What is the microbiome?
What are microbes, gut flora and human gut bacteria?
Find out more about the definition of the microbiome & microbiota.
What is the microbiome or microbiota?
Our bodies are home to trillions of microbes.
Microbes live on our skin, inside our guts, our mouth, noses – in fact on every surface of the body, both inside and out.
Our collection of microbes in and on our bodies, are known as the microbiota or microbiome.
Everybody has a different collection of microbes in their microbiota, depending on:-
– the type of food they eat
– if they have pets in the house or animals living nearby
– whether they take antibiotics or other medicines
– the types of microbes inherited from our parents at birth
Our personal mix of microbes changes daily, in response to what we eat, the medicines we take & our environment.
What are microbes?
Microbes are tiny living things that can only be seen under a microscope.
Microbes include bacteria, fungi (or yeasts), viruses, and protozoa (these have only one cell).
Some microbes can cause illnesses, including viruses. These are known as pathogens.
Most of the bacteria in our body live in our gut.
The gut is home to more than 100 trillion microbes, the majority of them in the large intestine (also known as the colon or gut).
Over 1000 types of bacteria can live in the human gut.
Much of the food we eat is broken down by enzymes that our body creates itself, first in the stomach & then in the small intestine where molecules broken down from food are absorbed into our bloodstream.
Leftover food particles, such as fibre (from vegetables) that our body can’t digest by itself, travel down to the large intestine.
Here, our gut microbes (often called gut bacteria), break down the fibre in our food.
This creates chemicals, vitamins and extra nutrients, that our bodies can’t produce on their own, hence relying on helpful gut bacteria to carry out this task.
We work as a team with our gut bacteria.
Our bodies give them food & shelter, while they produce nutrients, vitamins & chemicals that we need for a healthy immune system & metabolism.
Different types of beneficial gut bacteria feed on different types of fibre and as a result, produce different chemicals or vitamins.
What is the gut flora?
You might have heard people talk about “gut flora”.
It’s another name for the collection of bacteria or microbes in our gut.
Microbiome vs Microbiota : What is the Difference?
The collection of microbes in our bodies is called the microbiota by some people and the microbiome by others.
There are different opinions about which term is right, and they are often used to mean the same thing.
The microbiota is the community of all the different types of microbes that live in and on the human body.
So the gut microbiota is all the microbes that live in our gut.
The microbiome is all the bacteria that live in and on us, plus all their genes.
Each type of microbe has different genes inside their cells to control how they work.
The microbiome is the collection of all the genes of all the microbes in your body.
So the gut microbiome is all the bacteria that live in our gut, plus all their genes.
Often though,the term “microbiome” is also used to describe all the different types of microbes living in our body.
“Microbiome” can also be used to describe the relationships between our microbes & our body.
The Science Bit
The information I share on this site distills the research I’ve read on the microbiome, prebiotics & probiotics.
You’ll find links to the relevant research studies on each page.
I’m not a scientist / dietician / nutritionist. I’m a food lover & home cook, putting microbiome research findings into action in my kitchen.
Find out more about the scientists leading research into the microbiome on the FAQs page