Wednesday, February 3, 2016 |
The microbes living on and inside us outnumber the cells in our bodies three to one. Many provide services on which our well-being, our moods, our very lives depend. They help to digest our food and operate the immune system. They trade information about potential mates when we kiss. They alert the brain to problems in different locations around the body. The balance of their populations in our gut is a crucial factor in our physical and mental health.
The effect of germs on our lives is not, however, a one-way street. We can help their efforts by the way we lead our lives.
The Germ Files is a one-stop source of the most up-to-date, life-changing information on our relationship with microbes, presented in concise and highly readable items grouped by theme. Areas covered include health, hygiene, sex, childcare, nutrition and dieting. (From the publisher.)
Here's an easy experiment to better understand the impact of microbes on our lives. Head to a mirror and stand before it. How many living organisms do you see in your reflection? Most people will say, "One." Humans have a tendency to think of themselves as individuals
Now, as the same question of a cellular biologist and the reply will be quite different: about 37 trillion. For that person, every cell in the body is a living organism, capable of surviving and thriving on its own. The human body is a collection of these cells, all working together to form who we are.
As a microbiologist - like me - and the answer nearly quadruples, to 137 trillion. To us, human cells make up only a fraction of the living organisms co-habiting with the person in the mirror. Most of the residents - up to 100 trillion - are microbial organisms, including bacteria, viruses, fungi, amoebae, and worms.
From The Germ Files by Jason Tetro ©2016. Published by Doubleday Canada.