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The life that lives within us


By: Judy Davie - The Food Coach

The devil, they say, is in the detail although to be perfectly honest the detail has never interested me that much. How many of us need to know about the bits and bytes in a computer? All that's really important to the majority of people is what that computer can do and how we use it to its full potential.

To some extent I feel the same way about the body.

Scientists need to know the detail, particularly now when so many people are getting sick with curious little known conditions, and that's because our bodies are malfunctioning and we need answers.

It's man's intervention, that's the answer, if you want my opinion.

My beliefs about diet and health remain steadfast. I have of course read copious amounts on the subject but much of it is deeply intuitive: You could call it a gut feeling.
On health and diet the detail and the language changes but gut feelings don't. We've been talking about the importance of probiotics and fermented foods for years but never in as much detail as scientists are talking today.
When the body is pulled apart it is clear to see amongst other things, skin, bones, muscles, fat and organs. What we can't see to the naked eye are the individual cells that make up these structures or the microbial cells that live within these cells. The combination of these microbial cells is called a microbiome, and without the estimated 10,000 different microbial species which occupy our microbiome we could not survive.

Some of you may remember an article I wrote a couple of years ago on The Human Composting System/. What the article lacked in detail and science pretty much summed up in very simplistic language what scientists are now confirming today, (and, what naturopaths have been telling us for years). In much the same way that good plant growing soil is made up of a myriad of life forms including microscopic bacteria and fungi, our own good health depends on the makeup and overall health of the human microbiome as a whole.

There is a delicate balance of life on earth, and life within life on earth.

The life within us, our human microbiome community, is made up of bacteria, fungi, viruses, and even opportunistic pathogens which set up camp in the body. These communities exist in unique, complementary blends, and inhabit every area of our body including the gut. The importance of the balance of these human microbes is what scientists are fascinated by today, particularly when an imbalance in these microbes leads to disease.

The body has three lines of defence; the first is our skin, a big protective organ which helps to protect against harmful pathogens entering the body. The second line of defence is the mucous membranes in our mouth and nasal cavities and the third is the gut. Within these three lines of defence are microbes which judge whether or not something is friend or foe.
It's when the opportunistic pathogens and the perfect harmony is upset that problems occur.
Repetitive use of antibiotics, antibacterial cleaning and sanitising products, over consumption of junk food, and potentially overly stringent sanitising food standards are now believed to have upset the natural environment of the human microbiome which has led to the host system attacking itself with these pathogens.

Food and airborne allergies, severe gut inflammation such as IBS, Crohn's disease, colitis, depression and autism are just some of the conditions which scientists now believe are a result of microbiome imbalance and immune malfunction.

How to correct and/or maintain a perfect balance of microbes?

  • While controversial, extreme gut diseases such as Crohn's and colitis, may be treated effectively and quickly with faecal transplants. These transplants manipulate the bacteria that live in the human gut and redress the imbalance.

  • Less radical is the simple practise of swapping out chemical antibacterial, antiseptic or antimicrobial cleaning products in your home for microfiber cloths which due to their 'micro fibres" pick up bacteria on household surfaces.

  • Include natural probiotics in your diet from fermented food including yoghurt, kefir, kimchi, miso, and natto.

  • Eat plenty of fibrous foods. This is very important because bacteria thrive on indigestible fibre. It's their preferred fuel to stay live and reproduce. Wholegrains, lentils, legumes, and fibrous vegetables should all included in a healthy gut diet.

  • Eat a fresh natural diet.

    Anyone who has followed The Food Coach over the years will realise that (other than the faecal transplants) this summary of advice is exactly the same advice today as it was when I started in 2001. Which is maybe why I don't and won't ever (touch wood) need a faecal transplant

    In the words borrowed from food writer Michael Pollan,"eat fresh food, not too much, mostly from plants".

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