Chances are you’ve read or heard about the numerous health benefits of fermented foods such as sauerkraut (cabbage) and other veggies, kombucha, water kefir and yoghurt……………….
Your Gut Health Depends on Your Gut Bacteria
Did you know that there are trillions of tiny organisms living in your digestive tract? These go by different names including gut flora, intestinal flora, gut bacteria, or even microbiota. Collectively this biological system in known as the “microbiome.” You can remember it this way… you have trillions of microbiota in your microbiome, which resides in your GI tract, or gut.
Now some of these microbiotas are healthy for you. They are helpers and may assist in everything from food assimilation to the creation of T Cells for your immune system. Other bacteria, however, are not so helpful. In fact, they can be downright dangerous and often lead to all kinds of digestive and other health issues.
When it comes to gut health, the name of the game is to have sufficient quantities of the good bacteria in your gut at all times that outnumber the “bad.” That’s not to say that a little bit of the “bad” bacteria isn’t important as well. Having a few of the bad bacteria keeps the helpful bacteria, as well as your immune system in general, primed and ready to go.
Since our environment, lifestyle, and the foods we typically eat provide plenty of opportunities for harmful bacteria to flourish, our ongoing job is to keep that supply of good bacteria coming into (and thriving in) our gut. We do this by eating the right kinds of foods (and eliminating harmful ones), drinking plenty of filtered water for detoxifying, and getting the right kinds of supplements for our unique needs.
Foods that Help or Harm Your Microbiome
Some of the ways you may be putting your microbiota out of balance and taxing your digestive system include:
- Lack of fermented foods in your diet
- Lack of probiotics in your diet
- Lack of Prebiotics in your diet
- Insufficient enzyme-rich foods
- Diet high in carbohydrates and sugar
- Diet high in poor quality fats
- Too many inflammatory foods, too few anti-inflammatory foods and substances
- Foods laden with antibiotics, preservatives, toxins, and chemicals
Why Fermentation is Good for Your Gut Health
Fermentation is “the chemical breakdown of a substance by bacteria, yeasts, or other microorganisms, typically involving effervescence and the giving off of heat.” It has been used (accidentally and on purpose) since antiquity. Prior to electricity and refrigeration, fermentation was (and still is) a way to make wine and beer and to preserve all categories of foods, including meats. Because bacteria are responsible for the fermentation process, when you eat fermented foods you bring a dose of these probiotic or good bacteria (“probiotic” means “pro-life”) into your digestive system.
- Some of the health effects that many people report feeling from consuming fermented foods include reduced stress, less fatigue, higher antioxidant content, improved mood, and a boosted immune system!
- In general, fermentation does some very important things in your body. It helps pathogens be destroyed more rapidly, it strengthens the barriers between your blood supply and your GI tract (when this barrier is weak, you may be at risk of “leaky gut”). It also introduces very helpful antimicrobials into your system, such as bacteriocins, which are tiny amino acids that stop the growth of harmful bacteria.
- Most importantly fermentation helps enhance the vitamin and mineral content of whatever is being fermented.