We watch Million Dollar Listing, which basically makes us real estate experts. Here is what we know; when it comes to real estate, location is everything. Well, it turns out that the same might be true when it comes to optimizing your health.
For a long time now, we’ve known that common health conditions like cancer, diabetes, and obesity disproportionately affect people living in more industrialized areas. However, the question we don’t have a clear answer for is why.
Are people that are more likely to behave in a manner that puts them at risk for these conditions flocking to industrialized cities? Or is there something about living in a more industrialized area that encourages unhealthy behavior? It’s a classic “chicken and egg” question.
But there is another factor worth considering. Is there something about the environment in these more industrialized areas that negatively impacts our gut health in a way that can lead to many of these other health conditions?
Irritable bowel disease (IBD) is an interesting condition to look at when answering this question since it is essentially a disease caused primarily by poor gut health. We used to think that IBD was driven mainly by genetics since it affected people of European heritage mostly. But soon, it became clear that a rising rate of IBD would follow wherever people adopted a more industrial lifestyle.
Today, newly industrialized countries like India, China, and Brazil are seeing skyrocketing rates of IBD. So how is living in these areas wreaking havoc on our gut and overall health? Is it the Starbucks and McDonald’s at every corner? The brake dust and exhaust from those cars stuck in traffic? The additional stress associated with the hustle and bustle of city life?
Big cities often mean poor gut health, and increased risk of cancer
Those things all probably play a factor, but when we boil it down to gut health, here is what is probably going on. C-section births are more common in industrial environments, meaning babies are less likely to acquire the beneficial viruses, bacteria, and fungi they would through vaginal delivery. From day one, they are falling behind.
Babies in more industrial areas are also less likely to drink breastmilk or have any contact with soil or farm animals early in life. While none of these factors are necessary for a healthy gut, the absence of all the above for many babies growing up in these cities puts them at a severe disadvantage for developing a healthy gut as they age.
Fast forward to adulthood, and these same babies are now most likely eating a diet that lacks the essential nutrients, such as soluble fiber, needed to feed the beneficial organisms in their guts. Now add the pollution, antibiotic overprescribing, and poor habits more common in industrialized areas, like smoking tobacco, and you kill the few good bacteria that remain.
The result? Really poor gut health in big cities; and an increased rate of conditions like cancer, diabetes, and obesity.
The key takeaway? Can you live in a big industrialized city and optimize your health? Yes, but it’s important to acknowledge that location matters and that big city life probably isn’t doing your gut health any favors.
For better gut health, eat your fermented foods, prioritize healthy sources of soluble fiber, manage your stress, and exercise daily. And if all else fails, you could always move out to the country and start a homestead!
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