With probiotics moving to the forefront of the human-health arena, you have probably heard the words “microbiome” and “microbiota.” But what’s the difference? And what do these bio-techie terms really mean? Don’t get bogged down in industry jargon. The answer to this question is simpler than you may think.
The human microbiome is something we have talked about a lot. Here is what we know: the microbiome is comprised of both good and bad (read: pathogenic) bugs. The trillions of good and bad bugs in the microbiome outnumber our human cells by a factor of 100 to 1. In spite of what some may consider an uneven playing field, humans can still alter their microbiome. In fact, we do it every day.
This powerhouse is controlled by factors like diet, exercise, and previous and ongoing health conditions. Diet and exercise are easier to control, but sometimes health conditions are less manageable. As such, the key to a healthy microbiome is finding balance. Doing so can enable the body to combat depression, bipolar disorder, and other nuero-chemical imbalances. Equally interesting is the healthy human microbiome’s ability to guard our gut from unwanted microorganisms , regulate metabolism, inflammation, and immunity and –even more impressively– serve as treatment for multiple sclerosis, fibromyalgia, cancer, and possibly diabetes.
For a more in-depth overview of this central unit, watch this great NPR clip.
This part is simple. We’ve already discussed the microorganisms –the good, the bad, and the neutral– that make up a particular site (read: microbiome). These trillions of microorganisms within the microbiome are what we call the microbiota. The gut microbiome for instance will have its own microbiota, comprised of microorganisms specific to that environment. As for other microbiomes, they have their own microbiota.
Simple when you make the industry jargon more digestible, right? Now that you have the basics down, you’re in for some news. With tens of trillions of cells that make up the microbiome, scientists still have a lot to learn. But we’ll blog about that later, because we’ve got some researching to do.