Our human gut microbiome is home to over 100 trillion bacteria cells made up of 40 different organisms. There are ten times our own body’s cell count living in our gut. We are more foreign than we are human. NPR recently discussed the topic of “Gut Bacteria Might Guide The Workings Of Our Minds.”
These bacteria must live in a specific ratio to thrive and maintain our health. With everything we ingest, our gut is our first-defense immune system. Yet today’s toxic environment and our food habits may be contributing to many of our health problems. An unhealthy gut has been attributed to over one hundred different health conditions particularly autoimmune response diseases such as Lou Gehrig’s disease and rheumatoid arthritis.
As stated by Dr. Mercola:
Your gut and brain actually work in tandem, each influencing the other. This is why your intestinal health can have such a profound influence on your mental health, and vice versa; as well as the reason why your diet is so closely linked to your mental health. Prior research has shown that the probiotic Lactobacillus rhamnosus had a marked effect on GABA levels in certain brain regions and lowered the stress-induced hormone corticosterone, resulting in reduced anxiety- and depression-related behavior.
So optimizing your gut flora with beneficial bacteria is a highly useful strategy. This is done by eliminating sugars and processed foods and eating plenty of non-starchy vegetables, avoiding processed vegetable oils, and using healthy fats. Additionally, eating plenty of fermented vegetables or taking a high-potency probiotic supplement would be useful to reestablish a healthy gut flora.
Most of us living in industrialized nations don’t have our gut bacteria in balance. This causes gut dysbiosis or living out of harmony. Poor gut health can lead to a condition known as leaky gut syndrome which is linked to irritable bowel syndrome and heart disease. Leaky gut can cause terrible havoc in our body by allowing food particles to escape into our blood stream, a place it should not be. This is caused by either feeding the bad bacteria and yeasts which over grow in the large intestine, and/or killing the good bacteria (such as with antibiotics) which allow the bad bacteria to grow unchallenged. The yeasts and bacteria then burrow into the small intestine and make little holes out to the blood stream as they multiply unchallenged. Food particles can then move into your blood stream and your body sees them as a foreign invader sending white blood cells to attack and envelop the intruder. This leads to inflammation. The escaped bacteria and yeast cells release toxic chemicals as they live in your blood stream making you feel ill and potentially triggering an autoimmune response.
Common Reasons for Gut Dysbiosis
The common reasons for an imbalance of our gut bacteria is age and the foods we eat. Age is related 20% of the time and mostly due to lack of HCL and other digestive enzymes and slowing down of the digestive track. However the food we ingest is 80% of the cause of our gut imbalance. The worst offender is tap water. Chlorine and other water purification chemicals are poisonous to our gut microbiota. Sugar is the second offender. Sugar feeds the opportunistic bacteria which then crowd out the beneficial ones. High fructose corn syrup not only provides the sugar but carries mycotoxins, pesticides and herbicides, and is used in abundance in our processed foods. Toxic fertilizers and antibiotics is the third major contributor to gut dysbiosis. They are carried in our water from farm runoff and human waste. The water treatment plants don’t treat to remove these chemicals and this includes prescription drugs.
You CAN Achieve Gut Symbiosis
Regardless of your current health condition, all living systems on the planet have their own capabilities to stay healthy and to heal themselves. We have let big-pharma tell us otherwise but it’s just not so. We can be healthy by getting back into balance or symbiosis, living in harmony with our trillions of gut bacteria. Have no fear, the gut tissue heals very quickly and can be brought into a healthy condition just by consuming good foods with our meals. You CAN achieve gut symbiosis!
The first thing you want to incorporate is drinking clean water, no chlorine or fluoride. Enjoy filtered or reverse osmosis water. Be careful of alkaline water, the pH of the stomach is acidic and necessary for good digestion and adding alkaline water can reduce that acidity.
The next action you can take to bring our body to health is eating and drinking fermented foods. Most of us have heard about the power of probiotics. But many of us don’t know that we can make our own probiotics using fermented foods. By consuming fermented foods we can maintain a healthy gut microbiome. To heal your gut you may need to use probiotic supplements, but once you have healed you can maintain your health with a small amount of daily fermented foods.
How Food Fermentation Works
The fermented food is pre-digested by the breakdown of the enzymes during fermentation. Cabbage contains enough lactic acid bacteria in order to ferment and produce sauerkraut with salt alone. Fermenting the cabbage encourages growth of the beneficial bacteria and the salt discourages growth of harmful bacteria.
Benefits of fermented foods:
- Natural detoxifier
- Clears excess estrogen
- Change stomach pH
- Increases bulk providing for easy intestinal illumination of our digested foods
- Increases nutrient values. Sauerkraut has a higher vitamin C content than raw cabbage as well as increased B vitamins and Folate.
Kefir is another type of fermentation; It’s the ferment of liquids. The organisms found in kefir can be divided into 4 genus groups:
- Streptococci Lactococci
Kefir, prepared with grains (not really a grain but that’s what they are called), contains as many as 35 different strains of beneficial bacteria and yeast. Commercial powdered starters are available and these contain 10-15 organisms, while the bottled kefir you buy in the store contains a maximum of 10 strains (along with a lot of things you don’t want). Most bottled kefir contains only bacteria as many states do not allow the selling of beverages with live yeasts. So, as you can see, if you want kefir for its probiotic value, it only makes sense to culture your own. It is very simple to do, taking about 5 minutes a day. It is also quite simple to prepare cheese from kefir. The yeasts and bacteria present in kefir and other lacto-fermented foods are actually able to displace Candida on the intestinal wall allowing these holes to heal. Once the leaky-gut is resolved and toxins no longer pass into the bloodstream and tissues of the body, healing can begin. I truly believe that lacto-fermented foods are key players in combating Candida Albanians overgrowth and dairy kefir provides the most comprehensive combination of beneficial organisms.
Experimenting with Home Fermentation: My motto is “make what you can’t buy“
Making milk or water kefir is quite simple. There are many recipes on the Internet search the web to find one right for you. I do suggest you use raw unpasteurized milk. In the bay area you can order and pickup raw Jersey cow milk at Real Food Bay Area, at local health food stores or specialty grocery stores.
I think there are lots of great flavored specialty sauerkraut that are raw and on grocery stores such as Sprouts and Whole Foods. But fermenting your own can be rewarding and affordable, organic cabbage is very inexpensive. If you decide to make your sauerkraut I would again search the web for directions.
The Reference Point sells a super food herb called AgriTonik. You can add this herb to your ferments to super charge the nutrients.
Links and References
Here are a few of my favorite recipes on the internet. Make sure to check our the “Suggested Reading” box below for some of my favorite books!
- Water Kefir – A Simple & Refreshing Probiotic Soda (With a Step-by-Step Guide)
- Milk Kefir – What It Is and How to Brew It
- Ginger Bug – How to Make Ginger Bug for Homemade Sodas
- Fermented Ketchup – Easy Lacto Fermented Ketchup
Adding fermented foods to your diet should greatly increase your well being and protect you from illness. Enjoy them daily for a healthy life. Do you eat fermented foods? Are you thinking about getting started? Let us know in the comments box below.