Did You Know the Microbiome Lives Outside Your Gut?
The Microbiome is not limited to only the digestive tract. The microbiome exists on the skin, in the mouth, throughout the entire digestive tract, and anywhere else a mucous membrane exists. The healthy function and appropriate balance of the microbiota carry incredible power in impacting an individual’s overall health. When things start to go awry, effects can be throughout the body and many times be difficult to link back to the current state of the microbiome.
As we learn more from the data derived from the Human Microbiome Project, we are struck with the realization that the function of the microbiome is inextricably linked to the healthy function of the entire body; The effects reach far and wide with some being easier to connect to microbiome health and others a bit more challenging to see.
Let’s review a few systems in the body and how a healthy, properly functioning microbiome provides support.
This one seems quite obvious, but can’t go without mention. The proper ratio of the right microbes in our digestive tract helps to maintain healthy digestive function, proper energy extraction from nutrients, and aid in maintaining the continuous balance of the microbiota that should be present.
Studies have shown that the right balance of microbiota contributes to the support of healthy skin texture, integrity and moisture.1
Mood and Mental Health
Researchers have shown that a “Gut-Brain” axis exists, and depends highly on the healthy balance of the microbiome. The communication with the gut and brain is very much bi-directional and the healthy function of one supports the healthy function of the other. Mental health and positive mood are both supported by a well-balanced, appropriately functioning microbiome.2
Helping to provide and maintain optimal immune function seems to be one of the primary influences the microbiome exerts on the body. Many researchers view the commensal bacteria within the human body as a primary means of supporting a healthy immune response, and the presence of the microbiota is an important driver of the initial development of the human immune system.3
As researches continue to comb the trove of data the Human Microbiome Project is providing, our understanding of how a healthy, vibrant microbiome supports a happy, healthy human will become more and more clear. Until the time we know exactly how the microbiome supports homeostasis within our bodies, we will have to trust our earlier understanding of the importance of microbiome health and do all we can to support this highly important and powerful system so it can continue to function at optimal levels.
- Cho, I., & Blaser, M. J. (2012). The human microbiome: at the interface of health and disease. Nature Reviews. Genetics, 13(4), 260–70.
- Cryan, J. F., & Dinan, T. G. (2012). Mind-altering microorganisms: the impact of the gut microbiota on brain and behaviour. Nature Reviews. Neuroscience, 13(10), 701–12.
- Martin, R., Nauta, a J., Ben Amor, K., Knippels, L. M. J., Knol, J., & Garssen, J. (2010). Early life: gut microbiota and immune development in infancy. Beneficial Microbes, 1(4), 367–82.