“You are not an organism limited by your 25,000 genes and your 7 trillion cells. You are actually a super-organism of 100,000 genes and 100 trillion cells. Welcome to the microbiome – the world of symbiotic bacteria, good and bad, that inhabit your body”. Chris Woollams
A recent finding by Monash University’s Department of Immunology has found that a large part of the microbiome is your intestinal bacteria and an increase in processed food and the possible resulting weight gain alters the mix of microbes in gut.
Add to that the mix of antibiotics and other medications – which destroy important bowel bacteria – prescribed throughout a lifetime and you have a need to heal and replenish the gut bacteria on a daily basis as we get older.
Gut flora plays a key role in your body’s ability to absorb vital nutrients and help the immune system function properly – a massive 80% of your immune system depends on good gut bacteria (probiotics) to keep the bowel wall healthy. Our bowel bacteria also have the capacity to produce B vitamins, including B12 and folic acid as well as Vitamin K. The gut bacteria also breaks down the food you ingest and thus reducing the chances of food allergies and decayed food particles which may cause irritation to the gut wall, releasing toxins, causing lethargy and illness!
The older we get the more important it is to maintain the integrity of the gut and the microbiome. Years of modern living and modern foods, medications and toxins decrease the variety and health of the microbiome. In modern society the variety of bacteria in the gut is around 1500, but people of the Hunza have 5000 different species contributing to the health of the individual.
Anthropologically speaking, our hunter-gatherer lifestyle enabled us to keep our gut healthy and fill it with the bacteria needed, but in modern lifestyles this is not the case.
Our hunter-gatherer ancestors
So let’s look at what they did. Our hunter-gatherer ancestors used fire, water, air and earth to cook and preserve foods. Fire cooking is like the modern BBQ, water cooking resembles our cooking of lamb shanks and osso bucco where the meat and bone were immersed in water and slowly cooked, air cooking is baking and earth is the fermentation of foods for preservation, like sauerkraut, yogurt, kefir, kombucca and so on.
These traditional cooking skills have been taken over by packaged foods where additives, preservatives, flavourings, thickeners, emulsifiers and thousands of other additives now make a mass of ingredients taste like food and look like food but may not necessarily be food. The chemical revolution in our foods has not fitted well with our evolutionary body and there is now a mismatch of what we have evolved to eat and what we eat now. As a result, non-communicative diseases like heart disease, cancer, diabetes and autoimmune diseases are killing the modern human as opposed to infectious diseases in the past.
Not only is the mismatch about food, but we try and cheat our circadian rhythms and bio rhythms by not sleeping enough, not getting out into the sun and no longer moving as we did. These too also affect the integrity of our microbiome health and thus our health.
No matter what age we are, a change in diet and lifestyle by matching with our evolutionary past works wonders for increasing health and energy. That doesn’t mean you can’t live in the modern world but rather emulate our hunter-gatherer needs.
Improving your diet and healing your body
To improve your microbiome, getting enough sleep, enjoying more outdoor sunlight and being active during the day are paramount. Along with a shift in diet.
The best way to heal the gut is to eat foods that have the bone of the meat attached, slowly cooked over a period of time. Foods like home made chicken soup using the whole carcass, old fashion marrow from the chin bone, osso bucco, lamb shanks, lambs neck as well as using organ meats by making pate or haggis as well as steak and kidney pies, sweet breads and lambs fry. Gelatine also has healing factors for the gut. You could say it’s about going back to our old fashion foods that were lost in the chemical food revolution.
The bone broth foods and organ meats heal the gut, but the necessity of more bacteria being put back in to the gut is also an important part of the process. Include at every meal some sort of fermented food; such old fashion yogurt, kefir, sauerkraut, kombucca, homemade ginger beer, apple cider vinegar, traditionally made pickles, cultured butter and soft cheeses like brie and feta. Most cultures have some sort of preserved food, it is a matter of enjoying ones that you love.
Everyone wants the quick fix, but there isn’t really a quick fix if you have digestive system problems and health issues due to a lifetime of antibiotics, chemicals, poor food choices, medications and exposure to preservatives and pesticides.
Choosing a probiotic
If you aren’t prepared to make the fermented foods then the following may help you choose a probiotic that can help:
The acidic environment in your stomach kills most of the bacteria making it a challenge to deliver probiotics without prebiotics (food)
Be wary of probiotics manufactured in a chemical laboratory – many have a patent on them as well as having been through possible genetic modification. Moreover, most do not have a prebiotic which is the food carrier. Some may also have enteric coatings to stop the breakdown of the pill or capsule until it leaves the stomach so that the probiotic is not destroyed by acid. This is great in theory, however enteric coatings often have two types of plasticising chemicals, which are often found in vinyl floorings, cleaning products, nail polish, insecticides and food packaging. Not something you want to digest.
It’s best to find a probiotic containing a wide variety of bacterial strains.
Most probiotics include two major strains – Lactobacillus acidophilus and Bifidobacteria bifidum
However the best probiotic supplements will include several more strains. Different bacteria adhere to different areas of the digestive tract. For example, lactobacilli bacteria favour the upper part of the gut – a more alkaline environment, whereas bifidobacteria favour an acidic environment found in the large intestine. But that is just two – we need thousands of bacteria to feel the complete benefit!
Fermented foods qualify as the best probiotic. But if kimchi or sauerkraut isn’t your thing, or if you can’t tolerate yoghurt, Changing Habits Probiotics is for you. It is, in essence, a fermented food we have dried and delivered to you. The bacteria are vast and it contains a prebiotic to help the sustainability of the bacteria through the stomach – no enteric coatings here. Completely natural with no genetic modification or patents, we created this in a kitchen, not in a Petri dish in line with the Changing Habits philosophy of eating – real, whole foods.