Why Microbes Matter

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Pressing ginger-garlic sauerkraut, preparing it for fermentation

I have been told by friends more than once that the terms “gut” and “microbes” dance out of my mouth quite often.  It’s true.  It’s hard for me not to talk about this unseen, rather magical realm of microbes.   Learning to work with my microbes has been a big part of my healing process.

Recently, I was even quoted in an article that mentioned fecal transplants (another topic I enjoy learning and talking about) that ran in Asheville’s Mountain Express.  Well, I personally didn’t mention fecal transplants, but I am rather satisfied to be spot-lighted in the same article.  This is what I had to say:

Although making pickled vegetables in your kitchen might at first seem foreign, says Wilson, “once you are in the rhythm of ferments, it takes no time at all.” She adds that, while probiotic supplements can support your gut microbiota, fermented foods give you an advantage: “Probiotic pills may have 50 million to 10 billion beneficial bacteria; one ounce of sauerkraut can provide as many as 10 trillion beneficial bacteria.

“We have different microbial cultures in our gut, based on what we’re eating,” Wilson continues. “Our gut is a garden.” To cultivate it, feed the friendly bacteria and help them proliferate, she says. Wilson suggests eating dandelion greens, radicchio, endive, onions, leeks, garlic, jicama, asparagus and chicory root. She also recommends consuming gelatin-rich bone broths, high-fiber vegetables and soaked or sprouted nuts, grains, seeds and legumes.

Yes, oh yes.  Gardening the gut!  Or we could say farming your intestinal flora (smile).  I actually wrote this blog post on Restoring Digestive Health around the time this article came out.  It has a great break-down of all of my favorite “project restore gut” approaches.

If you’ve got any health imbalance, looking to your microbial community that you are host to is a wise step in the right direction.  Considering that we are at least 1 human cell to 10 microbial cells (consider the genetic make-up of our microbial cells, far greater than the human genome!), learning how to steward this microbial community can offer great benefit to your overall wellness.  Dr. Grace Liu offers some rather technical insight into this on her blog Animal Pharm.

One visual I like to offer people when teaching about gut health is a clear-cut forest.  Yup.  For many of us, that’s our guts due to a variety of reasons (see the article on Restoring Digestive Health above).  So, the real task at hand is to “rewild” or “reforest” the gut.

Therefore, a practice that I always teach goes something like this (I practice this regularly)…  Go to a healthy forest or ecosystem.  Wander for awhile.  Brush aside some leaves and dig your fingers in the dirt.  Take a pinch of that healthy soil and put it in your mouth.  Indeed.  Swish it around and swallow.

It is no secret that fancy probiotic pills now have SBOs in them as well.  What are SBOs?  That means soil-based-probiotics.  And, it is widely suggested to purchase probiotics with SBOs listed in the ingredients section of the pill bottle.  So, yes…you can purchase them, but I like the practice of “rewilding” by taking the forest into my body with that nip of healthy soil.

Try it one day (smile).

With that said, I’ll part by sharing a great short documentary film on my favorite ferment fella Sandor Katz and a recipe for holiday yum…Lacto-fermented Cranberry Chutney…enjoy!

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