Our bodies are loaded with bacteria, both good and bad varieties. When you’re healthy, your intestinal tract hosts over 100 trillion friendly bacteria (that’s 10 times more than the number of cells in your body), which spend their days aiding digestion, boosting the immune system and consuming bad bacteria. They manufacture key nutrients and limit the growth of yeast and unhealthy bacteria. Good bacteria also help inhibit bouts of lactose intolerance, poor digestion and diarrhoea.
When your “good” bacteria levels are optimal, they outnumber the bad guys by roughly 5 to 1, but take a few gastro-intestinal wrong-turns and the bad bacteria can quickly over-whelm the good, triggering a whole host of gut problems.
Is your Gut bacteria damaged?
Your gut bacteria are very vulnerable to your lifestyle. If you eat a lot of sugar and refined grains, processed foods, agricultural chemicals such as pesticides, take the pill or complete a course of antibiotics for instance, your gut bacteria are going to be compromised.
An imbalance between good and bad bacteria can manifest itself in a variety of unpleasant ways, including:
- Numerous digestive problems (e.g. constipation, diarrhea, colitis, IBS)
- Skin problems (e.g. eczema)
- Joint problems (e.g. arthritis)
- Altered behavior patterns and brain function
The good news though, is that you CAN optimise your bacterial population rather easily, and any damage to your intestines can also be reversed. Yes – you can take supplements, but even better and more effective, get it through your food!
What is Lacto-Fermentation?
You’ve probably heard of Kefir, Kombucha or Kim Chi am I right? These are all forms of fermented foods, (dairy, grains and vegetables respectively).
Lacto-fermentation has been around for centuries, used to not only preserve foods throughout the winter months (ye olde I know!), but to also promote good gut health and effective digestion.
Lacto-fermentation is a biological process in which the naturally occurring sugars are converted into cellular energy and a metabolic by-product, otherwise known as lactic acid, is produced. As the lactic acid begins to rise throughout the fermentation process, many of the harmful bacteria are killed and LOADS of the good stuff remains.
Most cultures around the world have their version of fermented vegetables. The most popular is sauerkraut or fermented cabbage. As the name would suggest, sauerkraut is quite literally sour cabbage (don’t cringe, it actually is quite delicious!). Sauerkraut is a staple in our household and here is why:
- Lactic acid promotes the growth of healthy flora in the intestine
- Lactic acid enhances a food’s digestibility and increases vitamin C and vitamin A levels.
- It produces a stack of helpful enzymes as well as antibiotic substances.
- The fermentation also produces isothiocyanates, compounds shown to prevent cancer growth in animal tests. Fermented foods are also rich in vitamin K2 – a known cancer fighter.
- The beneficial bacteria in these foods are very potent detoxifiers, capable of drawing out a wide range of toxins and heavy metals from your body.
So where can you get it? Most of us can get our sauerkraut at the grocery store. Going that route means you’re probably losing all the good stuff through pasteurization, so why not make your own? It’s actually a lot easier than you think. Stay tuned… I will post this recipe soon! Otherwise Byron Bay do a wonderful and delicious range of UNPASTEURISED SAUERKRAUT which you can learn more about here.