-“Doctor…During that homely seclusion, we ate too much junk—feel intoxicated.”

Claire X. is a smart, well-educated, middle-aged lady that, besides pursuing a successful career in the Finance sector, prides herself in taking loving care of her husband and their three children. She has always made sure that they would all eat  a Mediterranean diet save for occasional permissiveness usually on weekends. However, the brutal Social Isolation of the COVID-19 pandemic, which has imploded so many paradigms of our former lives, also compromised their eating.

What used to be the Saturday Night loaded pizza became bi-weekly. Pourquoi pas ? What used to be the rare All the Works-Burger became a regular. Pour quoi pas? What used to be the fab Strawberry Smoothie became a lunch staple. Pour quoi pas?

The unhealthy cloistering with limited social contact not only brought a retinue of Mental Health disorders ranging from Anxiety/Depression to more serious pathologies, but also  had the collateral effect of compromising the safeguards we have been building for decades to improve our lifestyles. We ate food with too much salt, sugar, ultra-processed items. And way too often.

The microbiome is the sum of the bacterial and viral populations that reside inside our bodies, with mostly beneficial effects and some occasional deleterious ones. They are trillions of microorganisms that coexist peacefully in our Digestive System and in other organs, The majority of these organisms are symbiotic, which means that our bodies and these invited guests collaborate to promote our healthy status. In rare occasions they become pathogenic, which means that they promote diseases. A nice report from the Harvard School of Public Health stated: “Each person has an entirely unique network of microbiota that is originally determined by one’s DNA. A person is first exposed to microorganisms as an infant, during delivery in the birth canal ands through the mother’s breast milk. Exactly which microorganisms the infant is exposed to depends solely on the species found in the mother. Later on, environmental exposures and diet can change one’s microbiome to be either beneficial to health or place one at greater risk for disease.”

In order to ensure that we have the right amount and variety of microbiome, we can use the probiotics, which are foods naturally containing them or live active bacteria. It is a multi-billion industry in the USA, which is largely unregulated because they are considered as “mere food” and not drugs, escaping the regulatory enforcement of the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) Even thought the scientific data is still inconclusive, they might have a beneficial effect on younger and older patients.

Food with a high content of fiber can only be broken down in the lower segments of the colon, which means that the release of Short Chain Fatty Acids (SCFA) from the fermentation process will lower the pH of the gut. As a result dangerous bacteria like Clostridium difficile will not find a proper environment to grow and cause harm. Certain foods contain copious amounts of indigestible carbohydrates and fibers such as garlic, leeks, onions, asparagus, artichokes, bananas, beans, oats, barley. They are dubbed as prebiotic because they provide the raw material for the probiotic elements. Taken in excess, they might cause excessive bloating and flatulence.

Note. This image of the Microbiome was taken from Wikimedia Images and originated in the American Gut Project based on the University of California San Diego School of Medicine.

Keeping our bespoke microbiome system in decent shape is also essential to recover form the deleterious effects of the Covid-19 pandemic as there is a direct ink between the clinical status of our Digestive System and the integrity of our Respiratory System. Dr. Tim Spector, professor of Genetic Epidemiology at King’s College in London, UK, wrote in a review: “recent research has shown that the gut microbiome plays an essential role in the body’s immune response to infection and in maintaining overall health. As well as mounting a response to infectious pathogens like coronavirus, a healthy gut microbiome also helps to prevent potentially dangerous immune over-reactions that damage the lungs and other vital organs.” These interactions are not yet fully understood by scientists, but it has been proven that gut bacteria produce many critically needed chemicals and activate the Vitamin A in our food, which helps to regulate the immune system.”

In order to be effective, a microbiome must be diverse; however as we age, that diversity declines. For that very reason, a good diet becomes of paramount importance in the latter stages of our lives. We should eat plenty of fruit, vegetables, nuts, seeds and whole grains, extra virgin oil, lean meat, and fish. We should restrict our intake of salt, sugar, alcohol , carbonated drinks, and sweets. And of course we should eat naturally resourced food with no additives or artificial sweeteners.

Stay distant. Stay safe. Stay beautiful.

What do you think? Please tell us.

Don’t leave me alone.

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