The world flourishes with tiny lives that are an
integral part of the complex system of life.
In the universe, there are billions of galaxies.
Our galaxy, the Milky Way, has somewhere between 200 billion and 400 billion stars. Your body contains upward of 130 trillion cells. You are like a galaxy of stars, as beautiful, mysterious, and complex.
The philosophy of vitalism affirms that an environment that propels life and health can be cultivated when we recognize our body’s inherent complexity and wisdom and its inextricable connection to the world it inhabits. Our most intimate connection with the world is through our own body ecology.
A tiny world flourishes in you. Of the 130 trillion cells in your body, only about 30 trillion of them are human cells. You play hospitable host to more than 100 trillion bacterial and fungal cells that have coevolved with us and in us. Up to 3 percent of a human’s weight is microbial mass. That means that if you weigh 120 pounds (54.4 kg), then up to 3.6 pounds (1.6 kg) of that is your microbiome. A microbiome is the microbes and their relationship with their host and with other microbes in a specific location or habitat. Your microbiome includes all the various microbes that thrive in your gut, vagina, anus, nose, mouth, and skin. If we examine one person’s oral microbes and gut microbes, there is an incredible diversity.
Researchers at the Human Microbiome Project have identified the boundaries of our human microbes in the Western world. (Well, they think they have. . . .)
They collected samples from the skin, nose, mouth, lower intestines, and vaginas of 242 people and calculated that more than 10,000 microbial species occupy the human ecosystem.
The microbial garden of our body has untold and yet unknown capabilities.
The plethora of microbes in us contributes more genes responsible for our survival than we contribute. The Human Microbiome Project researchers estimate that the human microbiome contributes some eight million genes to our health and survival—that is 360 times more bacterial genes than human genes.
These microbes account for the majority of our production of nutrients, including methylated folate, fatty acids, fat-soluble vitamins, detoxification, and immune signaling.