Bug-a-phobic Americans have a repulsion for bacteria. Ironic, considering the human ecosystem contains over 10 times more microbial cells than human cells. There must be good reason there are pounds of bugs inside each of us, so be nice to bacteria.
Scientists discovered several handfuls of bacteria, fungi and other microbes live in and on our bodies, composing 1 to 3 percent of our body mass. If you're a 200-pound person, up to six pounds of you are not you? When feeling lonely, just remember you’re never alone.
Since early times, civilization preserved food in symbiosis with bugs. There’s evidence people fermented beverages in Babylon around 3000 BCE. Alcoholic beverages found in Neolithic China date back to 7000-6600 BCE. Wine-making dates to around 6000 BCE in Georgia, in the Caucasus region of Eurasia. The milk of camels, goats, sheep, and cattle was naturally fermented as far back as 10,000 BCE.
Due to the processed Western diet, bad bacterial gain GI supremacy, and so our internal ecosystem becomes unbalanced and needs fresh troops from fermented foods that fizz with good probiotic warriors. When we eat sourdough bread, kimchi, cultured yogurt, sauerkraut, pickles, drink kombucha or cook with odoriferous fish sauce, take probiotic supplements, we’re, gasp, swallowing many billions, even trillions of beneficial probiotic critters.
The NIH calls the ecosystem below our skin a Microbiome: the collective bacteria, viruses, fungi and other microorganisms that live in the digestive tract, sometimes referred to as the second brain, and may influence our health in ways scientists are beginning to understand. As many Americans gain a better understanding of the imbalance consequences of the human microbiome, people are drinking probiotic (Greek for pro-life) apple cider vinegar, eating more yogurt, taking probiotic / prebiotic pills, or drinking increasingly popular kombucha and kefir to get their daily dose of healthy bacteria.
Fermented foods were first considered beneficial to health in 1910. A Russian bacteriologist, Elie Metchnikoff, noted Bulgarians had an average lifespan of 87 years, which was exceptional for early 1900s. In inspecting aspects of the Bulgarian lifestyle that may have set them apart and contributed to the long lifespan, Metchnikoff identified a greater consumption of fermented milks than other cultures.
Harvard Health affirms regular intake of fermented foods can provide mental and physical health benefits. Healthline.com reports probiotics may boost the immune system by promoting the production of natural antibodies and may also boost immune cells, T lymphocytes and natural killer cells. Good probiotic bacteria and other microbes in our gut help digest food and may play an important role in counterbalancing harmful bacteria, yeast, and other bad microbes.
Probiotics either taken by themselves or when combined with prebiotics, may help to ease depression, suggests a review of the available evidence, published in BMJ Nutrition Prevention & Health. Probiotics may help reduce the symptoms of depression, anxiety, stress and memory, promote heart health, reduce severity of allergies and eczema, may help reduce the symptoms of bowel disorders like ulcerative colitis, IBS and necrotizing enterocolitis. Scientists believe microorganisms may be a way to treat any number of disorders, including Parkinson’s disease. There’s growing research linking the gut microbiome to the brain and behavior Oxford University says behavioral and personality traits are linked to the diversity and makeup of the microbiome.
Medical News Today says microbiome genocide can be caused by animal meat, fried foods, processed foods containing high fructose corn syrup, sorbitol, and other artificial sweeteners, sugary fruit juices, agave, honey, jam, relish, and hummus that feed the growth of bad gut bacteria.
Please note, antibiotics, Greek for “anti-life”, destroy gut critters: microbial genocide. Excessive exposure to antibiotics, especially in a person who is not sick, may promote antibiotic resistance. This happens when bacteria that are repeatedly exposed to antibiotics evolve to resist the drugs. Antibiotics don’t just kill bad bacteria but can also kill helpful gut bacteria too. Antibiotics disrupt the gut’s complex microbiome. To counteract this, Naturopaths suggest take probiotics supplements either during or following a regimen of antibiotics. Depending on what one eats, it may take weeks to a year to re-establish and balance our colony of microbes.
Prebiotics are food for good bacteria. Examples of prebiotic foods include banana, garlic, onions, wheat, soybeans, cocoa beans, oats, flax seed, wheat bran, dandelion greens, Jerusalem artichoke, jicama, fresh asparagus, seaweed, and leeks. However, try to consume them raw rather than cooked. Or, seek probiotic supplements with prebiotics that feed the growth of good bacteria.
A study by Charité - Universitätsmedizin Berlin, suggests coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) mortality rates are likely to be lower in countries where diets are rich in fermented vegetables. Medrxiv.org adds, “Many foods have an antioxidant activity and nutrition may mitigate COVID-19. Some of the countries with a low COVID-19 mortality are those with a relatively high consumption of traditional fermented foods. https://www.medrxiv.org/content/10.1101/2020.07.06.20147025v1
Perhaps we should follow our gut feeling, learn from ancient wisdom to perceive good bugs as our ally, and regularly eat more fermented food and beverage for overall physical and mental and wellbeing. In truth, we live in a microbial world.