In 2009 the Yanomami tribe was discovered deep in the Amazon jungle. This tribe had remained untouched by outsiders for 11,000 years, and as a result of this they were found to be in possession of gut bacteria that are significantly more diverse than our own.
So what happened to our microbes? Well it’s believed that due to our diet, our medicines and our hygiene and sanitisation processes we may have inadvertently killed them off. As more research is conducted into our gut bacteria and the role it plays in our overall health,discoveries such as the Yanomami hunter-gather tribe show us that our lifestyle and diet choices really do have a rather drastic evolutionary effect on our bodies.
One of the reasons we have lost such a large population of the trillions of bacteria that call our gut home, is because they simply can’t survive our modern diet. The sugary drinks and the processed and refined ‘convenience’foods that many of us eat everyday are seriously depleting our good bacteria.
Our gut bacteria like to eat the clean and simple foods they evolved to eat, which just so happens to be the diet of many hunter-gatherers! Our ancestors generally lived on a mixed diet of root vegetables, fish, some meat, nuts, fruits and berries.
Now if this sounds a lot like the trendy Paleo Diet then you would be right. The Paleo diet is based on the meal plan of our friendly neighbourhood caveman and whilst it may have a large following and claim to have many health benefits,for our gut bacteria the main benefit is the avoidance of the foods that wipe them out and fuel the bad bacteria.
Many people are not aware that the health of our gut bacteria has a lot to do with how we feel, not limited to our physical appearance and comfort. Our gut and our brain are linked via the enteric nervous system, and the bacteria in our gut actually secrete a profound number of chemicals -researchers have found that among those chemicals are the same substances used by our neurons to communicate and regulate mood, like dopamine, serotonin and gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA). These, in turn, appear to play a function in intestinal disorders, which coincide with high levels of major depression and anxiety.
Whilst it may not be possible to re-cultivate these lost ancient bacteria, it is possible to boost the trillions of good bacteria we do have living inside our gut. By following a diet close to that of our ancestors and replenishing our gut bacteria regularly, we can hope to boost our mix of bacteria and begin to feel much better for it!