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Biome 101: Everything You Need to Know About The Microbiome

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“You didn’t come into this world. You came out of it. You are not a stranger here.” - Alan Watts.

Humans spend immense time, energy, and money building barriers between ourselves and nature. We all have our own “shields” to help us stay clean and protected: soap, sanitizer, or the walls of our own homes. But, in reality, we can’t separate ourselves from the biomes—that is, the unique, dynamic natural ecosystems—in which we live.

That’s because biomes don’t just exist around us. They’re on us and inside of us, too! Unfortunately, most of us don’t stop to think about our connections to our outdoor biome, let alone the biomes on our bodies. So let's nail down the basics:

Biome Basics

A biome is defined as a localized community of plant and animal life which have developed alongside their climate, landscape, and various other aspects of their environment. The different parts of a biome are closely linked and interwoven, and rely on each other to stay healthy and strong.

For example, think about the biome of a tropical garden. There are living and non-living things, plants and animals and environmental factors, and they all come together to create a network bigger than themselves:

  • The sun shines continually on the garden, and the air is humid, providing perfect growing conditions for moisture-loving plant life.
  • The soil of the garden contains minerals, nutrients, and water necessary to grow plants, and is also home to essential bacteria (like the nitrogen-fixing bacteria in peanut plants).
  • The plants in the garden use these elements to grow well, and provide food for animals and bugs like bunnies, bees, and ladybugs. In turn, these animals do helpful things such as pollinate plants or eat and excrete plants, which returns nutrients to the soil and helps the biome sustain itself.

As you can see, each part of the essential ecosystem—the biome—supports every other part.

The Biomes Around the World

Biomes are often discussed in relation to their climates. You’ve probably already heard of a few natural biomes, like the tundra, desert, or tropical rainforest. These large, oft-studied ecosystems make up the world around us.

But biomes exist in smaller sizes, too.

We often forget about the most prevalent biomes in our everyday lives: the ones on (and inside) our own bodies. If we carry around an entire world of life, movement, and growth everywhere we go, why don’t we spend more time talking about it—and helping it thrive?

The Biome on your Body

Only recently did we learn that this tiny ecosystem even existed. Your skin is home to a wide array of living organisms, and the inside of your body has its own population, too. So it makes sense why scientists are suddenly so excited about the microbiome—it’s literally a whole new world of life, sitting at our fingertips.

This explains the surge of discussion around the gut microbiome in particular. You may have noticed a lot of recent interest in probiotics for the stomach, which more and more researchers believe can boost the life inside of us and aid in digestion and overall health. In the last few years, labs like AOBiome have also expanded this concept to the skin, exploring the positive effects of a healthy microbiome on our body’s surface.

We’re still in the beginning phases of microbiome research, but it all goes back to one idea: The world interacts in fascinating webs of cooperation - not just around us, but with us, on us, and in us, too.

Caring for Our Biomes

If our own “ecosystems” have so much in common with the interdependent, complex biomes in nature, shouldn’t we treat them as such? When we increase our separation from nature with our modern, sheltered lifestyles and radical cleanliness, it’s easy to forget that we are a part of something bigger.

Check out our animated video on the role of AOB in the biomes of nature:

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Humans increasingly distance themselves from natural indoor and outdoor biomes—think about how much money we spend to keep away dirt and bacteria! But, just as we consider the impacts of harmful chemicals on our environment, we might want to start thinking about the ways the chemistry of modern soaps, shampoos, and cleansers affects (and disrupts) the rhythms of our skin. After all, we wouldn’t want to wipe out the diversity of a forest or a tundra by exposing them to harsh chemicals and risking their disappearance. Why should we risk it with our own bodies?

As we’ve been learning about the human biome, we’re gradually figuring out how to take care of it. We’ve seen probiotics take off, as well as other medicines being researched to cater to living microorganisms. Hopefully, all of this will help us challenge our desire to kill all bacteria on our surfaces and in our bodies.

In reality, we’re not at all separate from nature—we’re a part of it. This is why we encourage the use of probiotics and biome-friendly skin care products: to keep our own biomes as rich as possible without disrupting their natural processes. We want to allow our bodies to thrive like the living, breathing, and changing systems they are.

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