Your gut may be telling you something

I just finished reviewing information on how active aging is affected by our gut-microbiome or simply, the ‘gut.’ I was interested in the food we eat and how it affects our bodies as we age.

I read a number of articles online through Google Scholar, but got sidetracked reading a new book written by Dr. Perlmutter, touted as one of the most influential physicians in the U.S. His newest book was based on the theory that our gut-microbiome develops from birth and evolves based on lifestyle choices. Perlmutter suggests there are 6 essential keys to re-establishing a healthy microbiome with these dietary recommendations:

1. Choose foods rich in probiotics

2. Go low-carb, embrace high quality fat

3. Enjoy wine, tea, coffee and chocolate

4. Choose food rich in pre-biotics

5. Drink filtered water

6. Fast every season

If you search the internet, you can find plenty of conversation both positive and negative regarding Perlmutters “six.” But, love him or leave him, whatever you may support, I suggest it’s worth exploring the gut and dietary changes for treating or improving a variety of physiological and neurological conditions. It only makes sense that whatever you put into your belly is going to have some sort of effect on numerous parts of the body including the brain. Plus, as we age, the types and quantities of food we put in our belly doesnt generally improve, quite the opposite. In other words, we become a little lazy and not so interested in changing our food habits.

But, there is good reason to think about food intake. In the last few years there has been plenty of new research on the importance of the gut microbiome. In fact, the National Institute of Health suggested in its latest 2017 research that “the westernization of global eating and lifestyle habits is associated with the growing rate of chronic diseases, mainly cardiovascular diseases, cancer, type 2 diabetes mellitus, and respiratory diseases.” The research also suggests that although nutritional and behavioural changes are great for prevention, another important fact currently considered by scientists and practitioners is the presence of beneficial microorganisms and their products in our gastrointestinal tracts. The research suggests, these microorganisms can alter the fate of food, drugs, hormones, antibiotics and the effects a western lifestyle can have on fat, glucose metabolism and inflammation.

Our modern habits of low-activity, high-stress occupations along with sedentarism especially as people get older is a recipe for developing many of the factors leading to unhealthy chronic conditions, and illness. Unbalanced diets and stress, whether work or life-related can lead to inflammation which can quickly become chronic.

Just think how easy it is to choose a beer or glass of wine after a work-day rather than 30 minutes on the treadmill, walking or bike. The long-term effects are not favourable.

Our growing population is quick to blame outside factors for all of our ailments and compromised health, but this isn’t always the case. You see, the human body is largely comprised of microbial residents and as we blame bugs that live in the outside of body for most of our ailments, there is no doubt that things can go wrong on the inside due to the types of food and drink we consume.

So, what does all this mean to us as we age and what simple things can we do to take baby steps towards a healthier gut and a healthier body?

Here is one very simple step and you can start immediately.

Fermented Foods…yes you heard it…Kimchi, Kefir and Sauerkraut in particular. Yes, fermented foods provide probiotic bacteria in the diet. Evidence suggests that food fermentation has been around a long time…in fact up to 7,000 years. Long before there were probiotic pills, there were fermented foods providing friendly bacteria to the human gut. Kimchi, is a traditional Korean side dish of cabbage or cucumber, Sauerkraut from fermented cabbage and Kefir from fermented milk products.

How fermented foods make life longer and healthier

The type of fermentation, that makes most foods probiotic (rich in beneficial bacteria) is called lactic acid fermentation. Good bacteria convert sugar molecules in food into lactic acid and in this process multiply and proliferate. This lactic acid then allows for a low PH environment which helps kill off harmful bacteria with higher PH values. The lactobacilli go to work on the body helping to maintain the integrity of the gut lining, balance the body PH and regulate immunity and inflammation.

Since the days of Russian Scientist Elie Mechnikov and his early 1900’s theory that lactic acid bacteria was beneficial to natural immunities, we are finally developing a cozier relationship with the beneficial properties of good bacteria in the gut and the benefits to the entire body.

Next time you are in the grocery store, pick up some Kimchi or Kefir. It’s a little different for sure, but so is anything new.