Tending Your Body’s Microbial Garden

The New York Times story Tending Your Body’s Microbial Garden takes a look at the helpful side of bacteria.

For many of us, the idea of “helpful” bacteria sounds like an oxymoron. As a culture, we’re decidedly against bugs. We sanitize and de-microbe. We use antibiotics and anti-fungals, hand sanitizers and germ-killing cleansers. The idea that germs might just be helping us out seems a little crazy.

As naturopaths, though, we’re trained that our body is full of healthy microbes that are essential to good health. They help us with a huge range of health processes, including digesting our food, protecting our skin, and making vitamins.

A new breed of researchers in “medical ecology,” is also wanting to give bugs the benefit of the doubt. They suggest we need to look at the microscopic world a little differently. Rather than waging all-out war on the 100 trillion microbes that call the human body home, medical ecologists want to manage your microbe population for better health. Think of it as your own personal Serengeti wildlife reserve.

This “microbiome” in your body—your personal wildlife park—is critical to health, and the best part is that you can do a lot to manage your microbes all on your own. Here’s how:

  • Eat whole, organic food.  The chemicals in packaged and processed foods, along with the pesticide residues on non-organic foods disrupt our normal gut flora. 
  • Eat yogurt, kefir, sauerkraut and other fermented foods.  These foods have a long historical use is supporting health microbes. 
  • Avoid antibiotics.  If you can deal with an infection without it first, through rest, water, herbs, or vitamin C, this is the way to go.  Your ND can help with treatment options while at the same time monitoring the symptoms to help you decide when an antibiotic might be necessary. 
  • If you use and antibiotic make sure you follow it with a probiotic.  These great supplements are widely available.  Make sure they are stored in a fridge.

The bugs in our bodies have been getting a bad rap since they were discovered, and we’ve been throwing the baby out with the bathwater ever since. Do your health a favour and tend your microbial garden well!