Somehow this got deleted so am reworking 6 Dec23
What science tell us
Let us look at what science can tell us about life as though our lives depend on it – as they do.
Back to the start
The earth is some four billion years old, which is a very long time. Just dead inert rock the only living life was microscopic organism we call microbes, we don’t know whether they came as the earth was formed of shortly after.
Very slowly they started to break down the rocks to form soil but that was a very slow process without energy to power the breakdown so it took several billion years to make the poorest of soil.
Plants capture energy and life explodes
But after a long period, just a few million years ago there was enough soil for plants to grow and plants could capture energy from the sun and the whole world just exploded with life.
These creatures are now pretty much extinct which is something we should think about when we consider the future of humanity.
Symbiotic relations –
you scratch my back and I will scratch yours
These creatures formed a symbiotic relationship with the microbes, meaning the microbes would look after the animals and the animals would look after the microbes, one dies then both die.
The microbes bred in the animals stomach digesting the food the animals ate, but they did much more. They produced a whole range of chemicals that the animals needed for their body parts but above all they formed an intelligent control system which regulated the animals bodies.
The intelligent control system
This evolved into a highly sophisticated system, like a modern super computer, monitoring the animals needs and sending out hormones which made the animal hungry so it searched for more food or made it feel full so it stopped eating.
Along come the humans
A mere two hundred thousand years ago humans appeared inheriting these intelligent control system and it worked fine and these early humans had no idea that they had microbial super computers in their bodies.
These microbes needed to be fed which happened automatically as these early humans simply ate plants growing in living soil or in some cases eating animals that fed on plants growing in living soil.
Early agriculture and manure
Then some ten thousand years ago humans started to grow food on a large scale by developing agriculture but this relied on animal manure to fertilise the soils and they still collected wild plants so they were still feeding their gut microbes so their intelligent control system was still working fine.
Chemical industrial agriculture
But then, in my life time – a flash in the geological time scale – humans developed chemical industrial agriculture.
At the start we had no idea about us having an intelligent control system regulating our bodies so we thought this chemical industrial farming was a great bonanza proving enough food to feed the entire worlds population – which it can if we distributed food equitably.
Food is more than calories
But then we started to learn a bit more about how the body worked. Dietitians became obsessed by calories and engineers, like me, began to think of the body as a thermodynamic machine – like a steam engine.
Steam engines are pretty forgiving machines, you have a boiler and just burn something to make steam. It does not matter much what you burn, coal, oil, gas, wood, hay, old plastics – it is just fuel.
This calorie of fuel thinking became deeply embedded in out thinking and it was thought that if you got fat it was because you were eating too many calories and the solution was simply to go on a diet and you would loose weight.
We got that wrong
And sadly it worked – for a bit. Then real world evidence began to show that people who went on a highly restricted calorie diet would loose weight initially then end up fatter than ever.
Then we developed so highly sophisticated measuring devices like mass spectrometers and DNA testing machines which gave us a totally new insight in how the body actually worked.
Bio-chemistry – the success story
We very rapidly developed an understanding of the complex subject of bio-chemistry and learned about the complex chemicals which we need to maintain our bodies. We found that many of these chemicals were manufactured in our gut and that the plants that we have been eating throughout our history produce a whole range of chemicals which we labelled phyto-chemicals or more flatteringly phyto-nutrients.
Phyto-nutrients turned out to be incredibly complex – a single tomato may have over a thousand different phyto-nutrients which we could now identify but we had really very little idea of how our body used them.
The power of evolution
This should have caused a bit of concern as evolution is an incredibly effective, if brutal, system which tends to eliminate things which are not effective.
Or more simply nature does things for a purpose.
But despite these little glitches we can be pretty confident that we have a solid understanding of the complex chemicals that our bodies need and that providing these chemicals is far more important than the trivial job of making sure we have enough fuel or calories.
We can pretty much give ourselves a tick when it comes to understanding our bio-chemistry.
Our gut brain – we are not there yet
But the story is very different when it comes to understanding how our gut brain works.
We have found correlations that certain species of gut microbes lead to us becoming fat or skinny and we have developed some rather off beat medical procedures of poking pooh from a skinny person into the bum of a fat person and seeing that the fat person becomes skinny or vice versa.
Observation is not understanding
But this is just an observation – we may be able to identify the particular species of microbes which have led to such a transformation but we simply have no understanding of the mechanism of how our gut brain works.
But we do know that it is far more sophisticated than we originally thought. It has a memory and is learning from the moment we are born.
That is why if we are subject to a period of food shortages, either by events or deliberately by self inflicted diets our gut brain will send out hormones so we store more food so we end up fat.
Deficiencies in modern diets
This happens automatically with our modern diets. People are getting fatter and it is not simply because we are eating more.
We are – but that is not the real reason. Our gut brain senses we are lacking critical nutrients and gut food and sends out signals for us to eat and store more food.
We can use without understanding
We may not fully understand how our gut brain works but that is not a big problem, we survived for two hundred thousand years without even knowing we had a gut brain.
But it raising the question of how we manage ignorance.
We don’t know what we don’t know
The majority of species that have ever existed have now gone extinct. While there is no reason to believe that humans will avoid becoming extinct the two hundred thousand years we have been in existence is very short, many species have been around for a hundred million years so – we are only getting started.
Unless of course we make ourselves extinct, which we could easily do with an atomic war, climate change or destruction of our soils. But that would be human induced extinctions – surely we can’t be that daft.
May be not extension but widespread misery
Far more likely is the widespread misery we can cause, in fact that is happening right now. Just turn on the news and see the misery caused by refugees trying to escape the misery caused by climate change.
Avoiding the misery
So how do we avoid man made misery? We just study evolution and see what has worked after thousands of years. That is the basis of the Gbiota technology.
But who is going to implement this technology? Will it be the mega corporations which dominate our food industry? Will it be Governments acting to protect their populations?
Possible – but unlikely.
Want to be healthy – do it yourself
But what we know will work is individual people taking the initiative and growing their own gut food.
That is why I have put so much effort into developing a version of the Gbiota technology which is really simple and easy to use. May be not quite as easy as going to the supermarket and throwing a few items into the shopping trolley but still easy enough for my fictitious character Mary – single mum with three kids I living in a flat.
If she can do it so can you so join the Gbiota movement and grow your own gut food.