I am currently reading my way through a long list of science fiction and fantasy titles. (http://www.npr.org/2011/08/07/138938145/science-fiction-and-fantasy-finalists if you are interested in the list).
Finally, a book about the gut microbiome that actually offers constructive advice! This is what I’ve been searching for, even if I am a bit disappointed with the authors’ recommendations.
First off, there are things that affect your microbiome that you cannot change—if you were born by C-section or weren’t breastfed, there’s nothing that you can about it. Neither can you change the amount of antibiotics that you took as a child.
There are three things that you can do from this moment on, however. First, don’t rush off to your doctor and demand antibiotics for every little thing. Every time you take them, there is nuclear winter for the good microbes in your gut, leaving space for pathogens to muscle in and make you sick. There are times that you will need antibiotics—save your exposures for those time. (Having recently struggled with a nasty skin infection, cellulitis, which made me very feverish and scared, I am very thankful for antibiotics).
The second thing is that we have developed the idea that ultra-clean is ultra-good. Not necessarily so, say the authors. Accept a bit of dirt back into your life. Dig in the garden, get a bit of dirt under your fingernails, pet your dog or cat, don’t stress too much about washing. Of course, clean up to make yourself comfortable and always wash your hands after toilet visits, but your kitchen does not have to have the same level of clean as an operating room. You can benefit by challenging your immune system via the gut and maybe acquire some useful microfauna in the process.
Thirdly, we are starving our good gut microbes. They need the fibre from foods like vegetables, fruits, legumes and whole grains. Lots of it. Also keep in mind that our microbiome is a pharmaceutical factory, producing molecules that can affect our lives in unexpected ways. Too much meat favours microbes that produce a cancer causing substance. Finally the whole “eat less meat” message makes more sense to me, although it makes it no easier to follow. Moving away from simple carbohydrates can also be challenging, especially because we enjoy them so much, but they feed the wrong bacteria.
I find this kind of book very inspirational. It’s difficult to change life-long bad habits, but I’m always re-inspired after reading about current research and its ramifications. So I made a happy trip to the farmers’ market last night to buy cherries, raspberries and carrots and I plan to feed the beneficial bacteria as well as I can.