Wednesday, 30 March 2016

March 2016 (4)

I have just been reading a new book The Microbiome Solution by Dr Robynne Chutkan.  Its an excellent book if a little long winded and over technical, but the subject is of great importance to us all.  For those interested in the detail, its well worth paying the $20 or so on line. 

After only a little research on the subject I came across a brilliant web site by the University of Utah (Health Sciences).  This tutorial "The Human Microbiome" is succinct and to the point and will change the way you think about yourself.  I have listed a series of links to this site and tutorials in my sidebar (below left) under "Microbes and Human Health" if your interested. 

You may wonder what an elderly amateur organic gardener might find interesting in these two publications, but there is a link between the Human Microbiome and the Soil Microbiome.  In both cases there are ubiquitous mutualistic relationships controlled by the principal organisms, the human body and the bodies of the plants we eat.

What we eat determines the balance of microbial genera operating in our bodies, and the particular functions they perform.  Similarly plants feed their microbes with photosynthesised exudates from their roots.  They alter the constituents of these exudates to control the microbial genera balance in their rhizospheres.  By controlling this balance, they control the mix of plant nutrients the microbes provide.  Our appetite helps us chose what food our body needs, and plants change the diet of their microbes to control the balance of nutrients they need. 

I have become almost obsessed with the activities of microbes in the soil working in mutualistic relationships with plants and other soil inhabitants.  What I did not expect to find was the similarity between these intimate relationships in the soil and those in our own bodies.

The relationship between a healthy soil microbiome and a healthy human one is its food.  The soil microbiome will only feed plants adequately if it is fed with a diverse source of organic materials.  Similarly, the human microbiome will only serve us well if it is fed with a diverse mix of fresh healthy food. 

My understanding is that modern processed foods and overuse of sugars is altering the balance of microbes in the microbiomes of people these days with serious implications.  It is said that these new balances are a root cause of many modern human diseases.

A healthy diet is a critical factor in avoiding chronic illness, and my personal interest is in ensuring that the fruit and veggies I produce in my garden have been fed in an ecosystem containing an extremely diverse and active plant microbiome.  I want my wife and I to benefit from the flow on from this healthy food to our own human microbiomes which hopefully will deliver a full spectrum of micronutrients and other services needed to maintain our good health.