Bacteria: A Key Strategy to Optimal Health and Mood
Okay, I get it that you already have your ‘lists’; your ‘To-Do lists’, your ‘Grocery list’, your ‘Honey-Do list’..there is yet one more I need for you to add to your collection: your ‘cultured foods list.’
Am I asking you to become a more ‘cultured’ person? Well, in a way. I want you to live a life of optimal health and one little known strategy to do that is to add cultured/fermented foods that add and promote beneficial bacteria to your diet.
Did you know that your gut is key to your optimal health? Now don’t run for the hills. Most are unaware that our gut is the command center of our health and mood. In fact, 80% of our immune system resides within the intestinal tract. The connection between our gut and brain when it comes to our emotions is very real. You have the same amount of neurotransmitters in your gut as you do your brain. Have you ever felt ‘butterflies’ in your stomach before an event? What about that ‘gut’ feeling? There lies within the lining of our gut an extensive interconnection of neurons that is so vast, some scientists have nicknamed it our “second brain.” A healthy gut can lead to a healthy you… both emotionally and physically.
More than 2,000 years ago, Hippocrates, the Father of Medicine said “All disease begins in the gut.” We now know, through research just how accurate this statement is. In fact, it is my belief that digestive health is going to prove to be one of the most critically researched fields of the 21st century. In the past 15 years we have seen a flourishing interest in the machinations of beneficial bacteria, gut activity and its effect upon many areas of the body. (By the way, we all carry approximately 3 lbs of bacteria in our gut, who knew?). In fact, you have 10 times more gut bacteria than the number of cells in your whole body! Having good gut bacteria is critical to health…but Houston, we have a problem. The problem is that most individual’s gut bacteria is critically imbalanced favoring the bad bacteria. This is a direct result of the diet or foods we choose to eat, chronic stress and the latest research is pointing to a lack of exercise as well.
Cultured or fermented foods are a priceless strategy to help create overall wellness that begins with your digestive tract
There are many conditions that can lead to an imbalance of beneficial gut flora: poor food choices, processed foods, lack of veggies, sugar – the bad gut bacteria literally feed off of sugar and multiply. Also implicated are antibiotics, and as mentioned, chronic stress and lack of exercise.
Even though the word ‘fermented’ may not sound so yummy, fermentation, the breakdown of carbohydrates, fiber and proteins via the beneficial bacteria…fermented foods are actually delicious. There are a number of health conditions associated with a lack of beneficial gut bacteria such as poor digestive health, allergies, asthma, weight gain, obesity, depression, yeast infections, eczema and much more.
Beneficial bacteria from cultured foods will help create optimal health, promote healthy digestive function, support your immune system, increase the important B vitamins, short chain fatty acids for energy and reduced inflammation, digestive enzymes increase, harmful bacteria are kept in check as are cancer cells and much more.
What are cultured foods? Look for olives, grass-fed cheese, salt-cultured pickles (not with vinegar), salt-cultured sauerkraut (not with vinegar), yogurt (non-sweetened), kefir (fermented milk), kimchi, natto (fermented soy), tempah (fermented tofu), wine, beer, and any vegetables can be fermented. You can also buy naturally fermented condiments such as salsa, ketchup, sour cream, mayonnaise and other fermented products. The only caveat in eating fermented food is to not heat them as this will destroy the beneficial bacteria.
I’m sure you’ve heard quite a bit about probiotics but there is another key component to a healthy digestive tract (a.k.a. healthy you) and that is the importance of prebiotics. Prebiotics are non-digestible carbohydrates in the form of soluble dietary fiber – that serve as food for beneficial gut bacteria (probiotics). They simply stimulate the growth of beneficial gut bacteria.
Examples of foods that contain a high percentage of prebiotics are: veggies, chicory root, jeruselum artichoke, raw dandelion greens, raw garlic, raw leeks, cooked onion, whole grains. and more. In addition to fermented or cultured foods, add more veggies to your diet to keep a healthy balance of bacteria in the gut. Combining probiotics with prebiotics is one important strategy to optimal health.
Create and maintain a healthy gut environment by eating cultured foods several times a week and taking a high-quality, multi-species probiotic every day as one of your best strategies to create optimal health and well-being.
To Your Health,
© 2014 DLS HealthWorks, LLC.
Lori Shemek, PhD, CNC, health and weight loss expert is the best-selling author of ‘Fire-Up Your Fat Burn!