Fungus Among Us

fungus among us

So, I’m off on another gut flora biofilm tangent. After writing my post on rice beer, I was wondering exactly what the beneficial mold did for a person’s health & Then I started wondering if mold or fungi was every bit as important to gut health as bacteria. I was reading Dr. Art Ayers’ new post & he mentioned in passing:

I have previously discussed the gut flora (bacteria and fungi) as the source of most vitamins. […] The human gut actively communicates with the biofilms of bacteria and fungi that form a lining for the healthy gut.  The aggressive cells of the immune system that attack invading pathogens, develop in response to chemical signals from filamentous gut bacteria, and the suppressive cells of the other half of the immune system, which prevents attack on innocuous food antigens (to avoid allergies) or the human body itself (autoimmunity), develop in response to Clostridium ssp.  Thus, the immune system can be highly compromised, if the gut flora bacteria are damaged, e.g. by antibiotics.

Which was a big Whoa! Back up! I searched all mentions of fungi on his blog, and frankly there are a bunch. I’m still trying to get through it all. There is very little other information online about the beneficial molds & fungi & how they interact with the biofilms that line your gut.

Specifically, I want to know how to decrease the pathogenic biofilms & increase the beneficial ones, but even Dr Ayers says:

Oh, it is so embarrassing. I don’t know how to control gut flora/biofilms with diet. Clearly communication between gut and flora are important and this is all perturbed by food. Prebiotics/probiotics can alter gut flora, e.g. the monoculture (Bifidobacteria) of exclusively breastfed babies. Reciprocal fecal transplants can make obese lose weight and lean gain. Transplants of whole guts survive if maintained by retaining the gut contents.

The immune system is developed and maintained by secondary school in the gut. The gut holds reserve bacteria in the appendix to reseed the gut after diarrhea sheds biofilms and all.

Unfortunately we don’t know the requisite bacteria stored in a healthy appendix. Otherwise, at any time we could reset the gut by pushing the diarrhea button and return to health.

I think that pre and probiotics are a hedge to shift the meaningful biofilms toward health. I don’t understand the whole gut community and it may include unsavory characters such as H. pylori and parasitic worms. Some of these characters, such as Hp and Klebsiella may cause ulcers or cancer when the body gets out of whack. So we may have to make some unnatural adjustments. Little is known.

So there’s that. I’m still sorting through information & trying to get it to meld in my mind, but the problem is that there is so little information on the subject of beneficial molds, look at the tiny amount of info wikipedia has.

I guess what I’m trying to figure out is: will eating blue cheese, drinking rice beer & etc. help populate my gut with beneficial fungi? When I was taking ginger, turmeric & digestive enzymes to disrupt the pathogenic biofilms, was I also disrupting the beneficial ones? Should I try disrupting ALL biofilms while eating a ton of fermented foods?

Or, as Dr Ayers says, should I quit eating a diverse diet in favor of a constant diet:

The hundred of different species of bacteria in the gut change in proportions to adapt to different foods in each meal.  If the diet is fairly constant, then the diversity of the population gradually increases, just as the diversity of species in a tropical rain forest is greater than in a temperate forest.  This also explains why gut flora diversity is far less in the USA than in other parts of the world.  Americans are encouraged to eat diverse diets in the search for vitamins and superfoods.  Each dramatic change in diet makes it hard for the gut flora to adapt and the remaining bacteria are those that are generalists.  It might also be expected that early sailors who changed their diets dramatically when they went to sea, ended up with a highly compromised ship-board gut flora (and fauna.)

Anyway, this is what I’m doing instead of entertaining you (or working, lol). I do plan on ordering some kefir grains & a kumbucha mother & I plan on starting a batch of homemade sauerkraut to get some extra bacteria in my system.

The question is, will this help or hurt? If a diverse diet is harmful to gut flora, does that mean that eating a diverse diet of fermented foods is harmful too?

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20 thoughts on “Fungus Among Us

  1. annesquared

    I’m a sucker for fungi art – posting the Christmas ones on my kids’ FB pages really got them p.o.ed.
    With all due sympathy to your g.i. distress, of course.

