The Human Microbiome Project sponsored by the National Institutes of Health is an ambitious undertaking which demonstrates the good that government can accomplish on a large scale. Here is the way it works:
- Phase I: 2007 to 2012– data gathered to identify human microbes
- Phase II: 2013 through 2015–data assembled identifying interactions between microbes and humans.
Many labs and leading researchers across the United States are involved.
What is an optimum microbiota? No one knows that yet. Yet different microbes are seen in lean as opposed obese individuals which suggests that some colonies are more healthful than others. Also, specific strains are known to help in digestive disorders, atopic conditions, asthma, allergies and autism spectrum disorders as well as metabolic conditions such as diabetes and heart disease.
An excellent article written by David Yeager in Today’s Dietitian in September quoted Stanford researcher Justin L. Sonnenburg as saying “modern practices such as cesarean sections, antibiotic use, and low-fiber diets as well as overly sanitized environments and food supplies have led to a major decrease in the diversity and function of human microbiota and may be predisposing us to conditions ranging from allergies and asthma to Crohn’s disease and cancer. Although microbiota can quickly change in ways that aren’t always predictable, there are some steps people can take to maintain their microbial health.”
These steps, said Sonnenburg, include changes in diet to approach a more healthful atmosphere for our microbes: a high-fiber diet, addition of fermented foods, judicious use of antibiotics and attention to healthful practices such as breastfeeding rather than formula-feeding of babies.
Personalized prescriptions for individuals based on their genetic susceptibilities and environmental agents may be the future of medicine.