Recent research has focused on how our microbiome processes the food that we eat. Over time—largely due to the introduction of pasteurization—the modern Western diet has moved away from these bacterially fermented food sources. Today, few people eat more than a rare small serving of fermented vegetables, most bread is made only using yeast, and the sourdough bread that is available uses different wheat than in the past (genetically bred for yield and high-protein) and is made too quickly.
Unfortunately for us, the human body and its integral bacterial population have not evolved to keep up, so we still are dependent upon this type of microFood to avoid many common chronic health conditions such as chronic acid reflux and chronic constipation.
The bacteria in our bodies (our microbiome) produce substances that keep us healthy and as a result, they function just like another organ of the body. But they can only do that with enough energy—they need to be fed.
That is where microFood comes in. When our bacteria cannot access their preferred food, they will adapt to use other energy sources just to survive. These can include the mucus lining of the gut.
When that happens, the body’s primary protection from harmful bacteria and viruses is compromised, increasing the chances of infection. These chinks in the gut’s armor lead to what is called leaky-gut syndrome, a primary source of systemic inflammation. This can lead to a host of chronic ailments including acid reflux, constipation, IBS, autoimmune disorders like Crohn’s and colitis, and even cancer.
So what can you do?
Many people are turning to probiotic foods like yogurt and kefir or supplements to replenish their bacteria. But your stomach is designed to kill bacteria with its acid and enzymes. As a result, those probiotics rarely make it to the lower digestive tract, where they are most needed. And if some do get through, you could be making matters worse, unless you are concurrently ingesting an adequate amount of microFood to feed those additional mouths.
Fiber is also touted as a way to solve digestive problems. Insoluble fiber (aka bulk fiber), helps transport your digesting food through the alimentary canal. It provides stool bulk, slows gastric emptying, and can blunt the rise in blood glucose after a glucose load. But it does nothing to feed your beneficial bacteria.
The other fiber, soluble fiber, is the type that provides microFood for your beneficial bacteria.
Can’t I just eat better?
In theory yes, but a normal healthy Western diet isn’t the solution. Although many of your bacteria can get their microFood from plants and whole grains, others require bacterially fermented microFood. Unless you are eating large servings of bacterially fermented foods every day (just like our ancestors did), an important subset of your gut bacteria is starving. Drinks like kombucha and kefir are not enough.
If you are eating vegetables and grains, you are likely getting enough plant based microFood in your diet. To get your daily dose of bacterially fermented microFood, you can eat several servings of fermented foods like kimchi or sauerkraut every day. These foods contain the bacterially fermented molecules that your starving bacteria desperately need, but you’ll need significant amounts of these special foods to get them. Fermented vegetables also aren’t particularly pleasing to every palate—so be prepared for the taste. Alternately, you can take a daily dose of a bacterially fermented microFood supplement, such as ISOThrive.
Based upon research at Louisiana State University in Baton Rouge, the ISOThrive supplement is a very specific nondigestable fermentation product maltosyl-iso-malto-oligosaccharide (MIMO)—the molecule present in traditionally fermented foods and sourdough bread.
Whether you choose to eat sauerkraut or take a supplement, make sure your gut bacteria don’t go hungry.
Jack Oswald, MBA, is co-founder and one of the inventors of ISOThrive Prebiotic Nectar.