“The Amazon Rainforest, often called the ‘lungs of the planet’, is crucial to life on earth. It stabilizes the global climate and is the world’s largest source of fresh water. Here, at the sacred head waters of the Amazon, is the earth’s most biodiverse environment, home to the greatest celebration of the diversity of life.” pachamama.org
As above so below, the Amazon Rainforest lends a powerful lead-in to an eye opening parallel. We know that this earthly macrobiome continues to survive precariously under persistent threat. Conversely, much has been said around raising awareness in relation to the microbiome dwelling inside our own human colon. Both entities house life. As the overall health of our planet depends on saving this ancient green belt of forest, sacred to some, an individual’s health and vitality depends greatly on the delicate balance and biodiversity of our microbiota -commonly known as our friendly flora. Our ‘biological micro-forest’ one can call it.
Current research into sustaining the microbiome from cradle to grave in overall human physical, mental, and societal health, has become a huge focal point in Functional Medicine and appears widely throughout informational platforms that speak about natural healing.
Yet old indigenous communities have always had this knowledge and have freely passed it forward. Chris Kresser, renowned expert, leading clinician and top educator in the fields of Functional Medicine and ancestral health, and the New York Times-bestselling author of the Paleo Cure, teaches that we can learn a lot from looking at paleontological evidence and studying the few remaining traditional hunter-gatherer cultures on Earth. From an ancestral or evolutionary perspective, surmounting evidence is showing that many modern chronic diseases are a result of a mismatch between our innate biology and our modern environment tainted heavily by restructured food production.
As with deforestation, where the loss of trees and other vegetation can cause climate change, desertification, soil erosion, fewer crops, flooding, increased greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, a host of problems can occur when there is disruption and deterioration of the colon’s own micro-ecology.
BIOLOGICAL CONTROL CENTRE
The human digestive system is nothing short of a vast ecosystem occupied by trillions of microorganisms. These are collectively referred to as the gut microbiome. Sound gut ecology consists of a wide abundant variety of beneficial microbes. It is understood to influence everything about our health.
The gut microbiota can be thought of as a ‘control center’ for so much of our biology. It regulates many physiological functions, both locally inside the colon itself, and systemically, in various tissues and organs ranging from our heart to our skin. These inter-relationships remind us yet again of the ecological balance inside a vast biosphere such as a rainforest and how all the numerous biospheres globally ensure the delicate balance of life on our planet. In an interview with Dr. Justin Sonnenburg he explains that our microbiota are not only impacting digestion and absorption, but that they make systemic and collective impacts on our immune system, our metabolism, and our brain chemistry. Much of our biology outside of the gut is being controlled by these beneficial microbes.
The most important facet of our biology that is impacted by this microbial community is our immune function, again, certainly in the large intestine, but also throughout our body. It hugely determines how likely we are to fight off a respiratory infection, how quickly an autoimmune disease in our central nervous system progresses, how we respond to vaccination, and these are just a few examples. All these kinds of processes are impacted by what our gut microbes are doing.
An extremely interesting aspect of the gut microbiota is that it is malleable. It changes day to day. We can affect it through what we eat. This means we own a powerful lever on our health and in determining how well our immune system can protect us.
Look out for our next article in March titled: ‘Saving the Micro-Biome’, where we look at practical ways of how to take care of our good colon flora for better health and well-being.
Did you know?
Your skin and gut both have their own microbiome that ‘speak to each another’…
The perception of the skin as an ecosystem – made up of living biological and physical components taking up space in diverse habitats – can further our understanding of the delicate balance between host and microorganism.
Like the colon, the skin can also be understood as an interface with the outside environment and is likewise also colonized by a diverse milieu of microorganisms, most of which are harmless or even beneficial to their host. These include bacteria, fungi and viruses and even mites! These ecological players have a vital role in signalling to the gut microbiome who in turn help in educating the immune system for an effective response against invading pathogens.
HEALTH & WELLBEING WRITTEN BY: Nicolette Da Costa
After her tertiary education in social sciences, humanities and romance languages through the University of the Witwatersrand (WITS) and UNISA in South Africa, Nicolette began her working career in the linguistic field while living in Spain and Portugal, and subsequently built up experience through various projects and developments inside the wellness industry upon her return. Here, her skills formation has focused on therapeutic modalities aimed at ensuring general wellbeing and mitigation of individual stress at grassroots level with a personal aim of supporting communities. Over the past 16 years, Nicolette has contributed various articles to specialist health magazine publications and blogs, and given presentations on natural therapies including Therapeutic Reflexology and Traditional Chinese Medicine while running her own private practice based in Johannesburg.
Link of the Month: Our Planet | Forests | FULL EPISODE | Netflix