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Natural Health Glossary
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Human microbiome (microbiome)
Photo: Human microbiome Defined by Joshua Lederberg as: "the ecological community of commensal, symbiotic, and pathogenic microorganisms that literally share our body space," the human microbiome is the network of living organisms on and in the body that are too small to be seen with the naked eye, including bacteria, fungi, and protozoans. Researchers have learned that much of the population of microbes found in the human body are not bacteria but a very old class of single-celled organisms called archaea.

Some microscopic algae or viruses could also be included, though the microbes being discussed are generally non-pathogenic (do not cause disease unless they grow abnormally); they exist in harmony and symbiotically with their hosts.

Microbiomes are being characterized in many other environments as well, including soil, seawater and freshwater systems. It is believed that endosymbiosis originally gave rise to more complex organisms, and continued to play a fundamental role in guiding their evolution and expansion into new niches.

The human body contains over 10 times more microbial cells than human cells, although the entire microbiome only comprises a fraction of our total weight (estimates range from about 200 grams, or 7.1 oz, to 1,400 grams, or 48 ounces).

The gut microbiota is one well-known component of this community, but there are also microbiotae on the skin, in the mouth, and in and on other organs. Some of the microbes in our body can modify the production of neurotransmitters known to be found in the brain, we may also find some relief for schizophrenia, depression, bipolar disorder and other neuro-chemical imbalances.

The human microbiome may be implicated in auto-immune diseases like diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis, muscular dystrophy, multiple sclerosis, fibromyalgia, and perhaps some cancers. Common obesity might also be aggravated by a poor mix of microbes in the gut.

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