Who do you think is in control of your health? You may think this is a silly question. But bear with me and read on.
Think about this. You live in a large house with a total of 10 people and all 9 of them are different to you – very different. These 9 are generally friendly and help you but if you step out of line you will be punished by them. So who is in control? The 9 or you?
The answer is obvious ..
Well did you know that you have 10 times more bacterial cells in your gut than you have human cells? The bacteria are a diverse group and have different needs. When you are healthy the good ones are in control. They live on good foods (if you don’t know what that means, we will cover that in later blogs). These good bacteria produce vitamins and chemicals that keep us healthy. But if you feed them the wrong food the nasty ones can start growing and make you ill.
What’s more, once these nasty ones get a foothold they can release chemicals that make you crave the very foods THEY want! And they start multiplying…
Did you know that we have over 1000 different bacterial species in our gut. Most of them are our friends. They keep the harmful bacteria under control. They are the guards keeping an eye on the rogues.
We have to feed the good ones what THEY need. Unfortunately, most people on the SAD (Standard Australian/American Diet) feed the bad bacteria so they multiply, take over the good ones and wrack havoc in the body causing disease. And the disease is not restricted to the bowel. Most people think the bad bacteria only cause IBS (Irritable Bowel Syndrome) or other bowel diseases but they can also cause disease far from the gut such as dementia, skin diseases, heart disease, arthritis, cancer in other part of the body, anxiety, depression and the list goes on.
So who is in control? The bacteria or you? Well actually you UNTIL you stop feeding your good bacteria and start feeding the harmful ones. Then these harmful bacteria take over.
So what can you do about it?
Plenty and not too complicated or difficult either.
Start with your diet.
Research has shown that our health is related to the health and diversity of bacteria that we have in our bowel. The less diverse our bacteria the sicker we get.
Eating a Standard Australian/American Diet (SAD) you do not have much variety. Remember if healthy we have over 1000 species of bacteria. The different bacteria have different needs and nutrients. So limiting your variety limits to feeding only some bacteria that thrive on those foods.
For example imagine your have a large number of pets in your house but you only have cat food to feed them.
Well, the cats will thrive but your dogs won’t do so well, You guinea pigs will die, Your gold fish? Rabbits? — you get the picture.
So variety of food is the key to getting diversity of bacteria. When you shop at the green grocer or supermarket, open your eyes to the huge variety of fresh vegetables that are on display. Don’t just go for your regular ones. Choose a variety of coloured vegetables.
And keep changing them.
Talking of diversity, on a global scale we are getting more limited in the food variety that is available.
Did you know that 75% of plant diversity has been lost
Of the 250,000 known edible plant species we only use 150-200?
Today 75% of the world’s food is generated from 12 plant and 5 animal species.
So we have to go looking for variety and diversity in our food. Otherwise if you only eat what is commonly available you are restricting yourself to the 12 plant and 5 animal species.
You can start by eating a greater variety of vegetables, legumes, nuts and seeds.
When shopping add one new (to you) fresh food a week and experiment.
That’s not hard is it?
In a few weeks you would have increased your variety
And your bacteria will love you and you will be in control.
Ref: Helman ML . A healthy GI microbiome is dependent on dietary diversity. Mol Metabolism. 2016. 5: 317-320