The Microbes That Govern Our Lives
I remember the day I learned that the human gut held as much as six pounds of bacteria. I couldn't believe I hadn't known this and wanted to know more about my trillions of microbes. Could I help them grow and thrive, and in the process live a healthier, longer life? That was almost two decades ago and much has changed in my body and life. Bacteria fill not only my body but my mind. I have made it my life's quest to understand all that bacteria can do and then pass it on to you. You see, it was the answer to my prayers and cries for help and it made my family and me well. And I will be forever grateful. There wasn't much research when I first started eating and making probiotic foods but there is now! It is thrilling to see all the things I have known for years come to fruition and then some. I just had to be patient and keep talking about it and learning. I started to realize how different my life journey is from most people's experience. I forget because I tend to live in my own little world. My family and I stay really healthy and rarely if ever go to the doctor. If someone gets sick we know how to make them well with probiotic foods. They work so well that it has given us confidence in our own bodies. I believe in wellness and I want you to believe in it too and then let your body show you how it's designed to work.
Bacteria, viruses, and fungi
Our bodies require a host of bacteria, viruses, and fungi that live on and inside our bodies. Most people don't like to think about bacteria and fungi but they are well acquainted with you! This microbiome is comprised of over 100 trillion microbes plus their genes, and it governs much of our lives. We even need bacteria to breathe. Cyanobacteria is one of the largest groups of bacteria on Earth and have existed for over 2.5 billion years. This bacteria sucks carbon dioxide and discharges oxygen in the most inhospitable environments on Earth. Scientists are even trying to use this species of bacteria to help humans breathe on Planet Mars. 1
Your microbiome develops over your lifetime and reflects everything about you. This starts with how you're born, be it c-section or vaginally, and whether you were breastfed or formula-fed. Where you live and what you do also influences what types of microbes flourish. Antibiotic use, toxins, medications, and an unhealthy diet can damage the microbiome and cause a host of autoimmune diseases as well as gastrointestinal disorders. You may struggle with many different types of ailments, never knowing that deep within resides a community that is desperately trying to help you stay well. You can improve your health just by rebuilding your microbes with probiotic and prebiotic foods that have been destroyed. Think about your life in the future, perhaps twenty to thirty years from now. How do you want to feel? Is it possible to feel great into your sixties, seventies, eighties and beyond? More and more research suggests that the secret to a long, healthy life lies in the gut. Those microbes in your gut may just determine how well you age.
Gut bacteria can determine disease and brain function
Scientists are now discovering that gut bacteria can determine whether or not you get serious chronic illnesses including heart disease, Alzheimer’s, and cancer.2 And your gut also influences how well your brain functions. It was once thought that nothing could cross the blood-brain barrier and that the brain was devoid of bacteria but recent studies have found bacteria in the brain that is similar to the ones in our guts.3 Another study found that certain gut bacteria can actually grow myelin — the fatty layer that insulates brain cells. Myelin helps brain cells communicate via electrical signals. 4
Living longer with a healthy microbiome
A study of 314 healthy Chinese subjects showed that ethnicity and lifestyle could be measured at the bacterial species level 5. The study showed that the microbiomes of these healthy older individuals - and some of them were over 100 years old - were remarkably similar to those of the younger people who were in their thirties. The scientist stated, "While our cross-sectional cohort precludes the assignment of cause and effect, our results suggest that diet and lifestyle choices consistent with healthy aging even into the 10th decade of life include a healthy and diverse microbiota."
There are many studies being done on mice, fish, flies, and even worms. It seems that transferring gut microbes from younger species made many of them live 37% longer and increased their activity levels to match the liveliness of their younger counterparts. 6,7
We have two lives and the second one begins when we realize we only have one.
I have discovered that in certain parts of the world yogurt and kefir have been strongly linked with an unusually high number of centenarians. In the Caucasus Mountains, Kefir (called the "Miracle Food") is a staple food. Many have lived over 100 years, and some claim to have lived to be over 150. Kefir is much stronger than yogurt because of the many different strains of bacteria in kefir. I don't go for many days without kefir. Since yogurt has some colonies, too, it's always a good idea to add yogurt to your diet as it helps your gut microbes grow and thrive.
