how to heal the microbiome


Overconsumption of sugar is one of the fatal flaws of the Standard American Diet.

Natural sugar sources—such as fruits, juices, and high-sugar vegetables like carrots and beets—are an essential and healthful part of a balanced diet. After all, glucose (the type of sugar naturally found in the foods you eat) is a primary energy source for your body and brain’s cells.

But sugar can also pose serious risks to your health, especially when consumed in the form of refined sugar, high-fructose corn syrup, and other modern monstrosities. As we’ve covered in a past article, refined sugar hides behind many names, so always check the ingredient labels of packaged foods carefully.

The most well-known effect of sugar overconsumption is weight gain—as evidenced by the fact that a whopping 37.9% of American adults are obese.[1] And sadly, obesity is just the beginning of sugar’s ill effects. Research shows that sugar worsens high blood pressure, leaches nutrients from the body, and suppresses the immune system. And because sugar is highly inflammatory, it has been linked with the development of nearly every major disease, including cancer,[2] heart disease,[3] diabetes,[4] liver disease,[5] high cholesterol,[6] and more.

The good news is that there’s a perfectly sweet alternative to sugar that’s far more healthful: honey. While moderation is still always a good idea, the simple act of replacing sugar with honey will work wonders for your health.

Let’s take a look at what makes honey so different from sugar.

Whole foods are always best

It’s easy to lump all sweeteners in the same category, but remember: honey is a whole food made by bees, while sugar is an extract of the sugarcane plant (the isolated component is technically called sucrose).

We’ve written a lot in the past about the folly of trying to isolate variables in complex systems—it’s what makes allopathic medicine so short-sighted and side-effect-riddled, and it’s why whole foods are superior to individual compounds. Things are nearly always best when left in their natural form.

Sweeteners are no exception. Honey is a remarkably complex substance made up of hundreds of different compounds—macronutrients and micronutrients, prebiotics and probiotics, enzymes, and various components of which we barely have an understanding. It even has twenty-five different kinds of “sugar,” including sucrose, glucose, and fructose, as well as more complex sugars like melezitose and erlose.

For reasons that researchers haven’t yet fully deciphered, the “sugars” in honey don’t have the same negative health effects as isolated sucrose, as long as they remain an integrated part of honey’s complex chemistry. In fact, honey has actually been shown to improve some of the very health conditions that consuming sugar can cause.

For example, one double-blind, randomized clinical study demonstrated that, contrary to sugar, honey had a positive effect on appetite hormones (ghrelin and peptide YY), as well as glucose response.[7] Another study published in The Journal of Medical Food compared honey to both dextrose and sucrose, and found that honey consumption can lower C-reactive protein, homocysteine, and plasma glucose, even in diabetic and hyperlipidemic individuals.[8] There’s even reason to believe that honey can reduce triglyceride levels, weight gain, and fat accumulation.[9]

How to get the most out of honey

As miraculous and healthful as honey can be, it’s important to remember that not all store-bought honey is equal. Here are a couple principles that will help you get the most out of honey.

Always choose raw honey. As we’ve already mentioned, whole foods are always best when left in their natural, unprocessed form. When honey is heated, processed, or filtered, a large percentage of its beneficial nutrients and components are destroyed or altered.

When left in its raw form, honey is packed with enzymes that can heal the immune system and boost disease resistance, as well as beneficial bacteria that can help balance your digestion and microbiome health. Researchers have demonstrated that the replication of Lactobacillus acidophilus and Lactobacillus plantarum bacteria (both of which are centrally important for healthy microbiome composition) is increased up to 100 times by honey (compared to sucrose).[10]  

Eat local honey. If you’re interested in honey’s famed allergy-healing benefits, be sure to eat local honey, which will contain traces of the pollen from local allergenic plants. In addition to providing homeopathic exposure to allergens (thus fortifying the immune system and decreasing allergic reactions in the future), honey also contains an enzyme called diastase, which some researchers and experts believe will help fix the immune dysfunctions associated with allergies.

Try Manuka honey for extra healing benefits. As we covered in a past article, some varietals of honey have particularly powerful antimicrobial properties—and Manuka honey is the king of them all. It’s been shown to destroy over 250 different strains of bacteria (including MRSA),[11] as well as a wide range of viruses and harmful fungi.



 [1] https://stateofobesity.org/obesity-rates-trends-overview/

[2] http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/0306987783900956

[3] http://ajcn.nutrition.org/content/86/4/899.short

[4] https://jamanetwork.com/journals/jama/article-abstract/199317

[5] http://www.journal-of-hepatology.eu/article/S0168-8278(07)00427-8/abstract

[6] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2673878/

[7] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21504975

[8] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15117561

[9] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21310307

[10] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/10849275

[11] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21903658

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The modern food industry is a well-oiled machine with many talents—it’s particularly adept at creating scalable, beautifully presented, and delicious products.

