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  • Michael Pollan writes about bacteria

    Lengthy, but a fun and interesting read, Some of My Best Friends Are Germs - NYTimes.com

    I haven't read any of his books, but it strikes me as a tad odd that he describes his personal diet as such:

    Originally posted by As it happens, Lozupone and I had something in common, microbially speaking: we share unusually high levels of prevotella for Americans. Our gut communities look more like those of rural Africans or Amerindians than like those of our neighbors. Lozupone suspects that the reasons for this might have to do with a plant-based diet; [B
    we each eat lots of whole grains and vegetables and relatively little meat[/B]. (Though neither of us is a vegetarian.)
    But he talks about the gut lining, never mentioning how whole grains can negatively impact it. I wonder what type of whole grains he's eating? could be gluten-free at the very least. I would imagine he's "on the up and up" about paleo and it's arguments against grains.

    Anyway, thoughts?

    Kimchi and raw dairy FTW.
    I used to seriously post here, now I prefer to troll.

  • #2
    Michael Pollan wrote Ominvore's Dilemma and In Defense of Food, both interesting books. He argues for real, unprocessed food. His recommendations are similar to Weston A. Price recommendations.
    Female, 5'3", 50, Max squat: 202.5lbs. Max deadlift: 225 x 3.

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    • #3
      I would hypothesize that his gut biome is more a result of what he is not eating rather than the copious amounts of vegetable matter that he attributes it too.

      Namely no processed foods, sugar, red dye, yellow dye, preservatives, round up..... ect.

      I believe that you could argue the addition of these presents a food source for pathogenic and dysbiotic gut biome and simply by eliminating them you improve.

      The only thing a meat centric vs vegetable centric focus in an otherwise omnivorous diet is likely to change is the proportions of certain "normal" healthy bacteria in the gut.

      At least that is what I believe occurs.

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      • #4
        He mentions the importance of fiber for good bacterial growth. Though in general he's careful not to advocate any type of diet and stressed none of the scientists involved feel comfortable doing so either.
        I used to seriously post here, now I prefer to troll.

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        • #5
          "His comment chimed with something a gastroenterologist at the University of Pittsburgh told me. “The big problem with the Western diet,” Stephen O’Keefe said, “is that it doesn’t feed the gut, only the upper G I. All the food has been processed to be readily absorbed, leaving nothing for the lower G I. But it turns out that one of the keys to health is fermentation in the large intestine.” And the key to feeding the fermentation in the large intestine is giving it lots of plants with their various types of fiber, including resistant starch (found in bananas, oats, beans); soluble fiber (in onions and other root vegetables, nuts); and insoluble fiber (in whole grains, especially bran, and avocados)."
          There's that word again...

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          • #6
            Michael Polan also wrote the intro to the book "The Art of Fermentation" by Sandor Felix Katz wherein he says that
            his kitchen has become a veritable science experiment of bumbling vials full of fermenting bacterial goodness.

            The Art of Fermentation by Sandor Ellix Katz : Foreword By Michael Pollan - Chelsea Green

            If he's eating that many fermented foods then that has got to have an effect on his gut's microbiome. That would have a serious effect on the amount of gut bacteria he has and put a serious wrench in his claim that fiber is all alone the magical missing ingredient to a healthy gut biome.
            "The cling and a clang is the metal in my head when I walk. I hear a sort of, this tinging noise - cling clang. The cling clang. So many things happen while walking. The metal in my head clangs and clings as I walk - freaks my balance out. So the natural thought is just clogged up. Totally clogged up. So we need to unplug these dams, and make the the natural flow... It sort of freaks me out. We need to unplug the dams. You cannot stop the natural flow of thought with a cling and a clang..."

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            • #7
              Drumroll - Actually it makes perfect sense. Fermented foods are probiotics, ie. they contain the actual microbes. Fiber and resistant starch are prebiotics, ie. they serve as food for the microbes.

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              • #8
                Where does fermented head cheese lie among all these claims? I bet its got a good looking bacteria and nutrition profile.

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                • #9
                  Originally posted by otzi View Post
                  Drumroll - Actually it makes perfect sense. Fermented foods are probiotics, ie. they contain the actual microbes. Fiber and resistant starch are prebiotics, ie. they serve as food for the microbes.
                  He seems to be saying that fiber alone is the key ingredient to a healthy gut biome. I'm questioning that claim on the basis of the amount of ferments he consumes. If he's not exaturating the amount he has said he eats. It could be the fermented food alone or the combination of the ferments AND the fiber, but if he's not exaturating the amount of fermented stuff he eats, then he's left out a CRITICAL part of the reason for his gut's amazing levels of bacteria in this article. Bad science Mr. Polan!

                  Report the whole picture, not just parts of it.
                  Last edited by Drumroll; 05-16-2013, 05:28 PM.
                  "The cling and a clang is the metal in my head when I walk. I hear a sort of, this tinging noise - cling clang. The cling clang. So many things happen while walking. The metal in my head clangs and clings as I walk - freaks my balance out. So the natural thought is just clogged up. Totally clogged up. So we need to unplug these dams, and make the the natural flow... It sort of freaks me out. We need to unplug the dams. You cannot stop the natural flow of thought with a cling and a clang..."

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                  • #10
                    Originally posted by Drumroll View Post
                    He seems to be saying that fiber alone is the key ingredient to a healthy gut biome. I'm questioning that claim on the basis of the amount of ferments he consumes. If he's not exaturating the amount he has said he eats. It could be the fermented food alone or the combination of the ferments AND the fiber, but if he's not exaturating the amount of fermented stuff he eats, then he's left out a CRITICAL part of the reason for his gut's amazing levels of bacteria in this article. Bad science Mr. Polan!

