Stop Screwing With Your Bacteria, You’ll Regret It

Research continues to emerge showing the vital role gut bacteria play in keeping us healthy.  Most people blindly assume that the food they consume is simply sucked through their intestinal walls after its been dissolved by bile and stomach acids.  However, this is only one small part of the story.  Right now, you have nearly 4 lbs of microbes inhabiting your intestines.  The bacteria inhabiting you out number your own cells by a margin of 10 to 1.

Your gut plays host to a wide variety of bacteria that play an integral role in the extraction of nutrients from the food you consume.  For example, if you start eating a diet high in fat, within one day, the bacteria colonizing your gut will be altered in a way that promotes the absorption of fat, along with altering satiety signalling.

Altering intestinal flora can also lead to issues associated with IBD, autoimmune disease, and metabolic disorders.  There’s also convincing evidence to suggest that altering the intestinal flora can lead to a cognitive decline, and it’s even been linked to Parkinson’s disease and depression.  However, not all bacteria are bad, the good bacteria in your gut work to prevent food allergies, along with keeping us slim and disease free.

Given how sensitive the bacteria in your gut are to changes in your diet, I want to stress just how important diet is to maintaining good health.  The choices you make about your diet are monumentally important when it comes to determining which types of microbes are inhabiting your gut.  Do you want to be inhabited by the microbial equivalent of cockroaches, or would you prefer to play host to a field of butterflies?

All this begs the question of what foods promote a healthy intestinal flora?  Well it should come as no surprise that those foods which have been shown to promote human health also promote healthy intestinal flora.  This is not a coincidence.  This is the product of millions of years of human evolution, with humans evolving not only to coexist with these bacterial, but also coming to rely on them.

The Bads:

  • Artificial Sweeteners (1)(2)
  • Red Meat (1)(2)(3)
  • Poultry (1)
  • Fast Food (1)
  • Seafood (1)
  • Eggs (1)
  • Dairy (1)(2)
  • Smoking (1)

The Goods:

  • Whole Low Fat Plant Foods (1)(2)(3)(4)(5)(6)(7)(8)(… ah fuck it, just look the 6000 studies published on the subject in Google Scholar)
  • Exercise (1)

It should be noted that I could load up “The Bads” with hundreds of articles on each of those, since many of the studies look at comparing the intestinal flora of low fat to high fat diets or vegetarian to animal based diets, so there is a lot of overlap between all those categories when it comes to published articles on the subject.

Again, is it coincidence that the same things we know make us healthy also dramatically alter our gut flora to promote healthy microbes over bad ones?  While correlation doesn’t equal causation, where there is smoke there is often fire.  It wouldn’t surprise me if one day scientists came to the conclusion that all disease was the result of microbes or microbial imbalances.

What inspired me to write this article in the first place was a curiosity about artificial sweeteners’ impact on obesity.  It turns out that people who consume the most diet drinks also tend to be the fattest.  It doesn’t seem to matter which one you pick, you’re better off simply drinking corn syrup (not that I’d recommend doing that either though.)

You’re not supposed to eat the god damn animals people.  You’re supposed to pet them or take them for walks.  I’m not sure if it can get any more obvious than this.