Sunday, February 25

On why the gut microbiome is essential for maintaining health

  • The book “Gastronama” by Kalpish Ratna details the importance of eating right and how we can do it.

  • COVID-19 hides the pandemic we pass off as ‘lifestyle diseases’ – obesity, diabetes, hypertension and heart disease. These co-morbidities have allowed SARS-CoV2 to claim 6.5 million lives. The next microbe may accomplish worse unless we rid ourselves of these illnesses.

  • Tomorrow’s diseases are unlikely to come with ready cures. We can only avoid them by restoring our bodies to a state of health which assures both energy and immunity. And really, there is only one way to do that: by eating right.

  • Read an excerpt from the book below.

The large intestine has more than 1014 bacteria from over 10,000 species. And guess what these ‘germs’ are doing there.

No, they aren’t about to plunge us into disease and disaster. Just the opposite. The large intestinal flora – I like using that pretty word rather than the condemnatory germ – actually make up a vital body organ: the gut microbiome.

Although situated in the most despised part of the digestive tract, the microbiome’s activities reach far beyond digestion. Incredibly, it controls the functioning of all body organs from the brain downwards. We are only just beginning to understand the complexity of how the microbiome maintains us in a state of health.

In fact, it is correct to say that when the microbiome is disrupted, disturbed or altered, we are sick.

Conversely, every illness is reflected in dysbiosis – alteration of the microbiome.

How is this particularly relevant to us now?

First, because we might as well wake up to the truth that tomorrow’s therapies will be based on the genetic, chemical, and neurological information we are gleaning from the microbiome today.

Second – or perhaps this should have come first – we can and do have a say in maintaining a healthy microbiome, largely through what we eat.

This makes us home cooks directly responsible for the microbiome.

This makes us responsible for health.

This reminds us that health is the state of existence. It is as basic as that.

So, it is worthwhile knowing everything there is to be known about the microbiome. And as that isn’t very much, I will stick with just the immediate realities.

The very immediate:

What do we know about the microbiome in this pandemic?

Did it get sick?

Did it make us sick?

The answers are easy if we look at what COVID-19 does to the body: it alters the immune response to let inflammation run rogue. And the intestine, all 16 feet of it, is the largest immunological organ in our body. It has even more immune cells than the bone marrow. The microbiome controls this humungous, unwieldy, population of immune cells.

Studies have shown that alterations in the microbiome are directly linked with the severity of disease and the related rise in inflammatory markers. Moreover, these alterations persist in cases of ‘Long COVID’ where patients have continued to experience disquieting symptoms long after they were ‘COVID negative’.

That should tell us how vital a healthy microbiome is when we are living through a pandemic.

Turn that observation inside out, and what stares back at us? The possibility that we may manage to duck this dreaded infection if we maintain a healthy microbiome.

This book shows you how to get to this.

The microbiome is maintained not just by what we eat, but how we eat. As you read further into the book, you will discover how every intelligent kitchen move adds up to a healthy microbiome.

Still skeptical?

Then, here is a second helping of science:

• The gut is considered to be the ‘second brain’ because of its complicated network of nerves. Signals across this network control intestinal movements, the secretion of enzymes, digestion, and absorption of food.

• Alterations in the microbiome are strongly linked with obesity, diabetes, and all diseases of inflammation.

Isn’t it time we did something about this?

Excerpted with permission from Gastronama: The Indian guide to eating right, Kalpish Ratna, Roli Books. Read more about the book here and buy it here.



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