This is a big one: It is crucial that each of us learn how best to tend and feed our inner garden—our microbiome—the trillions of cells that line our guts and live in the openings of our bodies to protect us. When our microbiome is robust and healthy, it naturally keeps germs from becoming dangerous. In fact, healthy bacteria in our bodies—including healthy probiotic bacteria in fermented foods and in a healthy gut—actually contain what are called bacteriocins, good bacteria that attack pathogenic bacteria and keep everything under control. A healthy microbiome is the very best protection against disease. The health of our microbiome is so crucial to brain health that David Perlmutter, author of Brain Maker, has founded an entirely new medical society to study it.
We are at a crucial moment in human history as we emerge from the antibiotic era, realizing that the “war on germs” has had some dire and unintended consequences.
First and foremost is the fact that massive quantities of antibiotics are fed to livestock all over the world to make them grow bigger, faster. In fact, the majority of all antibiotics produced are for livestock. Plus, too many doctors—often caving to the demands of their misinformed patients—still prescribe antibiotics for conditions like the common cold, simply because patients have come to expect the antibiotic prescription. The end result is that we now have a global problem with superbugs—bacteria in our food supply and our bodies that are resistant to every known antibiotic out there, including the truly potent “last resort” ones. Pretty soon, the post–World War II miracle that saved so many lives and ushered in the era of modern medicine will have to undergo some radical changes.
So how do we counteract this war on bacteria? We need to eat foods that are loaded with probiotics—bacteria that contribute to a healthy gut, as well as a healthy genital, urinary, and respiratory tract. Make healthy fermented foods (which contain probiotics) a regular part of your diet. Commercial yogurt often has way too much added sugar. So stick with plain yogurt and sweeten it with stevia and berries. Kefir is also good, as are sauerkraut, kombucha, and kimchi. The canned varieties don’t contain what you need. Choose products that are in the refrigerated aisle of the grocery store or make your own. There are so many good books and websites available about how to make fermented foods that you shouldn’t have a problem finding them. In addition, you might want to add a good probiotic to your daily regimen to keep your microbiome in good shape. I especially recommend additional probiotics when traveling, because the stress of travel tends to kill off healthy bacteria.
In addition to eating fermented food and taking a probiotic, you can add to your healthy bacteria by turning to Mother Earth herself. Eat produce right off the tree or out of the ground. Anthony William points out that there are millions of healthy bacteria on produce right as they are harvested. If you pick it and eat it from those sources whenever you can, you’ll be seeding your ileum, a specific part of the small intestine, with healthy bacteria that go a long way to protecting your health.