Humans are donuts. No, this isn’t my way of turning everyone I see into something delicious; it’s really true. The way we are shaped, we have a hole running through our entire bodies. From our mouth to our, uh, other end, that tube is actually on the outside of our nicely packaged skin, bones and organs’ hermetic seal. Our gut – the thing that we think of as the very core of our being, something to be trusted when we are making a decision, is actually invaded by more than 30 trillion outsiders, influencing you and your decision making in all sorts of ways.
There are lots of smart scientists working on lots of gut research. They’ve shown that the makeup of bacteria inside you can influence your ability to gain or lose weight, symptoms of anxiety and depression, allergies and your immune system.
If your resolution is new year, new gut, there are several things that can be done to improve your inner microbiota. Of course, you have a slip ’n’ slide right from your mouth to your stomach, so you can quickly send an array of microbes directly there. One meal does not make a gut, but several days of eating a diverse diet of fruits, vegetables and grains can drastically change what’s inside.
While it might sound counterintuitive to get a larger army of foreign objects into the pit of your stomach, diversity really does make you stronger. If you are in a meal rut, and especially if most of your intake consists of manufactured meals low in nutrients, you don’t have the cards to play to counter the onset of attacks that may come your way.
Along with diet, there are also probiotics in many forms that you can use to up your gut game. Yogurt, fermented food and kombucha all come teeming with tiny little microbes that will up your inner army. There are also probiotic pills. Again, one pill does not a bacterial colony change, and there is not strong evidence that the supplement alone can cause much improvement to an already healthy inner ecosystem, but for those who need the extra kick, there may be benefits.
And now, let me throw you for a loop and say the most un-food-columnist of things. There is also fasting. Now, of course, I am, in general, pro eating and pro eating a lot all the time. But I am also a fan of the reset. And since I do don’t this naturally in my day-to-day life, I really appreciate that once a year we are all collectively encouraged to undergo a little reflection, make some adjustments and set some goals. So, if there were ever a time to let your tummy turn itself around, New Year’s seems appropriate.
As you eat, your body deals with that intake, sorting macronutrients into energy or storage, sending fiber along its track. It’s a large job that leaves very little time for other endeavors. Fasting – going without food for 12 or more hours – gives all those little inner workers time to get to their long-term to-do list. And top of the list is a little bit of house cleaning. Your liver and cells are tasked with constantly detoxing, and fasting allows them to do this.
Regular fasting is associated with longer, healthier life spans. One theory is that it’s because of all the inner cleansing keeping the good stuff in and sending the bad stuff out the other end. I wish you all the best in the new year, including lots of donuts, while keeping your own inner donuts a little happier inside.