Your gut microbiome is a microscopic world within the world of your larger body.

The trillions of microorganisms that live there affect each other and their environment in various ways. They also appear to influence many aspects of your overall health, both within your digestive system and outside of it.

What is the gut microbiome? A biome is a distinct ecosystem characterized by its environment and its inhabitants. Your gut — inside your intestines — is in fact a miniature biome, populated by trillions of microscopic organisms. These microorganisms include over a thousand species of bacteria, as well as viruses, fungi and parasites. Your gut microbiome is unique to you. Infants inherit their first gut microbes during vaginal delivery or breastfeeding (chestfeeding). Later, your diet and other environmental exposures introduce new microbes to your biome. Some of these exposures can also harm and diminish your gut microbiota.