Wednesday, August 29, 2012

The Body's Microbial Garden

I have posted often about the importance of microbes in our soil gardens, and now want to post some thoughts on the microbial gardens in our bodies.

There are estimated to be 100 trillion microbes that call our human body "home", known as the microbiome, and we have waged war on them with antibiotics for more than a century. According to Julie Segre, a senior investigator at the National Human Genome Research Institute. “It [waging war] does a disservice to all the bacteria that have co-evolved with us and are maintaining the health of our bodies.”

This new approach to health is known as medical ecology. Rather than conducting indiscriminate slaughter, Dr. Segre and like-minded scientists want to be microbial wildlife managers.

No one wants to abandon antibiotics outright. But by nurturing the invisible ecosystem in and on our bodies, doctors may be able to find other ways to fight infectious diseases, and with less harmful side effects. Tending the microbiome may also help in the treatment of disorders that may not seem to have anything to do with bacteria, including obesity and diabetes. Source

Then while I was looking again at many reasons why lacto-ferments are so good for us, I came across this quote from Sally Fallon:

"Scientists and doctors today are mystified by the proliferation of new viruses--not only the deadly AIDS virus but the whole gamut of human viruses that seem to be associated with everything from chronic fatigue to cancer and arthritis. They are equally mystified by recent increases in the incidence of intestinal parasites and pathogenic yeasts, even among those whose sanitary practices are faultless. 

Could it be that in abandoning the ancient practice of lacto-fermentation and in our insistence on a diet in which everything has been pasteurized, we have compromised the health of our intestinal flora and made ourselves vulnerable to legions of pathogenic microorganisms? If so, the cure for these diseases will be found not in vaccinations, drugs or antibiotics but in a restored partnership with the many varieties of lactobacilli, our symbionts of the microscopic world."
Source: Nourishing Traditions: The Cookbook that Challenges Politically Correct Nutrition and the Diet Dictocrats by Sally Fallon with Mary G. Enig, PhD. © 1999. All Rights Reserved.

I also think the current compulsion to NOT let kids get dirty, and to "sanitize our body's exterior" with chemical hand wipes everywhere we go, has reduced some of our immunity. We naturally have enough lactobacilli on our skin to make a loaf of sourdough bread, yet we don't just wash our skin with soap, we wash it with antibacterial soaps to kill anything that might be on our skin.

I don't think it's quite that simple, but I do believe all these things are factors. We can improve our gut health, which increases the overall health of our bodies, with probiotics like yogurt with active cultures, and lacto-fermented vegetables and fruits. And quit being such germaphobes.

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