This is freakin’ crazy!…Am I more microbe than human and never alone? Is it really freak’n true? Sounds nuts!…. but I think I did read somewhat on these lines in my graduation; like human cells make up only 43 percent of body’s total cell count and the rest are microscopic colonists; our cells are outnumbered by 10 to one…blah-blah-blah whatever. It’s creepy, but understanding the other half of our selves might be the key to even stranger mysteries!
“Why, our body isn’t just us and never alone? Why genetically we are more outgunned than believed? What it means to be “human” if we are only half of what we really are?
From simple allergies to spooky Parkinson’s, every nook and cranny of our lives is hostage to these teeny-weeny nano-sized creatures. And we just couldn’t get rid of them, no matter how well we wash ourselves. Every crevice, every fissure and every chink on our bodies is swarming with these intrepid life forms.
We live by and stay surrounded by these tiny suckers even when we cannot see them with naked eyes. And….they are everywhere; on our keyboard, on our pillows on our favorite chair,stuff and above all, inside us!
The smallest living organisms ever known, some live on us and some within us. And know what, it’s considered Ok! So long as these critters are inclined and obliging, we could stay healthy, but once tables turn and a microbiome shift happens, our bodies become a battleground of sorts.
Do you have any idea why these bugs live in our body? Are there any hostile micro biomes too? What are those 20 odd million microbial genes doing in our body? In fact who lives most on our bodies?
A ghost safari to the battleground!
Our body is an enormous ecosystem hosting different biomes swarming with microbes and helps them flourish. Many of these invisible warriors are good for our health. Not only that; this army from microbial mecca abets droves of viruses, fungi and archaea (a kind of single cell organism) living within us as well. Together, they uphold the key to a longer flourishing life for us!
So if you thought you were some kind of epitome of sterility, think again. Your gut is home to some of the smuttiest of pathogens and your skin, mouth, lungs and even genitals shelter their diverse communities. The biggest of these rhyme zones lies deep in murky depths of your colon where trillions inhabit in union with their surroundings. Here they break down dietary fiber, produce crucial nutrients like butyrate and keep your gut up, clean and healthy 24/7.
Always in a curiously creepy relationship, these teeming pathogens have peacefully evolved over the time and have been our most lovable companion ever since, executing all important role in rallying digestion and shoring up our immune system.
Living with an attitude!
There are lots of places on our body for them to live. It’s like a jungle to them. Right from skin and tooth, nostrils and tongue, tonsils and lungs and belly button to dark corners of your gut and genitalia; it’s a home to every one of them!
Many species live in harmony live with us and within us and promote health. For instance our gastrointestinal health is right in their hands. Any dysbiosis or slightest shift in the gut microbiome and all hell breaks loose.
And guess what? …this is true for other areas of your body as well.
This is where it gets confusing…
An over indulgence into burgers and chocolates in all likelihood affects your risk of obesity and the type of microbes that grow in your gut. So how would you know if it is a bad mix of bugs breaking down and soaking up your food and wouldn’t add inches to your belly?
Seriously; nobody has the right answers to this. “Bugs for Drugs” might take some time to happen. Till then if you’re really interested in finding out what haunts your belly and bowels, a microbiome test (Ohmygut®) test might get an overview of who you’re living with. If you could follow personalized food recommendations, this might of some help in enhancing your microbial well being!
But then there are lots of places in you for bugs to live and thrive in….
And I thought I was pristine and clean!
The bugs on my skin
Good ol’ skin or the integument is home to some meaningful bugs that protect us from invaders and marauders amongst them and support our immune system. Some produce molecules to drive off potentially harmful microbes from colonizing the skin making it a physical barrier. A few others like Staphylococcus epidermis produce anti microbial compounds to stave off something serious like skin cancer. Acne linked bacteria however don’t help much.
My eyes don’t shine alone
Like skin, eyes do not fare any better when it comes trading benefits. An ideal habitat, microbes find comfort in my cornea and the tissue on the inside of the eyelid. Relatively small, any imbalance in this microbiome results in dry eye disease and endophthalmitis or bacterial conjunctivitis.
I could smell them!
Dark warm and damp,my nose is just the perfect place for microbes and is very sensitive to faltering microbial homestead. Shaped by different factors just like gut bugs, nose microbiome is re-engineered by changing environment of the host and is affected by medical conditions. Dysbiosis here could be the reason why asthma, chronic rhinosinusitis, influenza, and bronchiolitis happen headlong and yet are curable with certitude.
Keepers to my tonsils
Tonsils, when invaded by stray bugs-fight infection by trapping assaulting microbes that enter through mouth or nasal passage and producing antibodies to kill them. A diverse ecosystem of microbes at their disposal helps them do this job. Adenotonsilla microbiome may have different contagions for children and adults; but why it couldn’t ward off bacterial tonsillitis, is yet to be discovered.
Wax, bugs and infections- my ear is home to each one of them
The middle ear is a safe haven to a diverse community of thriving microbes which when out of buggy could wreak havoc in ear; infections, inflammations and other hard pushed complaints. Both genetics and microbiome could add considerably to the risk of middle ear infections and consequential painful days.
But what happens inside me is more bewildering!…
Lots happening here!
Right from my school days, I’ve been stuck up with some good dental hygiene regimen. I brush twice a day…no smells, not hooked to any addictions and I check scrupulously if it smells bad in my mouth before going to bed! Yet at times my belly too groans, sharp pain pangs from toothache would send me into an overdrive and sometimes I get laid with fever from tonsillitis! I’m not spared…And I thought I knew everything about sterility.
But certainly not this!
My mouth is a den to plenty of microbes, some good, some not so good and could explain things like inflammation and tooth decay.
The oral cavity or the muzzle- as geeks call it, is a perfect territory for microbes to thrive; all warm, moist with an endless source of nutrients pouring in, plus plenty of structures and hiding places to stick to; the tongue, pockets between the gums and teeth and of course the teeth themselves. Let them have fun and Streptococcus mutans would run amok and devastate your ivory while Porphyromonasgingivalis could have your gums bleeding and crying foul!
Sometimes these bugs travel down elsewhere in the body like gut and lungs and when that happens dysbiosis strikes hard.
When it comes to bugs, my breath is no different
Once thought of as a sterile environment, lungs are now known to have their own small microbiome; much smaller than the one that the gut holds because the lungs do not have the same kind of hem or sheathing to adhere to. Rather they ease oxygenation through a surfactant that is designed to facilitate the transfer.
Red flags! It’s time to see an urologist
Like the lungs, bladder too is not as sterile and bacteria-free as I believed it to be. While little is known about the mysteries surrounding microbiome here in urine pouch, there is still no evidence if bugs here could rig out a protective barrier for my health. Visible haematuria, spinal cord compression or progressive neurologic dysfunction, well… these are of particular concern since I wouldn’t know what I’m fighting with; rampaging bugs or some cross purpose therapeutic condition!
So, next time you get anxious about your well being and have an urge to inspect yourself, start with your belly button; the soft spot. Though there a number of places you could begin with,the center of your stomach could reveal much offhand.
Remember…! “The Incas believed that Cuzco was the navel of the universe”.
For instance, if it smells a bit ripe, it’s the umbilical microbiome –passed on to you with your first breath, that has found itself a cozy homestead and is likely to stay with you till you live. Weirdly, it could be any or many of the 2368 different species that inhabit your navel, reacting and interacting with your body and not always in battle with it.
It’s incredible to think that the DNA of these superbugs carries more information than it would take literally a ton of DVDs to store for medical accomplishments.
See… didn’t I say, you are never alone in an eerie world of microbes!!...