Dysbiotic drift and biopsychosocial medicine: how the microbiome links personal, public and planetary health

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Biopsychosoc Med


The emerging concept of planetary health emphasizes that the health of human civilization is intricately connected to the health of natural systems within the Earth's biosphere; here, we focus on the rapidly progressing microbiome science - the microbiota-mental health research in particular - as a way to illustrate the pathways by which exposure to biodiversity supports health. Microbiome science is illuminating the ways in which stress, socioeconomic disadvantage and social polices interact with lifestyle and behaviour to influence the micro and macro-level biodiversity that otherwise mediates health. Although the unfolding microbiome and mental health research is dominated by optimism in biomedical solutions (e.g. probiotics, prebiotics), we focus on the upstream psychosocial and ecological factors implicated in dysbiosis; we connect grand scale biodiversity in the external environment with differences in human-associated microbiota, and, by extension, differences in immune function and mental outlook. We argue that the success of planetary health as a new concept will be strengthened by a more sophisticated understanding of the ways in which individuals develop emotional connections to nature (nature relatedness) and the social policies and practices which facilitate or inhibit the pro-environmental values that otherwise support personal, public and planetary health.

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