiosis is Fecal Microbiota Transplantation. FMT treatment uses healthy donor stool to bring a disrupted microbiome to health. It is the sole medical treatment for antibiotic resistant C. difficile infections, & has multiple studies ongoing for its beneficial effects on ulcerative colitis, Crohn’s, autism, obesity, Parkinson’s, & many, many more.
Our diverse FMT probiotic has more than 3,000 bacterial strains, already in the prefect ratios to establish microbial balance within the gut much more easily & fully than regular probiotics, which only contain 8 – 12 bacterial strains.
People search online for a “stool donor near me”, but since your donor’s microbes will literally be growing inside you forever, this is where to get a stool transplant that isn’t cold & dying when you take it. Our FMT is a stable, freeze dried powder in easy to take oral capsules, & is made from our sole super donor, who’s constantly tested so it’s the safest, healthiest, most diverse FMT available!