Michal Ofer

Food Freedom Friday Edition 42

Michal Ofer
Food Freedom Friday Edition 42

Give Your Bugs Some Love

Your microbiome is a thriving bacterial world, an independent yet highly dependent ecosystem living inside your gut. It is made up of trillions of bacteria and microorganisms all going about their daily business of keeping you well. You may not be aware of them but they are constantly busy breaking down food; extracting nutrients; producing vitamins and brain chemicals; fending off microbial invaders; protecting you from disease; and performing hundreds of tasks essential to keeping you, your body and your systems functioning optimally.

Unfortunately, life throws many curve balls at your microbiome and by the time you have reached adulthood factors including drugs, antibiotics, junk food, GMO’s conventionally farmed meats and pesticide laden produce have launched assaults on this inner eco-system of yours.

 A disrupted microbiome implies disrupted digestive health as an assault on the one, is an attack on the other. Conventional wisdom would have you believe that digestive symptoms are ‘normal”. Doesn’t everyone suffer from some gas and bloating? The truth is that these symptoms are often the first signs of a microbiome that has become imbalanced. A damaged microbiome is unable to nourish the walls of your digestive tract resulting in increased intestinal permeability or its common term, ‘leaky gut’. This happens when that one-cell thick, tightly woven net of cells lining your gut loosens, creating spaces that allow bacteria, toxins and pieces of the partially digested food to leak through the intestinal wall into your bloodstream. This compromise of intestinal ‘security’ can trigger system-wide inflammation that can now produce symptoms almost anywhere in the body.

In my program, repairing creating a strong, resilient digestive tract and a balanced, harmonious microbiome are the most important things you can do to reclaim, attain and sustain health. Fortunately, there are a number of simple ways to begin this process:

1.       Add Fermented Foods to Your Diet

It is important to have at least few servings a week of sauerkraut, kefir (fermented milk, water, coconut water, coconut milk), kimchi (Korean fermented cabbage), or fermented vegetables. Fermented foods contain natural bacteria that support the repopulation and protection your microbiome. Start slow and build up to a 2 tablespoon serving. It may be an acquired taste at first, but you will learn to enjoy your chosen types of fermented foods.

2.       Incorporate

Your microbiome is a thriving bacterial world, an independent yet highly dependent eco-system living inside your gut. It is made up of trillions of bacteria and microorganisms all going about their daily business of keeping you well. You may not be aware of them but they are constantly busy breaking down food; extracting nutrients; producing vitamins and brain chemicals; fending off microbial invaders; protecting you from disease; and performing hundreds of tasks essential to keeping you, your body and your systems functioning optimally.

Unfortunately, life throws many curveballs at your microbiome and by the time you have reached adulthood factors including drugs, antibiotics, junk food, GMO’s conventionally farmed meats and pesticide laden produce have launched assaults on this inner eco-system of yours.

 A disrupted microbiome implies disrupted digestive health as an assault on the one, is an attack on the other. Conventional wisdom would have you believe that digestive symptoms are ‘normal”. Doesn’t everyone suffer from some gas and bloating? The truth is that these symptoms are often the first signs of a microbiome that has become imbalanced. A damaged microbiome is unable to nourish the walls of your digestive tract resulting in increased intestinal permeability or its common term, ‘leaky gut’. This happens when that one-cell thick, tightly woven net of cells lining your gut loosens, creating spaces that allow bacteria, toxins and pieces of the partially digested food to leak through the intestinal wall into your bloodstream. This compromise of intestinal ‘security’ can trigger system-wide inflammation that can now produce symptoms almost anywhere in the body.

In my program, repairing creating a strong, resilient digestive tract and a balanced, harmonious microbiome are the most important things you can do to reclaim, attain and sustain health. Fortunately, there are a number of simple ways to begin this process:

1.       Add Fermented Foods to Your Diet

It is important to have at least few servings a week of sauerkraut, kefir (fermented milk), kimchee (Korean fermented cabbage), or fermented vegetables. Fermented foods contain natural bacteria that support the repopulation and protection your microbiome. Start slow and build up to a 2 tablespoon serving. It may be an acquired taste at first, but you will learn to enjoy your chosen types of fermented foods.

