WILLETT WORDS OF WISDOM
A BIT ON HUMAN MICROBIOME
About thirty-five years ago when I was working in a private psychiatric hospital affiliated with Harvard and Massachusetts General Hospital, I had the fortune of taking some extension courses at Harvard. My interest was on nutrition and how it might impact mental health. So many years ago is when I first heard of the connection between the gut and health. Little did I know how this subject would become mainstream and so relevant today.
As many of you know, I have a long time interest in the body microbiome; and, I continue to study and learn about the research and the latest information. I just completed more study and I’d like to share a little about what I have heard on the subject:
· There are tons and tons (somewhere in the neighborhood of thirty trillion) microscopic fungi, bacteria, and viruses living on you and in you. And they have been around a lot longer than we have. I like to call them your critters. And yes, that includes the critters’ systems, their microbiome, waste and offspring; and, maybe even their collective consciousness.
· Think of yourself as this beautiful eco-system. The body is a miracle and has an amazing way of operating and repairing and growing; and, the critters are all part of that system. They are beneficial to our health, working for us and with us. And it is important to distinguish between what is healthy versus unhealthy critters.
· We have become an over-sterile group. We are so worried about killing the germs that we often over-sanitize – throwing the baby out with the bath water. We are exposed to toxins every day. The key is to keep our eco-system operating at top level with a strong and supportive immune system.
· The development of antibiotics was a mixed blessing. They are vital to treating disease; yet, they have been over-prescribed and over-used thereby encouraging mutation of dangerous bacteria as well as unnecessarily upsetting our balanced eco-system.
· Dysbiosis is a word that was coined to describe an imbalance of microbiome. This imbalance has been researched relative to gut/brain connection, mental health, inflammation, obesity, chronic disease, cancer, and diabetes. Microbiome touches almost every disease.
· There are so many factors that play a role in the imbalance including preservatives, hormones and chemicals in our foods, laundry detergent, other lotions and potions, and our clothing; molds and other toxins in buildings; antibiotics and other pharmaceutical drugs; steroids, over the counter meds such as pain relievers and acid blockers; and, stress. Yes, stress can alter your eco-system. Imagine hanging closely with a group of friends whose cortisol levels are firing and anxiety is stirring all the time. You too would be impacted.
· What you put in your body, on your body, and how you live all influence your critters.
· Your microbiome is rapidly changing; and is shaped by what you did 30 years ago as well as today.
· The digestive tract is one place we DO want to build a wall. Some pharmaceutical drugs may permeate the stomach or intestinal wall, thereby letting out (or in) the critters which are meant to be contained.
· Depending on what is right for you, diet diversity is key – assorted fresh fruits and vegetables and free-range antibiotic-free and hormone-free meats and grains.
· There are prebiotics that feed your microbiome. These include typically indigestible high-fiber foods like green bananas, artichokes, and whole grains.
· There are probiotics that are critters you introduce to your system. It is very important to remember that more is not better; you want them to be alive (so many of these pills that have hit the market are not active); and, what is right for you may not be what is trending. There is no magic pill. It truly is about YOU and YOUR microbiome and eco-system. Personally, I like to ingest foods that contain them such as yogurt, kefir, kombucha, kimchi, or sauerkraut and pickles fermented in Artesian well water; and, my diet includes garlic, onions, apples and other foods considered good prebiotics to feed my critters.
· It is important to remember that YOU are unique! Your microbiome is different than mine and the diet that works for me may not work for you. Every person has a distinct eco-system. There is a trend towards personalized wellness and medicine.
· Take an Eskimo who eats blubber and high protein and a Bantu in Africa who is vegan, and both free of chronic disease. If you were to flip flop their diets, they’d likely get sick.
· It is a very complicated subject, and more and more information is becoming available through research.
· Do your own research! Pay attention to what you put on your body and in your body. And tune into eating with presence. Take time to eat slowly with intention and honor your body and what it needs. Note what you eat, how you feel after you eat, and how well you digest (yes, what goes out is important too).
Cheers to celebrating and honoring our trillion plus healthy critters which are part of our beautiful eco-systems!
©AnneLloydWillett February 2019