Eating right ensures a healthy gut
Published in The White Rock Sun, June 2017
A poor balance of “gut bacteria” is thought to be linked to many health problems. And although more research is needed, so far, it seems to makes sense. Without balanced intestinal microbiota we can't absorb many of the nutrients from our food. This weakens our immune system (among other things) and makes us susceptible to poor health.
This focus on gut health is making “fermented foods” increasingly popular, even though they have been around for a long time. Fermented foods can encourage and maintain balanced gut microbiota.
But surprisingly, no one seems to question why we need to focus on fermented foods in the first place.
Our diet is rich in human-altered, highly refined foods that ruin the balance of our gut bacteria or at the very least, contribute nothing beneficial to it. However, nature gave us foods like vegetables and other high-fibre foods as natural probiotics (stimulates growth of beneficial bacteria). And many vegetables and whole grains, along with other whole, natural foods, act as prebiotics (food for the probiotics). Yet few of us eat lots of vegetables, whole grains, or a diet rich in whole, unchanged foods. In addition, many of us believe the misinformation of current fad diets that advise us to avoid gluten in grains and lectins in legumes. Yet, whole grains and legumes are valuable pre and probiotics. Will we see more intestinal microbiota problems in the future?
I’m not cutting down fermented foods. Eat them if you like them. Many are very nutritious. But because we don't know enough about "gut health" perhaps eating fermented foods and/or taking probiotic/prebiotic supplements is just treating the symptoms of our health problem. Are we even addressing the underlying issue (like our overall dietary habits)?
In an case, it’s never a good idea to rely on or become obsessed with one food or type of food – like fermented foods – to improve health. It’s the balance and variety of all whole food sources that ensures good health, not the magical properties of a few superfoods. Incidentally, all whole foods are really superfoods in that their differing nutrients work together as a team to ensure our survival.
Eat a wide variety of whole, real foods. Foods retain their nutrients when they are altered as little as possible by humans. They also retain their “mysterious” functions in our bodies, which we do not yet fully understand.
We haven’t identified everything in our foods or how they ‘work’ in the human body. And if we don’t understand it, how can we change it or make it better? Therefore, the original designer of our food sources and our bodies (Mother Nature) is who we should trust. Not someone selling you a product or supplement (like fermented foods and probiotic pills).
Use common sense in your quest for good health. Eat real, whole foods. The way nature intended.
And everything in your gut should balance out nicely.