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What the Heck is a Microbiome (and Why Should You Care About Yours)?

By Alexia Dellner, PureWow

Quick flashback to biology 101: Your body is home to trillions of bacteria, viruses and fungi. It sounds kind of gross, but it’s actually super amazing. Here’s everything you’ve always wanted to know about your microbiome.

So, what is your microbiome? “The microbiome is the collection of trillions of microorganisms that live in and on our body,” nutritional scientist Dr. Tracy Shafizadeh tells us. “The majority of microorganisms are bacteria; some good and some bad.” And while these microorganisms live all over the body, recent research has revealed that the ones found in your gut (aka the gut microbiome) are especially important to your overall health.

Why is the gut microbiome so important? Surprise: The gut microbiome is related to conditions like irritable bowel syndrome, Crohn’s disease, colitis and acid reflux. “A lot of research going on right now is connecting gut health with autoimmune disease, neurodegenerative disorder, heart disease, cancer, diabetes and obesity,” explains Dr. Erika Angle, biochemist and CEO of gut microbiome test Ixcela. “The gut microbiome is such a hot area now because people are realizing it’s not just its own system. It’s actually linked to your brain health, emotional health, cardiovascular health and other systems, as well.” Whoa.

How do I know if my gut health is out of whack? There are the obvious clues that something’s not quite right (like chronic tummy aches, IBS, constipation and diarrhea), and then there are some more scientific methods, Dr. Angle says. By identifying which bacteria are produced by the gut and in what amounts, you can potentially determine whether they're functioning in the way that they should be. Companies like Viome, Ixcela and Habit offer users at-home microbiome tests that aim to do exactly that, by analyzing blood or stool samples to give health and diet insights... Read more on PureWow