It is all becoming clear: Eating less carbohydrate, more whole foods, a stronger intake of protein and fat, less carbohydrate, the magic of raw milk, the benefits of eating close to the earth.
What we eat feeds the bacteria in out gut. They have a profound influence on our immune system, inflammation, how our body perceives hunger and satiety–and we can only guess how much more.
Research regarding the human microbiome hit scientific journals this week in what could be described as swarm tactics. This insight will trigger an explosion of new theories. It is a game changer.
THE MORE WE LEARN, THE LESS WE KNOW
Dr. David Relman, a microbiologist from Stanford says, “The whole business is humbling. It seems like the more we learn, the less we know.”
Ironically, I have been searching for this piece of the puzzle for years. The clues have been accumulating, first from observing myself, and then my clients.
Back in the early 90’s I started counseling clients to eat less carbohydrate (especially less refined sugar and starch), more protein, and more healthy fats. I thought I was helping them manage their insulin response to food. I still do. But now I realize we were also feeding the bacteria flora in their gut.
EXPLORING INSULIN RESISTANCE
It seems I have always struggled with food. I remember blowing up like a balloon when I overate. I could lose weight readily when I stopped eating, leading to a nasty eating disorder in my teens. Much later on I realized a higher protein diet with far less carbohydrate was better for me. In the late ’80s this behavior was blasphemy. High carbohydrate, low fat eating was the diet of the day, but it didn’t work for me.
After regaining my health and my sanity, I started digging into the research and published my first paper regarding insulin resistance. (SCAN PULSE, Fall/1995) For over 20 years it has given me great satisfaction to share my insight.
Most of the time people benefit when they shifted to more whole foods, less refined sugars and starches, more protein and healthy fats. Good enough. But there were always curiosities that I couldn’t explain.
CONNECTING THE GI DOTS
After shifting his diet, one client came in complaining that he had just bought a case of Prilosec to treat his GERD (What used to be called heartburn), and he didn’t need it anymore.
Other clients would surrepticiously tell me about their bowel function improving. They enjoyed more regularity and no longer complained about constipation or diarrhea.
I remember one client with severe colitis. He was horribly depressed as he couldn’t leave his home and was in danger of losing his business. He slowly regained his health. We knew we had identified the culprit when he went to the movies one night and ate a bag of candy. The next 48 hours were miserable.
I had one young client see me for weight loss. She also had Crohn’s disease. She lost weight and her symptoms improved. Little did we know that an approach to food to improve her metabolism was also influencing the microbiota in her gut.
A 17 y/o male came in complaining about severe vomiting, especially in the morning. Doctors had no clue. We cleaned up his diet, added enough protein and the vomiting stopped.
LESS INFECTION, LESS INFLAMMATION
Other clues started to stack up. One client with interstitial cystitis struggled with repeated bouts of antibiotics, but no sustained benefit. She got better eating close to the earth. Another client reported incessant urinary tract infections, but they subsided eating more protein and fat, less carbohydrate.
I watch my own son. His body reacts intensely to what he eats. I know when he is eating more carbohydrate than he can handle. His body swells. His demeanor changes. He is ravenous and can’t get satisfied. Eating fewer grains and less refined sugar is critical for his well-being–despite the addiction-like attraction to just these foods.
EATING FOR THE MASSES (of bacteria in our gut)
What we eat influences how our body uses fuel. I am beginning to fully appreciate how our food influences the billions of bacteria residing in our body. This is especially true of bacteria in our gut.
I introduced raw milk into my family’s diet a couple of years ago. I needed to try something. My son’s GI tract distress was intolerable–for me. I could hardly enter his room. I thought about pro-biotics and prebiotics, but was turned off by the high prices. I wanted to try something more organic. Was there something we could be eating?
INTRODUCING GOOD BACTERIA TO OUR GUT
Raw milk entered our food supply. The impact was immediate. Less gas, less bloating, less stench. I often wonder if we are more like cows than we think. Feeding cows too much grain causes them to bloat as well.
I became a devotee of Organic Pastures raw milk. I appreciate the fact that the cows graze on pasture and the cows and the milk are regularly tested. Mark McAfee is the owner and trained as a microbiologist. It seems Mark spends every waking moment heralding the benefits of healthy bacteria in our gut.
A POST PASTEURIAN WORLD
In the Pasteurian world, all bacteria is destroyed. We sterilize, pasteurize, and sanitize our food supply to our own detriment. We need to embrace a post-Pasteurian world view, especially in regards to our food supply. We can’t continue to rely on a seek and destroy orientation to the bacterial world.
- Industry needs to rethink how we grow and manage our food. Assaulting the sins of mass production with massive doses of antibiotics is a mistake
- Regulatory agencies need to trust science to monitor microbes, not just seek to eradicate them. Zero tolerance needs to be a thing of the past.
- We all need to learn to work with the body–and the billions of bacteria that live symbiotically with us.
What we eat has a huge influence on our health and well being. The quick fix experts will redouble their efforts touting the benefits of probiotic and prebiotic supplements. They are probably a useful Band Aid, but my guess is that our overall diet counts more.
We are inundated with an obscenely processed and adulterated food supply. We need to figure out how to survive abundance. A good starting place is consuming more whole foods like beans and legumes, fresh fruits and vegetables; maybe some whole grains, but not too much; adequate protein, and enough healthy fat. We need to embrace healthy bacteria from the right kind of raw milk and fermented foods. We all need to eat closer to the earth.