Professor Tim Spector, a leading genetics expert at King’s College London and Author of The Diet Myth: The Real Science Behind What We Eat believes that our gut microbes are responsible for our health and mental wellbeing. With the right regime of diet and exercise, we can change our personal mix of gut bacteria to one that keeps us happy, healthy — and lean. The root of the current obesity epidemic, he argues is our modern diet and its effect on our gut bugs.
‘Microbes are not only essential to how we digest food, they also control the calories we absorb and provide vital enzymes and vitamins, as well as keeping our immune system healthy.’
Compared with our ancestors, we have only a fraction of the diversity of microbial species living in our guts. Fifteen thousand years ago, man regularly ate around 150 ingredients in a week. Today, most people consume fewer than 20 separate food items, and many of these are artificially refined. (Take note dog owners – the same thing applies to them.)
‘The increasing promotion and use of restrictive diets that depend on just a few ingredients will inevitably lead to a further reduction in microbe diversity and, eventually, to ill-health.’
I would estimate that around a third of our B&B guests are on ‘restrictive’ diets i.e. I’m on the Paleo, 5:2, ‘we never eat dairy’, ‘I never eat bread, wheat, gluten’, never touch orange juice or sugar or caffeine or alcohol (quite rare actually that last one.) The most popular diet at the moment is the gluten free or carb free or bread free diet. We have been eating bread since we lived in caves so what I want to know is …. when did bread become the enemy?
We don’t cater for special diets but hopefully our breakfast menu has something for everyone. Paul’s only rule is that there are no food rules (although having said that he won’t have skimmed milk in the house or anything low fat, sugar free, gluten free etc.) We cook in butter and eat salt, animal fats and so on – it’s all about the flavour for him. Paul cooks so I eat what he eats but I do rein in on anything too processed … Morrisons Savers ginger nuts being the obvious exception.
Incidentally, I am also convinced that his current good health (fingers crossed and all that) has a lot to do with being in the garden every day…soil is full of healthy microbes and there is evidence that people with allergies, eczema, asthma and so on would benefit from taking up gardening (not to mention the positive impact on mental health.)
And me? Well in his book In Defence of Food: An Eater’s Manifesto, Michael Pollan says everything he’s learned about food and health can be summed up in seven words: “Eat food, not too much, mostly plants.” That’s my Koan…but I’m not sticking to it.