Our Gut = Our Soil

I stumbled upon this article last week & it made me think about the similarities between our gut & our soil – both so critical to support life & both sadly devastated by some of our modern ‘developments’ (things like agricultural chemicals, medications & highly processed foods).

 

Guts & Soil = Both Teeming With Life:

Just as your gut should be teeming with a diverse array of microbes, so should the soil surrounding a plant’s root system. You can think of plant roots & their surrounding microbial ecosystems kinda like ‘inside-out’ human guts.

 

 

Balanced soil = Healthy Plants, Balanced Guts = Healthy Humans:

Humans grow & thrive & experience disease / deficiencies depending on (among other things) what is going on in their gut, & plants grow & thrive (or not) depending (among other things) upon what is going on with their soil. Soil balance = critical to plant health, gut balance = critical to human health.

 

Little Helpers Doing Big Jobs:

Think of the similarities between our intestines with their huge surface area created by the villi & the microvilli (tiny projections that massively increase the surface area of our small intestines) & the branching root system of a plant with its fine root hairs. Both systems are a complex interface between the organism & it’s surrounding environment, & both function with close interaction & support from an amazing microbial ecosystem. Just as our gut microbes are vital for our immune function, chemical messaging around the body & the absorption of many nutrients, the microbes surrounding the roots of plants also play major roles in the function of the roots & how they support the plant. Two mind-blowing natural systems – we’re both extracting nutrition & communicating with what surrounds us, with the help of other tiny creatures that we cannot even see! Did you know that roots actually secrete their own prebiotics!? ’Root exudates’ provide a food source & attract beneficial microbes to live & feed around the plants root system, which in turn does great things for the plant nutritionally! The plant knows it needs microbes – so it provides them with a food source, just like the mucous layer in our gut – which can also feed some of our gut bugs.

 

 

Maybe You Need a Transplant?

We have to actively seek out & make an effort to ingest our required nutrition, whereas the plant just grows roots to absorb what it needs from its surroundings – which is the better design? Well a plant cannot just ‘up & leave’ if the soil environment is not supporting it adequately…but we humans can easily ‘transplant’ ourselves when we’re not thriving – i.e. we can totally change our ‘soil’ & its microbial support system just by changing what is flowing through our gut each day. Our food (& anything else that ends up in our gut) creates the ‘soil’ that supports us. If you have ever observed the change in a plant when you’ve transplanted it from an old pot that it had outgrown, into a freshly composted veggie garden full of nutrients & microbes…you’ll appreciate the difference that a change of soil can make. It’s much the same with humans that are not thriving on their current diet – you have to make some changes to their soil (the food & nutrients flowing through them) & try to get a thriving gut microbial ecosystem happening to help with the absorption of vital nutrients, as well as facilitating clear communication between the external environment & the immune system. The ‘ultimate’ in repotting / soil refreshing for an unhealthy human gut is an FMT (faecal microbe transplant), where they basically empty out all of your crappy dysfunctional ‘soil’, & replace it with some fresh ‘soil’ (someone else’s poo, squirted straight into your bowel, along with all the friendly & balanced microbes). Sounds pretty gross, but the results can be incredible (with a caution that we can also create new problems that we’re not even fully aware of yet). When you consider all the functions of our gut microbiome – the potential for this type of ‘transplant’ therapy to both help cure & cause health issues is huge. Understandably, researchers are proceeding with caution.

 

Gut & Garden Rehabilitation:

When rehabilitating your garden or your gut, you may need to do the following:

  • remove any nasty weeds that have taken over, being mindful that some seeds will always remain & maintenance will be required to prevent them from growing back to dominate the area. (Think about a detrimental overgrowth of parasites, fungi, nasty bacteria etc in our guts – we may need to ‘weed’ the gut garden with some anti-microbial / anti-fungal / anti-parasitic herbs & supplements & a restrictive diet as part of the gut rehab process).
  • bring in some healthy new soil ingredients! In humans we need to change what is being swallowed daily, this is one of the major contributors to achieving soil (gut) health. Think mainly about food, but also about medications, environmental chemicals, supplements, hydration…even hormones & emotions…everything that ‘flows through you’ contributes to (or takes away from) your soil health. Really important to stop feeding those nasty microbes what they love (usually sugars & refined starches for the baddies). Feed the goodies so they populate quickly & crowd out the baddies, just like we can plant & nurture a lovely ground cover to stop unwanted weeds from growing back. Our good bugs love fibre & resistant starch, feed them plenty so they’ll grow & take up all the space & resources, leaving none for the baddies / gut weeds!
  • reinoculate & support with some microbial reinforcements. In a garden you can add some microbe-rich compost & manure. You can add mulch to stabilise moisture & temperature / slow down the growth of unwanted weeds / create a safe haven for beneficial creatures that are part of the soil ecosystem. Mulch will also eventually act as a food source that can be broken down & converted by creatures into more organic matter for the soil & it’s microbes. Adding compost & mulch to a garden is just like a human adding plenty of organic, fibrous plant foods & some fermented foods into their diet. What a difference it can make, getting that internal soil to start ‘teeming’ with microbes again, like an internal compost system that keeps cranking out awesome ‘compost’ (or healthy poos).
  • daily intake of diverse fibre = a continuous stream of food to support a wide range of good gut bugs. Without adequate fibre, some of our gut bugs actually start eating away at our protective mucous lining to survive, not a nice thought!
  • water that garden: Your internal soil will dry up & your gut bugs will shrivel if you’re not well hydrated – just like a plant cannot survive & thrive without the moisture required to help it absorb nutrients from the soil & keep it’s microbial helpers comfortable.
  • keep the chemicals out. Chemicals flowing through your gut will mess with the ‘soil’ ecology, just as chemicals sprayed continually into a forest can seriously damage the ecosystem. Eat as much as you can organic, & avoid unnecessary medications / ask your Dr what you can eliminate (or find a functional / integrative GP / naturopath to work with you to minimise your intake of pharmaceuticals).

…& remember it’s not only the vitamins & minerals etc that plants contain – it’s also their hormones & chemical messengers that can actually interact with our systems too. Interesting read…

Love to read your comments that you can add below or send me any email anytime.

Jeanie Xx
jeanie@goodmix.com.au

5 Easy Ways To Get More Good Bugs Into & Onto Your Body!

1. Stop killing them all the time!

We are constantly showering / washing all our external microbes off & using all kinds of microbe-killers & things that mess with our internal & external ecosystems. Antibacterial hand wash, antibiotics, mouthwash, deodorant, facial cleansers, shampoo, feminine hygiene products, make-up etc – all great & useful products (I’m not saying never shower or use deodorant) but we need to be aware that these things can seriously mess with our natural microbes. Use ‘hygiene’ products minimally – not just out of habit (think of being ‘clean’ as being covered in a healthy microbial population more so than being completely sanitised). You are much less likely to get an infection when you have loads of harmless microbes all over you to protect you from baddies (a stripped, clean slate will just give any baddies that come along free reign to multiply). Opt for gentle, chemical free, plant-based alternatives to harsh chemical products that claim to destroy 99.5% of bacteria for a certain period (many toothpastes, deodorants & hand washes claim such things).

2. Expose yourself, inside & outside the house.

Open the windows every day, let the air into your home, or better still – get out into nature! Get dirty, sandy, muddy, salty, leafy, furry – get some new natural bugs into your ecosystem. Nature is full of great microbes that we’ve evolved with, we know how to handle them & they can help us in many cases. Google ‘hookworm & coeliac disease’ – trials are showing very positive results – everyone wants to keep their parasites as they feel healthier & any accidental gluten ingestion is less problematic. Also read about peanut allergy & probiotics, an area of study promising to help kids who live in fear of accidentally coming into contact with nuts. Probiotics & hay fever, fermented foods & anxiety…even babies growing up with pets (or grubby older siblings) are healthier than those raised in more ‘clean’ homes. The key is that when you have a baby, you want something that carries dirt & microbes into your house daily to keep your bubs immune system occupied. Put down the sanitiser, let the dog in, & kick the toddlers off the i-pad to go & play mud-pies!!)

