Who Are We, Really? Maybe Our Bacteria Have the Answer

Who Are We?

Most of us have grown up thinking of ourselves as an independent, autonomous I. 

But what if we are really an interdependent, multi-organism we?

The past five years’ explosion of research have revealed the importance of the microbiome, the community of trillions of bacteria that live within our bodies.  We’ve learned that far from being able to operate independently, we partner in a symbiotic relationship with these microscopic creatures.  They depend on us to eat high-fiber foods to feed them.  We depend on them for…well, just about everything.

Microbial bacteria help us to digest our food. They help to regulate our immune system.  They affect whether we feel anxious, depressed, foggy, or fatigued.  The bacteria in our microbiome perform so many vital functions, we literally could not survive without them.

But if nonhuman creatures are such an integral part of our biological function, what does it mean to be human?  Are we really human?  Or are we, as I jokingly tell my patients, just “bacteria in a suit”?

What Our Bacteria Can Teach Us

To me, we are neither “just human” nor “just bacteria.”  Instead, we are a “super-organism”—not an individual, but a collective.  I wonder, sometimes, whether the lessons of the “super-organism” should not apply to our society as well as to our biology.  Wouldn’t we all be healthier living in a society that unites rather than divides; a society in which we all recognized our dependence upon one another and saw ourselves not simply as individuals but as part of a larger whole?

Another lesson of the microbiome has applications in many areas of our lives:  the whole is greater than the sum of its parts.  In science, we call this emergent properties [LINK TO WEBSITE?]what happens when something genuinely new emerges out of a collection of many individual elements.

Feeding Our Kingdom

So what happens if instead of viewing ourselves as one single human, we see ourselves as a zoo, or perhaps as an ecosystem?  In this little kingdom that is our body—a kingdom that includes trillions of bacteria—we are the king or queen.  As good leaders, how should we care for our subjects?  Don’t we want to eat the foods that will support and nourish them?  Don’t we want to make sure that they are living in a healthy, peaceful community that supports its host—us?  Don’t we want to repay them for all the many tasks they perform for us?

I believe that seeing ourselves this way makes it easier to follow through with healthy choices. Instead of thinking, “What do I want to eat?” we ask, “What do my subjects—my bacteria—want to eat? What does my kingdom need for its benefit?”

After all, a true leader cares first and foremost about his or her people.  When we think of those trillions of cells that are depending on us for their nourishment, instead of being drawn to the instant gratification of sweet and starchy foods, we naturally choose healthy fats, high-fiber foods, and other microbiome-friendly items.  These are the foods that leave us with a long-term feeling of satiety and the ongoing experience of wellness.  Ultimately, taking good care of our “kingdom” is also our healthiest and best choice.  It is a true lesson in the ways that giving to others is almost always a gift to ourselves as well.

Lead Your Kingdom Well 

The next time you are thinking about what to eat, consider not just your own needs, but those of your “kingdom.”  Here are three key things to keep in mind as you nourish your “people”:

  • Sugar and refined flour feed unhealthy bacteria and make it harder for the friendly bacteria to flourish.  If you really crave something sweet, try Lakanto (www.lakanto.com) a healthy, calorie-free sugar substitute.
  • Think about how much you need to eat. Even the healthy carbs—whole grains, beans, legumes, and vegetables—can become unhealthy if you eat too many of them, because your body still ultimately metabolizes them as sugar.
  • Choose some fermented foods:  sauerkraut, plain yogurt, kefir (a fermented milk drink), or fermented vegetables.  They help to replenish your friendly bacteria.

Eat like a wise king or queen—and your kingdom will reward your with a healthy weight, a buzzing metabolism, and a terrific level of overall health.

