The intestinal microbiota plays a crucial role in health and changes in its composition are linked with major global human diseases. Fully understanding what shapes the human intestinal microbiota composition and knowing ways of modulating the composition are critical for promotion of life-course health, combating diseases, and reducing global health disparities. We aim to provide a foundation for understanding what shapes the human intestinal microbiota on an individual and global scale, and how interventions could utilize this information to promote life-course health and reduce global health disparities. We briefly review experiences within the first 1,000 days of life and how long-term exposures to environmental elements or geographic specific cultures have lasting impacts on the intestinal microbiota. We also discuss major public health threats linked to the intestinal microbiota, including antimicrobial resistance and disappearing microbial diversity due to globalization. In order to promote global health, we argue that the interplay of the larger ecosystem with intestinal microbiota research should be utilized for future research and urge for global efforts to conserve microbial diversity.

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