Gut microbes: friends, not enemies
Gut microbes are generally considered as harmful to the health, but researchers have found that these microorganisms are actually friends to the health. Of course, few of them create health hazards but most fight against diseases. However, unfortunately, Bangladeshi people are consuming less gut-microbes rich food than they used to be and thus struggling with so many health problems.
If we look at 30 years back in Bangladesh, villagers used to consume 'Panta Vat' or traditional fermented rice on daily basis. The eating habit was a rich source of gut microbiota as well as high other minerals like in iron, potassium and calcium but low in sodium contents. Most of the foods we are eating now do not have any microbes at all as they are cooked or boiled too much. Previously we used to drink traditional juice such as 'sorbot' from milk, sugar, lemon but now we are consuming more artificial juices which do not have good microbes to keep us safe. We are drinking more soft drinks rather than yoghurt. Besides, we randomly and often take antibiotics, which kill good gut microbes.
The young generation does not like to eat most of the naturally fermented foods; they prefer fatty foods and soft drinks. As a consequence, cases of chronic diseases such as stroke, kidney diseases, and cardiovascular diseases have been increased dramatically. Even in countryside, the scenario is same. In Bangladesh, we have a lot of seasonal fruits and foods, which people generally do not like to eat. Even, we are wasting our money on exotic fruits and we think it as a high society culture. We are buying artificial foods but do not buy microbe-rich natural foods. We are using antibiotic without any prescription by doctors and randomly intake on our own.
A recent research published on Nature Communication claimed that gut microbes actually fight cardiovascular diseases. The microbes also play a role in prevention of other chronic diseases such as cardio metabolic diseases (obesity and type 2-diabetes), liver cirrhosis and rheumatoid arthritis.
An article published on Nature Review in 2018 by Cani and Jordan claimed that specific microbes induce with immune systems as well as obesity and prevent gastrointestinal cancers. Gut microbiota produces short chain fatty acids that trigger the lipid and glucose metabolism and also regulates the bile acid and cholesterol.
However, there are both good and bad microbes and fatty diets that promote harmful microbes while diets containing fresh vegetable induce good microbes to control the diseases of heart and kidney. McGill University scientists fed fruit flies with a combination of probiotics and an herbal supplement and found that the diet resulted in 60 per cent more longevity and also protected them from chronic diseases. A recent cross-sectional study, by Dr Jiangang Li from Jiangsu, China has found that the gut microbiota composition of healthy aged persons in a Chinese population is remarkably similar to that of healthy 30-year human being.
If we look at those countries where people enjoy better longevity like China, Japan and Spain, we would see that people of these countries eat less calorie foods and regularly consume more fermented foods, local vegetables, fruits, and have some habit of exercise.
I did my PhD from South Korea and I noticed that green vegetable and fruits occupy a good portion of their daily meals in the country. Koreans eat many raw vegetables and "Kimchi, which is a traditional fermented food, as part of their daily food. They are less obese and in the world life expectancy index, their position is nine.
I am not telling that gut microbes are the only contributing factors for a healthy living, but they are surely important. I have some recommendation that might help readers to keep in good health:
1. Eat diverse ranges of natural foods. Diverse foods give you diverse microbes for your gut. But unfortunately fast foods lack diversity.
2. Eat a lot of vegetables, fruits and fiber types of items and try to eat them as raw as possible because boiling kills microbes. Eat less red meat and animal products.
3. If you have scope, try to eat different kinds of fermented foods. If not Panta Bhat, at least try to consume yoghurt on regular basis.
4. Do regular exercise which also increase gut microbes. In PLOS One journal, it has been found that rats doing exercise have good number of microbes than idle rats.
5. Do not eat too much sugary foods and also avoid artificial fruit juice and soft drinks. Most of the processed food contains high fat and sugar. A research conducted by the Oregon State University found that a diet high in sugar causes negative changes in the gut bacteria.
6. If your gut condition is not good, you could even try probiotic supplement for better health.
7. Regular use of antibiotic kills good microbes from gut. So, try to avoid antibiotic if possible. If not, try to have some probiotic supplement when the treatment is over.
8. Breastfeed you child. Feed your baby natural foods.
9. If you have diabetes, consume probiotics and probiotics supplemented food sometimes.