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The human microbiome – it isn't black and white

The human microbiome – it isn't black and white.

The microbiome is many things. But simple, it is not.

Bacteria, it’s good or it’s bad, right? It’s either making your gut happy and protecting you from disease or it IS the disease, right...?

The argument over the past few years has revolved around what constitutes ‘good’ or ‘bad’ bacteria. But this binary view of ‘good’ versus ‘bad’ is leading to confusion, and in turn, a misunderstanding of how a healthy gut operates.

The human microbiome is estimated to contain about 100 trillion microbes – equivalent in weight to the brain.

This enormously lively and diverse ecosystem is so complex that it is impossible to reduce it to the black and white terms of ‘good’ and ‘bad’.

There’s no such thing as good or bad bacteria, only an imbalance of the microbiota where dominant species become less prevalent and are outcompeted by species of bacteria that increase to fill the void left by the dominant species.

For example, studies of patients with Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD) have reported the patients as having decreased bacterial diversity compared with healthy individuals.

The microbiome is dynamic and changes constantly in response to environmental factors, such as diet, use of antibiotics and early childhood development.

So hold off on the harsh labelling, bacteria is all about balance.

Written By Georgia Bell

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