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Our Vanishing Gut Microbiome: The Disappearing Act

Jan 22, 2024 | Daily Trek, Unlearn

Our Vanishing Gut Microbiome - Radical Trekking - Ayelet Baron

Our Vanishing Gut Microbiome

In our bodies, a vibrant underworld thrives; a living microbiome system. Trillions of microorganisms, including around 1,000 species of bacteria, swim through our gut, forming a bustling microbiome. This complex network is crucial for digestion, immune modulation, and infection protection. The gut microbiome is akin to an internal universe, teeming with life that profoundly influences our overall health.

Imagine if we lose a few microbial species. We might experience stomach discomfort or, over time, develop more serious conditions like inflammatory bowel disease, stomach cancer, or autoimmune anomalies. But what if the loss extended to 50 or even 100 species? Such a scenario paints a real picture for our wellbeing. And it’s happening now. Did you know that currently, 124 gut microbiome species are fading from our bodies?

This decline links back to our industrialized lifestyle, especially over the past century. The introduction of processed foods, high in sugar and fat, extensive antibiotic use, and the shift from natural to polluted environments, are key factors.

Additionally, our unfiltered drinking water, a crucial aspect of daily life, often contains heavy metals, raising significant health concerns. Studies indicate that water in various regions can have elevated levels of metals like lead, arsenic, and mercury. These metals, even in small quantities, can disrupt our gut microbiome and overall health.

Lead exposure, for instance, impairs cognitive function and kidney health, while arsenic is known to increase cancer risks. Their presence in water is a byproduct of industrial activities, aging infrastructure, and insufficient water treatment processes. Understanding that what we consume goes beyond just the food we eat, and includes the water we drink, is vital for maintaining a healthy gut microbiome and overall wellbeing.

The Disappearing Act: Our Vanishing Gut Microbiome

And what if the way we zap our food and meet our productivity goals of efficiency are not really healthy. These “innovations” are silently eroding our inner ecosystem, leading to a significant reduction in our microbiome.

A recent study from Stanford compared the gut microbiomes of the Hadza tribe in Tanzania, one of the last hunter-gatherer societies, with those in Nepal and California. The Hadza consume a diet rich in plants, meat, fat, and honey. It’s devoid of processed foods. They exhibit a microbiome believed to be the ancestral human state. In contrast, people in industrialized societies show a marked decrease in certain microbial species.

As our lifestyles veer away from Nature, our gut ecosystems are undergoing a drastic transformation. There is departure from a diet rich in diverse, natural foods to one dominated by processed items (not real food).

Dietary fiber maintains a healthy gut microbiome. Our reduced intake of fiber-rich foods like fruits, vegetables, and whole grains is weakening our natural microbial allies. This change is not just a dietary issue; it is impacting our health. The diminishing microbial diversity in our guts is linked to a surge in chronic diseases.

The gut-brain connection further illustrates this crisis. The gut microbiome’s imbalance is implicated in diseases like Huntington’s, Alzheimer’s, and Parkinson’s. These conditions, once thought to be purely genetic, are now understood as complex interplays between genes, diet, and environment.

The consequences of our modern lifestyle choices may extend beyond our own health. The microbiome we cultivate affects our offspring and subsequent generations. The legacy of our current diet and lifestyle choices might predispose future generations to a range of disorders, particularly those affecting the brain. Perhaps nutrition and hydration are the keys to our overall health.

Becoming Aware of the Source of Everything

Small shifts in our microbiome during early development can set a lifelong trajectory for gut health. By becoming aware of our food supply and its natural source, we feed ourselves and future generations with natural ingredients. We become aware of the quality of the soil.

Maybe in our future all our food will no longer be divided by design, like we are, and there will be no need to label our food natural (organic) or artificial (GMO).

But to do so, we no longer comply to our fast food culture by making healthier choices from the food we consume to how we prepare it. No longer zapping anything but also enjoying the process of creating healthy meals. And sharing them in rich conversations around a table.

Embracing a diet rich in natural, fiber-heavy foods and reducing processed food intake maintains our gut microbiome. Understanding the sources of what we consume enhances this process. Do we not want to foster a harmonious relationship with our microbial inhabitants?

Can we recognize that our health intertwines with theirs as everything in our lives is purely interconnected at the source?

For a healthier future, we acknowledge and nurture the connection between our bodies and their microbial companions. We shift our perspective from judging good and bad to discerning what and who is healthy or toxic for us. This simple awareness of what and who benefits our health and wellbeing, and what doesn’t, changes everything. It frees us from the restrictive dichotomy of good and bad, which holds us stuck in the dying world.

After all, maybe this is an opportunity to deeply question who we trust and step into our power by knowing the source of everything, including manmade divisions and inventions. Because our conscious choices matter right now.

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