We grow up learning about germs. We can’t see them—but we accept that they are there, and that someone with a really big magnifying glass or microscope has seen them. We understand that they are “bad” and that we need to get rid of them. We use bleach and disinfectants, and hand sanitizer and anti-bacterial soap. We rinse with anti-bacterial mouthwash. And of course we take antibiotics when we are sick—even when the disease isn’t bacterial—“just in case.” Eventually we get a glimpse of them when we learn to grow various bacteria or fungi in petri dishes at school. (Or possibly the refrigerator—I’ve grown lots of science projects in there.)
What isn’t sufficiently clear to us is that when we destroy the “bad bacteria” we also destroy a host of beneficial bacteria that have a roll to play in keeping us healthy. And even when we comprehend that fact, we don’t attach enough significance to building up those beneficial populations again once they’ve been decimated after antibiotic treatment, because we haven’t understood how very much they matter. Slowly scientists are beginning to understand how vital healthy bacteria are to our wellbeing—and just how they do their job.
Take chocolate for instance.
Maybe you’ve heard that dark chocolate is good for you.
Well you can thank your gut bacteria for that, according to a new report presented at the 247th National Meeting & Exposition of the American Chemical Society (ACS), the world’s largest scientific society. Maria Moore, an undergraduate student and one of the study’s researchers, explains: “The good microbes, such as Bifidobacterium and lactic acid bacteria, feast on chocolate,” she said. “When you eat dark chocolate, they grow and ferment it, producing compounds that are anti-inflammatory.” John Finley, Ph.D., who led the research, added, “When these compounds are absorbed by the body, they lessen the inflammation of cardiovascular tissue, reducing the long-term risk of stroke.”
I don’t need an excuse to eat chocolate. But if I do need to take an antibiotic, I’ll be sure to include chocolate in my list of prebiotics—food that helps beneficial bacteria thrive. Prebiotics include: carrots, winter/summer squash, turnips, rutabagas, parsnips, beets, oatmeal, asparagus, chicory root, bananas, garlic, onions, and leeks.
For more detail on what to do if you need to take antibiotics check Chris Kresser’s helpful site here.
Meanwhile, pass the chocolate!
Next post: Real Food and Fat Phobia
[gravityform id=”5″ name=”Blog Reply”]