Our gut microbiomes are home to several pounds of minuscule microorganisms whose jobs include helping digest our food, producing certain vitamins, regulating our immune system, and keeping us healthy by protecting us against disease-causing bacteria.
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Integrative gastroenterologist Dr. Robynne Chutkan has further refined Michael Pollan’s wise ground rules, contributing:
I’m sure you get the ‘Eat Clean’ part.
The ‘Live Dirty’ part refers to the Hygiene Hypothesis: A lack of early childhood exposure to infectious agents, symbiotic micro-organisms such as gut flora probiotics, and parasites increases susceptibility to allergic and other autoimmune diseases by suppressing the natural development of the immune system. The lack of exposure leads to defects in the establishment of immune tolerance. The Hygiene Hypothesis is also sometimes called the Biome Depletion Theory or the Lost Friends Theory.
I highly recommend watching Dr Chutkan’s charming discussion of the merits of eating wisely while also exposing ourselves to a wide variety of microbes to keep our immune systems strong. The microbiome is the vast collection of microbes that live in and on our bodies. As she points out, the microbiome is going to be the future of medicine.
Robynne Chutkan, MD, FASGE, is a Board Certified Integrative Gastroenterologist, an Assistant Professor at the Georgetown University Hospital, and Founder and Director of The Digestive Center for Women in Washington, DC. She is also the author of Gutbliss: A 10-Day Plan to Ban Bloat, Flush Toxins, and Dump Your Digestive Baggage.
Michael Pollan put it well in his article Some of My Best Friends Are Germs (Pollan, 2013):
As a civilization, we’ve just spent the better part of a century doing our unwitting best to wreck the human-associated microbiota.
Hippocrates, a Greek physician who lived c. 460-377 BC and is considered to be the Father of Medicine, understood the vital relationship between our guts and our health. Then this knowledge was lost as medicine moved into the modern era.