Diversity in the microbiome has plummeted, and along with it our defenses against toxins, our supply of trace minerals, and fulfillment of specialized jobs
Before The Industrial Age, people had much greater diversity of microflora colonizing their gut. The majority of which science has yet to identify and study, because some strains are so fragile outside the gut you can’t isolate a single species, grow a mono-culture of it, and study it individually.
But one thing is for certain: Diversity in the microbiome has dropped like a rock the last half century. Research shows we now have 2-3,000 different strains of bacteria and other microbes living in a typical person’s gut, compared to 20-30,000 in centuries past.
This ten-fold greater biodiversity in days of old afforded people greater protection against toxins and invading pathogens, a healthier supply of trace nutrients that good bacteria make or distribute, and the execution of certain specialized jobs within the body.
For example, different strains of good bacteria (and some pathogens too) have particular talents for capturing or neutralizing different toxins (as determined by their molecular structure). A few classes of toxins the good guys protect against are nitrates, indoles, phenols, skatol, ksenobiotics, histamine, and mercury.
That means, in losing the rarer strains of microflora, we have lost a good deal of our ability to defend ourselves against uncommon, or unusual, toxic chemicals, because each strain has a key that fits a certain lock “molecularly speaking,” due to the way molecules fit or interact with one another (or not).
While the body can use its other defense mechanisms to remove toxins if the first line of defense is breached, no other mechanism or strain has the easy fix that Nature intended our bodies to use as a frontline defense. So that duty gets offloaded to another bodily mechanism that’s inferiorly-equipped to do the job (which then turns up and perpetuates inflammation and immune system reactions).
At the same time, fewer strains of microbiota means a more limited supply of vitamins and minerals that these microbiota either make, or help us use. For instance, some bacteria are good at making B vitamins, while some metabolize vitamins A and D well. Point is, nutrient deficiencies tend to increase as biodiversity shrinks in the microbiome.
And nutrient rationing causes virtually every system in the body to behave like it’s in emergency-conservation mode – perhaps even “starvation-mode” if the deficiency is severe enough. That causes the body to use coping mechanisms to make the best of a tough situation. It turns down detoxification, postpones cell repair, impairs neurotransmitters recycling, and can’t fight disease as well.
Finally, narrowing of diversity means you can’t get other specialized jobs done. For example, some bacteria are good at neutralizing radioactive materials. Some viruses are able to get into fat stores and chelate mercury, while others might be employed by the immune system to purposely produce a fever in order to help the body fight off an infection. And we now know bacteria change the way our genes are expressed (through epigenetics).
What’s caused this precipitous drop in diversity?
Answer: The things that corrupt the gut also narrow its diversity. Namely: Antibiotics for humans and livestock; toxic chemicals and GMO’s in our food supply (e.g. glyphosate); contraceptive pill, steroids, and long-term drug use; chlorine and chloramines in our drinking water; heavy metals in dentistry, in the air, and all around us; and industrial chemicals and personal care products.
But probably the most overlooked factor: A diet that lacks a variety of whole foods will naturally acquire fewer strains of friendly and scarce soil-based microorganisms, because that’s primarily where they come from – the unsterilized skin of soil-based plants, as well as you being around things exposed to earth (e.g. kids playing in the dirt, farm animals).
Simply put, playing around in the dirt benefits diversity of the microbiome. Unfortunately, it’s been demonized by our culture as being “unclean” and a bit uncivilized. Pets also donate their microbiota to you on a regular basis, which is sometimes a bad thing, but more often it’s a good thing.
Sanitizing gels and exposure to repeatedly-sterilized environments also contribute to this narrowing, and weakening, of the microbiome, because there’s extremely little diversity coming from these environments, or even a propensity toward pathogens due to the fact they grow back faster than probiotics.
Our current conundrum: The big problem progressive healers are running up against is there’s no known way to quickly and easily replenish biodiversity in the microbiome – man-made or otherwise – besides healing and sealing the gut and letting the microbiome expand in its own direction, at its own pace. You can’t just take a probiotic supplement to reestablish the microbiome’s diversity. Contrary to what some food and supplement makers say, it doesn’t work that way.
Some of the rarer soil-based bacteria can be challenging enough to grow outside the body. But try developing a supplement that contains trace populations of thousands of rare and elusive bacteria and microbiota – most of which have never been identified, cultured or studied – and see how far you get.
The best way to expand diversity of the microbiome discovered thus far is using the redox signaling supplement called Restore™ AND going out into a variety of natural settings and breathing in the trace microbiota found there.
Plus eating wild-fermented foods can be invaluable in supplying the potent, and rare, soil-based microorganisms you can’t get from probiotic supplements and most mono-cultured foods (most of which come from cow sources).
A brand of (wild) fermented foods I recommend to help expand diversity of the microbiome is Firefly Kitchens
Firefly Kitchens is in the small minority of food companies that use wild fermentation, which means they don’t add starter cultures to their products. Instead, the fermenting part is done by the hundreds or thousands of microbial cultures present on the vegetable when it’s made. Indeed, that’s the way man’s fermented and preserved his food for thousands of years.
This benefits you in so many ways by adding diversity to the microbiome, rather than pressuring the microbiome to narrow its diversity, as do other fermented foods that use starter cultures. Now most ferments that use starter cultures are better than nothing. But when you want achieve immaculate mental and physical health, you need the best help Nature has to offer.
And I love the fact you don’t have to compromise on anything by eating healthy fermented foods. Firefly Kitchens’ kimchi’s and other fermented veggies are as tasty as any brand out there, reasonably priced, and fit into any lifestyle. Put them on a variety of foods, and in your recipes, to expand your good gut bug populations, suppress the bad ones, and increase diversity of your microbiome.
For fermented food enthusiasts: Firefly Kitchens’ owner Julie O’Brien (and Richard J. Climenhage) show us 85 delicious ways to make fermented carrots, kraut, and kimchi part of every meal in her recipe book Fresh and Fermented.
Verdict: I give Firefly Kitchens kraut, kimchi, and recipe book a full “Randy Approved” rating.
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