2.       Incorporate Prebiotics Into Your Diet

Prebiotics are foods that contain the fiber on which friendly bacteria feed. These are always plant-based and can include tomatoes, garlic, onions, radishes, leeks, asparagus, and Jerusalem artichokes. Enjoy a few serving a day either raw or cooked.

3.       Eat the Stalks

The tough parts of your vegetables, like the stalks of broccoli, the bottoms of asparagus and the stringy bits of celery contain cellulose fibers, which, as with prebiotics, provide great nutrition for your supportive bacteria..

4.       Support Your Local Farmer

Produce from a local farm (as opposed to the produce transported from far and wide found in your supermarket), has probably travelled a shorter distance and has more nutrients and dirt on it (and therefore bacteria). The reasons to support your local agriculture are numerous and I discussed them on the Pete’s Paleo blog.

5.       Take a Daily Probiotic

This is a capsule or powder containing friendly bacteria that can replenish your own microbiome. Taking a probiotic is especially important if you are taking antibiotics.

6.       Drink Lots of Filtered, Fresh, Clean Water

Although chlorination of municipal tap water may have been successful at eliminating water borne diseases, it is probably negatively affecting many of your good bacteria. Chlorine in tap water is known to kill microbes in soil and chances are it may be wiping out many beneficial microbes in your gut too.

7.       Avoid Overly Processed, Mass Manufactured ‘Food’

Many of these edible substances marketed as ‘food’ have been altered and modified and are detrimental to your microbiome. Many contain trans-fats, additives, preservatives, GMO corn, GMO soy or industrial seed oils, none of which are supportive of either your wellbeing or that of your gut bacteria.

8.       Avoid GMO’s

Long term, there is no research on the negative impact these altered organisms may have on your body and your health. I covered GMO’s extensively. Visit the Non-GMO Project’s list for the latest on which foods may be genetically altered.

9.       Avoid Foods Which Have Been Sweetened or Made of Refined Starches

Sugar and white flour in particular feed the pathogenic bacteria in your belly causing overgrowth that overwhelms the good bacteria and upsetting the delicate bacterial balance. This in turn will have a profound impact on the optimal functioning of your microbiome.

10.   Avoid Artificial Additives, Preservatives and Artificial Sweeteners

These are terrible for the health of your body and lousy for your microbiome Not only do artificial sweeteners disrupt your microbiome; they have been shown to trigger cravings and thus sparking a vicious cycle for those trying to avoid sweets.

11.   Avoid Gluten

Gluten is a large, compound protein found in wheat, rye, barley, and some other grains. It is also found in or added to many popular foods including soy sauce, seitan, beer, and many packaged and processed products. For many people, gluten is irritating to the gut, triggering the immune system’s defense mechanisms and launching an inflammatory response.

12.   Avoid Conventionally Farmed Meat, Poultry, Dairy Products, and Eggs

The majority of conventionally farmed animal products (most of what is found in the grocery store meat and milk departments) contain antibiotics and hormones, and the animals were likely raised on grain at best or genetically modified corn or soy feed, none of which support the health of the animal or of your microbiome.

13.   Be cautious with Antibiotic Use

Although they are sometimes necessary, pharmaceutical antibiotics kill indiscriminately, wiping out all bacteria, both good and bad. Try herbal anti-microbials whenever possible, as they seem to kill the unfriendly bacteria while leaving the good guys alone.

14.   Avoid Proton Pump Inhibitors (PPI’s)

Research has shown that those who regularly use acid blocking drugs, (Nexium, Prevacid, Prilosec, Aciphex), have less microbial diversity, putting them at increased risk for infections.

15.   Move and Meditate, Relax and Sleep

Meditation and exercise are wonderfully healthy ways to help decompress from daily stressors. Give your body the gift of regular doses of both. Developing a yoga practice takes care of both.

Modern society tends to wear lack of sleep as a badge of honour. Getting enough restorative sleep is essential to the health of your digestive tract and your microbiome. Your gut, your body, and your brain need rest to repair, restore and refresh them.  A regular 7-8 hours nightly session is optimal and a worthy ‘indulgence’.

