Don’t look now but you are possessed. Yes you! Picture The Exorcist, but in a good way. In your gut. Right now. Around 39 trillion (for the non-mathematicians that is 12 zeros) microbes are going about their business – fungi, viruses and bacteria – mostly bacteria. They influence so many of our internal processes that they are an integral part of who we are, of how we are, of how healthy we are. So we need them. If they are in good nick and the tribe is diverse, then their influence is positive. If not, things can get a bit ugly (back to The Exorcist again) both in terms of physical and emotional/mental health. Here, courtesy of Dr Perlmutter is a brief overview of just some of the things we now know our microbes do for us:
*Aid digestion and nutrient absorption
*Form a physical barrier against potential invaders
*Help neutralise toxins found in food
*Help programme and modulate the immune system (the gut IS your biggest immune system)
*Produce enzymes and neurotransmitters (yes, one way our microbes are talking to our brain is via our enteric (gut) nervous system)
*Influence our stress and anxiety levels via our hormonal system
*Help control the inflammatory pathways in our body – which in turn have a major impact on a rather large range of chronic illnesses.
So we need to look after this tribe, if we know what is good for us. And one of the most significant factors in keeping our microbes healthy and diverse (diversity is important – they are not a Brexit kind of community in there) is, drum roll, THE FOOD WE EAT. Which makes me feel happy (because I have the power to care for my microbes all by myself) and overwhelmed (because that means no one else is going to do it FOR me.)
Buy some leeks. And eat them one way or another – rather than leaving them to rot in the fridge (which is where I usually find mine). They contain fibre and inulin which is a carbohydrate that can’t be digested by your upper intestine. Most of your gut microbes are in your lower intestine – leeks will make it down there and your microbes will thank you. Also, if you fancy to, next time you do a no. 2, take a look. And think this fascinating thought – half of the weight of that no. 2 is made up of discarded bacteria from your gut.
Text © 2017 by Joanna Webster