Every human being contains a community of microbes. These are called our microbiota (biota meaning life), and the collective genes these microbes encode and all their genetic potential is our microbiome (much like our own genetic genome).
When people start talking about the human microbiome, they often focus exclusively on the bacteria in our gut. This is a misnomer. Our microbiome includes all the microbes on our skin, in our mouths, our genital tract and so on. It also includes all the other kinds of microbes like viruses and fungi, as well as the more familiar bacteria.
Our personal microbiome is fully formed by the time we reach the age of two or three. And every moment of our lives has the potential to radically alter its landscape and thus impact health. It has been linked to conditions like anxiety & depression, asthma, Parkinson’s disease, autism, diabetes, allergies, obesity and more. Research in this area is in its infancy with great potential to provide insight into human health and development.
Photo credit: @tablas08 on Unsplash