Another informative presentation, delivered with wit, charm, and passion for the subject. In a preview of essential take-aways from his recently updated textbook on gut bacteria, Dr. Ed Ishiguro (Professor Emeritus, UVic) explained how gut bacteria are essential to human health.
For a copy of Dr Ishiguro’s slides, click here.
From birth to old-age, our gut bacteria interact with the food we consume, and evolve to enable (or hinder) our health, depending on what we eat. As Dr. Ishiguro says, “we are what we eat.”
The fundamental message was that gut bacteria are essential for good health. If we treat our gut bacteria respectfully by feeding them plant fiber, the bacteria will feed us with healthy metabolites (such as short chain fatty acids).
To nurture a population of good bacteria, include adequate amounts of a variety of plant matter in your diet. Inadequate amounts will promote growth of bad bacteria, resulting in poor health. There are “good” bacteria that promote good health and “bad” bacteria that promote poor health. When we nurture the good bacteria, we’re rewarded with good health. For instance, we learned about the impact of gut microbiota on our immune systems, digestive systems, and even on brain function.
The way our digestive system works is via a two-level system (described as “upper and lower dining rooms”).
- The upper level dining room (stomach and most of the small intestine) breaks down food into metabolites to nourish our bodies. The acidity of the upper dining room prevents bacteria from high-jacking nutrients intended for human use only. Humans cannot digest the plant fiber fraction, which then passes on to the gut bacteria in the lower dining room where it is metabolized and converted into healthy metabolites.
- The lower level dining room (end of the small intestine and the colon) uses a diverse array of microbes to break down plant fiber. Metabolites from the bacteria’s digestion of plant fiber confer general health benefits on the rest of the body. One family of metabolites, “short chain fatty acids,” are of particular interest because they may help to ward of inflammatory diseases.
In summary, good gut bacteria thrive on fiber found in plants, but you don’t have to be a vegetarian to enjoy good health, as long as you don’t forget to feed you benefactor, the good gut bacteria. Use the new Canada Food Guide for guidance, even though it by-passes crucial comments on the role of gut bacteria in human health. Remember, you are what you eat!