One trick it hasn’t mastered, though, is making healthy products. This is mainly because high-quality, preservative-free foods don’t come cheap, so large manufacturers tend to stick to lower-quality varieties and stuff them full of preservatives so they can keep them on store shelves for as long as possible. Fats and sugars are nearly always prominent ingredients too, which keep consumers coming back for more (and undermine their health in the process).

The rising popularity of health foods has provided another highly lucrative channel for food manufacturers. In many cases, though, they’re not actually making health foods—they’re simply capitalizing on that food’s healthy reputation and making their own unhealthy version of it.

Yogurt is a prime example of this scam in action.

Ancient superfood, modern monstrosity

Don’t take the title of this article the wrong way; yogurt (in the right form) is undoubtedly a powerful health food. It might actually be one of the world’s most ancient superfoods (some historians can trace its roots back 6,000 years).

In its natural form, yogurt is teeming with probiotics, the beneficial bacteria that help maintain the health of your microbiome. As we covered in other articles, the symbiotic interaction between the hundreds of species of bacteria in your gut alone is bewilderingly complex.

We’ve barely begun to form an understanding of it, but we do know this: the microbiome is critically important for the health of entire being. When the microbiome is out of balance, the immune system can’t work properly, the brain falls into dysfunction, hormonal functions go haywire, and more. Taking care of your gut flora is one of the most important steps you can possibly take toward optimizing every aspect of your health.

The potential health benefits of yogurt, then, are not to be underestimated.

Yogurt manufacturers also understand this principle, and so coopted this narrative to boost the attractiveness of their product. There’s certainly nothing wrong with highlighting the virtues of your offering, but here’s the catch: commercial, store-bought yogurt rarely resembles the natural, healthful form of this ancient superfood.

Dannon, Yoplait, and other corporate yogurt brands are pumping out products that are anything but healthy.

Most store-bought yogurt is toxic junk food

The vast majority of commercially produced yogurt is a far cry from its probiotic-rich natural form. It’s probably not surprising to hear that Dannon, Yoplait, and other corporate yogurt brands are pumping out products that are anything but healthy. They’re not the only ones, though—even many of the seemingly healthy and “organic” brands of yogurt are suspect. Here’s why…

They’re made with conventional health-sapping milk. If you’ve read some of our other articles about conventionally produced milk, you already know that it’s bad news. Conventional milk is produced in grossly inhumane fashion, and it’s a hazard to your health—it contains synthetic hormones, pharmaceuticals, and an array of other contaminants. It’s no surprise, then, that consumption of conventional milk is linked to gastrointestinal issues, diabetes, cancer, infertility, and more.[1]

The contamination issues are usually solved when organic milk is used, but that’s just the tip of the iceberg.

They’re full of sweeteners and toxins. As if the health risks of dairy products weren’t bad enough on their own, food manufacturers also use a bevy of questionable substances in the processing of their yogurt. Independent analyses have discovered the presence of dimethylpolysiloxane—a carcinogen used in processing that often ends up in the final product—as well as heavy metals like titanium dioxide.[2] Furthermore, store-bought nearly always contains high levels of inflammatory sweeteners (sometimes even high fructose corn syrup).

They’re pasteurized (i.e. stripped of all living, beneficial components). Almost all yogurt producers (both conventional and organic) are required to pasteurize their final product. This means that they mix bacterial cultures with their ingredients, let it ferment, and then kill the newly thriving bacterial colony through pasteurization!

For this reason, woefully few store-bought yogurt brands actually contain any appreciable level of probiotics— the “Yogurt Report,” carried out by the Cornucopia Institute, demonstrated this fact by testing a wide variety of yogurt brands.[3] And since companies are only required to test probiotic content when the product is still in the factory, they’re allowed to get away with this blatantly false advertising.   

 Woefully few store-bought yogurt brands actually contain any appreciable level of probiotics

Give your gut flora some real support

You may be able to purchase high-quality, probiotic-rich yogurt if you live near a well-stocked health food store, coop, or farmer’s market. The safest bet, though, is either to source yogurt made with raw milk from a local farmer, or to make your own yogurt at home.

Making your own yogurt is much easier than you might think. Check out this recipe, or read our other article about the full gamut of DIY probiotic foods and drinks.

If you want to make your microbiome even happier, supplement your healthy yogurt habit with lots of prebiotic-rich dark, leafy greens (prebiotics serve as food for your gut flora), and take high-quality probiotic supplements.



[1] https://articles.mercola.com/sites/articles/archive/2014/07/22/raw-vs-pasteurized-milk.aspx

[2] http://pubs.acs.org/doi/abs/10.1021/es204168d

[3] https://www.cornucopia.org/yogurt/

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