  2. Deep Strength

    The hundred of different species of bacteria in the gut change in proportions to adapt to different foods in each meal. If the diet is fairly constant, then the diversity of the population gradually increases, just as the diversity of species in a tropical rain forest is greater than in a temperate forest. This also explains why gut flora diversity is far less in the USA than in other parts of the world. Americans are encouraged to eat diverse diets in the search for vitamins and superfoods. Each dramatic change in diet makes it hard for the gut flora to adapt and the remaining bacteria are those that are generalists. It might also be expected that early sailors who changed their diets dramatically when they went to sea, ended up with a highly compromised ship-board gut flora (and fauna.)

    I’m not sure I agree with this.

    The standard american diet (SAD) is less diverse because everything is pretty much made out of wheat and corn. Americans have crappy gut flora diversity simply because they don’t eat enough variety (aka non-processed foods).

    Obviously, if you eat too many different foods I could see how that could be negative. But not many Americans actually do that…

  3. annesquared

    While INTJ is wanting to jump out on the issue of nutrition…
    I am sticking with the art theme on this one 😉
    http://wp.me/2R7HW
    If you think the fungal petri dish are is fun(gi) wait until you see the art he creates with other microscopic critters.
    (ok, the processed foods are soooo not good for us.)

  4. TempestTcup Post author

    @Deep Strength
    That does strike me as strange, but I’ve read that before on a different site, I wish I could remember where. Maybe he is just talking about a dramatic change in diet.

    I was also thinking about the Asian market that I frequent; it has a bunch of different fresh seafood, but very few vegetables & it is a huge market with tons of stuff. I’m wondering how much their native diet changes from day to day. And say, back in the day before trucking foods around, I bet people ate the same things again & again.

    Also, all of the SAD foods have been sterilized of all bacteria & fungi; that compounded with the general fear of bacteria (soaps, etc) & overuse of antibiotics really does a number on the gut flora of the population.

  5. donalgraeme

    Some fascinating stuff her. The Human body itself is a really complex ecosystem, and it constantly amazes me how much interaction there is between our cells and everything inside of us.

  6. TempestTcup Post author

    @donalgraeme

    It really is & it is very delicate. I started getting really bad inflammation after taking antibiotics for having my wisdom teeth pulled. Seven years later & I’m still trying to repopulate my gut flora.

  7. Deep Strength

    Yeah, most populations are pretty consistent with staple foods.

    Probably some amount of balance somewhere. Just like the body doesn’t need too much of minerals and vitamins it doesn’t need too little either.

  8. Cranberry

    Tempest, Dr. Ayers did a great post (a series, I think) on why eating locally grown and slightly dirty food was a good idea. Basically, our body ecology depends on our local ecology. Eating cabbage grown in CA does you no good if you live in NJ. So buy cabbage, carrots, potatoes, etc. grown in your local area. As literally close to your backyard as you can get. And don’t over-wash or peel your veg. Eat them clean but not squeaky, some raw and most fermented.

    I’d say go with the fermented stuff. I drink booch and eat kraut on the daily. Get the book Real Food Fermentation by Alex Lewin for info on how to make many fermented goodies.

    Get live kefir grains from Marilyn the Kefir Lady (google her, can’t think of her website name off hand right now). Her grains are the best and I’ve had mine for years now.

    I can send you a SCOBY if you want one. Or seven. You can use them for great skin care in addition to brewing booch.

    Probiotics are a great winner, and your body ecology depends greatly upon eating locally and getting those same organisms from the dirt around you into your body.

  9. Cranberry

    OH, and when Ayers says to eat a less diverse diet, I think he means stop trying to get too many exotics into your diet, like coconut and avocado if you live in Minnesota. Eat what you would have to eat if all trade were to suddenly stop and you were left to fend in your local surroundings. Locally grown veg, but especially wild foraged nuts and fruits and meats.

    Goes along with the body ecology=local ecology idea. You get your body in tune with your environment to achieve good health.

  10. TempestTcup Post author

    OOooo, I would love a SCOBY! How well do they hold up if you leave town for a week or two?

    I think I read that series you were talking about, but it’s been a while. I’ll go back & read it again.

