If you think all bacteria are bad, think again.
Actually, the microbiota is a constellation of bacteria, viruses and fungi common to all multicellular organisms like us.
Gut microbiota (formerly called gut flora) is the name given today to the microbe population living in our intestine.
It is estimated that the number of bacteria that live in our gut outweigh the number of cells that make us up as humans by a factor of 10!
The bacterial populations that live within our gut actually weigh about 2 kilos or a little over 4 lbs.
What’s important to know is that they are not just a bio-mass of bacteria that live within us. They actually speak to each other in what has been termed quorum sensing, and have profound signaling capabilities to various parts of our body.
Conventional thoughts about the origins of many diseases are being dispelled and replaced by our understanding of how the microbiome functions in health and disease.
There is a solid body of research indicating that intestinal bacteria affect the development and severity of autoimmune disorders localized in the gut, such as inflammatory bowel diseases like Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis. (Mathis, D.eLife. 2013.doi:10.7554/eLife.0.1608)
Researchers at the Hospital for Joint diseases, NYU school of medicine have found a link between one’s gut flora and how it can contribute to the progression of autoimmune diseases outside of the gut like Rheumatoid arthritis.
So how do we make our gardens grow healthy?
First and foremost, we have a need for microbial diversity in our intestinal track, which means a varied population. According to Gerard Mullin MD, associate professor of gastroenterology Johns Hopkins University Hospital. The greater your microbial diversity, the greater your resilience, so what I am sharing with you is quite significant. Resilience in this context is your ability to fight back against invading organisms, defending against stress responses and illnesses. Is your body weary or a warrior?
Want to know what your diversity index is? U biome is a company that provides this service with a simple single stool catch. We have the kits in the office if you have an interest.
Think twice before you jump on that next antibiotic. Every time you take antibiotics they decrease your microbial diversity! If you are seriously ill or have a bacterial infection that is compromising your life- hands down take it. If you have an infection in your sinus cavity, throat and chest and the mucus remains relatively clear, even with a fever, then tough it out as it may be viral in nature and an antibiotic will do little to help you. Many non-life-threatening bacterial infections can be fought off with increased rest, stress reduction, chicken soup, adjustments and specific botanicals.
Learn about botanical medicines like Oregano, Berberine, Cats’ claw, Astragalus and Andrographis etc. Nutrients like increased vitamin C and N- Acetyl Cysteine (NAC) both antioxidants which we need more of when we have an infection, with the later helping to thin out mucus secretions.
What else can I do?
Your diet is #1. The Standard American Diet (SAD) is high in processed and refined foods i.e. white flours, sugars and packaged foods which are all very low in fiber.
Everyone by now should have heard of the term probiotic, whichdenotes a substance that stimulates the growth of microorganisms, especially those with beneficial properties (such as those of the intestinal flora like lactobacillus.)
When we eat fermented foods such as yogurt, kefir, sauerkraut, kimchee, brined pickles and kombucha etc. we are consuming food-based probiotics. Various probiotic supplements are another way to inoculate your gut, but is that all I have to do keep my garden growing in a healthy fashion?
Unfortunately, that won’t do it for very long. Why? Because these organisms are only transient visitors and they require prebiotics to sustain and help them multiply.
Prebiotics are non-digestible carbohydrates such as fibers from fruits and vegetables and specific prebiotic supplements that work to directly feed the probiotics in your gut. Thus, a good varied vegetable, fruit and salad diet is the perfect accompaniment to taking probiotics.
Fresh fruits and vegetables are high in fiber, vitamins, minerals, phytonutrients and water.
Eating a diverse number of vegetables and salads is one of the best and protective things we can do for our health and microbiota.
You cannot eat a few leaves of lettuce and a slice of tomato on a sandwich or burger and call this a portion of salad!
A bowl of salad, like the ones now being sold in more health-conscious eateries for lunch and dinner, provides numerous servings of various greens with chopped veggies, beans and nuts and is a great way to start making improvements in your diet while supporting good gut health.
Diversify your vegetable choices at home.
Shop for the week by thinking about how many different vegetables you can purchase. That's right, I want you to count them!
Broccoli, cauliflower, avocados, string beans, carrots, cucumbers, eggplant, beets, peppers, zucchini yellow or green, Spinach, turnips, sweet potatoes, onions, leeks, garlic, tomatoes, purple potatoes, okra, English (green) peas, radicchio, arugula, romaine lettuce, endive, celery, celery root, and I'll leave the fruit varieties to you.
Start with 4 servings a day the first week if you are a novice to this way of eating.
2nd week increase to 5 servings a day and make new friends by trying a vegetable or salad you normally don't eat.
3rd week you go to 6 servings a day with as much variety as possible. Have you ever baked a whole cauliflower with seasoning and shaved parmesan cheese? (https://noshon.it/recipes/whole-roasted-cauliflower-herbs-parmesan/)
4th week you’re at 7 servings a day and you have officially become a micro-biome superstar!
You will feel better, have clearer skin, reduced your cancer risk and definitely feel better about yourself because you took proactive measures to improve your health. Did anyone say weight-loss?
Try and buy organic as much as possible. Go to the EWG.org site and look up the dirty dozen. These are produce that contain the highest level of pesticides known!! Avoid them like the plague and buy these organically grown. Hint: apples, strawberries and bell peppers are on the hit list!
In part 2 we will explore specific probiotic strains and their function.
Wishing everyone a happy and healthy microbiota!
Dr. Loren Marks
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