Eww Gut Bugs Chapter 5 — Our Microbiome Evolution Through the Last 12,000 Years

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[11,000 words, 91 footnote references]

As we journey through the annals of human history in this chapter, we unravel how our gut microbiome has evolved—or devolved—over the course of 12,000 years. From the Mesolithic hunter-gatherers adapting to post-Ice Age life to modern-day humans grappling with technology’s double-edged sword, each era sheds light on our intricate relationship with the trillions of microbes that inhabit us.

In ancient times, our ancestors’ diets and environments were inextricably linked with their microbial companions. These relationships were symbiotic and essential for survival. For instance, early fermentation practices not only preserved food but also harnessed the power of microbes to enhance nutrition. As societies transitioned from nomadic to agricultural lifestyles, changes in diet—particularly the increase in cereal grains—began to significantly alter human gut flora.

The chapter boldly critiques how recent centuries have seen a drastic shift due to industrialization and modern medicine. The advent of antibiotics, while lifesaving, also marked the beginning of a war against our own beneficial bacteria, leading to less diversity and resilience within our gut ecosystems. This microbial depletion has coincided with a rise in numerous health issues that plague modern society.

Through historical insights and scientific analysis, we are encouraged to reflect on the stark contrast between ancient dietary wisdom and today’s sterile food practices. The call to action is clear: reconnect with traditional foodways that honor our microbial partners or risk further deterioration of our collective health and well-being.

This narrative isn’t just a lesson in history; it is a dire warning about our future trajectory and a guide on how we might reclaim the robust microbial health that nature intended.

Previous chapters are available for reading here.

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