Did you know that the vast majority of the cells in your body are not human. If you’re squeamish I apologise, you might want to stop reading now! Remarkably, you’re currently hosting bacteria cells that outnumber your own human cells by a factor of 10 to 1.
Before you rush off to lather yourself with antiseptic cream its worth noting that the human microbiome (the collective population of all the non-human cells that inhabit us) is a crucial part of the ecosystem that keeps you healthy and happy.
What researchers are discovering is that these microbes are not invaders or freeloaders but in fact crucial facilitators of our basic body functions including digesting food, producing vitamins and keeping the immune system buoyant.
It’s actually when we throw the dynamic balance of the microbiome out through excessive use of drugs such as steroids, hormones, anti-inflammatories and acid-blockers and of course antibiotics, as well as poor diet and prolonged stress that we start to see systematic decline in the health of our microbiome and consequently our wellbeing.
Its fair to say our current understanding of the impact of the microbiome on our health is still emerging. Yet already we know there are direct links between many types of cancer, especially colon, breast and cervical; autoimmune diseases like thyroid disorders, multiple sclerosis and type 1 diabetes; as well as digestive disorders like Crohn's disease and irritable bowel syndrome. Additionally there are strong links to many mental health conditions including anxiety and depression.
As more evidence emerges its likely that many many more illness will be traced back to an imbalance in the microbiome which is exciting in that it opens the very real possibility of a more holistic approach to treating disease. In other words tackling the cause of illness rather than just masking or managing symptoms. Perhaps, even more importantly, our emerging understanding of the microbiome offers more scope to discover ways we can prevent illness taking hold in the first place.
Wes Smith is Live Well's Director and has 20 years experience as a practitioner and wellness educator. He has a special interest in working with chronic immune issues, stress, anxiety and depression.
Wes is passionate about inspiring and educating people to create and sustain their vitality and wellbeing so they can live life to the full.
Wes also enjoys teaching meditation and is the creator of meditatewithwes.com an online resource for learning how to meditate. es has a B.App.Sc.(Acup), Diploma of Herbal Medicine, a Yoga Teaching Diploma and is an APHRA registered acupuncturist. Learn more about acupuncture, herbal medicine and meditation.