There are plenty of reasons to be excited about the latest trends in wellness, especially if you’re healthy. You see, maybe your health is a function of those bugs in your gut, and not just good fortune, good genes or good habits.
You’ve probably been reading more articles about our microbiota, those gut bacteria which you prefer not to think about but which science is digging deeper to know. But it may be that those bugs you have are there because you’ve been exposed early on before you made the choices you made as adults to live healthfully….and have enabled you to do so.
A study that came across my computer a couple weeks ago inspired some new thinking on my part. As a fitness pro, I’m accustomed to discussing not just exercise but also nutrition. Yet science has not offered a complete, or completely satisfying, explanation as to how nutrition factors into good, or poor, health.
Typically a diet is regarded from the standpoint of what you’re missing vs what you’re getting.
What I mean is that diet is perceived from the shortages of some nutrients at the expense, if you’re overweight, of too many of another. Usually calories are in excess supply but then we start looking at excess calories of a particular type, such as carbs or fats, to help guide people’s lifestyle changes.
But maybe we need to start looking way back to see why it is that these extra calories, of fat or carbs, are processed as they are, enabling or disabling health.
Back to the inspirational article. The researchers found that kids exposed to farms early in life, for at least 5 years, were more resistant to respiratory illness, allergies and skin rashes. Along with studies that show similar benefits that mitigate allergies and asthma, such as here and here and here and here and here , it’s easy to see what might be going on here.
Exposure to dirt and dander and, good gracious – manure, might generate microbes in the body through means no one wants to imagine that, later in life, provide protection against some childhood diseases. It gives a whole new meaning to “Eat s..t” doesn’t it?
Then there are studies that show some more adult diseases like multiple sclerosis and type 1 diabetes may also be related to our gut bacteria. Could it be that exposure to unsavory environmental stimuli confers better health, especially if those exposures are to natural phenomena? Man-made environmental stimuli may, on the other hand, lead to down-stream diseases via the same pathways, but I haven’t read much on that lately.
There are other diseases, especially auto-immune disorders, that may be able to break through our defenses by making the gut more permeable. It may be that these occur because our guts become ‘leaky’ allowing bacteria which are supposed to stay within to go into our body cavities. Then the body starts to attack these microbes which are invading their spaces…and inflammation proceeds from there.
There is some thinking that points to the gut bacteria as the source of obesity vs the consequence of it. As science has now labeled obesity as a source of inflammation, maybe it needs to look at inflammation as a source of obesity. From our guts to our brain chemistry, these microbes may be altering our appetite and hunger mechanisms toward uncontrolled caloric intake. Or they are disrupting our digestive processes to allow for less efficient use of the calories we eat. Or, well, you get my point….I hope.
The essence of this blog is to suggest that we modern humans live totally artificial lives, sterile and isolated from the earth itself. Perhaps letting our kids play in the dirt, the soil, the muck of life will provide an early internal strength mechanism no amount of dietary advice can reconstruct.
I’m still a fan of gyms, not just because I own and operate one. Gyms provide a clean, safe, orderly and regiment-able environmental in which those not inclined or able to get sufficient activity into their lives.
I’m also a fan of eating as clean and as varied as you can afford or be willing to do. I support the consumption of supplements where you have deficiencies. I support whole and natural foods if you’re so inclined. And I even support diets for weight or disease management.
But the articles I’ve referred to and cited above have turned my thinking away from what you, the reader, needs. They’ve turned me into a germophile for our young people, before they get to make choices. That is, the excessive cleanliness we surround our newborns with may be providing a false hope that they will be immunized against sickness, illness, and disease.
Maybe being so clean is making our guts dirtier with the wrong bugs.