Nutrition consultant, author & speaker, Bonnie Y Modugno, MS, RD has been providing reliable nutrition support for more than 25 years. She shares her expert opinion on the subject:
What is considered safe to eat will increasingly be challenged by new insight into the role of our microbiome in health and disease. Our current reductionist approach assumes all microbes are problematic, when in fact, a profoundly decreased microbial diversity is currently linked to all matter of disease, from gut health to mental health and every chronic disease, especially the fast-growing incidence of auto-immune disease.
Humans have evolved with microbes for thousands of years. Standards of practice regarding food safety rely on sanitation that sterilizes, especially in food manufacturing. The emerging science tells me that we are on a collision course between what is considered “safe” to eat and the microbial diversity our bodies need for a state of wellness. In the realm of food safety, I anticipate we will be intensely challenged to figure out how to coexist with microbes instead of merely trying to eradicate them.
Under the right conditions, lactic acid bacteria create an acidic environment that preserves food while it making it inhospitable to pathogenic bacteria. In the process, these bacteria also make our food more digestible and more delicious.
The traditional method of preserving food with fermentation could also be considered a source of vital microbial diversity, in essence a probiotic.
Fermented foods are thought to contribute more than 30 percent of food consumed around the world, and include smoked, salted and cured fish. Man has co-evolved with these healthful bacteria and most lactic acid bacteria are considered GRAS (generally regarded as safe) by the Food and Drug Administration.
Much of our commercial food supply intentionally destroys all bacteria in the name of food safety. Industrial food processing, pasteurization, and antimicrobial agents destroy the targeted pathogenic varieties, with destruction of healthful lactic acid bacteria considered mere collateral damage. However, we destroy these needed microorganisms at our own peril.
Researchers increasingly connect disease to gut health, ranging from autoimmune conditions like allergy, asthma and arthritis to obesity and other disease of poor metabolic health (think diabetes, heart disease and cancer) as well as poor mental health. As we learn more about the role of fermented foods, the human microbiome and gut health, I am convinced we need to learn how to live with the microbes instead of merely eradicating them.
- The Art of Fermentation by Sandor Ellix Katz. Chelsea Green Publishing ©2012