It’s late summer and the season of Earth Element in Chinese Medicine. This season has many themes to support our health. A healthy Earth is stable and adaptive in an ever changing world. Earth is about sharing, caring and community around and within us. A community with shared responsibilities, cooperation and reciprocal caring. This appears to be key to health and success on a macro level, in our families, cities, societies, and equally important on a micro level, within our own body.
A community that is of great importance to our health and immune response is a healthy digestive system. Our digestive system is a community and a Gut ecological system that thrives on cooperation and symbiosis. Thanks to technological improvement there’s a dawning realization of what Chinese Medicine had known for thousands of years, that our microbial community matters enormously to us.
Of all systems of medicine in the works it’s only modern Western Medicine that believes that what you eat has little bearing on your disease prevention or progression. This belief is quickly changing with emerging science, studying human bacteria collectively known as the Microbiome. A community of microbes that live mostly in the gut are thought to calibrate our immune system. Our digestive system is home to up to 100 trillion microbodies, many of which keep us from getting sick. This ecosystem of trillions of tiny microbodies is thought to outnumber our body cells by a ratio of 10 to 1. We are walking, talking ecosystems and our bacteria keep us happy and healthy.
A New York Times article by Moses Velasquez-Maroff, offers some insights on how to “Educate Your Immune System” http://www.nytimes.com/2016/06/05/opinion/sunday/educate-your-immune-sys... A richer, more diverse community may be a critical factor on restoring a healthy immune response. We can enter into a symbiotic relationship with our Gut Flora. It’s confirming what Chinese Medicine has already established, if we nourish them, we simultaneously nourish ourselves, supporting an adaptive immune response, improved mood, energy, mental function and natural weight control.
To live well we owe it to ourselves to become intestinal gardeners and feed those microbes that are a symbiotic part of ourselves. It’s important to keep our microbe community happy by using antibiotics sparingly and only when necessary.
Eating real food such as whole grains, veggies, nuts and seeds. Foods with a probiotic function such as pickles, sauerkraut, kimchi, miso and kombucha. Probiotics help maintain the natural balance of microbodies and reduce the growth of harmful bacteria.
Chinese herbs that strongly nourish our Gut Flora: Huang Qi (Astragulus), Dang Shen (Codonoposis), Bai Zhu (Atractylodis), Dang Gui (Chinese Angelica), Shan Yao (Dioscoreae), Lian Zi (Lotus seed), Pao Jiang (roasted ginger), Long Yan Rou (Longan fruit), and Zhi Gan Cao (baked licorice) can be taken either in a formula or as every day food.
It’s not always easy to do, but in our household we are doing what we can to nourish and care for our Gut Flora. Having two young children who have yet to need antibiotics is a big incentive to keep fermented foods, Chinese herbs, and probiotics as a mainstay.
Happy Intestinal Gardening!