That commensal bacteria play an important role in human health is beyond doubt, and it is now widely accepted that humans function as super organisms, whose collective metabolic potential exceeds the sum of our individual eukaryotic and prokaryotic components. However, while it is has been established that the prokaryotic component of the human superorganism is amenable to manipulation by chemotherapeutic, dietary or microbial interventions, the significance of such alterations in terms of human health or well being is less well established. Prebiotics (non- digestible food ingredients that stimulate the growth and/or activity of bacteria in the digestive system) and probiotics (live microorganisms that when administered in adequate amounts, confer a health benefit on the host) are often bracketed among 'alternative' approaches to influencing human health, such as homeopathy, naturopathy, acupuncture and hypnotherapy. Others believe that prebiotics and probiotics have proven their effectiveness in properly conducted, clinically controlled human trials and therefore can be considered as evidence-based alternatives or adjuncts to conventional medicines. My journey from a position of total skepticism to 'reluctant convert' is the basis of this article, which should not be considered in any sense as a review of the literature but simply a personal account of this transition. While I am not bent on converting other doubters, I will recount some of the thought processes and evidence that has helped to form my current opinion.
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