Woodford Files: The Romance Between Our Genes and Microbes; 3 Herbs to Stoke the Fire in Our Bellies

Gung Hay Fat Choi! The Chinese astrologers say that this new Year of the Rooster brings awakening as it crows each day at the break of dawn. Cock-a-doodle-doo! So this is the year to ask oneself – what new insights are awakening in me? For some Feng Shui good luck tips for 2017, check out Malca Narrol’s feature in this issue.

This month, we also bring you the latest health news and perspectives that may spark some awakenings of your own. First up is Helke Ferrie, who takes us on a magical tour inside our guts in part three of her series on the microbiome. The result of three years of research, this article examines epigenetics – the study of how life affects genes. Here we learn of the marvellous communications taking place between our genes and our gut microbes, a sort of wild romance that turns genes on and off in response to messages from the microbes. Upon closer scrutiny, we find that these intelligent beings in our bellies are very sensitive to what we take in through air, food, and water. When the molecules we absorb are full of life force, our microbiome is nourished into strength and resilience. At its best, our microbiome is capable of defending against myriad threats from the outside. But when the microbiome has been weakened by stress, vaccines, electromagnetic fields, processed food, and pollution, then our capacity to resist illness is greatly diminished, making us vulnerable to whatever viruses, bacteria, and pollutants are floating by. The good news is that the microbiome is a dynamic organism which responds well to nourishment with friendly bacteria (probiotics), living enzyme-rich foods, digestive enzymes, stress-reducing strategies (ie. massage, yoga, walking), and other healthy interventions.

Further on this subject, we bring you an article by Julie Daniluk, R.H.N. author of the new Hot Detox book. In it she explains the view, shared by Chinese Medicine and Ayurveda, that the digestibility of food can be enhanced through light cooking and the addition of spicy herbs. This perspective disputes the idea that raw food is always ideal for human digestion. To further complicate matters, each food has a different thermal effect (cooling, neutral, or heating), and people have different constitutions (hot, medium, or cold). So trouble can start when you have a person with a cold constitution, eating a cold food, in a cold season. In this scenario, the person’s digestion might be weak, the digestive fire is low, and the normally healthy salad they ate for lunch turns into an undigested mass in the stomach. So Julie’s guidance on effective ways to stoke our digestive fires is welcome, especially for winter when heat is needed internally to balance the external coldness. After I read her article I started adding a bit of freshly grated ginger to my tea every day, and already my digestion is improving as the beings in my belly get warmed up.

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Julia Woodford, Editor