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Microbiota and Microbiome – What’s the Difference?

Microbiota and Microbiome – What’s the Difference?

These two words might seem like the same thing, but they are not. Simply put, the microbiota refers to the actual bacteria, fungi, and even viruses in your body, primarily in your gut but elsewhere as well, while the microbiome is the microbiota and the environment of the microbiota with all its genomic intricacies. There are many more genetic instructions in the microbiome than there are human genetic encoding. Here’s an article that speaks to the nuances.

Microbiome Vs Microbiota

This article from https://www.fiosgenomics.com/  explains the difference between ‘microbiome’ and microbiota.

What Is the Microbiome?

The collection of genomes of all the microorganisms found in a particular environment is a microbiome. Humans, plants, and other animals all have microbiomes. You can refer to the microbiome of an entire organism, or to a specific microbiome of a particular location on the organism. In fact, at Fios we use microbiome analysis on the microbiome of entire organisms and also on local microbiomes on organisms, for example one of the microbiome bioinformatics solutions we provide gut microbiome analysis.

Microbiomes are individual to each organism and the diversity in microbiomes between individuals is huge. In fact, there can be a lot of variation in an individual’s microbiome makeup. In humans, there are a number of specific and separate microbiomes present. For example, skin, lungs and the gastrointestinal tract all have separate microbiomes. The combination of these microbiomes makes up a unique microbiome for each person.

Microbiome Vs Microbiota

Sometimes used interchangeably, these two terms have subtle differences. The microbiome refers to the collection of genomes from all the microorganisms in the environment.

Microbiota, on the other hand, usually refers to microorganisms that are found within a specific environment. Microbiota can refer to all the microorganisms found in an environment, including bacteria, viruses, and fungi.  This means that there are localized differences in the microbiota of each person, depending on where in the body the microbiota is collected from. In fact, an individual’s gut microbiota can be radically different to their skin microbiota, so we need to take care when talking about where microbiota comes from. Due to our expertise in microbiome bioinformatics, Fios regularly conducts many different types of microbiome analysis, including skin microbiome analysis, gut microbiome analysis and lung microbiome analysis.

Why Is the Microbiome Important?

A cohort study as part of the Human Microbiome Project found that there may be more than 8 million unique genes associated with the microbiomes in the human body. Moreover, the total human microbiome may give a genetic contribution to each person several hundred times greater than their whole genome.

Of course, microbiomes aren’t only in humans. Take plants for example, in agriculture understanding a plant’s microbiome will help boost yields, by taking advantage of the microorganisms and their genes that already reside there.

For humans, the various microbes can have impacts on disease.  In fact, microbiomes can broadly influence four different areas for humans: nutrition, immunity, behavior and disease. For example, beneficial microbiota in the gut can help digest food that humans would be otherwise unable to break down. However, harmful microbiota can cause damage as well as various gastrointestinal diseases. (end of article)

Now, it’s true we view life through a human lens and we tend to consider we are the center of all things. Sure, we have risen up the evolutionary ladder to the point that we think we are governing and guiding the planet. (And not doing a very good job of it!) When we ask the question, “Is there life on other planets?” We are generally thinking of human like life or intelligence that may be able to communicate with us, read our mathematical equations that are beamed out via microwave transmissions. But let’s pause a moment and reflect on the life surrounding us on our own planet. There are literally millions of species of ‘life’ on our own planet. Even plant life has a communication system. Trees talk with trees. Fungi communicate with trees and help supply their needs, while the trees give life to the fungi by donating sugars. Let’s take the lowly earthworm. It certainly qualifies as a living species but we don’t speak “earthworm,” nor can they communicate with us in any language that we can comprehend. If we destroy all the earthworms in the soil, human life would cease to exist, because they are an integral part of the ecosystem. Even our pet dogs, while intelligent and capable of communicating with us, they use a lot of intention and body language. Our dog Sareena,  knows exactly how to communicate that she’d like another handful of kibble. She can even tell time. She knows when it’s time for her healthy snack.  All organic matter from plants to animals are part of the microbiome system of our planet. 

In short, when the scripture says from “dust thou art and to dust thou shalt return,” it means we are emanating from the soil of this planet. It’s mostly contained in the first 12 to 18 inches of topsoil. In order for us as humans to be healthy, our planet must be healthy to sustain life. The United Nations has warned that we may only have 80 – 100 harvests left at the rate we are depleting and degrading the soil. This means there is not much time to reverse this trend. Many civilizations have perished due soil mismanagement. The ancient Mayans ceased to exist because of over-farming and food shortages. There have been several mass extinction events in the course of the history of this little spinning mudball we call home.

There is a movement underway called Save Soil. You can check it out at ConsciousPlanet.org and also at SaveSoil.org. The first six minute video explains the problem. This movement is being spearheaded by an Indian named Sadhguru. Before passing judgment, please note that his foundation has raised money and convinced governments and volunteers to plant over 40,000,000 trees so far in the Cauvery River basin in south India. He’s a New York Times bestselling author, lives part time in Tennessee, rides a BMW motorcycle  and constantly travels the planet speaking at universities, governmental meetings, and various international gatherings. Just because he teaches yoga as a science doesn’t mean he’s not well versed in ecology. 

Solution to Climate Change?

Zach Bush, MD first enlightened me with similar prognostications. His lab in Virginia discovered that the chemical in RoundUp which began to be used in agriculture in 1996, is a water-based molecule called glyphosate that is used as an antibiotic on wheat, soy and corn. It’s used as a desiccant to suck the water out of the crop, kill the germ (seed) to speed up harvesting time. The EPA says in small amounts it doesn’t harm humans, only plants. But plants are what we eat. It’s what cows, sheep and chickens eat. We can fall victim to a residual buildup of glyphosate that creates a breakdown in our gut microbiome instigating such maladies as leaky gut. It’s also recognized to be responsible in many other areas of health although “governmental sciences” lag behind the research by about twenty or more years.

See:https://www.beyondceliac.org/gluten-free-diet/common-food-safety-questions/food-safety-what-is-glyphosate-and-what-does-it-have-to-do-with-celiac-disease/#:~:text=They%20hypothesize%20that%20the%20herbicide,and%20these%20conditions%20in%20animals and also https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6790068/ 

While we worry much about carbon emissions, the greatest repository of carbon lies in the earth. The trees and plants with magnificent root systems need that carbon and the tree will sop it up and solve the entire problem, so says Dr Mark Hyman. Read what many more scientists say.

Conscious Planet subscribers include Leonardo DiCaprio, Jane Goodall, His Holiness the Dalai Lama, Deepak Chopra, MD, and tens of thousands more. (including me!)

My next sojourn in my learning is to find out more about Regenerative Agriculture. It’s really our only option to save our own microbiome. 

Books to read: Available at your library: Gut Health Hacks – 200 ways to Balance your gut microbiome and improve your health! I’ll share a tip or two about the microbiome and how to keep yours happy!

Garey’s Tip #1: Jump on a trampoline! Yes, I mean it. They can be purchased online for $50 to $300 but a personal trampoline is a great way to keep your lymphatic system moving. The lymph drains the body of waste. A moderate bounce on a personal trampoline provides about 2x G-force and yes, astronauts use trampolines in training for space, and it’s a good workout for earthlings.. The lymphatic system is hydraulic, there is no pump attached to the lymph. Get moving, and help your digestive system to move. 

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