The Surprising Things Your Microbiome Reveals About You

Updated: Aug. 22, 2017

Forget the introductions and let your microbiome do the talking.

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Wait, what is your microbiome? Take a deep breath: It’s the trillions of microbes—think bacteria, fungi, protozoa, and viruses—that live on and in you. (These are the reasons why bacteria is good for you!) Your microbiome’s makeup can shift around based on your diet, environment, or the people in your life. But, much like your fingerprint, your microbiome is one-of-a-kind, and it reveals quite a lot about you. 

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Your biological sex

In a new study, Canadian researchers swabbed skin samples from 17 different sites on the bodies of 10 couples and discovered that the skin microbiomes on the inner thigh were the most accurate predictors of biological sex. The inner thigh swabs accurately predicted a person’s gender 100 percent of the time, compared to the 80 percent accuracy rate of samples taken from other areas of the body. The research team suspects it may be because the proximity of the genitals influences a person’s microbiome in that area.

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Who your roommates are

That same Canadian study also found that your skin microbiome can accurately reveal who you live with 86 percent of the time. There’s a lot more sharing going on at home than you might realize: As gross as it sounds, you shed over one million biological particles an hour onto the floors you walk across or the showers you step into. According to the study, people who lived together had very similar microbiota profiles on the bottoms of their feet. No doubt you’re picking up each other’s microbiome when you pad across the floor. Besides sharing microbiomes with your roommate, here’s how you know you can trust them.

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Azovtsev Maksym/Shutterstock

You own a pet

A 2013 study stated that some people share more than just a striking resemblance to their pets, they may share skin microbiota. Scientists collected the fecal, oral, and skin samples from 60 families (married couples with children or dogs, both, or neither) and found that dog owners picked up skin microbes from their animals. But even more surprising, was how owning a dog increases your chances of sharing skin microbiota with other adults in the home. These findings suggest that direct and frequent contact with other people or animals in your home may significantly shape your microbiome. (These are the 13 secrets your dog knows about you!)

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You’re prone to migraines

Consuming too much junk food packed with food preservatives may be to blame for your pounding headache. In fact, nitrates (nitric acid salts often found in food preservatives) have been identified as common headache triggers. But one study suggests that checking the amount of nitrate-eating bacteria in the microbiome of your mouth may determine whether you get migraines. Researchers from the University of California San Diego and University of Chicago reported finding a higher abundance of bacterial nitrate, nitrite, and nitric oxide reducers in the mouths of people with migraines than in people who are mostly migraine-free.

Source: The New York Times