    I should frequent the farmers markets for local food, but they kind of intimidate me. I’ll try to put my big girl panties on & try them again.

  11. TempestTcup Post author

    @Cranberry
    And of course, the best way to get locally grown veggies is to grow them yourself. I really need to do a garden, but my husband has building plans for most of the really good spots to do so. I’ll have to check into the local market & see what I can find.

  12. Cranberry

    YOu build a “SCOBY Hotel” for it. I keep mine for 2-3 weeks if I have enough kombucha to last me a while. I’m the only one who drinks it so a batch lasts me a long time. It’s simple: get a half-gallon jar with a tight lid. Put your scoby in there, with 16 to 20 oz. of brewed booch. Seal and place in a dark cabinet (not in fridge). Done.

    Local markets are a cinch to navigate. Make a list of your staples – stuff you eat all the time, and go find them. Eating in season takes a little practice. Lettuce is not really a summer vegetable, and my husband doesn’t feel like he’s eaten his veggies unless he has a salad, but he’s getting used to chard and kale. And growing veg in containers is super easy. Even when I had a tiny apartment, I grew mesclun in an old foil baking pan, the kind you roast a turkey in. Get two. Punch holes for drainage in the bottom of one. Place a layer of small stones in the other. nest the one with the holes in it in the one with pebbles. Fill with soil, plant your mesclun seeds (available at any garden center) and when the plants are about 2-3″ tall, clip what you need for salad. You can keep it going all summer, autumn, and winter long. Mesclun lettuces are all cut-and-come again varieties. They just keep growing when you mow them down.

    Don’t know where you’re located by I’m in Ag Zone 5 and it’s time to plant autumn crops: lettuce, beets, carrots, Asian greens, broccoli, and cabbages/kale. Get going, you can have a great crop with as few as 25 square feet come October. Good luck.

  13. The Ringmistress

    I’m going with the Mark Sisson “don’t stress too much about your food” approach here.

    My local Asian market has a TON of fresh veggies. Bigger than my Whole Foods.

  14. TempestTcup Post author

    @Cranberry
    I’ll look into a fall garden. We’ve been getting a lot of rain lately and I think it’s doable. The last few years have been all drought. I tried a garden a couple of years ago, but I just couldn’t keep it watered enough.

  15. TempestTcup Post author

    @The Ringmistress
    Mine only has the exotic veggies & fruits and the Whole Foods here doesn’t even have as big of a produce section as the local WalMart. Weird.

    I can get lots of local kimchi there though and it’s yummy!

  16. Om Sweet Om

    “If the diet is fairly constant, then the diversity of the population gradually increases, just as the diversity of species in a tropical rain forest is greater than in a temperate forest. This also explains why gut flora diversity is far less in the USA than in other parts of the world. Americans are encouraged to eat diverse diets in the search for vitamins and superfoods. ”

    This seems counter-intuitive. From my perspective the SAD (Standard American Diet) is not diverse at all. Compared to other cultures, especially mine, it really appears that Americans eat the same 5 things at every meal. And the only spices used here are salt, pepper, garlic and this horrible thing called “onion powder”.

    However mono-meals always do me well. In my culture when we get sick we are advised to either fast, eat just fruit, eat just mono-meals, or eat a plain kitcheri.

    All of these cleanse the system and allow for healing.

    But if one is healthy it is advised to eat the SIX TASTES with every meal, as is deliberated upon in our indigenous healing system of Ayurveda;

    The Six Rasas/Tastes

    Sweet
    (Madhura) decreases vata and pitta, increases kapha

    Sweet has a cooling virya, with some exceptions, and a sweet vipak. Of all the six tastes, sweet is the most grounding and nourishing. It’s balancing to vata and pitta and, when eaten in moderation, promotes longevity, strength, and healthy bodily fluids and tissues. It’s the taste to emphasize for someone who is trying to gain weight, as it will quickly increase kapha when taken in excess. Its heavy, oily, moist qualities tend to slow down digestion, so it’s often suggested in ayurveda to eat dessert first. The sweet taste abounds in foods such as wheat, rice, maple syrup, brown rice syrup, agave nectar, dates, licorice root, and slippery elm bark.

