5 Ways to Improve and keep a healthy gut

Fermentation at home

I have fond memories as a child sitting in my families’ kitchen at the end of a long, hot summer, watching my father make naturally fermented cucumber dill pickles. He would fill many jars with cucumbers, garlic, peppercorns, bay leaves, dill, and a hot water and salt mixture. Then he would put the filled jars on a window sill until the cucumbers turned a darker shade of green and tasted “sour enough,” as he would always say. The kitchen always smelled of dill and garlic, a scent that stills brings back fond memories of my father. I would eat them just on their own out of the jar, or my favourite was with bagels, smoked salmon, and cream cheese.

As with many of my family’s recipes, these were passed on via word of mouth. Meaning, I had to find my own way of learning how to lacto- ferment, especially with cucumbers. 

 It took some practice before I felt that I had perfected the taste the way I remembered from my childhood. My father had many variations to the original recipe. When he wanted it to be a bit spicy, he would add a hot chilli or extra garlic. 

Growing up in a Jewish Household in NYC, we ate lots of fermented foods. Sourdough Rye bread, cheese, sour cream, salami, sauerkraut, vinegar, chocolate, and coffee were prominent in the house. When I discovered Japanese Macrobiotic foods, I noticed the similarities in dietary style, as each meal was served with all kinds of different ferments.

I started to discover what the benefits of fermentation were, how to ferment, various kinds of ferments, and the benefits of live bacteria in wild fermented foods for my gut health. 

What is fermentation?

Fermentation is a metabolic process that converts sugar to acids, gases, or alcohol. It usually happens in oxygen-free conditions and involves desirable microorganisms.

Lacto-fermentation is a particular type of fermentation and has existed in just about every traditional society and culture throughout history.

From Kimchi in Korea, sauerkraut in Germany, Alaskan fermented fish, and sour grains in Africa, Lacto-fermented foods are prevalent in many societies worldwide. 

Lacto-fermentation is a simple, inexpensive process. Its produce can be referred to as cultured or pickled and has many uses:

  • condiment  
  • vegetable accompaniment 
  • sandwich filling
  • soup or salad addition

Most food fermentation processes are as old as the hills, yet today we have a tremendous fear of leaving food outside the fridge to age. We mainly were raised to view bacteria as dangerous, and the idea of leaving food outside of refrigeration to encourage bacterial growth sends fear of disease and even death. 

How does Lacto fermentation work? 

When they hear the word fermentation, most people think about wine or beer, where specific yeasts are used to convert the sugars in grapes or grains into alcohol. When it comes to the Lacto fermentation process, because fruits and vegetables already have certain bacteria, namely Lactobacillus, on them, they are easy to ferment. These bacteria prefer an environment with very little oxygen, moisture, and carbohydrate and are present on all plants, gastrointestinal tracts, mouths, noses, and genitals of humans and other animal species. As lactobacilli eat, they produce lactic acid, carbon dioxide, and acetic acid. This fermentation is what preserves the food. 

This strain was discovered in milk ferments, and these bacteria used lactose to convert them into lactic acid. However, Lacto-fermentation does not need to use dairy products. 

Lactic acid is a natural preservative that does not allow the growth of harmful bacteria, helps digestion, and increases enzyme and vitamin levels. 

 With fermentation becoming so popular today, it is good to understand its part in keeping our gut healthy.

Digestive Health 

The best way to restore beneficial bacteria in the gut is to create an acidic environment through traditional fermented “live” foods rich in beneficial lactic acid-producing bacteria, promoting the growth of various Lactobacillus bacteria.

Eating fermented foods provides beneficial microorganisms to our whole digestive tract, especially our gut. These bacteria help ferment carbohydrates which are difficult for us to digest. These foods help establish and promote the right balance of healthy digestive flora (probiotics) and nutrient density throughout the intestine. In turn, these bacteria aid in the digestion and absorption of nutrients and support our immune system. 80% of your immune system is in your microbiome, your body’s bacteria. These bacteria help to digest food, think clearly, and even maintain a healthy weight. They are everywhere in, on, and around your body.  

