Look after your stomach like an inner garden. That's the advice of years of research into our gut and health. Our intestines contain most of our vital immune system, a thriving bacterial flora that needs both care and attention. Think of your body as your own ecosystem and your stomach as your inner garden. "What goes around comes around" and "he who sows shall reap", you know. If we feed the good bacteria of the stomach with foods they like, and avoid things they don't like, we help ourselves to better health. There's no shortcut, but by thinking about what we eat, we can nurture the good stuff and support our inner friends.
Our lifestyles today have made our gut flora less varied than it should be. Avoid poisoning your microbial garden with preservatives, antibiotics, junk food and sugar, says genetics professor Tim Spector, who has done a lot of research on our gut flora. Excessive hygiene, fast food and too few vegetables are major explanations for our deteriorating gut flora, according to Land magazine, which has compiled the best advice from Tim Spector and anthropologist Jeff Leach.
Advice for a happier gut flora:
- Eat a varied diet. Not only is a varied diet more enjoyable to eat, it also provides us with a diversity of bacteria that both trains and strengthens our immune system.
- Like the earth. Adding a bit of soil to your veggies can also help your gut flora along.
- Dairy products, preferably unpasteurized. That and even milk-fed vegetables are great ways to get beneficial bacteria in your system.
- Fruits, berries, vegetables and onions. Eat them in smoothies, plain, or juiced. Go for high fibre vegetables, the rough parts contain the fibre found to give extra nutrition to your gut bacteria.
- Open the windows. Let in the fresh air that also carries nature's diversity of bacteria inside.
- Avoid fast carbohydrates such as in rice, sugar and white flour, as they favor inflammation-causing bacteria.
- Avoid convenience foods like burgers and pizza, as they often contain emulsifiers that favor bad bacteria.
- Avoid antibiotics as they often strike broadly at our gut flora and risk upsetting the balance. Research also shows a strong link to the increase in resistant bacteria due to our modern overuse of antibiotics. So only use antibiotics if you absolutely have to.
And how do you do this when life is spinning, work is calling, the laundry needs hanging and the kids need picking up?
When things are busy, we don't want to use our energy to think in new ways. There are many days when I don't have time to think about what my stomach is feeling, but we always have a few things at home: eggs, apples, onions, peanut butter, blueberries, coffee(!), water, vegetables, seeds, nuts, yogurt and cheese (preferably moldy cheese). We eat pasta and bread less often now. Less sausages and ready-made meatballs. Less sugar. Organic whenever possible. Pure flavors, cooked or fried ingredients, rather than semi-finished products. "Quick dinners" are often leftovers from the day before.
"In the end, it becomes a new way of thinking, maybe even a new way of seeing the world - full of microorganisms."
Well, pretty much, every little wiser choice is a feat. In the end, there will be a new way of thinking, maybe even a new way of seeing the world - full of microorganisms. So celebrate your inner garden and the little friends in your belly with something really tasty tonight!
Linda Rosendahl Nordin