I recently watched the ground breaking new series ‘Interconnected’ about the major shifts in our understanding regarding the importance of the microbiome, our gut health, and the roll it plays in our overall health.
On one hand its SO obvious and it is something many of us would say, ‘well yeah, of course.’ Many of us are aware of the statement “You are what you eat”.
But the full extent and consequences of that truth are quite mind blowing.
There were so many points that stood out from this series. But I think one point which captures the far reaching power of microbiome to affect all areas of our Soma (our total mind-body being), is that our Genome (our complete set of DNA) makes up only about 10% of our body, whereas the microbiome, a vast forest of 100 trillion different microbes makes up the rest. And it is constantly changing and adapting. Renewing itself every 3-5 days.
“Each of us harbors a teeming ecosystem of microbes that outnumbers the total number of cells in the human body by a factor of 10 to one and whose collective genome is at least 150 times larger than our own.”
Amoung Trillions of Microbes in the Gut, a Few Are Special – by Moises Veliasquez-Manoff (ScientificAmerican.com) on 1/3/2015
The life changing results of applying this knowledge to people suffering a huge array of ailments and disease is rocking the medical world.
“The Human Microbiome Project reference database, established in 2012, revealed in unprecedented detail the diverse microbial community that inhabits our bodies.
Most live in the gut. They are not freeloaders but rather perform many functions vital to health and survival: they digest food, produce anti-inflammatory chemicals and compounds, and train the immune system to distinguish friend from foe. Revelations about the role of the human microbiome in our lives have begun to shake the foundations of medicine and nutrition. Leading scientists, now think of humans not as self-sufficient organisms but as complex ecosystems colonized by numerous collaborating and competing microbial species. From this perspective, human health is a form of ecology in which care for the body also involves tending its teeming population of resident animalcules.”
Microbes in the Gut Are Essential to Our Well-Being – by David Grogan (ScientificAmerican.com) 1/3/2015
Diet is a major factor in shaping our microbiome, but there are other major contributors. Movement/exercise is not just about muscles and mobility. Movement is crucial to keeping our systems and internal organs functioning effectively. For example when we walk and swing our arms, it massages and stimulates all the internal organs of our torso. This affects our microbes.
Our environment affects us. The type of air we are exposed to. How much sunlight we get. What kind of terrain we move over.
How much sleep we get. And especially deep sleep. If we don’t get enough it creates stress in the nervous system which upsets the functioning of our microbes also.
Each of these elements support & encourage each other too. If you are getting good regular movement in your day-to-day life, you tend to be in a better mood, you eat better, and therefore sleep better, and are less vulnerable to stress, or have the energy to deal with it better.
The other thing about a good movement practise, and especially one that involves some slow aware conscious movement, is that we wake up to our body sensations. How we feel. What we feel. Then we are more tuned in to the subtle changes happening internally.
These can often be the tell tale signs of shifts in the balance of our microbiome. If we can sense them, we can start to make the small adjustments in our diet & movement to bring balance back to our system.
Remember our body is always looking to maintain homeostasis (the tendancy of organisms to auto-regulate and maintain their internal environment in a stable state).
If we can’t sense these changes and the early signs of stress, inflammation, or allergic reactions in our system, we push on with the same kind of life style until those small shifts become a loud cry of imbalance within the body, and we find ourselves at a doctor looking for a quick fix for something we could have prevented back down the line if we had listened to our bodies.
A lot of disease begins with us missing the early signs of dis-ease in our bodies. And I haven’t even began to touch on the dangers of repeated rounds of antibiotics.
Our gut flora is like a tropical rainforest. A thriving jungle of untold richness in bio-diversity.
All the old addages about getting outside, getting into nature, getting your hands dirty, eating seasonally, eating healthy, sleeping regularly, interacting with a variety of life & situations – are so right on. Why? All of this builds a healthy thriving microbiome.
And your physical & mental you, is your microbiome.
So eat well, move more, sleep well, and meditate. Listen to your body. You know what you need better than anyone else.
Seasons Greetings to all. xx
ps; the cover picture (a village and fields in Lag Valley of Kullu, Himalayas, India) is relevant because studies show that people living in rural environments have a much more diverse (= healthy) microbiome : )