What is the human microbiome?

There are as many bacteria in our bodies as there are our own cells. Once we are born, we are colonised by trillions of bacteria from the skin outside our bodies to the intestines within us. This community of microorganisms that reside within us and function symbiotically to our own cells is known collectively as the human microbiome.

Over the past few years a great deal of research has been conducted into the different types of bacteria that inhabit our bodies and how the composition of these bacterial communities can impact our health.

Serious medical conditions such as type 2 diabetes, inflammatory bowel disease and obesity have been linked to the microbiome, and people with chronic intestinal illnesses are even beginning to receive faecal transplants from donors to help reestablish a healthy composition of bacteria in the gut.

The three key factors we control which influence the diversity of bacteria in our gut include:

The research involving exercise and its benefits to our immune system are particularly interesting. Studies have shown how incorporating even moderate exercise into your lifestyle can reduce intestinal inflammation and influenza.

In the next few articles, I intend to go into greater detail into how we can change our microbiome by modifying our diet and the methods scientists use to identify different types of bacteria.

About Jack Simpson

Graduate researcher working in the field of computational biology at the Australian National University. I love writing (both articles and software), learning more about the world around us, and beekeeping.

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