Today we have 74-77 million baby boomers with 10,000 people turning age 65 every day for the next 20 years. At this point our national statistics are pointing toward a massive tsunami of heart disease, cancer, diabetes, dementia, and a host of chronic illnesses. The question arises: who’s going to take care of us? We don’t want to be a burden on society; we don’t want to depend on our poor health care system; and we don’t want to be am anchor on our children’s lives. So, to avoid those calamities, we need to take care of ourselves by preventing these major chronic illnesses.
Many people are turning more to exercise, which is good. Baby boomers should be walking 30 minutes daily, plus doing some periodic high intensity exercises. However, exercise impacts about 20% of our physical health. The key to our health is our eating style. Physiologically, the key goal is to avoid inflammation – and especially the inflammation in our gut. We do not want to go through our older years with gas, bloating, and GI discomfort. Our intestines are intertwined with millions of neurons to our brains. When our gut experiences inflammation, our brain shows equal inflammation. So, the key is to reduce any GI symptoms / GI inflammation.
One of the best ways to avoid GI symptoms is to increase the ‘good’ bacteria in our intestines; and one of the best ways to accomplish that goal is to eat more fermented foods. In a country like Japan, they eat a wide variety of fermented foods, including miso soup, pickles, fermented natto, etc. Unfortunately, in America, we have moved away from fermented foods. In our last blog on the Standard American Diet, there was no mention of any fermented foods. That’s because we have developed a habit of avoiding them. That mistake is costing us our good health.
There are changes we should make. For the newborn child there is an advantage of giving the baby a few drops of fermented coconut water or a few drops of the juice of some fermented vegetables. Studies show how much those initial drops can improve the function of the baby’s digestion tract and thereby improve the immune system of the baby. There are also some studies that show that fermented foods can improve some of the symptoms of autism. Fix the gut and you can possibly fix the brain: that is the belief by nutritionists.
For baby boomers, at this age, there are still plenty of options. Yes, fermented foods are sour (and, as we have discussed, we are a country addicted to sweets). But we do not need to eat plates and plates of fermented foods. We need to start by adding a couple of tablespoons of fermented foods to our plate. Here’s what I recommend for our new eating style. Try some cabbage or sauerkraut, but not the sauerkraut that has been pasteurized. Try some coconut kefir – the fermented coconut water. For many people, it seems overwhelming. So, just go online to CocoKefir. I don’t typically recommend companies, but this company is worthy of a plug.
There are some other products that could improve our health. Inner-Eco is becoming more available in parts of our country. A quarter of a cup a day is sufficient for improving the ecosystem within our intestines. If we search online, there are 3-4 companies now making fermented foods. They are raw; they are healthy; and they will load our GI tract with the correct bacteria. Of course, we could start preparing fermented foods. Some health stores offer starting kits. Some authors, like Donna Gates, provide instruction guides and recipes. YouTube offers videos for preparing fermented foods. So, let’s do more than just adding a little horseradish on our plate. Let’s do more than purchase that bottle of probiotics. Let’s all make an effort to insert some fermented foods onto our plates.
If we need any additional encouragement, let me make some final points. People who eat fermented foods remain healthier, age better. Just look at them. They move better and sleep deeper. They have fewer wrinkles on their skin and in their soul. They tend to be vibrant and enthusiastic about life. Those changes require a host of good habits, which we have discussed in these blogs, but eating more fermented foods should be one of those habits. Since it is getting easier and easier to purchase, there is no reason to procrastinate. If we do not want to be a burden on our children, we can do something about it – and something to prevent it.
Lastly, to close, let me give us something to think about for the future. There is a new field called nutritional genomics. Certain facilities can now test our genes and give each person a blueprint for healthy eating, telling us what foods are important for our health. There is a growing belief that certain foods impact a small subset of our genes, turning them off and on. Some of these genes promote health; some of these genes promote disease. Over the next decade there will be more progress on what foods are most important for each person’s specific genetic code. That possibility is coming. But, in the meantime, stick with my general eating style suggestions – plant-slanted eating with more vegetables, fruits, beans, nuts, and seeds — with today’s addition of more fermented foods.