Microbiome, The Garden in Your Gut
Think of the gut lining in your body from one opening (the mouth) to the other (the obvious). Are you growing a garden of healthy bacteria in that lining? Because that's what it's going to take to survive in today's world. The microbiome is the healthy bacteria that lines the entire digestive tract, protects us from germs, bacteria, viruses, and most invaders, expresses our genes, and generates our moods.
"Do you have a bad feeling in your gut?"
That bad feeling is a sign that something's wrong. One practice would be to ask for a prescription medication to cover up the feeling or to kill everything in your gut with a strong antibiotic. If you have a deadly bacterial disease, that's not a bad idea.
Luckily, humans are so capable of survival that we can replenish a healthy gut bacteria after a complete antibiotic warfare on our gut. By tending to our intestinal wall and recolonating the tissues with a healthy gut garden, we can repopulate a large portion of our microbiome.
What does the microbiome do?
According to Dr. Lipski from the Maryland Institute of Integrative Health, we have 10X more bacteria cells in our digestive system than human cells and these microbes talk to our genes, turning them on or off. This means that our genetics do not rule our health. These inherited genes can be shaped by our environment in what we call epigenetics so we don't have to suffer the same fate as our elders.
There are steps you can take to create a healthy environment and tend to your garden, instead of bombing it with heavy pesticides, antibiotics, and toxins.
The first step is realizing how important bacterial life is. We must trust the germs and microbial matter. Dr. Daphne Miller researched international cases of communities with allergies and asthma in her book, Farmacology and here's what she found.
The more diverse the "germs" or bacteria in the environment, for example a farmer living on land covered with defecation, fermenting grains, and animal matter, the more diverse the gut bacteria, and thus the more healthy the individual. I love Dr. Miller's recommendation for her allergic patients to go to a farm and get in the dirt before taking a medication that kills the bacteria in the gut.
What does this mean for us?
That there's a definite connection between a healthy diverse garden of bacteria in the gut and our allergies so we should tend to our gut like a garden.
3 Steps to Gardening a Good Gut:
- Get out in the dirt, garden, or volunteer on a farm. Pick vegetables from the ground, and expose yourself to a wide variety of microbial matter. Don't get so caught up in washing off the earth (as long as it is pesticide free.)
- Adopt a pet, care for your neighbors pet, or visit a farm, petting zoo, or seek out any type of animal exposure.
- Stop using the antibacterial soaps, creams, gels and solvents that kill or wipe out the beneficial bacteria on our body. Unless you are dealing with another person's dangerous fluids, your environmental germs will not harm you as much as trying to sterilize your skin will.
"We are not what we eat, we are what we can digest." - Dr. Liz Lipski
Most gardeners realize that a healthy garden needs healthy soil, water, and nutrients or food. Our gut is no different. It needs lots of water every day to grow a healthy microbiome and flush out the toxins and wastes.
Pre-biotics are the foods that feed the bacteria in the gut.
The human gut bacteria live on the fiber that reaches the large intestine. This means that the food should be highly indigestible by the stomach and make it all the way to the end of the chute. That's only seen in complex carbohydrates like fruit, vegetables, and whole grains.
Justin Sonnenberg, PhD, Stanford Professor in the Dept. of Microbiology and Immunology and his wife Erica Sonnenberg, PhD just released the book The Good Gut, which describes this diet as seen in their lab rats through years of scientific tests.
According to the Sonnenbergs, we have trillions of microbial cells and over 100X the amount of genes in our microbial genome. In plain English, we are more bacteria than we are human, so let's stop killing our bacterial flowers as though they are weeds and start nourishing them with healthy food.
3 Best Food Groups for the Healthy Gut Garden
- Organically grown vegetables and fruits
- Whole grains that have been properly soaked and prepared
- Fermented foods rich in beneficial bacteria
Like most garden soils, the nutrients can be stripped over time and need to be added over and over again. This stripping occurs in our mucosal lining and the diversity of our microbiome starts to fade. This makes us vulnerable to disease. There are 4 main offenders that strip our microbiome of nutrients.
4 Offenders That Strip Nutrients From our Microbiome
- Sanitization - as in hand sanitizers
- Bad Diet - refined sugars, refined vegetable oils, and refined carbs
Of course, a few of these are unavoidable at times in our stressful lives, but the microbiome is a living organism that can heal and overcome life's tragedies. If you're addicted to hand sanitizers, I urge you to try washing with soap and warm water and finding some time to get your hands in mother nature's healing soil.
If you've recently taken a course of antibiotics, I recommend you speak with a health professional to find a strong probiotic and start eating probiotic fermented foods such as pickles, krauts, and kefir daily to try and help recover your healthy bacteria.
If you suffer from a bad diet, don't worry the Food Foundation Spring Detox is coming soon. It's a very simple 3 week flush from processed and refined foods with an emphasis on how to eat the right proteins, healthy fats, and complex carbs in a delicious and easy way.
And finally for our C-sectioned babies, we want to be sure and offer them the microbial exposure that they missed coming down through the vaginal canal. Breastfeeding is one important measure for inoculating baby with a healthy exposure and the more contemporary vaginal swab is another good alternative.
The microbiome topic is buzzing right now because most diseases are being linked back to the gut and a healthy gut bacteria. I assure you it will come up in your circles. Be a pioneer in the conversation and share what you know about tending a healthy gut garden. Don't be afraid to share your gardening tips and recipes. Here's a few delicious probiotic foods to get you started.
Healthy Gut Garden Recipes