3. Eat them. Organic fruit & veggies fresh from garden to mouth = more ‘buggy’ (in a good way)!

These will deliver not just better nutrition & less toxicity, but also a heap of healthy microbes as a bonus…not so when you’re eating produce grown with artificial fertilisers & sprayed with chemicals, then transported & left sitting in cold storage (sometimes for months) before it gets to your plate. If you’ve never been a green thumb, try growing just a tiny garden with salad greens & herbs – even start with a pot / planter box. If you just don’t wanna grow anything yourself, get to your local farmer’s markets or organic produce store regularly.

4. The big guns. Regularly consume foods that contain live bacteria.

Quality yoghurts, aged cheeses, kefir, sauerkraut, kimchi, kombucha,…this stuff is alive with bugs that produce amazing & helpful substances for our gut & body, while helping us to breakdown the things that they’re fermenting (so we can digest more easily & extract more nutrition). If you’re sensitive to fermented foods / probiotics then start very slowly, you may notice some ‘turbulence’ (sometimes an increase in gas) when you introduce more of these into your system, like when you suddenly increase fibre.

5. Change the environment = change the bacterial balance.

You can very quickly alter your gut bacterial population by changing what you eat each day. We know that many helpful gut bugs thrive on fibre – veggies, fruit, nuts, seeds, legumes, whole ancient grains…these all provide fodder for your good guys. Feed the goodies & they’ll begin to multiply & crowd out the baddies. Your baddies (the gut bugs that make you less healthy in general) love to eat sugars & refined carbohydrates – that’s one reason you may crave these foods – the more of these carb-munchers you have, the more sugar you’ll want. It’s your gut bugs demanding a regular intake of what they need to survive. Making initial changes to your diet can be really hard, but once you’re well into the change it will feel hard to go back – your gut bugs want you to keep feeding them their favourites. Your dominant belly bugs are a product of what you’ve been consistently eating, so if you’re a sugar feind, they’ll strongly resist a change to a high veggie / low sugar diet, but in the end (once you’ve balanced them out) they will actually help you stay healthy).

Love to get your feedback in the comments below – how hard has it been for you to change your gut bacterial balance, & what helped most?

Jeanie x

Fibre, The Gut & Modern Disease

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The old approach of using a single source fibre supplement (i.e. bran, psyllium) is no longer recommended / considered optimal to improve gut health.

The reason is that – we (in our large intestine) carry many different types / strains of fibre-loving bacteria, & they all have different food preferences. Relying heavily on one type of fibre will encourage an imbalanced population as you overfeed one / some types of microbes, but neglect the rest – so you end up with proliferation of the ‘few’ who love & thrive on all-bran, or psyllium, or inulin, & these crowd out / take over leaving little room for the rest.

It is now believed that diversity of gut bugs plays a key role in preventing diabetes, obesity, & many of the common health issues of today – & that the best way to regain diversity of bowel organisms is to eat a really diverse range of fruit & vegetables, nuts, seeds, legumes, & other plant fibre sources with diverse polysaccharides (parts of the plant that we cannot digest in the upper GI tract, but that will become food for our microbes in the bowel).

Sadly, the average westerner eats a lot of refined carbs, a lot of sugars & fats, & very little fermentable fibre, with only a few different types of unrefined plants (a token apple or lettuce & tomato on their burger).

This means we are providing copious amounts of simple carbs / sugars to feed the ‘bad guys’, & very little roughage for the good guys in the bowel. As a result, there is precious little fermentation happening in the large intestine, which is one of the absolutely vital keys to good health – fibre is the fermentation material needed by our bowel bugs – they convert complex carbs into SCFA’s (short chain fatty acids), which are potent anti-inflammatory substances & key nutrients for maintaining the health & integrity of the gut lining – among many other things (worth reading up on). 

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When you think about inflammation as the cause / key contributor to almost all modern disease states – it makes really good sense to be feeding our own ‘anti-inflammatory generators’ with diverse fibre, every day, as a priority. It has even been questioned whether just adding a heap of plant fibre to a junk food diet can somewhat mitigate the damage / inflammation caused by the junk in this way…

The less processed the food is, the more likely that it will make it through our stomach & small intestine undigested, which may sound like a bad thing… BUT, it is these undigested foods that become food for our helper-bugs! I.e. raw veg are better for the bugs than cooked, whole grains better than refined flour… we seem to do best on a combination of really unrefined foods & some more refined / easier to digest stuff, but I believe the modern diet is waayy too far towards the ‘easy to digest’ processed end of the spectrum.

