Mycorhizza, Microbiome, and You

by Dr. Rob

This picture of fungus growing on a dead tree branch was taken in my compost pile. We are beginning to understand more profoundly the amazing role of fungal and mycorrhizal networks in the Earth’s ecosystem. Myco (fungus) and Rhiza (root) specifically refers to the symbiotic associations between a green plant and a fungus. For example a plant provides the mycorrhiza with sugar and carbohydrates while the mycorrhiza helps deliver mineral nutrients and water to the plants roots.

Astoundingly though, these associations go way beyond this simple exchange. Mycorrhiza are critical to plants’ ability to resist disease and drought, ward off insects and predators, and even withstand toxins. In the case of disease, the mycorrhiza literally become part of the plant immune system, fighting soil borne microbial pathogens and secreting enzymes that can be toxic to organisms like nematodes. In the case of insects, plants can literally communicate through mycorrhiza to alert nearby plants and take measures such as releasing volatile organic compounds (VOCs) that attract insect predators.

Even more astounding is the connection between the soil microbial world and that of our own microbiome, the ecosystem living in our gut that evolved with us over millions of years (and before we ever even became hominids in the first place). In a similar way to mycorrhizal networks, a healthy microbiome is the underpinning of our own immune system. Without it, our white blood cells alone would not stand a chance. And also in a similar way, the nervous system in our gut (gut brain which includes more neurons than even the human brain) communicates with our microbiome.

There is literally a connection between the microbiome and our brains, and the rest of our body. The healthier our soil, the healthier our gut, and the healthier we are. Celebrate soil. Find a farmers market near you. Support organic and regenerative farmers! Appreciate nature and all the amazing and mysterious connections happening in every moment.

Posted by Dr. Rob

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