An unbalanced gut microbiome can be highly detrimental to your overall health. It can cause a host of symptoms, including acne, fatigue, weight gain, brain fog, digestion issues, depression, and candida. 

How to improve your gut health 

1. Remove the sugar and processed foods from your diet. 

Refined carbohydrates, sugar, and processed foods get absorbed quickly into your small intestine without any help from your microbes. That means your gut microbes stay hungry, so they begin snacking on the cells that line your intestines, causing what we call Leaky gut. Your intestinal lining should be a strong barrier between your gut and the rest of your body. When your intestinal wall becomes leaky, food particles enter your bloodstream, causing your immune system to attack them, and ultimately your tissues. This process leads to inflammation and a whole cascade of conditions, including autoimmunity. Sugar also feeds organisms like Candida Albicans, which also attacks your intestinal wall and can lead to a systemic Candida infection. http://www.drnorthrup.com/how-to-improve-your-gut-microbiome-in-a-day/#sthash.HGDa5qbE.dpuf

2. Include prebiotics that help feed probiotics.

They are a non-digestible fibre compound found in garlic, Jerusalem artichokes, dandelion greens, onions, leeks, radishes, asparagus, carrots, ginger, turmeric, and black pepper. They pass through the small intestine into the colon, where the gut microflora ferments them. 

3. Include fermented foods in your diet with every meal.

Fermented foods help to replenish your healthy microbiome. Cultured dairy such as yogurt and kefir, Lacto-fermented sauerkraut, kimchi, fermented tomato sauce, and salsa and sourdough bread all have probiotic bacteria needed to support good health.

4. Eat a lot of green leafy vegetables.

 Researchers from Melbourne and the UK identified a previously unknown enzyme used by bacteria, fungi, and other organisms to feed on the unusual but abundant sugar sulfoquinovose – SQ for short – found in green vegetables.

 http://www.wehi.edu.au/news/sweet-discovery-leafy-greens-holds-key-gut-health

5. Avoid antibiotics and chlorinated water.  

The use of antibiotics causes permanent changes in the gut flora

 Drinking chlorinated water can make it almost impossible to maintain ideal bacterial flora in the gastrointestinal (GI) tract because chlorine kills all bacteria, whether good or bad.

http://www.drdavidwilliams.com/lifestyle-habits-that-damage-gut-bacteria/

Immune Boosting Foods

Proper nutrition can make a powerful difference to the functioning and balance of the immune system. A healthy, well-functioning immune system determines our overall state of health, helping to prevent disease and speed up recovery and healing. Discover nutritional strategies and solutions to optimize immune balance and strengthen your body’s natural defenses against viruses and unfriendly bacteria.

Eight Plant Based Superfoods For a Healthy Immune System

1. Ginger

Did you grow up sipping on a ginger ale whenever you were homesick? The intention was good; the execution needed a little help. Skip the soda, which has a ton of inflammatory refined sugar, and go straight to the whole food source instead: ginger! Ginger is excellent for the immune system, thanks to its high antioxidant content. 

2. Garlic

Garlic has been utilized to help colds for centuries, but it’s not just an old wive’s tale. There’s science at work here! Garlic contains compounds called alliin, which are shown to boost immunity and reduce inflammation.

More good news: you don’t have to munch on raw garlic cloves to reap its medicinal benefits. 

 3. Turmeric

Turmeric isn’t just great for inflammation; it can help your immune system thrive too! Curcumin, the compound in turmeric that makes your curry yellow, also seems to activate T cells and other pathogen-fighting cells in the body, which helps you fend off illness easier. 

