CB chimed in on the Wheat Belly Facebook page with this interesting observation after taking efforts to cultivate healthy bowel flora:
“Added green bananas and raw potatoes to my fare: cannot believe how much better I am sleeping and dreaming! I was not getting enough sleep this last year. Now, every night, technicolour vibrancy and fully under.
“I also notice my running has improved, as my joints feel looser and don’t hurt afterwards as they normally do, and I do not tire as easily.
“I was skeptical about the whole resistant starch thing, especially as I was complacent with my food habits after 3 years on Wheat Belly. I suppose this means old dogs CAN learn new tricks by keeping an open mind and giving things a try. Thanks once again, Dr. D.!”
CB’s observation highlights how bowel flora affect emotional and mental health in important ways. Not only cam sleep become deeper and be filled with vivid dreams (reflecting deeper, more extended REM? enhanced endogenous pineal melatonin?), but depression can lift, anxiety can be reduced. It’s not entirely clear how healthy bowel flora exert this effect (via butyrate, as with other metabolic parameters?), but it reflects the profound influence healthy bowel flora species have on the human brain.
The pro- and prebiotic approach to cultivating bowel flora is discussed in this Wheat Belly Blog post, as well as an extended conversation in Wheat Belly Total Health. Also bear in mind that we try to cultivate bowel flora species diversity. In every instance when healthier populations are compared to less healthy populations–non-daibetics vs. diabetics, slender vs. obese, no autoimmunity vs. autoimmune disease, primitive culture vs. modern culture–diversity of bacterial species is a consistent characteristic among the healthier population. There is therefore benefit to varying your prebiotic fiber/resistant starch routine, and not doing the same thing day in, day out. More about this to come in future.
The relief from joint stiffness that CB experienced also suggests positive changes in joint health and further reduction in inflammation. Disrupted bowel flora can trigger autoimmunity and inflammation on their own, even after grains have been removed from the diet. This effect, along with metabolic benefits that include reduced insulin, reduced blood sugar, reduced blood pressure, and reduced triglycerides, is likely at least partially from bacterial metabolism of resistant fibers to the fatty acid, butyrate. Butyrate also exerts important effects on nourishing intestinal tissue and promoting healing (of cellular tight junctions).
Like CB did, everyone needs to purposefully cultivate healthy bowel flora, as we all start with bowel flora disrupted by many factors in modern life: intermittent antibiotics, wheat and grains, sugars, antibiotic residues in meat, chlorinated and fluoridated municipal water, Bt toxin and glyphosate-containing corn,and others. By “seeding” the intestinal tract with a high-potency probiotic, then nourishing bowel flora with prebiotic fibers/resistant starches, it’s your best chance to regain something close to healthy bowel flora over several months of effort.