We have more bacteria in our gut than cells in our body.
As foreign as it sounds, the word microbiome may soon be part of the mainstream lexicon. The term refers to the microbes or bacteria that naturally inhabit the body from the surface of your skin to your gut. We tend to think of microbes as bad—pathogens that need to be killed—but new research suggests that storing scores of them is paramount to our health and metabolism.
"We have 100 trillion microbes in our gut — more bacteria than cells in the body," says Frank Lipman, MD, the founder of Eleven Eleven Wellness in Manhattan. " They aid in digestion and detoxification, help support our immune system, and manufacture key vitamins, among other functions. Western medicine is catching on to the importance of all the bacteria in our bodies, especially in our gut. In Functional Medicine we've been manipulating this microbiome for some time, but it's primarily been guesswork."
"Understanding these microbes is the future of medicine," he said.
The Human Microbiome Project, a National Institute of Health initiative, is working to shed light on the topic.
"It's such a new field and there are so many studies underway. But we do know that it's important to keep your flora in a balanced state," says Lipman. "A disturbed microbiome, where bad bacteria and yeast overtake the good ones can cause all sorts of health problems from autoimmune diseases to weight gain."
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