The microbiome is the collection of microbes, such as bacteria, fungi, and viruses, that live in and on our bodies. These ancient allies result from thousands of years of human-microbe coevolution and play critical roles in maintaining our immune system and keeping us healthy.
However, Western and industrialized societies have suffered a massive reduction in microbial diversity and associated functional capacity. This is due to numerous stressors such as a diet low in fiber, consumption of highly processed foods, abuse and misuse of antibiotics, sedentary lifestyles, extreme sanitation practices, and environmental destruction.
Research has shown that a microbiome disruption, or imbalance, is linked to an alarming increase in autoimmune disorders and chronic inflammatory diseases. These include irritable bowel disease, diabetes, obesity, colorectal cancer, allergies, asthma, and atopy. Furthermore, these diseases take a heavy economic toll on the healthcare systems in the billions of dollars.
The Yanomami food system, characterized by hunting, foraging, small-scale gardening, and an active lifestyle fully immersed in their surrounding natural environment, may drive their highly diverse microbiome and nutritional status. As a result, chronic inflammatory diseases are minimal, if not absent, among isolated or minimally impacted Yanomami communities.
The Yanomami Foundation aims to support biocultural research that delves into the structure and function of the Yanomami microbiome. The research includes studying the Yanomami food systems, culture, and environment while focusing on communities that have not been adversely affected by exposure to antibiotics, highly processed foods, industrial toxins, and pollutants. Closing the knowledge gap in the link between the microbiome and human health takes us one step closer to genuinely understanding disease, health, and the human body
This critical research not only benefits humanity across the globe but helps us understand the unintended consequences of transculturation among the Yanomami and the essential measures needed to protect their robust microbiome and traditional lifestyles. The Yanomami people play an essential and critical role in biocultural research by participating as translators, guides, and research assistants. They are co-producers of knowledge and foster an environment of respectful exchange of information and skills.
The Yanomami Foundation is committed to supporting research projects that adhere to high bioethical standards and good stewardship practices. This includes providing top-quality equipment and supplies for expeditions, ensuring the highest quality of sample processing and data analysis, publishing results, sharing any monetary benefits derived from the research with the Yanomami communities, and providing updates and results.