Principles of ecology apply at myriad scales, including within the human body and the intertwined macro and microscopic ecosystems that we depend upon for survival. The conceptual principles of dysbiosis (‘life in distress’) also apply to different realms of life—our microbiome, the macro environment and the socioeconomic domain. Viewing the human body as a holobiont—a host plus billions of microbial organisms working symbiotically to form a functioning ecological unit—has the potential to enhance personal and planetary health. We discuss this ecological perspective in our paper. We also discuss the proposals to rewild the microbiome, innovative microbiome-inspired green infrastructure (MIGI) and the basis of prescribing ‘doses of nature’. Particular emphasis is given to MIGI—a collective term for the design and management of innovative living urban features that could potentially enhance public health via health-inducing microbial interactions. This concept builds upon the microbiome rewilding hypothesis. Mounting evidence points to the importance of microbial diversity in maintaining favorable health. Moreover, connecting with nature—both physically and psychologically–has been shown to enhance our health and wellbeing. However, we still need to understand the underlying mechanisms, and optimal types and levels of exposure. This paper adds to other recent calls for the inclusion of the environment-microbiome-health axis in nature–human health research. Recognizing that all forms of life—both the seen and the unseen—are in some way connected (ecologically, socially, evolutionarily), paves the way to valuing reciprocity in the nature–human relationship. It is with a holistic and symbiotic perspective that we can begin to integrate strategies and address connected issues of human and environmental health. The prospective strategies discussed in our paper focus on enhancing our connections with the natural world, and ultimately aim to help address the global challenge of halting and reversing dysbiosis in all its manifestations.
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- planetary health
- urban nature