This past week I had a colonoscopy – definitely not my favorite thing to do. I really have a hard time drinking the required liters of foul-tasting liquid that cleanse the intestine so the surgeon can see what is really going on.
Even though I have had this body for seventy years I really didn’t know a lot of things about it. So, I started watching short videos and reading a book by Will Bulsiewicz, MD called “Fiber Fueled”. He has built a career and practice as a gastroenterologist based on his personal experience, research and case studies.
The first thing that I learned is that the “gut” is where everything happens to harm or improve both your physical and mental health. Inside of each of us is a microbiota or living world that determines our health. There are three terms that are important. The probiotics are the good bacteria that fight for us. They need prebiotics (which is their food) to keep them active and alive. Postbiotics are the result of the processing that occurs.
In his book, Bulsiewicz combines complex terms with simple explanations, but I have been thinking about how I could explain everything in one short article. I can’t - so instead I will write about four examples that I think help explain the concepts.
First of all, think about your vehicle. What would happen if, instead of gas, you decided to give the tank a shot of chocolate and replace the oil with ground beef? We all know that there is no way the vehicle would perform for us.
Now think about your pets. What if you fed them pizza and beer every second day and had them fast on the days between? None of us would be so foolish or uncaring to do this.
What about your garden? Could you expect to have a good crop of lettuce if you planted tulip bulbs in a sandy, shady spot and never watered them?
Finally, think about an ant hill. What keeps the ants active, growing and reproducing. The environment has to be suitable to allow this. Think of how we kill them. Chemicals and disruption of their world.
We know about all four of the examples, but we tend to ignore our intestines – unless they are acting up. Instead of exercise, we sit in front of the television or computer. We choose fast-food options or processed products thinking that they are nutritious. And then, when we feel ill, we load our bodies with drugs that kill the good bacteria in the gut. Often, we confuse the concepts of being thin with being healthy. They are not the same. We can look good on the outside and be rotting on the inside. The life expectancy of a professional body builder is only forty-seven years, according to Bulsiewicz.
Think about how problems with our body affect our mental health. We can become anxious about obesity and disease. Having intestinal problems distract us from daily activity and well-being.
I sure don’t want to lecture anyone because I have been guilty of not learning about the living (or half dead) microbiota in my gut. In fact, I am just starting to add a few little changes in my life as I continue to read and learn.
I keep thinking about my wise grandfather who came as an eleven-year-old immigrant from Britain. In his handwritten journal he stated: “When you are planted in a bluff, you are surrounded by trees and protected from the wind but when you are a sapling that is planted alone on the prairie, the wind buffets you and you become physically and spiritually strong”.
Perhaps responsibility for our health has been neglected because we have a bluff around us that tells us what to ingest and we don’t bother to question the advice.
And perhaps it is time to become a stronger sapling through education and practice!