Microbiome Medicine Summit II

Microbiome Medicine Summit II

June 8, 2017
A Deeper Look At Depression and Anxiety Through The Gut Microbiome
A Deeper Look At Depression

A Deeper Look At Depression and Anxiety Through The Gut Microbiome

March 21, 2017
Where The Functional Medicine World Is Failing Autoimmune Disease
Functional Medicine World Is Failing Autoimmune Disease

Where The Functional Medicine World Is Failing Autoimmune Disease

February 6, 2017
Low Dose Naltrexone: A Promising Option
Low Dose Naltrexone

Low Dose Naltrexone: A Promising Option

January 26, 2017
The Microbiome Diet 101 (Part 3) – Spotlight On Supplements
Spotlight On Supplements

The Microbiome Diet 101 (Part 3) – Spotlight On Supplements

December 16, 2016
The Microbiome Diet 101 (Part 2)
Microbiome 101 Part 2

The Microbiome Diet 101 (Part 2)

November 20, 2016
The Microbiome Diet 101 (Part 1)
Microbiome 101 Part 1

The Microbiome Diet 101 (Part 1)

November 15, 2016
Spotlight on Crohn’s Disease
Spotlight On Crohn's Disease

Spotlight on Crohn’s Disease

October 17, 2016
Top Supplement Questions Answered
Pills on spoon

Top Supplement Questions Answered

August 11, 2016
PEMF – Improving Cellular Health Through Magnetic Fields
PEMFcells

PEMF – Improving Cellular Health Through Magnetic Fields

August 5, 2016
Novel Treatments For PCOS
Novel Treatments For PCOS

Novel Treatments For PCOS

July 20, 2016
The Best Natural Treatments For Chronic Lyme Disease
THE BEST NATURAL TREATMENTS FOR LONG-TERM LYME DISEASE

The Best Natural Treatments For Chronic Lyme Disease

July 12, 2016
Ten Healthy Eating Musts for Autoimmune Disease

Ten Healthy Eating Musts for Autoimmune Disease

May 10, 2016
Boost Weight Loss By Revamping Your Gut Microbiome

Boost Weight Loss By Revamping Your Gut Microbiome

May 5, 2016
Depressed? It’s Not All In Your Head! Microbiome Medicine Can Help.

Depressed? It’s Not All In Your Head! Microbiome Medicine Can Help.

March 7, 2016
The Secret Benefits Of A Healthy Gut Microbiome

The Secret Benefits Of A Healthy Gut Microbiome

February 15, 2016
The Skin Microbiome. The Unseen Warrior.

The Skin Microbiome. The Unseen Warrior.

February 10, 2016
An Exclusive Interview with Dr. Terry Wahls

An Exclusive Interview with Dr. Terry Wahls

January 18, 2016
The Root Cause Of Modern Illness

The Root Cause Of Modern Illness

January 18, 2016
Spotlight on Thyroid Medications

Spotlight on Thyroid Medications

January 12, 2016
The Matrix of Chronic Illness

The Matrix of Chronic Illness

January 5, 2016
If You Are On Thyroid Medication and Still Don’t Feel Good-This One’s For You!

If You Are On Thyroid Medication and Still Don’t Feel Good-This One’s For You!

December 24, 2015
Thyroid- The Missing Link in Gut Disorders

Thyroid- The Missing Link in Gut Disorders

December 7, 2015
Paleo VS the Microbiome Diet

Paleo VS the Microbiome Diet

December 3, 2015
Chronic Lyme-It’s not just a myth.

Chronic Lyme-It’s not just a myth.

August 28, 2015
Are You Saying These Five Things? It’s Probably Your Thyroid.

Are You Saying These Five Things? It’s Probably Your Thyroid.