                    Report the whole picture, not just parts of it.
                    Yeah, that was a painfully long article! I clicked on the link that leads to the American Gut project--there are a bunch of good articles there.

                    What I have read recently about gut health is that is takes a diverse population of microbe species and a hefty dose of fiber/RS to keep the more beneficial types in control. Eating yogurt or taking probiotic pills is hardly enough. Most of the bacteria contained in them don't make it to the large intestine, and the ones that do get there can't establish new populations if there is not enough fiber/RS to sustain them.

                    A funny thing about the probiotic industry, they only supply a few, easy to grow, microbe strains that almost everybody has anyway. I think that is what Pollan was referencing when he says to eat a wide range of fermented stuff. Also, dirty veggies and even not washing your hands like a maniac can help increase these populations. But without the RS/Fiber, it's for naught. Your gut will adjust to the food supply. A diet low in fiber and RS will lead to a gut populated with strains that do best fermenting proteins and fat--these are not the beneficial type that produce butyrate. It's an interesting field with lots of unknowns for sure.

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                    • #11
                      Regarding his comment about having similar microbiota profile to African rural communities, that specifically related to privotella, which is highly associated with a wholegrain diet which isn't necesarily reflective of a healthy microbiota profile, a true hunter gatherer profile, even with a lower meat intake would have a significantly different microbiota profile.

                      Originally posted by otzi View Post
                      A diet low in fiber and RS will lead to a gut populated with strains that do best fermenting proteins and fat--these are not the beneficial type that produce butyrate. It's an interesting field with lots of unknowns for sure.
                      I don't agree with this statement, it is not the absence of fibre or RS that produces an unhealthy profile, but more likely the presence of processed foods, low ph in stomach acid and poor dietary behaviour in general which promote an unhealthy microbiota mix.
                      Lower levels of fibre & RS will simply lead to lower microbiota levels in general, not an overgrowth of unhealthy strains, if the rest of the diet is healthy whole foods, I think we should be carefull not to get fixated on a singular panacea of good health, but rather look more towards the elimination of factors leading to bad health. Butyrate and SFA's are surely a valuable contribution to dietary health in the presence of a high fibre diet, but there is no evidence to suggest that they are essential and that high fibre intake is essential to good health, there are far too many exceptions to this concept.
                      We do know our GI tracts were designed to maximise yield from a variety of dietary mixes, as evidenced by cultural dietary variation around the globe and through history, there is high fibre and low fibre intakes, the only clear markers indicating ill dietary health are highly processed foods and modern "Frankenfoods". The search for the "Holy Grail" of good diet health is a Red Herring, the goal is merely to lift yourself out of the swamp of SAD offerings in our modern world, and then allow your body and microbiota to do what it evolved to do.
                      "There are no short cuts to enlightenment, the journey is the destination, you have to walk this path alone"

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                      • #12
                        Not only that but you can get all the butyrate you will ever need from eating some butter.

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                        • #13
                          Originally posted by Paleobird View Post
                          Not only that but you can get all the butyrate you will ever need from eating some butter.
                          While that may be true for systemic butyrate, the butyrate the controls your immune system very likely has to be generated in the intestine from fiber by the local resident bacteria. A large portion of immune cells are "educated" in the gut and the local butyric acid is what tell them not to attack, you can't ingest that stuff. It's just like real estate -it's all about location, location, location
                          Using low lectin/nightshade free primal to control autoimmune arthritis. (And lost 50 lbs along the way )

                          http://www.krispin.com/lectin.html

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                          • #14
                            It may be like the B12 issue, our microbiota produce plenty of B12, but it's produced past the point where we absorb it.

                            You know how dogs always have a bit of a thing for herbivore's poops or how bunnies eat their poops on the first pass, I wonder if that is also B12 related.

                            Back on the Butyrate though, it may well be a location thing and I don't really know whether it is important, but just for the benefit of doubt I like to keep a moderate fibre intake to feed the butyrate bacteria.
                            "There are no short cuts to enlightenment, the journey is the destination, you have to walk this path alone"

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                            • #15
                              I like fruit and veg, therefore I like eating fiber.
                              But come on, there are limits.
                              And I don't believe it's something we should be over-thinking.

                              The RDA for fiber is something like 25-35gms daily.
                              Honestly, I don't have room for that much food!
                              And I'm not interested in eating things for the sake of eating them, or digging into a box of "bran busters" bran concentrate to make it happen as they tend to suggest.
                              I think that is complete bunk.


                              I eat my salad, fruit and veg because I enjoy it... I consume my bug/probiotic bacteria filled kefir and yogurt because I enjoy them.
                              I do both when the mood strikes me, not because I need to meet some schedule that ticks things off a list every single day...
                              Soluble fiber- check
                              Insoluble fibre- check
                              Resistant starch- check
                              Probiotic bacteria from cultured veg- check
                              Probiotic bacteria from cultured dairy- check
                              Let dog kiss me- check
                              Pet neighbor's dog, don't wash hands- check
                              Drop GF macaroon cookie on dirty floor, apply 5 second rule and eat it anyway- check


                              Just roll with it people. Relax and Live!
                              “You have your way. I have my way. As for the right way, the correct way, and the only way, it does not exist.”
                              ~Friedrich Nietzsche
                              And that's why I'm here eating HFLC Primal/Paleo.

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