This entry provides a brief overview of the Microbiome and why the Microbiome Diet is important, including Microbiome ABCs. This is a favorite topic of mine; I have been a student of the microbiome and the potential for development of practical tools to advance human health for some time. More to the point, I have some great recipes! So this is just a down payment on an important topic for good health in your Second Middle Age.
You may have seen headlines for Microbiome science breakthroughs over the last few years and you may wonder what it has to do with you. In fact the Microbiome is the biome that has been inside of you all along.
We all come equipped with our own personal microbiome – a collection of approximately 100 trillion non-human cells, including bacteria and fungi that co-exist mostly in balance with our estimated 30 trillion human cells. Due to their small size, non-human cells represent only 1 – 3% of typical body weight (and are not making you look fat).
Somewhere along the line, our microbial fellow-travelers lost their ability to live outside of the human body and compete against interlopers — hostile, disease causing organisms —in their own self-interest. As my science mentor, microbiology pioneer Dr Ananda M. Chakrabarty likes to say, biofilms in the human body “possess the evolutionary wisdom of 3 billion years.”
Every organ of the body has its own microbiome; our intestinal bacteria, for example, manufacture vitamins, regulate insulin levels, boost our immunity, and can help to mitigate levels of stress and anxiety.
Over the last 10-20 years scientists all around the world have learned a great deal about the important role of the diversity of our microbiomes for human health and in particular for reducing inflammation associated with the aging process. The really great news is that the most important ingredients you need to support a healthy microbiome are as close as your neighborhood market.
Why the Microbiome Diet?
One of the most important things we have learned about the human microbiome is that it is highly transient, ie the microbial composition changes based on diet. Accordingly the ability of the microbiome to do its job to protect you is very much affected by the quality of your diet over time. The Microbiome Diet encourages the microbial diversity we all need for long term health.
Even – or perhaps especially – if you spent most of your life eating whatever you wanted, adopting a Microbiome Diet now may make a huge difference for a healthy Second Middle Age.
The ABCs of the Microbiome Diet
Over time, following a Microbiome Diet should not be cumbersome or time-consuming. It is an intuitive and easy diet to follow, once you grasp the ABCs:
A – Add Naturally Occurring Probiotics: fermented foods.
Popular Probiotic foods include: unsweetened Kefir/Yogurt /Leben or other fermented dairy products, Sourdough breads, Miso, Kombucho, Kimchi, and Tempeh, among others
B – Boost Consumption of Prebiotics: fiber-rich whole fruits and vegetables, whole grain products and complex carbohydrates
C – Curtail Processed Foods: these include foods with fillers, colors, added sugars, high-fructose corn syrup, and/or artificial sweeteners, and other simple, low-fiber (refined) carbohydrates. This is all the stuff you already know is not good for you.
Adopting a Microbiome Diet is a delicious way to support your immune system to reduce inflammation for better health at every age. Anticipated benefits include potential for improved gastrointestinal functioning, ie reduction in stomach cramps and related constipation; possible reduction in anxiety and improvement in mood stability, and some suggest broader behavioral benefits for individuals on the Autism Spectrum and/or other Special Needs.
I hope this is helpful as a starting point. In the future I have a lot of recipes and even meal plans to share.
So stay tuned, and please also share your thoughts and experiences!