Lately, usually to a stony faced response, I’ve been recommending fecal transplants to my friends and family for basically every physical and mental ailment they collectively suffer from. Now if you watched Gut Reaction on ABC’s Catalyst last week you’d know I’m only half joking. The bottom line (no pun intended) is that if we feed the billions of bacteria that live in our guts right then we’ll be cooling down our over heating immune systems and reducing our chances of getting sick from illnesses like asthma, eczema, allergies, type II diabetes, inflammatory bowel disease, even autism and MS. However, if your system has been so compromised by a bad diet, smoking and too many antibiotics then you might need to reboot your microbiome by having some healthy poo introduced into your gut to – visualise a blender, an enema and some very large syringes.
Poo horror/fascination aside, the show’s real catch cry was based around that old Hippocrates quote,”Let food be thy medicine”. And although it included stuff we all know; like it’s good to eat a diet with lots of vegetables, wholegrain cereals and nuts while staying away from refined carbohydrates – the healthy diet advice wasn’t about feeding us but feeding the right types of our gut bacteria so they can keep our immune systems on an even keel (apparently good bacteria are crazy for high fibre foods, while the bad disease causing kinds like white flour and sugar).
The thing that was also fascinating was the research on the anti-inflammatory effects of vinegars in our diet, something I’d seen pioneer organic dairy farmer, Ron Smith, use as a preventative on his cows for mastitis (inflamed milk ducts). Ron swore by apple cider vinegar and bought it by the 44 gallon drum-full. Thinking back it was the healthy glow of Ron’s cows that got me into taking apple cider vinegar daily as well as blackstrap molasses which he also used, although apart from tasting nice I’m not sure what it was for (optimal bacterial health in the rumen apparently, thanks Google).
So there you have it; the message of Gut Reaction was loud, clear and inexpensive; the cure for our 21st century ills is to look after our gut bacteria by feeding them a healthy unprocessed diet accompanied by a variety of vinaigrette style dressings. And if the studies about beneficial soil bacteria enhancing serotonin levels while gardening are right too, then we can cure our depression by growing our own food and not washing everything so much. Brilliant!