    Salty
    (Lavana) decreases vata, increases pitta and kapha

    The salty taste has a heating virya and a sweet vipak. Salt is grounding and moistening, which makes it best for vata. Its warmth and unctuousness helps vata stay grounded and hydrated, but its heat may aggravate pitta. Kapha will be attracted to the warmth of salty flavors, but this flavor tends to promote more weight gain and water retention than kapha really wants. Salt stimulates digestion, helps maintain proper electrolyte balance, softens tissues, and has a mildly laxative effect when taken in moderation. Sea vegetables, salt, tamari, black olives, and processed foods are laden with the salty rasa.

    Sour
    (Amla) decreases vata, increases pitta and kapha

    Sour’s heating virya is followed by a warming, sour vipak. The sour taste stimulates appetite and saliva production, and is stabilizing in its light, heating, and oily properties. But it should be eaten in moderation, for its refreshing influence is strong, and a little bit goes a long way. Sour balances vata, but the sour taste tends to unbalance pitta with heat, and can suffocate kapha with its slippery, grounding nature. Sour improves appetite, digestion, and elimination, and includes such foods as lemons, ume plum, amla berry (sour Indian gooseberry), vinegars, and pickled and fermented foods.

    Pungent
    (Katu) increases vata and pitta, decreases kapha

    Air and fire give rise to the pungent rasa whose virya is heating and vipak is pungent. The hottest of all the rasas, the pungent taste improves appetite, clears sinuses, stimulates blood circulation, and motivates the senses. The pungent rasa will taste hot and stay hot from start to finish, thereby benefiting kapha more than vata. The pungent taste, with its light and dry qualities, will aggravate pitta quickly. It is sure to balance wet, heavy kapha, but it can be too hot and dry for vata when taken in excess or paired with too many other drying foods. Vata does best when the pungent taste is combined with sour, sweet, or salty foods. Fresh ginger, hot peppers, onions, garlic, mustard, and hot spices all share the quality of pungency.

    Bitter
    (Tikta) increases vata, decreases pitta and kapha

    Of the six tastes, bitter is the coolest and lightest, making it best for pitta and least effective for vata, especially when taken without a proper balance of other tastes. Air and ether comprise this rasa, whose virya is cooling and whose vipak is pungent, making it quite cooling in the short term, but warming in the big picture. Kapha benefits from foods like dark leafy greens that abound with the bitter taste while providing calming magnesium and calcium. Dandelion root, turmeric, and fenugreek are also great sources of bitterness with cool and drying qualities.

    Be careful to avoid the bitter taste in excess, as it’s known to create immediate coldness that can bring on bouts of grief and depression. Like sour, a little goes a long way. Make the bitter rasa a regular part of your meals but in small amounts. It will enhance the flavor of other foods and help to gently purify and cleanse the body.

    Astringent
    (Kasaya) increases vata, decreases pitta and kapha

    Cool, dry, and light, the astringent rasa has a cooling virya and a pungent vipak. It is less cold than bitter but very dry and firm, which makes it a taste for vata to avoid. Many beans and legumes are astringent in nature, as are broccoli and cauliflower, all of which are known to create gas and thus aggravate the vata dosha.

    Pitta will benefit from the astringent taste’s coolness, while its dry, light qualities help balance kapha. The constrictive nature of the astringent taste will also slow down digestion. Green grapes, unripe bananas, cranberries, pomegranates, alfalfa sprouts, green beans, and okra all exhibit the astringent taste. You will know this taste when it makes your mouth pucker and feel dried out.

  17. TempestTcup Post author

    @Om Sweet Om
    Cranberry explains the “constant diet” thing in a comment above – it means eating locally grown foods & avoiding the exotics that grow elsewhere. Makes sense.

  18. Om Sweet Om

    OK but what if there are not many things that grow in one’s local environment?

    For some people they’d be relegated to potatoes and tomatoes and not much else.

  19. TempestTcup Post author

    Right & think of the Inuits! They’d have to eat nothing but seals & ice (lol;jk)!

    I do get local raw milk & cream & local raw honey. I really don’t know if anything else I eat is local though. It isn’t anything I’ve really ever thought about, except for maybe having my own garden someday.

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