A Whole Food Plant-Based Diet and The Human Ecosystem

imageSometimes it is hard to believe that we are totally dependent on the kindness of our internal and external biota. Everyone fears the dreaded Staphylococcus flesh eating bacteria that is methicillin resistant. Yet how many of us know that our sweat glands are occupied by a benign bacterial cousin? A cousin that aids our immune system in its constant combat with less friendly invaders.

Friendly skin staph bacteria is in fact very helpful to the immune system! The problems arise when they mutate into cousins that cause serious infections in open wounds. Current research indicates that our fascination with anti-bacterial hand cleansers can clearly have some harmful effects when used extensively and often, These cleansers often demolish our protective skin dwellers.

We have just begun to explore the complex internal and external world of our body’s co-inhabitants. Some altogether fascinating facts are already beginning to emerge. The inhabitants of our gut appear to have a complex chemical link to our sanity and mental health. The type and nature of that link is not very clear as of yet but it is being studied seriously for clues as to how altering the mix of bacteria living in our digestive tract can help our mental health and mood states.

There are some indicators that fermented food products can keep our healthy balance of internal biota in proper balance. Live yogurt is one very well publicized example of this link. Kombucha, a fermented tea that originated in China is also an interesting source of both nutrients and live cultures of its single celled creators. In some areas of Russia it is almost mythical in folk medicine linking it to extended life and health.

The examples of fermented foods would hardly be complete without mentioning Kimchi a Korean fermented vegetable dish. If you ever travel to Korea trying local versions of this mainstay of Korean cuisine is a must!  Be aware, however,  that it is heavily spiced and sometimes peppery enough to scorch the surface of stainless steel. Kimchi is also revered for its contributions to health but be wary. Kimchi is native to Korea and your internal biota might not share the enthusiasm.

From fermented mare’s milk to far more common foods in the human diet every human culture seems to have their favorites. Of course beer is the liquid form of bread in many human societies. Alcohol is a much desired result of happy yeast cells eating their way through the starches and sugars in our food. Every loaf of leavened bread has some small percentage of this byproduct of yeast cell growth.

It does seem clear that feeding your friendly bacteria and yeast cells both on your skin and inside your digestive tract is a good idea. What to feed them is an open question. But some fermented products do probably make them happier than others.

Be very wary of those who promote products based on the idea of feeding your friendly internal and external creatures. Remember balance between your cells and your biota is everything. Disturbing the balance of a health supporting biota can have serious consequences for your body. So be very, very wary of supplements that propose to promote one type of biological rider over another.

Finally, a balanced whole food plant-based diet is your best bet.  It seems that very fresh foods  encourage a healthy home for you and your internal and external guests.

About Genene Cote

Genene Coté -- Nutrition Advocate, Counselor and Coach who is also a Whole Food Plant Based Eater (vegetarian/vegan), cook and gardener.
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