Healthy Gut, Healthy LifeBy Kim Banting,
The importance of your gut flora and it’s influence on your health cannot be overstated. Your digestive tract is home to countless bacteria, both good and bad; these microbes outnumber your body cells 10:1!
Over the past years, more and more scientific research has been looking at our gut health and how it relates to virtually all illness and disease. What we have learned is gut bacteria is the largest part of our immune system, it affects our entire body and that maintaining a balance of good and bad microbes (aka microbiome) forms the foundation of our physical, mental and emotional health. Scientists estimate that 95% of our gene expression is determined by our gut bacteria!
There are many things that affect our microbiome:
- vaginal birth vs caesarian
- breast fed vs formula fed
- condition of mother’s digestive tract during and after pregnancy
- food fed to baby during first two years of life
- quality and diversity of diet
- lack of exposure to bad bacteria to develop a healthy gut
- antibacterial products (soaps, handsanitizers)
- environmental toxins- glyphotsate (pesticides), food additives
- other drugs (esp corticosteroids and birth control pill)
- junk foods
- excess exercise or too little exercise
- lack of sleep; poor quality sleep
- radiation from x-rays, airline flights, cell phones, computers, etc
It’s kind of overwhelming, right? So many things on this list that you have probably been affected by, but it’s ok! The cells lining your digestive tract live for 2-3 days, then they die, shed off and get replaced with new, healthy cells. Because of this cell regeneration, we have the opportunity to really heal and seal a damaged gut lining. For this, we need 2 things:
- Building blocks; protein, essentials fatty acids, vitamins, minerals, enzymes
- Good bacteria, yeasts and fungi to repopulate the gut
Poor nutrition can prevent your gut lining from healing, causes problems in the first place and when we eat junky foods, it feeds the bad microbes. Eating a healthful diet, low in sugar and refined foods is an important first step in bringing our gut back into balance, but we also need to repopulate, and this is where fermented foods comes into play.
- fermented foods help to draw out toxins and heavy metals from the body
- bring good microbes to your digestive tract in an affordable way (high quality probiotic can be costly)
- they help you to absorb food better because bacteria assist in breaking down food allowing the release of vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients so our bodies can utilize them
- fermented foods make other, tough to digest foods like legumes and cabbage, easier to digest
- help to make vitamin K2 which is important for blood clotting and bone health
So you can see that incorporating fermented foods as a regular part of your eating routine is an excellent strategy to help optimize your gut flora, creating a balanced, symbiotic relationship where they nourish you, help you fight disease and improve your overall health. In fact, you are probably already eating some fermented foods without even knowing it!
- tamari, miso, tempeh, natto, soy sauce and fish sauce
- yogurt, kefir, creme fraiche
- kombucha, kvass
- pickles, sauerkraut, kimchee
- yeast free, sourdough breads
- wine and beer
If you are looking for real pickles and sauerkraut, you will need to look in the refrigerator section and usually the health food aisle to find the real stuff. The ingredient list will be simple: vegetable, sea salt, lactic bacteria. You will not find vinegar or sugar in the list and it will have to be chilled. These foods are really easy to make yourself as well. Check out my recipe blog for my Basic Sauerkraut recipe.