Did you know the microbiome on your skin controls what you smell like?
Yet, not many people even know what the microbiome is or how to take care of it.
The microbiome is all around us and even inside us. It directly affects our health, so it is important that we keep it balanced rather than neglected.
So let’s clear up some of the confusion.
What is the microbiome?
Let’s start with what the microbiome is not. The microbiome is not a single organism. It is not bacteria or “probiotics”. Bacteria are just one part of the microbiome!
The microbiome is a community of organisms - consisting of bacteria, viruses, and single-celled organisms. It operates much like a city.
Have you had kombucha? The “mother” culture that ferments tea into kombucha is an example of a microbiome community!
What do they do?
The microbiome is an incredible community. The microbiome can digest petroleum, create oxygen for air, or nitrogen for plants.
With such powerful qualities, the microbiome can help operations as large as cleaning up oil spills or at a smaller scale of keeping your body healthy everyday.
You may have already realized the microbiome can do things that no other processes can do. A great example of this phenomenal process is the nutrient vitamin B12. Many insects, fish, and reptiles have evolved relationships with microorganisms where they provide the microorganisms with specific nutrients and the microorganisms produce Vitamin B12. This means that these insects, fish and reptiles need the microorganisms to survive!
Why is the microbiome important?
The microbiome helps us to process key compounds in our body, protect against bad organisms, and stabilize our immune system. Because there is a healthy steady state for the microbiome, when you sterilize surfaces — or use certain antibacterial substances to clean — you risk that the next thing that comes along will take over that space. If what comes along next is a bad type of organism...then you risk being exposed to a more harmful substance.
So does that mean there is such a thing as being “too clean”? Cybele friend Dr. Jack Gilbert and Cybele advisor Dr. Rob Knight think so. In their book Dirt is Good, the microbiome experts explore how being too clean can affect your life and the advantage germs can have for a developing immune system.
Instead of a sterilized environment, we should be working to produce desirable microbes that bring us desirable results. By doing this, science allows us to target healthy outcomes of the microbiome, giving us the control to produce the results we want.
In this way, we can use our bodies’ natural processes to make us healthier and optimize our bodies’ functions. The intention is to be more efficient by working with our microbiomes, rather than against it.
How does this affect us?
We have trillions of essential microbes within our bodies making up communities of microbiomes that determine our health. Our skin, gut, and mouth are just a few.
So if we cannot sterilize our microbiomes into a healthy environment, what do we do?
We balance it.
We do this by feeding our microbiomes the healthy components it needs to stabilize and produce healthy outcomes. The foods we ingest directly affect the balance of our gut’s microbiome and contribute to its ability to perform effectively. The products we put on the surface of our skin interact with the existing community of organisms there and change the way the system acts.
So what do we do?
If it sounds like everything we do interacts with these microbiomes, then you’re right. That is why it is important that we are feeding our microbiomes the nutrients it needs to perform with favorable results. Inversely, when we give it harmful substances, we can unknowingly kill off the good microbes produced by our bodies.
Take a more active role in what you feed your microbiomes and you will notice a substantial difference in your health. Apply products to your skin and eat foods for your gut with good microbes to optimize the microbiomes inside of you.
Here are a few great resources to get you started:
Diet and the Gut Microbiota:
The Good Gut by Justin and Erica Sonnerberg:
Dive into the science and research data on the microbiome with the American Gut Project:
Find I contain Multitudes by Ed Yong on Amazon:
Find Dirt is Good on Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Dirt-Good-Advantage-Childs-Developing/dp/1250132606