We can all agree that living in peace and cooperation beats living in conflict. It turns out that our microbiome, (that community that lives in our gut), is either existing as a cooperative agent or a conflicting threat to our overall health and vitality based on the food we eat.
Interesting research is emerging that suggests the makeup of our microbiome affects many factors of our health, from behavior, to allergies, to our weight. A new study by Athena Aktitpis and her colleagues at Arizona State University, found that how we feed ourselves, or the nutrients that we provide to our microbiome, affects whether or not that community will participate in a symbiotic relationship with its host, that is to say, with our body.
Since the amount of microbes in our gut number about the same as human cells, it certainly makes sense to do everything in our power to keep them living in peace. A cooperative relationship between the two leads to health in the body, whereas conflict, essentially a competitive environment, with both sides fighting for nutrients, leads to higher levels of inflammation, metabolic disease, and cardiovascular disease.
Aktipis stresses that our gut microbes change and react in response to the nutrients we provide them. When there is peace in our gut, the microbes help to filter out substances that are harmful to us, and help to create energy for our cells to use. In return, our gut provides an environment that is conducive to a healthy microbe community.
One of the ways to throw this balance off is to eat too much fat and sugar. These nutrients tend to feed the microbes that cause illness, such as E. Coli. When combined with a low fiber diet, this type of eating encourages the growth of microbes that increase competition rather than cooperation in our gut. Prolonged competition can lead to increased inflammation, which leads to poor health.
Dr. Raphael Kellman, author of The Microbiome Diet (Da Capo Press), suggests that to encourage a robust and healthy microbiome, begin by removing inflammatory, allergenic, or reactive foods, including soy, dairy, and gluten. He also recommends removing trans fats, hydrogenated fats, all sugars and artificial sweeteners, and environmental toxins.
Once the foods that are contributing to imbalance in the gut are removed, Kellman recommends that you re-inoculate with probiotics, either by taking capsules or by eating fermented foods that contain live bacteria; including raw sauerkraut, kimchee, and kefir. In addition to probiotics, he encourages eating prebiotics, which help the healthy bacteria to thrive. Again, these can be taken in capsules, and are also available in fiber-rich foods such as asparagus, jicama, leeks, carrots, and jerusalem artichokes.
The fact that changing the way we eat can dramatically affect our health is not a new idea. However, by deepening our understanding of the process in our body, and choosing to promote peace within, on a microbial level, we can support ourselves in living with more vitality and less disease.