Fight Inflammation by Repairing Digestion
Have you ever been to a wildlife preserve?
As the developing world requires more and more land for farms, roads, and cities, more and more wild animals only survive by migrating (or being carried away to) wildlife preserves. Tourists pay an entry fee to the wildlife preserve for the pleasure of watching dozens or even hundreds of animals within.
All of maintain a vastly larger population of "wildlife," however, in our own bodies. Each and every one of us hosts from 10 to 50 trillion microscopic visitors in our digestive tracts. Consisting of up to 2,000 different species of bacteria, this mass of microbial life in our colons adds 1 to 3 pounds (500 to 1500 grams) to our weight and has profound effects on our health, both good and bad, depending on which bacteria predominate. The bacteria in our intestines do not just influence regularity and yeast infections. Symbiotic (friendly) and dysbiotic (unfriendly) bacteria even affect our brains.
American scientist Whitney P. Bowe and Canadian scientist Alan C. Logan explain that the friendly bacteria in the colon have the power to regulate inflammation, oxidation, fat storage, blood sugar levels, and even mood. Life stresses and dietary choices, on the other hand, regulate the bacteria that help regulate us. According to Bowe and Logan, among the key findings of probiotic science are:
- Sweet foods are easier to digest, so the stomach makes less stomach acid. When the stomach makes less acid, pathogenic, inflammation-causing bacteria are free to migrate up from the colon, where they are kept in check by friendly bacteria, to the small intestines, where they are not. These bacteria make the lining of the small intestine "leaky," so any allergenic particles that weren't digested in the stomach can quickly go into the bloodstream.
- A lack of stomach acid can also lead to small intestine bacterial overgrowth. These unfriendly bacteria form a matte over the lining of the small intestine so that it is harder for the bloodstream to absorb amino acids, healthy fats, and vitamins.
- Bitter vegetables, such as endive, radicchio, and kale, stimulate the stomach to produce more stomach acid. In fact, any bitter food eaten at the beginning of a meal stimulates the vagus nerve to trigger release of more stomach acid. Sweet foods cancel out this effect.
- Probiotics, whether from supplements or yogurt, reduce the overgrowth of bacteria in the small intestine. Omega-3 essential fatty acids, especially from fermented cod liver oil (which is a source of both probiotics and omega-3 essential fatty acids), also reduce the overgrowth of bacteria in the small intestine.
The effects of probiotic bacteria and omega-3 essential fatty acids, however, are not limited to the intestinal tract. They are also felt in the brain. Bifidobacteria release a chemical that reduces the effects of stress hormones on the brain. They also release chemicals that help the brain maintain brain-derived neurotrophic factor, which seems to fight depression. If eating yogurt makes you smile, it is not just the taste. It is also the bacteria that send antidepressant chemicals to your brain.
And if the idea of taking a spoon of fermented cod liver oil every morning is not appealing, just imagine that you will feel great the rest of the day.
You don't get the maximum benefit of omega-3 essential fatty acids without probiotic bacteria. And you don't keep healthy levels of probiotic bacteria if they don't their own food. The nutrients needed by probiotics are known as prebiotics.
Inulin - An Important Prebiotic
One of the most important prebiotics is a substance known as inulin (not to be confused with insulin, which is entirely different).
- You get your inulin from Jerusalem artichokes (sunchokes), jicama, chicory, onions, and garlic. Just a little every day or two from these food sources is enough.
- Onions and garlic, when the right probiotics are present, can actually clear up your skin, lower your blood sugar levels, improve your mood, and help you lose weight.
- Stinky breath goes away when you remove any bits of onion or garlic from your tongue and between your teeth
So far I have told you two important ways to fight inflammation. One is to eat rye instead of wheat, potatoes, and oats for your main carbohydrate source(check out the article on inflammation and diet), and the other is to make sure you get plenty of probiotics, feeding them sunchokes, jicama, onions, garlic, and fresh veggies as often as you can. But now let's take a different look at essential fatty acids.