I learned a great deal about life on Earth listening as David Attenborough narrated the fantastic documentary series “Planet Earth”. A consistent theme, across the entire nine episodes, is that there are places where the life flourishing in an environment counts on the sun’s energy, which every living thing needs to survive, being carried to where it lives by forces that it does not control….the highest places on earth, mountain tops, treetops, the north pole, and the lowest places on earth, the bottoms of oceans, the lowest levels of caves…
A case in point is the cockroaches that live on bat droppings (and fallen bats) deep inside of the pitch black cave. There is no sunlight at all in these caves. There is no plant life, but the bats go out into the world, collect the nutrients needed for the cockroaches that thrive beneath them, as they sleep every day.
We, too, are a cave. Within us there are ‘cockroaches’ that count on us to deliver to them the energy of the sun. We begin our lives completely covered in these bugs, our first taste of breast milk delivers a health-giving dose of them to our newborn children. We put everything in our mouths, and the bugs within us defend us against the bad ones, and contribute to the wellbeing of the good ones. This system is perfect for man as host and for bacteria, yeast, and molds that act as, in alternating times, parasite, defender, and food factory. I say food factory because there are ten bacteria on and in your body for every cell that your body contains, and the ones in your GI tract work for themselves eating your food and converting it into vitamins.
The microbiome is the genetic material of all the microbes – bacteria, fungi, protozoa and viruses – that live on and inside the human body. The number of genes in all the microbes in one person’s microbiome is 200 times the number of genes in the human genome. The microbiome may weigh as much as five pounds.
In the new book I am reading, the doctor that authors says this about the teeming life in our GI tracts:
Microbiota are integral to the digestive process and the constant internal dialogue between the immune, metabolic, and nervous systems. They play a crucial role in human development and health, and are routinely affected by everything we put in our mouths. They are a fulcrum of metabolism, releasing nutrients from foods that would be otherwise indigestible, and making B vitamins and vitamin K. They create a constant state of inflammation and immune regulation so that we do not identify all proteins as foreign and can also tolerate food products. In fact, the microbiome trains our immune system very early in life. They are part of the “tasting” system that samples foreign proteins and pathogens entering the gut, determining if they are safe or harmful, and then instructing the immune system. [BOLD added for emphasis by me]
Green M.D., Peter H.R.; Rory Jones (2016-05-24). Gluten Exposed: The Science Behind the Hype and How to Navigate to a Healthy, Symptom-Free Life (Kindle Locations 1657-1663). HarperCollins. Kindle Edition.
Anything you eat, whether nutritional to you, whether it contains calories or not, if it is susceptible to decomposition in any way, will be worked upon by your microbes. It will be transformed. Things your body is used to being exposed to will be transformed by them into the useful things that your living cells expect. Unnatural things will have unexpected results. Artificial oils, like Transfat oils, do not act at all inside of us like the natural fats they were invented to supplant. Lard is harmless, compared to shortening. Lard is health food compared to margarine.
Plants have their micro biome on the outside of their roots. The plants take up the products of their soil bacteria, raise them up to the sun, which transforms them into sugars, and the sugars are trucked back down into the ground, where they are delivered in thanks to the waiting mouths of the bacteria in the soil, trapped outside the loving rays of the sun. The soil is but a different kind of cave.
There are bad bacteria in the world, but there is no chemical way to discriminate when we turn modern industrial herbicides on them. Your antibiotic kills the armies of the good right along with the targets of our antibiotics. Your herbicides and fungicides you spray on your yard are likewise indiscriminate. The anti bacterial soaps you use in your kitchen and on your hands at the grocery destroy all, not just bad. When you read about how ‘dirty’ your bathroom is, laugh silently to yourself at the silliness of fighting it. Your body is a thousand times ‘dirtier’ than any non living surface in your home. I guess it matters what you consider dirt. Aren’t you, after all, nothing more than living dirt? You get the life from Earth to continue your life from dirt, and that life comes from the sun, the rain, and dirt. The animals you eat are getting their sunlight energy from the plants they eat. You deliver into your own personal cave that sunlight energy, to be transformed by your own soil germs into actual things your body can use, into things your body cannot make for itself.
Nobody knows what microbes live in the average wild human. The cave that you are cannot be explored like the one our roaches were filmed in. Going in and harvesting microbes and bringing them to the surface to be studied only yields dead microbes. They cannot live in our outside world. The mere fact of trying to see them kills them. When a pill seller these days says he has the probiotic or prebiotic that you need to restore your guts to perfect harmony, I am here to tell you he has no idea if that is true, because the smartest labs in the world do not know if that is true. A health claim on a yogurt label that says contains probiotic is just that, a health claim. Any food with a label has a healthier and more wholesome counterpart in real food made by you or nature, that does not contain a label. Every fresh, living food contains probiotics and prebiotics. Nature intends it. Peel the skin off, and you are taking away both friend and foe. Boil the vegetable and you are sanitizing and defending against enemy and ally.
I am not saying stop cooking, stop paring. I am saying that there is nothing to fear from the dirty outside of a plant. It’s dirt. It’s germs. Most of them are natural and good. I was told that a potato will not spoil as quickly if stored in a cool place with the dirt from the ground it emerged from left on it. Wash it before you eat it and it will keep all winter. Knowing what I know now this makes perfect sense. Cut up a cabbage and submerge it in salt water and it will turn, magically, into sauerkraut. This happens naturally when the cabbage rots in the field, as the cut plant cannot defend itself from this process once cut. It does not rot in salt water because we are promoting the good germs, and retarding the bad. Exactly like our microbes do inside of us! Do something, like take antibiotics, and the process is thrown into a state of uncertain flux. Which germs will dominate once the antibiotic is done killing them all? Eat dirt and make sure! You don’t need a probiotic, you need fermented foods. You don’t need a prebiotic you need natural foods.
Appreciate that your most vital duty to your parasites and companions is to hunt and gather for them the vital sun’s energy that they will never see. You carry it into their cave where they will transform it into your own healthy life. The soil you produce will then feed more bacteria further down the food chain. It’s nature’s plan, and it is good.