4. Mushrooms

Mushrooms are high in Vitamin D (which activates the immune system response and helps T cells do their job of warding off infection). They’ve also got beta-glucans, which have been shown to activate killer cell function and help you ward off illness. 

5. Beets

Beets have some fantastic health benefits, one of which is improving gut health. A healthy gut often translates to a healthy immune system. Beets help cleanse the liver and contribute fiber to promote good digestive health all around. Fiber helps you stay regular, feeds beneficial gut bacteria, and keeps digestive illnesses like inflammatory bowel disease and diverticulitis at bay. Wins across the board!

6. Fermented Foods

Fermented foods like wild fermented sauerkraut, salt brine pickles, miso, kefir, and yoghurt can add significant benefits to the health of your immune system by increasing your beneficial gut flora especially if you live in a coronavirus hotspot, which could be right in your own neighbourhood, workplace, town or city. 

7. Oranges, Strawberries, Kiwis

We all know Vitamin C is good for our immune system (hello, antioxidants!), but don’t go reaching for the OJ just yet. Orange juice is typically loaded with refined sugars and other ingredients, which can cause inflammation in your body. Instead, reach for whole food sources. My favorite fruits with vitamin C are oranges, strawberries, and kiwis.

8. Oatmeal

When it comes to your health, you can’t go wrong with oatmeal. Oats are great for weight loss, cardiovascular health, cancer prevention, and digestion, among many things. They’re loaded with fiber ( great for your gut!), and oats also have zinc, an essential nutrient for your immune system because it helps T cells and natural killer cells function correctly to ward off viruses. 

Why Is Fiber Important For Us?

The most important role of fiber in the diet is to feed intestinal bacteria. When gut bacteria consume fiber, they produce a fatty acid by-product known as butyrate. Healthy intestinal cells will die without butyrate as a source of energy. Butyrate benefits the body by controlling inflammation and stopping cancer development.

In the presence of butyrate, a gut is less likely to suffer from inflammatory disorders like Crohn’s disease and colitis. The fatty acid butyrate keeps the gut wall healthy and sealed to suppress leaky gut.

How Can I Increase My Butyrate Levels?

  1. Eat fiber-rich insoluble foods that feed good gut bacteria: dark leafy greens, vegetables, buckwheat, quinoa, millet, black, red, or brown rice, amaranth, seeds, and nuts.
  2. Eat Soluble fiber-rich foods –  oats, oat bran, chia seeds, milled flax seeds, rice bran,  citrus fruits, apples, strawberries, peas, and potatoes.
  3. Eat foods rich in beneficial bacteria and yeast. Beneficial bacteria will calm inflammation by releasing anti-inflammatory signals in the body. Wild fermented foods help strengthen the digestive system, restore metabolism, and curb inflammation.

Maintaining A Strong Immune System

Suppose you become deficient in certain micronutrients, including vitamins A, C, and E, as well as iron, zinc, and selenium. In that case, your immune function can become impaired, increasing the likelihood of getting sick. 

When you eat a good variety from each core food group and preferably Organic – vegetables, fruits, whole grains, sea vegetables and legumes, seeds, nuts– you should be covered on the nutrient front. 

While no diet should be seen as a panacea, healthy eating centered around whole plant foods can certainly help boost your immune system. 

Fermented Indian Sauerkraut

This is by far my favourite sauerkraut in the cooler weather. As a child, we only ate sauerkraut with caraway seeds in the winter and kosher dill pickles with garlic and dill in the summer and autumn time. I must say I prefer the sour taste with a bit of a kick, and the spices do the job.

Turmeric, garlic, mustard seeds, and ginger… all into the jar they go, and each time the flavour is a bit different but that’s what I love about making your own ferment. Sometimes I let it ferment for 2, 3, or even 4 weeks, and each time the flavour is different.

Left in the fridge for months, it keeps on fermenting and the bacteria gets more and more diversified and better for your immune system. What a fantastic transformation to observe and devour.

 

ferment T. kraut brine

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