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Katherine Harmon Courage wants us to think about digestion as a joint journey between us and our microbes. In its new book, Cultivated: As ancient foods can feed our microbe it involves digestion not as an easy way of eating but an excrement process, but as a series of meetings with microbial players occurring along the winding 30-meter tunnel of our gastrointestinal tract. In addition, microbes digest food, which we can not, and in turn, give them a warm, well-equipped place to live.
But the growth of microbiomes over the past two decades has shown that they are doing far more than just digesting food. They can mediate weight gain, fight infection and even change our mood. Scientists still have a lot to learn about the identity of these microbes, which are important, and how useful they work with their magic.
The incomplete understanding did not stop the growth of the probiotic industry, which states that we can improve our health by taking pills filled with billions of useful strains of bacteria, or eating probiotic-inspired yogurt with breakfast. Thinking is that we just need to have the right microbes to build a healthy intestine.
Curazh believes that this focus on the microbes itself is short-sighted. She considers the process of digestion as common, since the food we bring into our bodies affects the types of bacteria that live and thrive there. In her book, she explores the science of how our microbes feed us, affecting our health.
She thinks we can learn to work better with our partners on a microbial basis, looking at the past. From Greenland to Greece, Courage explores the ancient foods that have become an integral part of many crops and offer suggestions on how to diversify the types of foods that we feed our microbiome.
We talked about courage about the science of pro-and prebiotics, and what she studied, studying a fermented product all over the world. The Interview has been edited for brevity and clarity.
Much of the microbiome concerned microbes themselves and what they do for us. Most of your book focuses on what they eat, the "prebiotics" that we feed them. Why?
It may be less interesting to talk about fibers than all these new species, which we learn and pour into food, but the fact that we feed our microbes is just as important as those microbes. 19659008] I think that from our human point of view, it is useful to think about microbes in two broad categories. There are all the germs we have in our gut throughout our lives that are adapted for life there, and then there are microbes that we get from food or supplements. These last just pass. They can survive this journey and can certainly benefit this way, but they are not long-term residents of the intestines and they will not have long-term health effects that may have more permanent residents.
We are beginning to learn more about how we can create the conditions for those resident microbes so that they can prosper and potentially benefit us, and much of it is what we feed them.
What will happen if we do not feed the microbes?
Then they start to feed us – our lower bowel, which is just one human thick cell that helps us absorb as much as we can from our digested food before we drive it out. But it also makes it easier to avoid things.
When our microbes do not receive enough fiber, they can begin to rinse the mucous membrane that protects this thin layer, and sometimes the lining can break, which may literally lead to the intestinal leakiness syndrome with many bad health outcomes.
When I think of fiber, I find that processed cardboard breakfasts. Are fibers more diverse than this? How important is it to have a diverse diet of fiber to grow a healthy microbe?
Fiber is any carbohydrate that we can not digest, but instead pass through the digestive system as a food for germs. There are many different types of fibers that break down into different microbes at different stages of digestion. That's why it's a good idea to have a wide range of products, not just focus on a particular supplement here and there. Many different types of fibers help many different microbes to flourish and create a variety of useful compounds for us. This is good because we learn that, as a rule, a more diverse microbe is a health indicator. If you look at a person all over the world – and even in the same society – people with more diverse microbials tend to be healthier.
What are the examples of different types of fibers and products that carry them?
One kind of fiber that has received much attention – inulin. We actually added it to food longer than we carefully considered it, but it is often found in foods such as chicory root or sun-protection boats. This is a very long chain of carbohydrates, which means that it takes a little longer to go through our system and break up by the microbes. Studies show that it stimulates the growth of bifidobacteria, lactobacillus 
Another big comes from fruits and vegetables, called fruit-oligosaccharides. It is shorter than inulin, and adding it to your diet, as shown, reduces the markers of inflammation.
Galacto-oligosaccharides are another form of fiber contained in milk and are split into the large intestine. Learn about persistent starch as another form of fiber. It comes from simpler carbohydrates that have been cooked and then cooled; Think about cold potatoes or pasta salad. Therefore, as soon as these starch crystallize, they become a type of persistent starch that our bodies can no longer break [but our microbes can]. Even cold pasta, which you do not necessarily feel healthy, can be a great source of persistent starch.
Do other aspects of our diet, apart from fibers, affect the microbe?
All that we eat has a definite effect on our microbes. One example that I'm talking about in a book is that. Indeed, a variety of fatty pork like pork can have a negative effect on our health through our microbes, because they produce a metabolite called TMAO, which is associated with negative health outcomes. & # 39; But fish's fats proved to be beneficial – the microbes of mice fed fish with fat, instead of pork fat, produced much less TMAO.
Feeding them. Different metabolites are produced not by different microbes, but by different microbes, which feed on different microorganisms.
You have looked at many studies that compared western diets with traditional, hunting and breeding diets. How do their diets and microbes differ?
The researchers looked at the communities of hunter-gatherers in order to try and understand how our ancestors looked, before agriculture began. This can give us tips for a potentially type of diet for which people are tailor-made.
These studies show that we eat much less fiber than we probably used.
The FDA recommends something like 30 grams of fiber a day, but most Americans do not even understand it. Traditional hunter-gatherer cultures, like the Hadza group in Africa, eat 100 grams of fiber per day.
Thus, people eat modern, western diets, perhaps, from 15 to 30 grams of fiber per day, when our bodies can be This lack of fiber seems to have a great impact on the diversity of our microbial. These traditional high fiber dieters have far more diverse microbiomes than more modern diets [and the former] are often associated with improved health outcomes. It's hard to make difficult conclusions about the cause and effects here, because there are so many other lifestyle factors in the game, but it definitely seems that our diet low in fiber is not great for our health.
You go for a culinary quest, studying all these different fermented and microbial products. What was the most amazing food you encountered?
To date, it was a kiwiqak, which is a traditional Inuit food from Greenland. Kiviak – birds, specifically auces, fermented inside the sealed skin. Therefore, when Aux are in the season, they capture birds and other [up to 500] in the skin of the seals, sew it and leave it underground to wander throughout the year, and then dig out and eat it.
It is important to remember that fermentation is not necessarily due to the fact that people thought about health benefits. It was a way to save food and do it through severe winter Greenland.
Many of these products are not considered as individual things that you need to eat for a particular benefit but rich, non-essential parts of a food culture. How does culture shape, how do we feed our microbe?
There is in fact no culture there that does not include some types of fermented food, and many of them have a rich variety of different types of fermented food.
We think of things like chimeras, like Korean fermented food, and this is actually their national food, but they have many other types of fermented foods that they fill throughout the kitchen.
These products are not considered as a separate thing. You do not eat chickens as a small healthy snack for your germs, and then return to normal diet. These fermented foods are included in the culture of food – it's condiments, parties, flavors. Food seems incomplete or unbalanced without them.
And such consistency is a healthier, more stable way to feed our microbe?
Yes. Typically, the type of wild fermented products – such as kimchi, sauerkraut or pickle – has a greater variety of microbes than your yogurts with probiotics. Whether each strain in these products is useful to us is still unknown, but again, more diversity is generally associated with the best health.
What advice do you have for those who want to improve their microbiology?
It's really about creating the right environment for our native microbes, and the best way to do this is to eat a lot of different types of fibers for them. I do not think probiotics or the search for specific fermented products are bad, of course, but focusing on fiber is a good first step.