The fifth episode in season one of "Star Trek: Voyager" (1995) was titled "The Phage." It tells the tale of the Vidiians, an alien people who are combing the universe looking for healthy organs to harvest in an attempt to outpace their physical degeneration, which is caused by an incurable disease called the Phage.
The Vidiians were off the mark. We now know that good health depends, in part, on cultivating bacteriophage, not destroying them. Bacteriophage (also called bacterial viruses) are viruses that infect bacteria and replicate within them.
According to researchers from San Diego State University, you can cultivate them by changing your diet.
The study, published in the journal Gut Microbes, shows that some foods help maintain a healthy balance of bacteria in your digestive system by encouraging bacteriophage to infiltrate and replicate inside disease-promoting gut bacteria.
As sci-fi as that sounds, when the replicating bacteriophage knock out harmful bacteria, they can help protect cognition, make it easier to regulate blood sugar, and reduce the risk for depression and body-wide inflammation.
But the researchers warn that you don't want to overdo it. Eating too many antimicrobial foods could contribute to low microbiome diversity, causing the same problems for your gut and overall health that overuse of antibiotics does.
So what plant products — in moderation — may help maintain or restore balance in your gut biome?
The researchers tested foods with known antimicrobial effects: honey, licorice, stevia, hot sauce, oregano, cinnamon, clove, and rhubarb.
They found that the most powerful triggers of bacteriophage production that you can eat were honey and stevia, although the others listed above are also beneficial.