January 20, 2009

human microbiota

"Within the body of a healthy adult, microbial cells are estimated to outnumber human cells by a factor of ten to one. These communities, however, remain largely unstudied, leaving almost entirely unknown their influence upon human development, physiology, immunity, and nutrition." here

As I was chawing down on a gobful of comfrey for my injured arm, I had a wee epipheny. I had just come from the barn where I watched the calves restless in the wombs of the cows as they chewed away at their cuds. I was thinking about all the microbes in their saliva and in their stomachs. I had softened some dried comfrey in hot water and as I was chewing the comfrey, holding it in my mouth a little longer than most things I might eat (because it was course and I wanted to draw out the juices) I understood these bacteria that were making enzymes to assist break the cell walls of that comfrey, in a very friendly way. When I swallowed I visualized it enter another community of organisms that would continue assisting to make these elements available to my body. I've thought about this before, but today I realized it: I have communities of organisms inside of me which are working with me to keep me alive, and in this they are alive! Without bacteria we would die. And our genome contains hundreds of genes from bacteria. This is a very intimate relationship and its remarkable that very little study has been done of it. Symbiosis is the key to life.

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