The Microbiome

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A comprehensive change in the way that scientists are viewing our digestive system is in the works. Science Magazine Volume 336, June 8, 2012 and Scientific American June 2012 issue, both had special issues on the gut microbiota and called them, "the new frontier." Gut microbiota is the community of microbes in an individual's gastrointestinal tract.

Metagenomics is studies of the structures and functions of microbial communities. Using techniques developed in the Human Genome Project, academic scientists, based on rigorous research, are taking a more ecology based systems approach to human microbiology and the our digestive system. Their work thus far is indicating to them that is more useful to view our bodies as seamlessly interconnected with the microbial world.

They write about restoring balance and being in harmony with and understanding microbiological systems. They talk about moving beyond the traditional, "take the pill and kill it" or "when in doubt, cut it out,' approach to medical treatment for non-infectious diseases.

The gut microbiome is the aggregate of genomes and genes present in the gut microbiota. The scientists write about the need to study to understand the heretofore neglected area of the influence of the trillions of microorganisms inhabiting our digestive tracts. They write that the microorganisms within and without our body outnumber the cells in our body by ten to one. Understanding their influence may help explain the variations in the way that different individuals metabolize therapeutic drugs even after the scientists have corrected for ethnic genetic factors.

The scientists write that they have just scratched the surface thus far and that they understand only 10% of what is going on in the digestive system. These scientists are from our top universities using the latest technology but they sound very much in concert with the concepts of alternative medicine.

The scientists write about using the new knowledge to select useful probiotics and more effective treatments. They do not use the word, "diet," however, phrases like "restoring gut flora imbalance" and "the benefits of encouraging beneficial bacteria" sounds very much like the principles upon which Elaine Gottschall based her SCD diet. It also sounds compatible with all the other proponents of gut friendly, holistic diets who believe that diet is the key component to heal us and keep us healthy.

All of this effort is good news for those of us with digestive ailments. The new knowledge could help target more effective drug treatments, validate, support and encourage a dietary approach, provide more insights into the digestive process and make medical doctors more knowledgeable and aware of the importance of the traditionally neglected subject of diet as an agent of healing.

Move over brain, you are no longer the new frontier, our digestive system is.

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