No Guts, No Glory: New Book Says Key to Health Is Your Intestines
"We're not only hampering our guts and making them work overtime with poor-quality foods, but we're also starving ourselves of the nutrients we need for health. And in the process we're racking up the pounds," Lamm writes on page 49. "It's not surprising that two-thirds of Americans are either overweight or obese -- our modern-day form of malnutrition."
Dr. Lamm even notes that eating the standard American diet, which is loaded with fats and sugars, results in a higher proportion of Firmicutes and a waning number of Bacteroidetes, which are both strains of beneficial gut bacteria that act quite differently on the foods we eat. Firmicutes extract more calories from food than Bacteroidetes can, and they store them as fat, while Bacteroidetes, which are more plentiful in the guts of people who eat plant-based, low-fat diets, extract fewer calories from foods. "It's possible that these bacteria are metabolizing foods differently and are actually promoting obesity," Lamm said. In other words, eating crappy, nutrient-poor, high-fat, high-sugar foods means not only that one probably consumes more empty calories, but it also fosters growth of obesity-causing gut bacteria. Double whammy. (The good news is that making the switch to a low-fat plant-based diet causes the rise of the slimming Bacteroidetes, Lamm writes.)
The way to restore and keep a healthy balance in our guts, Dr. Lamm says, is a three-step plan he calls the Gut Solution. He maintains that good health, disease prevention, and healing can be achieved through (1) eating a healthy diet composed primarily of natural, unprocessed, plant-based foods like raw vegetables and whole grains; (2) detoxifying by drinking more water, exercising, cutting out addictive substances, increasing sleep quality and minimizing stress; and (3) restoring the digestive system through the consumption of pre- and pro-biotics and replenishing stores of enzymes, which dwindle as we age. In the second part of his book, he elaborates on each of these steps.
Though the gut and the microscopic flora and fauna that inhabit it are anything but simple, Lamm said that the journey to better health can start with a very basic shift in perspective. "Think of yourself as a Ferrari. Would you put low-quality fuel in a Ferrari? You wouldn't," he said. "If you're treating yourself well, you're going to increase the amount of pre-biotics you eat, which are foods that actually feed the bacteria, like fiber and things like chicory and artichokes. This will increase the health of these good bacteria. And if you're also eliminating things that are destroying these bacteria, such as cigarettes and antibiotics that we take for no reason at all most of the time, you're going to promote a healthy eco-system." Lamm said that taking daily probiotic supplements, which often contain millions or billions of live healthy microbes in each capsule, is a good idea too, although research as to the exact efficacy of these supplements is still underdeveloped.
The gut, with its immense colonies of bacteria, is the main site of food breakdown and the absorption of nutrients. There's also significant and complex interaction between the gut and the brain in triggering feelings of hunger and satiation, Lamm said. "So it's the most logical place for controlling metabolism. It's got to be your gut. So if I were to advise someone on how to become well, I would say whatever you do, you've got to preserve the wellness of your gut. And you have control over the health of your gut, because you're doing something five or six times a day that's affecting its wellness." (That thing is eating, for those who are a little slow to "digest.")
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