The Human Microbiome

Did you know you’re more microbe than human?

There are 10x more microorganisms on and in your body than cells, and in addition, our genes are outnumbered 1:100 to microbial genes! This is the Human Microbiome: a fascinating ecosystem that plays a huge role in our health. (Stein, 2013)

I know what your first question is… Where do they come from?? Well, it all begins when we are born. When babies pass through the birth canal, they become coated with an array of microbes; and from mother’s skin when baby and mom are connected for the first time. Then our little bundles are introduced to mother’s colostrum and milk when they feed.

At first, mothers will produce colostrum that contains a high concentration of antibodies, immunoglobulin’s, proteins, and carbohydrates; which helps set up the gut microbes for the digestive system. After the phases from colostrum to mature milk, it will take 2-5 days for the mother’s milk supply to fully come in. Researchers have found the bacterial diversity in mothers milk can be more than 700 species of microbes! (SINC, 2013)

Every one of us has our mixture of microbes, just like a fingerprint or a blood type, but our microbes tend to resemble our parents and siblings. In the begging stages of our life, microorganisms begin to flourish on our body and in our intestinal tract—to “set up shop,” so to speak. These little workers/fighters also educate the immune’s cells, and as we age our microbes and immune cells become one our first line of defenses—fighting off germs and viruses that invade us by protecting their turf and our bodies. Scientists have even discovered that microbes can even spew out their version of antibiotics!

The types of microbes can vary on where they live like different ecosystems—wet places like our mouths, noses, and armpits for example. We also find them on oily places like our scalps and backs, and then on dry places like our forearms; but the largest, most complex and diverse place is in the gut. (Stein, 2013)

 

Taking Antibiotics Can Change the Gut Microbiome for Up to a Year! One weeklong course of antibiotics changed participants’ gut microbes, with effects sometimes lasting as long as a year. After all, antibiotics don’t discriminate—as they attack the bad bacteria, the good ones are vulnerable too.
 (Beck, NOV 16, 2015)


As we age our Microbiome changes and adapts!

From 0 to 6 months

  • Babies are covered with microbes from their environment, from birth, breastfeeding, and interactions with family members
  • As the different species of microbes adapt, they compete for space for them to be best equipped like, skin and hair
  • Food sources that babies eat also feeds their gut microbes (breastfed babies tend to have different microbes than babies who are given formula, and even starting solid foods changes the population of the gut microbes)

6 months to 3 years

  • The number of species of microbes increases from 100 in young infants to 1,000 in the gut in adults
  • Some microbes change with nutritional needs, for example – young babies get their vitamin folate from gut microbes where adults get folate from food
  • Early influences have a huge impact on the health of the microbiome, even events like fevers, antibiotics, new foods can cause sudden shifts in the microbiome. The effects of these may last for years or lifetime in the microbiome ecosystems – especially in the gut

3 Years to Adulthood

  • By age 3 the microbiome has become more stable and very similar to an adult’s
  • The fluctuation of the microbiome will change and respond to any illness like disease, antibiotic treatment, fevers, stress, injury, and changes in the diet; but the microbes will always try to shift back to homeostasis (baseline state)
  • Major life occurrences like puberty, pregnancy, and menopause can create large shifts. Like puberty, the change in skin oils will affect the microbes or pregnancy can alter the microbes for baby to be born

Old Age

  • An older adult will have a distinct microbial profile with certain species becoming more common and others less common
  • The microbe profile will change after the age of 65, the variety of microbial species decreases

Many factors affect our body’s microbe ecosystems: our microbes will vary with gender, diet, climates, age, occupation, and hygiene. Even genes have an impact on our microbes! Things like the acidity of the digestive tract and the variances of proteins on our cells that communicate with the microbes.
(Your Changing Microbiome, 2014, August 15)*

 

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