Amerindians in the Amazon harbor up to 50% more microbial species than North Americans. And researchers purport that our loss of microbial diversity has contributed to the proliferation of obesity and asthma. Since its unlikely that most of us will relocate to the Amazon, how can we get exposure to heirloom microbes?
What Are Heirloom Microbes?
Our ancestors likely had them. And many non-industrialized, hunter-gatherer groups still have them. Exactly what are heirloom or ancestral microbes and why don’t we have them? Well, let’s start with the obvious. Hunter gatherer groups live close to the land in traditional dwellings, eating a diet of unprocessed foods. Moreover, they rely less on antibiotics and sterile cleaners, and often consume unrefined, seasonally-available foods. They also may lack sanitation and sewers and rely on drinking water from rivers, streams or rainwater.
And one study conducted in Papua New Guinea showed that microbiota (from fecal samples) in Papua New Guineans is more diverse but less individualized than in U.S. populations. Secondly, most bacterial species are shared among Papua New Guinea and the U.S. However, Papua New Guineans harbor communities with greater bacterial diversity, with bacterial lineages undetectable in US residents. And interestingly, non-westernized microbiomes resemble those of vegetarians and vegans.
How to Re-Wild Your Diet
So how can you add more heirloom microbes to your diet? Eating a more plant-based diet, including whole grains, is a good start. There are yogurts that claim to use utilize rare or heirloom starters that might be worth a try. Until microbial transplants become easily accessible, adjusting your diet and avoiding overly sterilized environments may be your best bet.
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