I have done a lot of research on yogurt. Many of the world's centenarians have consumed yogurt and kefir daily and often as a dessert or meal. For instance, Bulgarian yogurt has a rich history surrounding it. It dates back to the Thracians, ancient inhabitants of the Bulgarian lands. Stock breeders would place sheep’s milk in lambskin bags around their waists and would create fermented yogurt using their own body heat. They credit themselves with inventing Bulgaria’s only source of yogurt. They also produced the healthiest yogurt in Europe thanks to a unique bacteria native to their country. Dr. Stamen Grigorov found the specific Lactobacillus bacteria responsible for Bulgarian yogurt fermentation. Grigorov went on to identify two more bacteria: Streptobacillus and Streptococcus thermophilus, which coexisted with Lactobacillus in perfect symbiosis. Interested in Dr. Grigorov’s discoveries, the Nobel prize-winning Russian scientist, Ilya Mechnikov, noted that more people lived to the age of 100 in Bulgaria than in any of the 36 other countries he studied. He directly linked this to Bulgaria’s consumption of yogurt.
The Mediterranean region has become an area of interest for nutritionists, doctors, and conscious-living experts all over the world. There, several cultures exist in which an unusually high number of people live to the age of one hundred or more. Greek yogurt has become a huge market as people gobble it up. Higher in protein than regular yogurt, it is a treat for me and I consider it a dessert food. Top it with some lemon zest, a fresh squeeze of lemon, some cherries, and a small dollop of honey and you have a treat for sure. Another thing often found on this diet is Chevre cheese. This probiotic goat cheese is digested differently from cow’s milk and is a hypoallergenic alternative for those allergic to cheese made from cow’s milk. Goat's milk also contains capric acid, a medium-chain fatty acid that has been shown to possess antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties, and that's not all! It also has a prebiotic, oligosaccharides, that is found in certain foods and in mother’s milk. There are thought to be four to five times more oligosaccharides in goat’s milk compared with cow’s milk. I make my own Chevre cheese. It's easy, no special equipment is needed and it is crazy good. I use it as a spread for toast in my Tuscan bruschetta tomato recipe. You can find lots of things to feed your microbes in many different types of foods.
Examining bacteria from older people
Some of the most important changes in gut microbiome occur both at the beginning of life and in our later years. These periods are also when the immune system is at its weakest. Examining bacteria from older people has shown lower levels of microbial composition which is likely due to medications and antibiotics as well as changes to diet and exercise. Scientists have linked such changes to alterations in both the composition and function of the gut microbiome to aging poorly.
As I move into my sixties on my next birthday I can't tell you how thankful I am for those microbes in my gut that keep me feeling young and healthy and full of energy. I often feel that I'm a newborn who has just gotten started. I started my business ten years ago on my fiftieth birthday after ten years of research and experiments that I did on myself, family and friends. Nothing has been as life-changing for me as embracing my trillions of unseen friends. Feed those microbes and care for them and watch them change you from the inside out. Don't live your life not feeling good, you don't know what you're missing! I know what it's like to live with sickness and disease and then watch my body transform and what a journey it has been for me. No one can ever convince me that probiotic and prebiotic foods are not the secret to living a healthier life. My own life experience showed me the way and my trillions of microbes were my constant companions and teachers. Who would have ever thought the answer to my prayers would come in a jar filled with billions of probiotics? It was the road less traveled but it has made all the difference. My hope is it will help you too. If you sign up to read my newsletters or find my posts on social media, rest assured I will keep teaching till my last breath. So much negative news out there and scary diseases but you, my friends, are the captains of your own ships, and one day I will convince you. I am the voice for these trillions of microbes that abide in you and are here to serve you. I do love your guts . . . quite literally.