Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Diversity ... good or bad?

I've been chewing over a particular paragraph from Dr. Ayers last post (Vitamin C, Guinea Pigs, Limeys and Gut Worms) which speaks about food diversity.  This was posted awhile ago but I only noticed it recently as he updates very infrequently these days ... unfortunately.  It is very counter intuitive, but try to wrap your head around it:

Sea Voyages Damage Gut Organisms
The hundred of different species of bacteria in the gut change in proportions to adapt to different foods in each meal.  If the diet is fairly constant, then the diversity of the population gradually increases, just as the diversity of species in a tropical rain forest is greater than in a temperate forest.  This also explains why gut flora diversity is far less in the USA than in other parts of the world.  Americans are encouraged to eat diverse diets in the search for vitamins and superfoods.  Each dramatic change in diet makes it hard for the gut flora to adapt and the remaining bacteria are those that are generalists.  It might also be expected that early sailors who changed their diets dramatically when they went to sea, ended up with a highly compromised ship-board gut flora (and fauna.)

Right.  Did you catch that?  We Americans eat a diet too diverse for optimal gut health.  Kinda goes against the whole 'eat all of the colors of the rainbow' thing now doesn't it.  I like this guy.  Not because he has some thoughts that are against the grain (like try to minimize insoluble fiber), but because he is down in the trenches looking at nutrition (gut bacteria really) from the bottom up.  He's figuring out what kind of nutrients and environment are best for optimal gut bacteria in our colon and then determining the effects various foods and medications have on said bacteria. 

Here's the clincher clincher in that paragraph (only my classmates from sophomore year English with Mr. Rich will get that joke)  'If the diet is fairly constant, then the diversity of the population (of gut bacteria) increases'.  Diet.  Fairly constant.  Not your typical advice.  Some of my thoughts:

  • Eat a nutrient DENSE diet covering all micro and macro nutrient needs
  • You do not need a wide variety of foods to accomplish this (hence the word dense)
  • Include soluble fiber and fermented foods to 'feed' you gut bacteria
  • Eat the same foods over and over again in order for the bacteria in your gut to proliferate
  • DO make sure to change your diet once in awhile, but focus on one or two staple foods at a time
  • This is not at all to say don't enjoy different foods.  Just don't go out of your way to include everything under the sun in order to 'cover all of your bases'

I know, what the hay?  So many thoughts on nutrition out there, so many angles.  You gotta take in information, process it in regards to your own body and situation and then try to make sense of it.  And this just makes sense to me. 

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