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How to improve gut diversity
It is important to cultivate your microflora……
The trillion or so bacteria, who live in/on you, are making a BIG contribution to your body chemistry. They help with digestion, make also of sorts of things, some good, some, well not so good and they programme our immune systems.
A side effect of modern living, these guys are under pressure.
So, you want to do what you can to help.
Seeding the gut
Now one of the ways to help, is to send in more little guys.
For a lot of people, that means, swallowing a probiotic pill every morning.
The specially formulated pill, is a collection of different bacteria, deliberately chosen, for their helpfulness and then concentrated, so you get lots of colony forming units.
Well at least there were lots of colony forming units, when the bacteria were packaged into the pill. How much you’re actually getting, is anyone’s guess.
These probiotics are NOT CHEAP.
The gut is a rainforest
And they fail to address the one key problem with modern gut floras…………
Guts are NOT short of bacteria, they’re missing diversity.
Your gut is supposed to be a rainforest, not a plantation. Rainforests are SPECIES RICH. Probotics are species POOR.
Premium brands boast that they contain 10 different species.
Put in perspective, the healthy human gut, has somewhere between 500 and 1000 species. Eish !
Probiotics missing the mark ?
So we’re “cultivating our microflora”, by exposing ourselves to a FEW fast growing probiotic species, typically derived from milk products.
This is strikingly different from Mother Nature’s strategy.
She was continuously dusting us with the microbiota of natural soils, which are characterized by high bacterial diversity and the species that were present, more often than not, grew slowly……
Oh dear !
Exposure to natural microbiota
Troubled by this contradiction…..
And being well aware, that moving back to the bush, is not an option for most city dwellers, a team of researchers from Finland, decided to explore ways that the modern city dweller can
“GO WILD” in the concrete jungle.
Their BIG IDEA……….
Bring the bacteria indoors
In a perfectly civilized way, of course.
The team invited 14 city slickers, between the ages of 27 and 63 years old, to get DOWN AND DIRTY.
By dipping their hands in a bucket of special dirt.
Three times a day, for 20 seconds, for a fortnight.
Once the soil rub down was complete, the participants were allowed to “clean up”. Water was permitted, soap was forbidden………… the 5 second rinse under the tap, was followed by a quick dab dry, on a paper towel.
So did it work ?
Gathering the dirt on the dirt samples
The team used skin and poop samples, to check whether the exposure had any impact.
The exposure to “nature” worked…..
Soiled hands caused “dirty” guts and “dirty’” hands.
Across the board, the participants who had dipped their hands in the bucket of dirt, showed changes in their microflora.
The level of diversity improved, both in the skin and in the stool.
If Mohammed (the people) will not come to the mountain (outdoors),
the mountain (outdoors) will come to Mohammed (people).
The secret to seeding your gut microflora, NATURALLY………
A bucket of dirt in the bathroom
This is certainly a cheaper option than a premium brand probiotic and probably pretty do-able, for most folks. The benefit of this strategy,
It addresses the real issue.
Which is a lack of bacterial diversity, not a lack of gut bacteria.
So……………. how do you get hold of the dirt ?
The special dirt package
In this study, the dirt was a custom made package, specially assembled in the laboratory of environmental ecology, at the University of Helsinki.
It was quite a mixture.
The base of it, was ordinary Finnish soil, to which both soil and plant based composts, had been added, as well as, hefty doses of dried moss.
NOTE : The composted material, had been passed through a 5 mm diameter sieve and had been derived from raw materials, which included
- Cattle, horse and chicken dung
- Deciduous leaf little
- Plant debris
- Horticultural peat
- Crushed tree bark mulch
Basically…………………….. they used soil that plants (and microbes) WOULD LOVE. Something you should be able to get your hands on, with a little imagination.
A bucket of bugs
The team verified their soil was microbe central.
They reported their material had 861 OTUs i.e. different species of bacteria from 19 different phyla. Species from the phyla Baceroidetes and Proteobacteria predominated.
NOTE : When it comes to gut microflora, these guys are considered good guys.
Changing the bucket
Worried that the bugs would find living in a bathroom – a little undesirable, the team made sure, all the participants got a new bucket of bugs, at the end of the first week.
But, based on the analysis of who was in the bucket, this was not strictly speaking necessary.
The team found no change in microbial composition in such a short space of time. Suggesting a bucket of dirt, could last quite a while……. making it easier to put into practice.
Are their caveats to this strategy ?
Yes, especially if you’re immune compromised, got gaping wounds or sores on your hands or pregnant.
Some nasty critters can be found in soil.
The team worried about Clostridium tetani, this guy produces a toxin, that causes tetanus, should the bacteria manage to get inside you – which could happen if you have any abrasions, big or small on their hands.
NOTE : So to safe guard the people participating in their study, they made participants were abrasion free and as an added precaution , all the participants had to have been immunized against tetanus.
Cat poop a problem
I would also be a little cautious during pregnancy, although the benefits for about-2-moms, are potentially enormous.
The dirt is NOT the problem, but a “cat gift” could be.
Unfortunately, cats can pick up a parasite called Toxoplasma, when they eat infected rodents, which often happens – thanks to the parasites manipulative behaviours. The eggs of this parasite, can then end up in the cat poop, so if a pregnant women, comes in contact with infected cat poop, she can pick up the parasite.
It’s pretty harmless to her, but it can damage her baby.
This is why, pregnant women should not being changing the kitty litter and why, the bucket of soil probiotic, could be risky……………………… should the soil, have been soiled by a cat.
So the quality of the soil is important.
Go WILD in the comfort of your own home
In an ideal world, you should be getting your daily dose of nature, as your tromp through your world.
It is how our ancestors did it.
But if you have traded in the wilds for the concrete jungle, this is an ingenious strategy to re-wild yourself and your family. Your bucket of dirt bathroom accessory, could end up protecting you from the myriad of conditions and diseases, associated with gut microbiota imbalances.
When you eat a raw plant, you’re eating the plant’s microbiome. That amounts to a lot more bacteria, than you’re getting from you premium brand probiotic.
Everytime you swallow your probiotic, you send billions of good bacteria into your gut, but these good guys don’t seem to stick around, they just pass through
You have your mothers eyes, your fathers ears and your bacteria’s personality profile. The bacteria in your body outnumber you 10 to 1, their genes are you