Don’t freak out, but right now there are trillions of tiny bugs crawling all over and inside your body. But these aren’t the creepy crawlies that keep you up at night or give you a fright when spotted in a dusty corner. These “bugs” are part of your microbiome, a menagerie of mostly beneficial bacteria that scientists are now discovering can influence the functioning of everything from the immune system and gastrointestinal tract to the endocrine system and skin.
We have long known that bacteria exist within our bodies in abundance. In fact, there are 10 times more bacterial cells in your body than there are human cells: We are fully functioning, symbiotic organisms, groomed from birth to coexist and thrive with help from the countless microbes that inhabit both the areas on our bodies directly exposed to the environment (like the skin) and the body parts that interact with the outside world, such as the gastrointestinal tract (GI) and nasal membranes.