I think about food a lot lately. Actually, I am a little obsessed with it. I still think its true that we Americans have low standards when it comes to our food (see my rant in Re-entry March 3, 2010) . We’ve mistaken things like boxed orange juice, margarine and even soy products for “food”. Yeah, sorry to say — soy isn’t really all that good for you. Unless it’s fermented (miso, tempeh) it’s over-processed and can cause certain problems if you eat too much.

Roasted beets

From all of my reading over the past 3 months, including the fascinating cookbook by Sally Fallon, “Nourishing Traditions” and articles by Dr. Natasha Campbell-McBride, MD (who developed the GAPS diet –a modified form of the Simple Carbohydrate Diet) it turns out that fermented foods were a cornerstone in our ancestors’ diets. I find it fascinating that grains and dairy – the two food groups most difficult to digest – were traditionally soaked or fermented. Fermented foods add probiotics to our diets, and it’s turning out that these little bacteria are ESSENTIAL for a strong immune system. How did our ancestors know that?

Or, to look at it another way, maybe there’s a little co-evolution going on. We need the probiotics in so many ways. Did they first come into our systems from foods, and then take up residence there? Did they evolve to help us? I’m sure you know someone who’s lactose intolerant. Someone figured out that fermenting milk made it easier to digest. But what made the lactobacillus bacteria decide to take up permanent residence in our gut? Thank god they did, because we really can’t do anything without them. And, without the good ones, the bad ones take over. If the good ones aren’t there, for example, we can become more susceptible to Salmonella. Now there’s a traveler’s health concern!

More and more, poor struggling parents of autistic kids find that if they improve the intestinal flora the symptoms go away. Same for depression. Anxiety. Those epidemics we’re having recently–autism, obesity, asthma? There is a connection to the food we eat.