This is a disclaimer ⇒⇒⇒ I am not a doctor. I am not a scientist. I am not a licensed anything. I am simply sharing my thoughts, my story, and my journey with you.
Nothing in the natural world lives in absolute isolation. There is no such thing as sterile, in any form, in nature. So why are we humans so hung up on it?
Symbiotic relationships are present everywhere, and these relationships are crucial to good health.
By now, you’ve probably heard terms like “gut flora” or “microbiome” or “beneficial bacteria” being thrown around. You can search it and find a bazillion pages of theories and studies and information about it…enough to make your head spin and make you want to give up even trying.
Let’s break it down simply:
- Every living thing has bacteria in, on, and all around it.
- This is a good thing.
- The balance is what supports great health.
Guess what? Among all the other “good” bacteria, you also have the notorious h.pylori and e.coli in your gut (i.e. somewhere in your digestive tract) right now. Yep. It’s there. Deep breath. Accept it. Let’s move on. Guess what else? That’s ok.
There are tons of different bacteria in your gut (and everywhere else). In a healthy system, they all live together in harmony, performing their assigned functions, reproducing and being checked appropriately by all the other colonies in there so no one gets out of hand. The different colonies maintain a health balance. The problems, i.e. health symptoms, diagnosis, issues, etc., start when that balance gets thrown off.
There are lots of ways that balance can be affected. Three common ones are:
Antibiotics, either by prescription or as a byproduct of the way food is raised in the US, are broad spectrum anti (kill) biotics (bacteria) machines. It’s alike a MOAB going off in your gut. Some bacteria will survive, and if those happen to be the more aggressive or problematic-at-higher-levels bacteria, they will reproduce and take over quickly without the checks from the other colonies around, causing issues. (think common side-effect: diarrhea)
If all your food comes from a believed-to-be sterile environment (either by factory-to-package or through multiple washings with “veggie cleaners” or super heating or pasteurization or preservation) two things may be (probably are) happening:
- you aren’t providing any new, natural bacteria to build up your gut flora.
- any “bad” (aggressive, problematic-at-high-levels) bacteria that survived the “sterile cleaning” process now has a clean slate to colonize. When you consume said clean slate, they’ve already established a stronghold with which to take over your gut. (think food recalls)
When our bodies are under stress, things churn, our bodies respond in mysterious ways as form of self preservation, like increased/decreased digestion, increased/decreased blood flow to different areas, very literal fight or flight responses. Without a healthy starting point, the effects are multiplied which can cause the balance to get thrown off. (think stomach aches, ulcers, increased/decreased appetites)
Now stress comes and goes, physical, mental, emotional, good, bad…While how you handle your stress can help your overall health, no one can stop stress.
And I know that antibiotics save lives. I am not anti-antibiotic, or anti-western medicine, or anti-science. But overuse of antibiotics, or improper use of antibiotics do much more harm than good. Knowing what it’s going to do to my body, my microbiome, my special bacteria partners in digestion and health, I think long and hard before taking antibiotics into my body, or allowing my children to take them. I think about it. I weigh the pros and cons. I evaluate the severity of the situation. I find potential alternatives. And then I make a conscious decision on what is best for me (or my kids’) health and well-being in that particular situation.
But diet, well that we can all do something about. In the very simplest, basic baby step: get more dirt in your diet.
- Look up the Clean 15 and Dirty Dozen for produce, and trust the clean food to be just that. No scrubbing and chemical cleaners required.
- Try picking something fresh/foraged/grown (from a trusted, uncontaminated source), wipe off the grit, and eat it.
- Add fermented things to your diet: yogurt (not the colorful, sugary, candy-like stuff) is easy. Lacto-fermented sauerkraut, kimchee, beets, oh my! There are even drinks like kombucha or kefir that contain beneficial bacteria for your gut.
- Try some raw dairy. Cheese and butter are mild and easily available at most health food stores, and some regular groceries. Raw milk is 1) hard to come by in many states and 2) will bombard your system with new and unfamiliar bacteria if you’ve never consumed raw milk before, which will cause some adverse effects. If you decide to try it, start slow. Be cautious. Understand what is happening and why, and above all, listen to your body.
Also, go outside. Play in the dirt. Breathe in some nature.
I could go into a whole ‘nother looong post on food allergies and childhood illnesses and epidemics and how they relate to lack of sunshine and kids getting dirty and whole food vs. processed food….but that would just complicate my message here. I’ll save it for another day. 🙂