If your gut is not super-sensitive / out of whack, do an experiment on yourself by increasing your intake of unprocessed plant foods (making sure to focus on diversity), & see what happens. Go slowly to transition comfortably – increase your intake gradually over time rather than all at once, or you may become bloated, gassy, uncomfortable & possibly constipated as your unprepared gut struggles to deal with the sudden influx of fibre. Over a few days / weeks though, your population of bacterial fibre-munchers should increase hugely & become much more healthy & diverse. Take note of how this effects you – look for changes in regularity / gut symptoms, body composition, mood, brain function, skin, immunity, aches & pains…it’s such an easy experiment with massive potential gains! If there is no way you can tolerate fibrous foods due to severe gut symptoms – look into the SCD (specific carbohydrate diet), as it helps many to get back to a state of gut health where fibre becomes more tolerable.

Where do goodMix products fit in here? 

12705672_954665004602041_4415308818380507873_nBlend11 / NeoBlend- diverse, complex, largely unprocessed & mostly organic plant fibre (in a super-easy, palatable delivery to ensure frequent / daily consumption). Seed microbes (we know less about the microbes carried by seeds / plants than we do about our own gut bugs – but there is a definite possibility that there’s another benefit here – interesting research is happening around seed microbes).

PondWater – more polysaccharides & other goodies found in the grass, algae & aloe vera. Once again easy to use in a green smoothie or just with fresh juices / water / lemon water – no excuses for not getting your daily dose of greens!

BallBags – humans will always want & seek out sweet treats, these balls allow a treat but are full of goodness, providing plenty of good bacteria fodder & a slow release of natural sugars into the blood stream, rather than the typical sugar hit from refined type sweet treats. A great transition for those wishing to cut down on sugar addiction comfortably with minimal stress, & for those who wish to replace a daily vice with a healthier alternative. 

*people following a FODMAP diet may need to exercise a little caution (consume in moderation) with the BallBags & NeoBlend, as the dried fruit can cause issues for some with bloating etc. Blend11 & PondWater should be fine. 

Not All Fibre is Created Equal

Blend11 fibre

Over the many years I spent working in health food stores, I noticed that the most commonly (& religiously) purchased products were the fibre & gut health supplements – whether it be psyllium, bran, prunes, a particular breakfast or a capsule / tablet / powder to help with regularity. The three most commonly purchased ‘foods’ to help improve bowel function are:

  1. psyllium
  2. bran
  3. prunes or other dried fruit

All of these will have the desired effect, but also have their own associated problems.

1. Psyllium

Pysllium

Psyllium is basically just fibre & nothing else. It contains no other nutrients whatsoever, so regular users would be much better off eating something which also supplies some nutrients as well. It is also not great to be relying on one food source foe the majority of your fibre needs – users of all fibre supplements need to be wary of this, as fibrous variety is the spice of life for our gut bacteria! Diverse fibre encourages diverse gut bugs.

 

2. Bran

Wheat bran

Bran is worse as it is very high in phytic acid, which can bind to minerals (like calcium, zinc & magnesium) in our body and end up depleting these crucial building blocks of health.

 

3. Dried fruits

dried fruits

Dried fruits do provide some nutrients, but unfortunately also deliver a concentrated hit of sugar, and often high levels of sulphur dioxide as a preservative. If you use them, combine them with some good fats & protein – to slow the release of sugars.

 

4. A modern solution…

goodmix-blend11-best-poos-rs

A better fibre solution may be Blend11

  • low carbs / sugars (no energy spikes & crashes)
  • protein & good fats (super-filling & satisfying)
  • diversity of fibre (encourages a diverse gut microbial population)
  • soaked overnight to activate seeds & maximise absorption of nutrients.

Fibre diversity is important to encourage a balanced gut bacterial population.

Blend11 is also quick & easy to prepare & suitable to take to work / school / college / the gym / travelling etc…happy poo = happy you ;)

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