Today I thought I’d share a recent report telecast by the ABC on Catalyst -called ‘Gut Reaction’. Whilst there are parts, especially in the beginning that irritated me a little, on the whole, I think it was an insightful report about the importance of gut health, that most will benefit from watching.
First up, I have to say that I did roll my eyes when in the introduction, one Professor stated that it was a ‘revolution’ and that maybe ‘we can prevent diseases by changing our diet.’ No kidding! As a Naturopathic practitioner, food as medicine is the pinnacle of wellness and healing.
I also really don’t agree that there is anything ‘remarkable’ about the discovery that ‘our current eating habits could be making us sick.’ I’m also concerned that this information is an ’emerging new field of medicine.’ Hippocrates, the father of medicine long ago stated that ‘all disease starts in the gut.’ I have for the past 20-years, practiced according to this principle and ironically the medical establishment have openly mocked this approach. Until now.
Okay, I’ve finished whinging! If you want to watch the full story, I have included the link below. I have also taken the liberty of summarising some of the bits I think you will find interesting:
1) Bacteria are an essential part of our being from the minute we are born. When a baby is delivered vaginally, the newborn inherits the microbes from the mothers birth canal, vagina and gut bacteria from traces of faeces around the anus. It’s no coincidence that these two parts of a woman’s anatomy are found so close together!
2) Breast milk contains a lot of sugars which a newborn baby cannot metabolise. But the babies newly inoculated gut bacteria need these sugars to multiply. Breast milk also has its own range of bacteria which benefits the newborn.
3) The association between gut bacteria and health is a new science, as the medical community have largely viewed microbes as the enemy.
4) Bacterial cells outnumber our own by 100 to 1, and contain 100 times as many genes as our genome. Most of these live in our gut. I have written about how we live with and need germs in a past post, here.
5) The human digestive system has the greatest exposure to the outside world. Where the skin has about 2.5 square metres exposure, the gut is 200 times larger again (almost the area of two tennis courts).
6) Intestinal bacteria educates the body’s immune defences. Via the gut, the immune system identifies what to, or what not to attack.
7) Intestinal bacteria also affects mental health and the way the brain functions. I have written a bit about that here.
8) Currently one in three births are via c-section. This procedure is a very new thing in evolutionary terms and early research confirms that this birthing procedure does affect health.
9) C-section babies are not inoculated with natural bacteria like those delivered vaginally. Current, albeit limited data, confirms babies born via c-section are more likely to develop allergies and asthma than those born vaginally.
10) Formula fed babies have also been found to have different gut bacteria. Breastfeeding is known to protect against asthma, alleges and perhaps even autoimmune disease, neurological disorders and other health conditions not yet fully understood.
11) Our gut bacteria changes depending on what we eat. Bad, processed foods results in bad communities of bacteria, especially when dietary fibre is lacking.
12) One African community that lives as a hunter-gatherer (as close to our origins and a caveman), eats a wide variety of foods. The main difference however, in comparison with a modern day diet, is that they consume a massive amount of dietary fibre (5-10 times more).
13) Antibiotics are “like dropping an atomic bomb on gut bacteria” and children are “especially vulnerable.” The relationship between the bacteria in a child’s gut and the development of a healthy immune system is SO critical to a child’s development, that if you mess with that, then a child’s health will inevitably suffer (especially the metabolism, immune and nervous systems).
14) So antibiotics and a low fibre, Western diet results in both low levels and poor diversity of bacteria. This results in increased inflammation in the body. Autoimmune disease, cancer, asthma, diabetes, obesity, or any disease ending in “-itis”, occurs as a result of inflammation.
15) Obesity is a complex condition. Yes exercise and diet is critical, but so is good gut bacteria. I’m fascinated by the study quoted in the story (where it can be reversed by improving the health of intestinal flora in mice studies).
16) A whole food diet can shift the ecology of the gut.
Note – Before you rush out and stock up on bran – the fibre they refer to in this story is not the kind advertised on the label. Fibre from whole food sources (fruit, vegetables, nuts, seeds, whole grains, legumes) improves gut ecology (not processed forms of fibre like that found in boxed breakfast cereals).
That’s a summary, but I’d urge you to sit and watch the full report to really get a grip on just how important gut health is. I have harped on about gut health repeatedly, but you can catch up on some of my ideas on ways to improve your gut health and intestinal bacteria here.
Seems Hippocrates may just be ‘proven’ right sometime soon!
Watch the full ABC Catalyst story here. I think it’s well worth half an hour of your time.
Part two of the story has aired since I’ve written this, If you’d like to view this also, click here.