Into Your Diet

Prebiotics are foods that contain the fiber on which friendly bacteria feed. These are always plant-based and can include tomatoes, garlic, onions, radishes, leeks, asparagus, and Jerusalem artichokes. Enjoy a few serving a day either raw or cooked.

3.       Eat the Stalks

The tough parts of your vegetables, like the stalks of broccoli, the bottoms of asparagus and the stringy bits of celery contain cellulose fibers, which, as with prebiotics, provide great nutrition for your supportive bacteria..

4.       Support Your Local Farmer

Produce from a local farm (as opposed to the produce transported from far and wide found in your supermarket), has probably travelled a shorter distance and has more nutrients and dirt on it (and therefore bacteria). The reasons to support your local agriculture are numerous and I discussed them on the Pete’s Paleo blog.

5.       Take a Daily Probiotic

This is a capsule or powder containing friendly bacteria that can replenish your own microbiome. Taking a probiotic is especially important if you are taking antibiotics.

6.       Drink Lots of Filtered, Fresh, Clean Water

Although chlorination of municipal tap water may have been successful at eliminating water borne diseases, it is probably negatively affecting many of your good bacteria. Chlorine in tap water is known to kill microbes in soil and chances are it may be wiping out many beneficial microbes in your gut too.

7.       Avoid Overly Processed, Mass Manufactured ‘Food’

Many of these edible substances marketed as ‘food’ have been altered and modified and are detrimental to your microbiome. Many contain trans-fats, additives, preservatives, GMO corn, GMO soy or industrial seed oils, none of which are supportive of either your wellbeing or that of your gut bacteria.

8.       Avoid GMO’s

Long term, there is no research on the negative impact these altered organisms may have on your body and your health. I covered GMO’s extensively. Visit the Non-GMO Project’s list for the latest on which foods may be genetically altered.

9.       Avoid Foods Which Have Been Sweetened or Made of Refined Starches

Sugar and white flour in particular feed the pathogenic bacteria in your belly causing overgrowth that overwhelms the good bacteria and upsetting the delicate bacterial balance. This in turn will have a profound impact on the optimal functioning of your microbiome.

10.   Avoid Artificial Additives, Preservatives and Artificial Sweeteners

These are terrible for the health of your body and lousy for your microbiome Not only do artificial sweeteners disrupt your microbiome; they have been shown to trigger cravings and thus sparking a vicious cycle for those trying to avoid sweets.

11.   Avoid Gluten

Gluten is a large, compound protein found in wheat, rye, barley, and some other grains. It is also found in or added to many popular foods including soy sauce, seitan, beer, and many packaged and processed products. For many people, gluten is irritating to the gut, triggering the immune system’s defense mechanisms and launching an inflammatory response.

12.   Avoid Conventionally Farmed Meat, Poultry, Dairy Products, and Eggs

The majority of conventionally farmed animal products (most of what is found in the grocery store meat and milk departments) contain antibiotics and hormones, and the animals were likely raised on grain at best or genetically modified corn or soy feed, none of which support the health of the animal or of your microbiome.

13.   Be cautious with Antibiotic Use

Although they are sometimes necessary, pharmaceutical antibiotics kill indiscriminately, wiping out all bacteria, both good and bad. Try herbal anti-microbials whenever possible, as they seem to kill the unfriendly bacteria while leaving the good guys alone.

14.   Avoid Proton Pump Inhibitors (PPI’s)

Research has shown that those who regularly use acid blocking drugs, (Nexium, Prevacid, Prilosec, Aciphex), have less microbial diversity, putting them at increased risk for infections.

15.   Move and Meditate, Relax and Sleep

Meditation and exercise are wonderfully healthy ways to help decompress from daily stressors. Give your body the gift of regular doses of both. Developing a yoga practice takes care of both.

Modern society tends to wear lack of sleep as a badge of honour. Getting enough restorative sleep is essential to the health of your digestive tract and your microbiome. Your gut, your body, and your brain need rest to repair, restore and refresh them.  A regular 7-8 hours nightly session is optimal and a worthy ‘indulgence’.