This is true when we consider the astronomical number of microbes that live in our gastro-intestinal system. Some estimates put the gut microbiota count at around 60-100 trillion.
That’s right, trillion, as in 12 zeros. There may be 10 times more bacterial cells in our bodies as human cells, therefore it could be said, YOU are only 10% human.
Fortunately, these bugs are our friends. We, in essence, feed them and in return they help feed us. They do this by assisting our intestines in breaking down the food we consume.
These friendly flora also keep the cells that line our intestines (enterocytes) happy. This is key because the intestinal lining is the very site where absorption occurs; meaning this is where we really take in the nutrients of the food we eat. These good bugs out compete pathologic organisms, keeping us healthy and preventing gas and bloating by inhibiting the more gas producing bacteria.
There is also emerging research that these microbiota are involved in helping a person maintain a healthy weight and can even affect our moods.
Where did these microbes come from and how do they get in us? Some entered our body in the birth canal and some from breastfeeding, but the real story lies in the food we eat. Most of us have noticed labels on foods, such as yogurt, list bacteria like acidophilus or lactobacillus as part of the beneficial flora living in the food.
This is true but we also ingest billions of good microorganisms when we eat food from the gardens where living plants grow in the soil.
No garden you ask? The food you eat doesn’t appear to have come from the soil where all of these beneficial bugs live? This is a real concern! Much of the food we eat is heated, canned, pasteurized, irradiated or otherwise dead.
Does this mean you are alone? No not really, but it could mean you are having subtle (and sometimes not so subtle) health effects from an imbalance of the micro-flora, something naturopaths frequently refer to as "dysbiosis."
Now here is where it gets interesting and a cautionary tale arises. You see, a long line of biological history has been considerably altered. With the modern food focus largely being long shelf life and the ability to last or stay fresh-looking while traveling long distances, it generally means much of our food lacks the beneficial microbes that contribute to our health.
This is a radical departure from what we humans have always done, namely eat real food. Food substitutes may provide calories, but they are a poor and incomplete replacement source.
Short of planting our own garden what can we do to ensure a health promoting balance of micro-flora? Buying and eating produce is clearly a great habit for two reasons:
By eating plants, we supply food for our gut bacteria to eat & thrive and the plants themselves are teeming with microorganisms like lactobacillus to maintain our gut ecosystem. Kefer, kombucha, yogurt and other fermented foods also can be a delicious way to supplement a protective arsenal of friendly and healthy bacteria as well as quality farm fresh food. It’s also a great way to support our local businesses and farmers.
For a more detailed plan, you may schedule with a Health Moves doctor and receive quality guidance.
Dr. Tom Klos is a Naturopathic Doctor. He may be reached at: Health Moves, 17311 135th Ave NE Ste. C-800, Woodinville, WA 98072. Phone: 425.402.9999 or www.HealthMoves.org Most insurances accepted.