New research is showing what we knew intuitively: food affects each of us differently, depending on myriad factors, including our genes. What’s surprising and exciting about this new research, however, is that it may all come down to our gut flora. And just what the heck is ‘gut flora’, you ask? Here’s a quick tutorial:
Our digestive tract, led in large part by the small intestine, is populated by literally trillions of bacteria. If you’re lucky and all is as it should be, the good bacteria vastly outnumber the bad.
These high-performing bacteria are responsible for 80% of our immunity, and are essential to digesting and absorbing the nutrients from our food.
Let’s Hear it for Bacteria
Bacteria, however great they may be, aren’t exactly sexy as a selling feature. So, alongside the growing awareness of the critical role your gut microbes play, we’ve seen the marketing campaign for these little critters grow exponentially as well. It all started with yogourt, when good bacteria became ‘probiotics’ (yogourt, by the way, always had these happy bacteria along for the ride, but once advertisers realized their benefits, they became the star of the show). Probiotics has a much nicer ring to it, don’t you think?
With the growing science pointing straight at these little guys, and their nice new handle to boot, there’s no holding them back. We’re starting to see probiotics popping up in drinks, snacks, supplements, even candy. And, folks, it’s not all hogwash. They really are fantastic for you. Here are some foods in which they occur naturally; eat lots! It’s no coincidence that cultures with fermented foods (good bacteria) in their diets are the healthiest.
The Blood Sugar Link
Now that you know everything you need to now about gut flora, here’s where things get interesting. As we know, food affects us differently. Some of us can eat whatever we want and burn through calories, while others are so careful, but gain weight just looking at certain food. Unfair! As it turns out, our gut flora is responsible for blood sugar levels too.
A number of companies are stepping in to tell us just what we can do about it. One of the most promising, Day Two, was founded by two Israeli doctors. After determining your particular gut flora, as specific to you as a fingerprint, you’re provided with a personalized app that tells you what you can and cannot eat. OMG. The bad news: it’s currently only available in Israel and the U.S, and it doesn’t come cheap. The good news: the more widespread this information becomes, the sooner it will be available to everyone.
The Take Away
Gut flora (also called by any number of pseudonyms) are the foundation of your health, digestive and otherwise.
They aren’t a substitute for a nutritious diet and daily exercise, but they do determine how your body reacts to the above.
Eat lots of fermented food; they have naturally occurring probiotics, which will keep you healthy inside and out.
Consider a refrigerated supplement if you can't manage to get probiotics through your diet.
When it comes to food, go with your gut instinct. You probably already know the foods that are right for you!