Six Surprising Facts About You and Your Microbes
By Bill Miller M.D.
“I'm so nervous, my stomach is all in a knot.”
Who among us has not said this at least once in our lives? Or perhaps, you have had a“gut wrenching experience”? We know that our brains can stimulate reactions in other parts of our body. However, science is now revealing that this is not a simple one-way connection. A rich network of microbial life in our internal organs plays a powerful role in shaping critical metabolic functions and even influencing our moods and behavior. Contemporary research is uncovering previously unsuspected physiological pathways involving this crucial microbial life within us and changing our understanding of basic biology. It is even dramatically changing how we see ourselves as human beings. Fortunately, too, these new findings are provoking important research that will ultimately have a substantial impact on our health.
Over the last several hundred years, successive waves of medical knowledge have substantially altered patient treatment. Antisepsis, anesthesia, antibiotics, and chemotherapy have profoundly affected the practice of medicine. Initially, many of these were little regarded or even vigorously resisted. This same pattern of dramatic progress and skepticism continues today just as in the past and there are always new and startling discoveries. At this moment in our long medical journey, we have finally reached the era of the hologenome – and it represents an exceptionally far-reaching advance in our medical understanding of ourselves and our perception of our place among all nature's creatures.
The concept of the hologenome changes our basic understanding of complex organisms. When anyone looks into a mirror, they naturally see a single being. But, nature sees us very differently. Instead of that single organism we see in a mirror, we are in fact incredibly complex networks of collaborative, cooperative and competitive ecologies composed of our innate cells and almost incalculably numerous microbial inhabitants so effectively linked together that we feel that we are just one being. Within and on all of us is an entire microcosm of life so seamlessly a part of ourselves that we are not normally aware of it. We do not merely coexist with this additional life. They are essential to our wellbeing.
And this new science of the hologenome is revealing a number of surprises:
1) The number of these microbial cells outnumber our own native cells by a factor of 10 to 1. There are over 100 trillion of them in you and on you.