Everyone already knows how the old saying goes -- we are what we eat -- but really we are what our microbiome digests. So let’s begin our digestion of what we know about the microbiome. 

WHO has a microbiome? Everyone. 

WHAT influences the microbiome? Everything: from age, diet, medications, pets, friends, family and roommates.

WHEN is the microbiome working? All the time. Like ourselves, the microbiome works by a biological clock, and dominant bacteria and functions fluctuate throughout the day. 

WHERE is the microbiome located? Our microbiome is present wherever our bodies meet the environment: our skin, lungs, and even the gut. (Really the gut? Yes, our guts are technically a tube within us that encloses the food from the outside to keep it outside).

WHY should we care about our microbiome? Because it’s a huge part of our health! In specific places, the microbiome’s role can change. For example, the skin microbiome contributes to external health (like dermatitis) while lung + gut microbiomes contribute to internal health (pulmonary and gastrointestinal diseases, respectively). 

So if everyone has a microbiome that is influenced by everything we eat, touch, do (or not do), and the microbiome contributes to both internal and external health, why are we just now hearing about it? The aweing answer is: technology. 

If the DNA for a person’s genome is a book, it’d be over 6 million characters, longer than the world record for the longest novel (9 million characters). The key method that tells the story of our microbiome is called High-Throughput Sequencing: we are ‘sequencing’ the genetics at a ‘high-throughput’ pace for better cost effectiveness. Compared to a human, computers are speedy hares at reading the unabridged novel of each individual. Thank you High-Throughput Sequencing. The more reads per sample, the more accurate the method (ie: reducing the noise from contamination, by products, etc)... which also means the more data generated. 

This new technology is only useful if the reads are translatable, and the abundance of data generated from sequencing makes line graphs and pie charts look like child’s play when reading results. Only those who can read the results can interpret the data and furthermore, determine for themselves if the study is sound or just sounds like (pun intended)... bullshit. It’s easy to forget that experts are also human, and their subconscious views (like politics) can influence the outcome of the study (aka bias). 

Everyone has a microbiome that is influenced by everything we eat, touch, do (or not do), and the microbiome contributes to both internal and external health, but data and graphs are like cigarette advertisements -- sexy, flashy, and full of misleading messages. 

That’s why it’s important for humanity to work together: the more perspectives, the less biases. 

It’s important for individuals to take accountability for their own actions, reading, and health.

That’s why Project Green Beard exists: to build a greater sense of community. 

That’s why we at PGB want to share with you how to dissect data for a greater collective knowledge like our microbiome digests food for thought.


What is it and why should we care about our microbiome? 
We start the discussion on how to start thinking about what we eat, why we eat is, and how to be healthier with sustainable lifelong practices.

More to come!

Image by Jasmin Schreiber