At one time or another, you might have used the phrase, “I’ve got some kind of bug.” This is a common saying when we’re not feeling well and are not sure why. We just know something is not right and we’re faced with fighting a “bad bug.”
When it comes to health, the gut needs a strong and balanced ecosystem. An ecosystem functions as a network of interactions among organisms, and between organisms and their environment. To have a healthy functioning ecosystem, more commonly known as "microbiome," our guts need the good “bugs” —the beneficial bacteria that strengthen our immune systems and fight and destroy the bad bugs. These bugs, now commonly known as pre- and probiotics, are the largest and strongest army we could ever have fighting for us. A healthy gut can also help you to:
absorb nutrients more efficiently
maintain healthy blood sugar levels
support hormonal and neurotransmitter function for a more clear mind
assist healthier elimination of toxins and waste from the body
The standard American diet, rich in processed and refined foods, especially sugar and starches, has depleted that very important army of bugs in our systems. As a result, we suffer with inflammation, excess mucous, arthritis, heartburn, reflux, brain fog, lack of energy, skin conditions, autoimmune diseases, depression, and more. Another force that kills the good bacteria in our guts is the use of antibiotics. The longer the use and the higher amounts of antibiotics one consumes, the more the good bacteria is destroyed, thereby weakening the body’s immune system even more. This process then becomes a vicious cycle and takes a long time to cure. Continuing then with a poor diet will not help restore the gut’s healthy ecosystem.
Health food stores today and doctors have available many varieties of probiotic powders and capsules to take to remedy gut healing. They do help to a degree. However, when the bacteria are processed into powders and capsules, they lose their natural biofilm. The biofilm coating protects them from stomach acid as they make their way into the colon, thereby ensuring their arrival and potency and making them more beneficial. Eating fermented or “cultured” foods is a better way to get your pre- and pro-probiotics and is a more enjoyable and delicious way. Even infants and children learn to love them. Hundreds of years ago and to this day, many cultures make their own fermented foods, such as sauerkraut. The good news is you can do it too. Use fresh, organic whole foods such as cabbages, kale, carrots, garlic, beets, and green beans, among others.
I love to make homemade cultured vegetables. It's easy and fun. I have used green and red cabbage, bok choy, kale, carrots, onion, and apples. I use a vegetable culture starter from Body Ecology. You can purchase starters at health food stores or online at www.bodyecology.com. Fermenting can be done with good quality sea salt alone, but for a much stronger army using a culture is a plus! If you would like to know more about how to make your own cultured vegetables, e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Bonnie Crutcher is a certified holistic nutritionist and health coach. Bonnie conducts workshops on health and coaches clients one-on-one.
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Disclaimer: The content of this column is not intended to be medical advice. Always seek the advice of your medical doctor before engaging in any diet program or exercise routine.