Did Paleolithic people consume fermented foods in any form and if not, how on earth did they keep their gut flora healthy? There is a train-of-thought that says we must eat at least some fermented food in order for the gut to stay populated with good beasties, but I cannot see how this could have been the original blueprint for humankind, if fermented food was never available.
I was wondering if eating grains upsets the delicate (acid/alkaline?) balance in the stomach and intestines, allowing 'unwanted' bacteria to take over, (also giving them something to feed on) so that when people DID turn to an agrarian diet they were obliged to eat fermented food in order for the flora to be restored to optimum levels? (and so, of course the technology for fermenting food was being developed alongside agriculture)
So, if one has cut out grains and is eating an exclusively 'paleo' diet, will the flora of the gut slowly re-establish its own balance with just fat and protein and if so, how long can this be expected to take to happen on average and is there anything we can take to support it whilst it is re-balancing itself?
The paleolithic environment and the food they ate was probably richer in bacteria than ours is. This goes along nicely with the hygiene hypothesis, which posits that excessive hygiene is responsible for many modern diseases. Multiple studies have shown that children raised in a dirtier environment have fewer allergies for example. Paleolithic people would have been exposed to dirt from birth and their births would have been vaginal, which is also linked to increased gut biodiversity.
Paleolithic people would have also eaten foods that are thrown away in modern agriculture...fruits with bruises rich in bacteria for example. I'm convinced their diet was more probiotic then ours without them having to do much intentional fermentation. That said, many modern hunter-gatherers ferment various things intentionally for the alcoholic buzz.
Unfortunately, I don't live in a dirty forest, so I get lots of bacteria from commercial probiotics and lacto fermented vegetables (ginger carrots are my favorite). I also don't feed the baddie bacteria that made me miserable for so many years.
They seem to like grains and sugar. When I've gone off the paleo diet I notice them coming back...I get gas and my stool is loose and floaty. Getting better first and foremost an issue of starving them by eating low carb. Probiotic support is helpful, but perhaps not required and I don't do it until the bad bacteria seem to have settled down because I don't want to risk fueling a fire down there. There is strong evidence that whatever probiotic you are taking is unlikely to take up permanent residence. The gut bacteria ecosystem is strongly established in early childhood, which is why you have to keep taking probiotics to keep getting their benefits.
Strategies: Gastrointestinal Health
Since the gastrointestinal (GI) tract is so intimately involved in body fat metabolism and overall health (see the former post), the next strategy is to improve GI health. There are a number of ways to do this, but they all center around four things:
- Don't eat food that encourages the growth of harmful bacteria
- Eat food that encourages the growth of good bacteria
- Don't eat food that impairs gut barrier function
- Eat food that promotes gut barrier health
The first one is pretty easy: avoid refined sugar, refined carbohydrate in general, and lactose if you're lactose intolerant. For the second and fourth points, make sure to eat fermentable fiber. In one trial, oligofructose supplements led to sustained fat loss, without any other changes in diet (5). This is consistent with experiments in rodents showing improvements in gut bacteria profile, gut barrier health, glucose tolerance and body fat mass with oligofructose supplementation (6, 7, 8).
Oligofructose is similar to inulin, a fiber that occurs naturally in a wide variety of plants. Good sources are jerusalem artichokes, jicama, artichokes, onions, leeks, burdock and chicory root. Certain non-industrial cultures had a high intake of inulin. There are some caveats to inulin, however: inulin and oligofructose can cause gas, and can also exacerbate gastroesophageal reflux disorder (9). So don't eat a big plate of jerusalem artichokes before that important date.
The colon is packed with symbiotic bacteria, and is the site of most intestinal fermentation. The small intestine contains fewer bacteria, but gut barrier function there is critical as well. The small intestine is where the GI doctor will take a biopsy to look for celiac disease. Celiac disease is a degeneration of the small intestinal lining due to an autoimmune reaction caused by gluten (in wheat, barley and rye). This brings us to one of the most important elements of maintaining gut barrier health: avoiding food sensitivities. Gluten and casein (in dairy protein) are the two most common offenders. Gluten sensitivity is widespread and typically undiagnosed (10).
Eating raw fermented foods such as sauerkraut, kimchi, yogurt and half-sour pickles also helps maintain the integrity of the upper GI tract. I doubt these have any effect on the colon, given the huge number of bacteria already present. Other important factors in gut barrier health are keeping the ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 fats in balance, eating nutrient-dense food, and avoiding the questionable chemical additives in processed food. If triglycerides are important for leptin sensitivity, then avoiding sugar and ensuring a regular source of omega-3 should aid weight loss as well.
Speaking from personal expierence taking care of your gut is important and even if our ancestors didn't use fermented food as much, I think their gut also had to deal with less damaging foods than we do. Kurt is right when he says metabolism first, history second.
"There is between 100 million and 3 billion bacteria in one gram (1g) of healthy top soil."
I think Grok would have been ingesting huge amounts of soil/organic matter when you consider the lack of cleaning, living in a house, etc
Microbial communities are incredibly competitive, especially those in high energy (food) environments like an animal gut. With generation lives of twenty minutes, tiny metabolic adaptations in bacteria can quickly lead to dominance within a day. The species composition of microbial communities can radically alter to optimally consume nutrients whenever the environment changes. For example, starving gut flora of simple sugars will quickly swing the composition of the community towards bacteria with thin cell walls (gram-negative) that are competent in utilizing less favored food sources.
The only way to influence the composition of a microbial community is to change their environment. Adding viable cells (e.g. probiotics) of any particular species would not have any effect on the gut flora. If the environment were favorable to the species added, it would have already been dominant, otherwise, the comparatively small number of live cells surviving transport to the gut would be quickly out-competed by adapted cells.
Hi Louisa. As Melissa said, our ancestors ate dirt. If you don't want to eat dirt, I think probiotics are a good idea. Here's a previous thread on probiotics with several suggestions: http://paleohacks.com/questions/301/probiotic-supplements
The problem with probiotics is that you ingest them orally. This means they have to pass through the stomach, the acidity of which probably kills the bacteria before they get to your gut where they can conceivably do some good.
Getting good flora in your gut is more complicated than simply eating or drinking something with bacteria in it.
there's enteric coated probiotic pills that are supposed to not get their coating removed till they hit your intestines (the 'Pearl' marketed probiotics found in some stores are usually this kind, every other brand I've seen has just said enteric coated on the front instead.)
basically the coating is extra thick or acid resistant so the payload isn't destroyed by your stomach acid.
Getting this kind can help keep you from wasting money on non effective products, that said some of the fermented whole foods (Kefir etc) are tasty too.
@JHON your post is insulting to a number of people that have contributed thoughtful and reflective posts. Your spelling a grammar are so bad that it is not easy to follow your argument. From what I can make out it is confused and ill thought through. If you want to be taken seriously please take a little time before you post to check your English. No one minds the odd few typos, but when your post is only semi-literate it is perhaps better if you got help to edit it before hitting the "go-button".,
@JHON - your first sentence is insulting to people who have posted a series of sensible and reflective answers. It is difficult to follow your argument because your spelling and grammar are so bad. What I can make out does not sound well thought through. I think you should think first and post second if you want to be taken seriously. It would also be helpful to all concerned if you checked out your English before you hit the "go" button.