It turns out, we could all stand to learn a lot, gut-health-wise, from the Hadza people in Tanzania, where a few hundred of them live as hunter-gatherers, only eating what they find in the wild.
Because of the highly processed Western diet, we’re losing important bacteria varied microbes that keep our well-being in check. And according to a new study, paying close attention to the Hadza diet could help us get it back.
After comparing 350 stool samples collected from the Hadza with ones from 17 other cultures, researchers not only found that the Hadza people’s bacteria was much more diverse than those found in samples from the Western diet, but it also differed season to season, depending on what they were eating.
“The Hadza get 100 or more grams of fiber a day in their food, on average. We average 15 grams per day.”
While they ate mostly meat and tubers in the dry seasons, they ate more berries and honey in the wet seasons—and each season had a specific set of gut bacteria. What’s interesting, though, is that the dry-season microbes that disappeared in the wet season, for instance, returned for the following dry season.
What does this mean for Americans? Our range of gut bacteria isn’t nearly as diverse, but researchers think this study shows what we’re missing might not be lost forever. Since the Hadza people have been able to re-harness certain microbes depending on what they were eating, a shift in our diets could work the same way.
“I think this finding is really exciting,” Lawrence David, PhD, told NPR. “It suggests the shifts in the microbiome seen in industrialized nations might not be permanent—that they might be reversible by changes in people’s diets.”
“Fiber’s all that’s left at the very end of our digestive tract where these microbes live, so they’ve evolved to be very good at digesting it,” Justin Sonnenburg, PhD, professor at Stanford University, said in a statement. “The Hadza get 100 or more grams of fiber a day in their food, on average. We average 15 grams per day.”
Along with upping fiber, it’s also a good idea to only eat minimally processed foods and always have in-season fruits and veggies on hand, Samuel Smits, PhD, professor at Stanford University, told Seeker.
That extra bacteria will give your gut a nice boost—and when our microbes are happy, we’re happy.