What is the Gut Microbiome?
Usually, when you think of bacteria, you think of the ones that make you sick. When bacteria infect our bodies, they can cause diseases like pneumonia, meningitis, strep throat, and food poisoning. But, we also live peacefully with bacteria in our bodies that help us live healthy lives.
About 10-100 trillion bacteria live on our skin, in our mouths, and in the gastrointestinal tract. The bacteria in our gut help:
- break down food
- produce essential vitamins
- regulate metabolism and immune system
- influence how we think
These “good” bacteria may even keep the infectious bacteria from causing damage. Scientists continue to discover new ways that these bacteria help the human body. The bacteria within us is comprised of hundreds of species, and each person’s collection of gut bacteria is as unique as a fingerprint.
These colonies of bacteria are called the “microbiome.” (Biome is another name for an ecosystem). Genetics, diet, and geographic locations all impact the bacteria present in the microbiome. Scientists are finding that different balances of gut bacteria are linked to conditions including obesity, diabetes, and autoimmune diseases, including lupus.