May 6, 2015
An Exclusive Interview with Ann Louise Gittleman: Diagnosing and Treating Parasites to Achieve Gut Health

An Exclusive Interview with Ann Louise Gittleman: Diagnosing and Treating Parasites to Achieve Gut Health

April 22, 2015
Is There Proof in the Paleo Pudding? Three Reasons Why The Microbiome Diet is Better for Your Mind, Body, and Life

Is There Proof in the Paleo Pudding? Three Reasons Why The Microbiome Diet is Better for Your Mind, Body, and Life

February 20, 2015
The Microbiome: An Essential Treatment for Healing Autoimmune Disease

The Microbiome: An Essential Treatment for Healing Autoimmune Disease

January 30, 2015
One Size Does Not Fit All: The Importance of Diversity in Health, Healing and Life

One Size Does Not Fit All: The Importance of Diversity in Health, Healing and Life

January 23, 2015
Microbiome Chocolate Cake with Chocolate Ganache and Raspberry Coulis

Microbiome Chocolate Cake with Chocolate Ganache and Raspberry Coulis

December 30, 2014
Delicious Potato Latkes
Potato Latkes

Delicious Potato Latkes

December 17, 2014
Thanksgiving On the Microbiome Diet
Roasted Brussel Sprouts

Thanksgiving On the Microbiome Diet

November 26, 2014
Gluten-Free Microbiome Friendly Stuffing with Apple, Fennel and Fresh Herbs
Thanksgiving Recipes

Gluten-Free Microbiome Friendly Stuffing with Apple, Fennel and Fresh Herbs

November 26, 2014
Pumpkin Pie Pudding
Pumpkin Pie Pudding Recipe

Pumpkin Pie Pudding

November 26, 2014
Kefir: Yogurt’s Secret Weight-Loss Twin
Yogurt and Weightloss

Kefir: Yogurt’s Secret Weight-Loss Twin

September 16, 2014
Yacon: The New Weight-Loss Miracle Supplement
Yacon for Weight Loss

Yacon: The New Weight-Loss Miracle Supplement

September 12, 2014
The Miracle Weight-Loss Probiotic
Weightloss Probiotic

The Miracle Weight-Loss Probiotic

September 9, 2014
Want to Lose Weight? Stop Taking Prilosec!
Prilosec Weight Gain

Want to Lose Weight? Stop Taking Prilosec!

September 5, 2014
Probiotics vs. Prebiotics: Is There a Difference? 
Probiotics vs Prebiotics

Probiotics vs. Prebiotics: Is There a Difference? 

September 2, 2014
The New Breed of Weight-Loss Superfoods
Superfoods for Weight Loss

The New Breed of Weight-Loss Superfoods

August 29, 2014
Our Two Ecologies
Microbiome Ecologies

Our Two Ecologies

August 26, 2014
Why Fermented Foods Are Good for Weight Loss, Mood, Glowing Skin, and Overall Health

Why Fermented Foods Are Good for Weight Loss, Mood, Glowing Skin, and Overall Health

August 22, 2014
Butyrate: Your New Weight-Loss Secret
Butyrate for Weight Loss

Butyrate: Your New Weight-Loss Secret

August 19, 2014
5 Foods to Help Wean Yourself Off Sugar
How to use Food to Stop Sugar Cravings

5 Foods to Help Wean Yourself Off Sugar

August 15, 2014
Nourish Your Healthy Bacteria and They Will Help You Lose Weight!
Weight Loss with Healthy Bacteria

Nourish Your Healthy Bacteria and They Will Help You Lose Weight!

August 12, 2014
A New View of the Gut: No More Blind Tubes
No More Blind Tubes

A New View of the Gut: No More Blind Tubes

August 8, 2014
Fermented Vegetables: Your New Weight-Loss and Beauty Aid
Fermented Foods for Weight Loss and Beauty

Fermented Vegetables: Your New Weight-Loss and Beauty Aid

August 5, 2014
Beauty Secrets of Your Microbiome

Beauty Secrets of Your Microbiome

July 29, 2014
Healthy Gut, Healthy Microbiome…Healthy Weight
Microbiome and Weight Loss

Healthy Gut, Healthy Microbiome…Healthy Weight

July 25, 2014
How the Microbiome Will Revolutionize Our Approach to Weight Loss
Microbiome and Weight Loss

How the Microbiome Will Revolutionize Our Approach to Weight Loss

July 21, 2014