I’m back! Sorry for the unexpectedly long hiatus – I needed some real unplugged time off after exams, moving, class, exams, and moving again. But now I am here in Sweden for my second year of the Master’s program and so excited to have continuous access to internet again (and of course to study here in Scandinavia 😉 Let’s pick up where we left off and pretend there was never a summer break, ‘kay?
What if I told you that the next time you eat something, you should consider not only how good it is for you, but also for millions of other organisms? Impossible, you say? Well, maybe that is why we have so long forgot about how our diets affect our stomach bacteria, except for those few times that we watch commercials about probiotic yoghurts that somehow make little figures in our guts happy. In fact, yoghurt is one of the only fermented products that people in our society eat regularly – or how often would you say you eat kimchi or sauerkraut? Rather, we are moving toward a diet (and lifestyle) that is as germ-free as possible due to the real danger of food poisoning if you produce a mass processed food product.
This, according to Michael Pollan, can ironically be a real danger to our health in two ways – first, the processed food diet is often lacking in fiber, which stomach bacteria need to digest the other food properly. The result? Inflammation and gastro-intestinal problems. Secondly, the obsession with cleanliness and the frequent use of disinfectants and antibiotics kill off not only the bad bacteria, but also the good, and this can make people more susceptible to auto-immune diseases and allergies.
Listen to this really interesting podcast from the WGBH Innovation Hub where Pollan and another author discuss the way the microbiome (our gut bacteria) influences our health and which lifestyle changes they have made since learning more about it.
Also, this NY Times article by Pollan called “Some of My Best Friends Are Germs” is really worth a read – lazy weekend literature tip!