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  • Microbiota The ‘Forgotten’ Organ

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    Research has found that we still has more organs that has not been well studied and has been forgotten.

    By Dr. Mercola

    Researchers are increasingly starting to recognize gut microbiota as one of your unappreciated “organs.” It may be even more apt to view your body as a “super organism” composed of symbiotic microorganisms, as proposed in the video above.

    Either way, there’s no denying the powerful influence these microorganisms have on both your physical and mental health. This is great news, since this places you in a distinct position of power over your health and well-being. As recently reported by the Institute of Science in Society:

    “The rapidly progressing study of the human microbiota is revealing that humans are not individual self-contained beings, but instead hugely complex super-organisms that blur the distinction between where ‘we’ end and ‘they’ begin.

    The human microbiota consists of an estimated 100 trillion cells, at least 10 times the number of human cells, and new research is revealing how this symbiotic relationship determines human health and disease.”

    Recent research suggests that many people are deficient in gut bacteria, making it a very important consideration if you’re not feeling in optimal shape, physically or psychologically.

    In the study in question, a quarter of the participants were found to have 40 percent fewer gut bacteria than the average needed for good health. Obese participants were particularly at risk.

    Your Body Viewed as a Symbiotic ‘Super Organism’

    The trillions of bacteria cohabiting inside you are not restricted to your intestinal tract. They also colonize your skin—both on the outside and deeper beneath the surface layers—your mouth, saliva and more.

    For example, six different tribes of beneficial bacteria have been found to reside in the crook of your elbow, where they moisturize your skin by processing raw fats.

    The bacteria in your gut may be considered among the most important however, due to their wide-ranging and cascading health effects. It’s well-known that altering the balance of bacteria in your digestive tract can weaken your immune system, for example.

    And once your immune system is compromised, your body becomes far more vulnerable to all sorts of foreign invaders, inflammation, and disease.

    Even the National Institutes of Health cites research showing that “variations in the composition of microbial communities may contribute to chronic health conditions, including diabetes, asthma, obesity, and digestive disorders.”

     

    Understanding of This ‘Forgotten Organ’ Is Rapidly Mounting

    The Institute of Science in Society mentions two major collaborative efforts that help deepen our understanding of the human microbiome: the International Human Microbiome Consortium, and the US National Institute of Health’s Human Microbiome Project (HMP). To this, I would add a third, called The American Gut Project. American Gut builds on other projects, including the five-year long Human Microbiome Project that is coming to conclusion at the end of this year.

    The aim of the Human Microbiome Project was to “characterize microbial communities found at multiple human body sites and to look for correlations between changes in the microbiome and human health.” So far, this data gathering has resulted in 190 scientific papers, along with a repository of resources that scientists can access to explore the relationships between human gut bacteria and disease.

    The American Gut Project decided to take it a step further by allowing the American public to participate. All the gathered information from this project will be made public. It’s an extremely ambitious project seeking to identify the parameters for the ideal gut flora, and how diet affects it.

    What’s particularly exciting about the American Gut Project is the fact that it will allow us to really evaluate and compare the effects of a very diverse conglomeration of lifestyles. Scientific studies almost always focus on carefully chosen groups of people who are studied for a specific purpose, typically to confirm or debunk a hypothesis. This project, on the other hand, will crack the lid open on the effects on gut flora of a myriad of lifestyle choices, by people of all ethnicities and ages. According to Professor Rob Knight of CU-Boulder’s BioFrontiers Institute:

    “A key aspect of the project is to understand how diet and lifestyle, whether by choice — like athletes or vegetarians — or by necessity, including those suffering from particular autoimmune diseases or who have food allergies, affect peoples’ microbial makeup.”

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    michael

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