Ferments The Fountain of Youth
What is a probiotic? The definition of probiotics is a substance that stimulates the growth of microorganisms, especially those with beneficial properties. To break it down in to simple terms pro means “for” and biotic means “life”. Inside your gut there is a world of living beings, some are good and some are not so good, but all need to be there. In fact only one out of every 10 cells in your body are you, the rest is bacteria living inside you. Most of this bacteria resides in your gut. The average person carry 1.5 to 5 lb. at any given time depending on a variety of circumstances from diet to stress.
Research shows that the majority of the populations bacteria ratio is inverted. A normal ratio of friendly to unfriendly bacteria is 85:15. The average american diet has promoted many illnesses due to this imbalance of bad verses good bacteria. This is because a number of reasons.
- Sugar and simple carbohydrates such as breads and potatoes (a staple in the SAD diet) act as food for the bad bugs.
- One round of antibiotics not only kills the bacteria that created your sickness, but it kills every living bacteria in your gut. If you remember from above biotic means life and anti means “no”. Once all your good bacteria are gone the naughty ones have a much easier time repopulating your gut.
- Stress can have a major impact on your bacteria balance,not to mention every other function of your body. (more on that in a later blog)
- The use of acid suppressing medications
- Food allergies
Some symptoms of a microflora imbalance:
- Intestinal gas
- Chronic bad breath
- Hormonal problems
- Prostate trouble
- Breast enlargement in men
- Candida infection
- Chronic anemia
- Vitamin B deficiencies
- High Cholesterol levels
- Severe bruising problems
- Chronic vaginal or bladder infections
- Chronic diarrhea
This is just to name a few. I believe that the majority of illness and fatigue can be helped by maintaining good gut health and balancing stress levels.
My personal experience with using probiotics and fermented foods is nothing short of amazing. I have struggled with acne my entire life, not to mention a myriad of other issues regarding my energy levels and general sense of well being. My mom, bless her soul, meant well but like most children I was fed what was available in the grocery store. Fried chicken nuggets, soda pop and 2% pasteurized milk were some of the staples in my diet. I had tried every pill, cream and dermatologist on the market but nothing seemed to clear my skin. Turns out your skin is a direct reflection of gut. After I moved out and began to eat better and drink good water my energy levels improved. Upon adding probiotics to my new healthy diet my skin began to clear up. I started looking younger, my eyes would glow, so many people were asking me what I was doing for myself. With vanity and budget being my inspiration I began to make all my own fermented products and eating them with every meal. I seemed to lose almost 10 years of aging in my face and body. Ferments became my fountain of youth.
So you don’t like the taste? Well the vinegar flavor can be a little shocking to most people when they begin using fermented foods. In Ayurvedic medicine flavors act like colors on the color wheel. They say in order to be healthy you want to balance your the different flavors that you eat. By eating sour foods and beverages provided by ferments you will have less cravings for sugars and sweets and the more you eat the better they begin to taste!
Now before you go and run to buy a bottle of probiotics or a cultured yogurt you must beware of deceptive probiotic products. Very few on the market are good for you. Most are loaded with sugar, artificial flavors and only have one or two strains of probiotics. There is a rainbow of probiotics strains and we need the variety to balance our gut flora. So don’t get fooled by marketing schemes or you will never get to see all these benefits for yourself.
The best way to receive probiotics is not in a bottle are a pill. Once again great wisdom lies with our ancestors, and continues in most cultures around the world. Before refrigeration, canning and other modern preservation techniques became available, fermenting was an important preservation method. Today you can still find sauerkraut in Germany, Kim Chi in Korea, and even the Eskimo practice of allowing animal products such as whole fish to ferment in a grass lined hole. By fermenting a variety of whole foods you are sure to access the vast array of strains and cultures of probiotics and prevent overdosing with a single strain bottle of probiotic offered at most health food stores. Yes there can be too much of a good thing again it is about balance.
When you search Wikipedia for a list of fermented foods you will get well over 100 varieties. I will keep it simple with 5 fermented foods that I love and can make easily at home.
A fizzy, fermented black tea that gives you a bang for your bacterial buck because of the variety of microorganisms it contains. When you drink a bottle of kombucha, you’re drinking four to seven microorganisms all at once, building a really strong gut.
You don’t have to wait till Octoberfest to enjoy this fermented cabbage. It has a powerful impact on brain health, including depression and anxiety. Try it on things other then bratwurst, I like to put it under an over-easy egg.
Pickles are the gateway ferment. Not only do they provide a healthy dose of probiotics, they’re a familiar food item and have a taste that many people already love—including those who may hold their nose at the idea of eating fermented foods.
4. Kim Chi
Think of this spicy Korean dish—typically made from fermented cabbage—as a beauty food, as well as an energy-booster. It can help enhance digestion and nutrient assimilation.You may also notice, with improved digestion, an improvement in the look of your skin.
5. Yogurt and Kefir
Made from fermented cow, goat or even coconut milk. This is a creamy treat that kids love! When you make it at home you can avoid all the sugar that is used in commercial products. Once it is finished you can add many different ingredients like vanilla, cinnamon, nuts, and honey for a variety of goodness!
If you are new to ferments and not sure were to start I recommend trying the products that are sold in health food stores to establish a base of what you love. From there you can research and experiment how to make these foods for pennies on the dollar at home. Your bodies wisdom will guide you in the direction of which strains you need the most so pay attention to your cravings, and enjoy!