Dr. Justin Sonnenburg is an expert on the bacteria living in our digestive system, and an associate professor at the School of Medicine at Stanford University. Recently interviewed by Environmental Nutrition, Dr. Sonnenburg said we have 100 times more genes in our microbial genome than in our own human genome, adding, “We are a fancy culturing flask.” Our microbiome [gut bacteria] digests and processes the food we eat, providing essential nutrients to humans, contributing to our general health.
It is up to us to fertilize our internal friendly bacteria by eating foods rich in fiber which becomes their only food source as the fiber moves into the colon [large intestine]. When there is no available fiber, the bacteria eat the only available food source, the carbohydrate rich mucus membrane lining of the colon, initiating inflammation in the walls of the colon.
Dr. Sonnenburg explains, inflammation leads to the increased risk of many ills, including Type II diabetes, and heart disease. He urges consuming a plant based diet for its fiber, adding cultured dairy products with their friendly bacteria, and fermented foods, like sauerkraut, also rich in beneficial bacteria.
Years ago the American diet was naturally rich in fiber. But, today much of our food is processed, leading to worrisome changes in our microbiome, which then can lead to ill health, even obesity. Keeping our microbiome healthy can improve the quality and length of our lives.