What springs to mind when people say fermented? Wine and beer perhaps?
Well yes those are indeed fermented products but what we’ll actually be focussing on today is a slightly different class of things (ones less associated with slightly fuzzy heads the morning after 😉 ).
Fermented foods; your sauerkraut, kimchi, miso, natto, pickles, kefir, blue cheeses, natural yoghurt and our current favourite kombucha 😀 are all brilliant examples of natural products fit to bursting with health promoting probiotics.
So how does this link with being a superhero?
Well what do all superheroes have that sets them apart from the rest of us? Some form of innate power that makes them, well super of course!
Now unfortunately including these delicious additions into your diet won’t suddenly bless you with super speed, limitless luck or immediate immortality (*we weep quietly*) but they will help you to function as your healthiest and best possible self.
Right before we get ahead of ourselves it’s probably a good idea to scan back to the beginning and do a quick round up of what we’re actually talking about!
These are your ‘friendly bacteria’. Originally thought to just populate your digestive tract, research in recent years has found distinct colonies also reside in other places such as our spinal fluid, nasal tract and sinuses.
The thing about probiotics is although they’re small (microscopic to be exact) they are also extremely mighty. Not only do they act as the first line defence of our immune system against pathogens, but they also influence our mood, improve our digestive health, produce vitamins and protect us against chronic illnesses such as diabetes and cardiovascular disease.
The problem is we don’t tend to make life particularly easy for them.
Way back in the distant days gone by (and before modern refrigeration techniques really took off) we used to ferment foods to preserve them. They would be used as condiments, seasonings, snacks and traditional medicine has looked to them as health promoting aids for hundreds of years. Nowadays though we don’t do this as much, plus with our constant racing around, convenience food tendencies and high stress levels, the preferred environment for these little powerhouses has come under attack. This is when we start to see issues like bloating, flatulence and other general gastrointestinal grottiness begin to rear their ugly heads, in addition to frequent coughs and colds, increased anxiety and poor sleep.
Now none of us want those do we?! So how do we make ourselves the best possible hosts to these marvellous little microbiota?
First up we all need to chill out. Did you ever think taking a few deep breaths and your feet off the accelerator a little each day would affect your digestion? Well I’m here to tell you it does (and in more ways than one!). In this instance high stress levels will depress the ability of your commensal bacteria (the ones that we naturally have present in our bodies) to function effectively, allowing pathogenic bacteria (the bad guys), fungi and yeasts to outcompete them and cause all kinds of unpleasant nonsense.
So we’re breathing. Step 1 complete.
Next up is what we feed our friends with.
We all know that good nutrition will make us feel better, however have you ever considered it down to this level?
Yes veggies = vitamins and minerals (wonderful, marvellous and big wins all round) but with your probiotic bacteria it’s all about the fibre they contain. This fibre can also be known as ‘prebiotics‘ i.e. the stuff that comes before the probiotics.
The roughage in these foods, along with that found in whole grains, nuts, seeds, beans, pulses and legumes (big up the plant based protein my friends!) travels along your intestines brushing the walls, tickling the muscles to work more effectively whilst also acting a food source for your microbiota to break down. When we get bloated or ‘windy’ it’s because this part of the system is unbalanced and you have the wrong bacteria having a party digesting remnants of food in your gut which leads to lots of gas being produced (not particularly ideal in social scenarios if we do say so…!)
Right we’re getting our prebiotics in. Part 2 is under control. And the final step…….
Give them a boost!
Including the foods mentioned before into your diet regularly will bolster your levels of the good guys. Plus increasing the diversity of ‘The Garden in Your Gut’ is firmly associated with improved health, stable mood, good sleep and general joy 😀 You may also wish to consider a probiotic supplement (of which there are a great many available) but we would advise you consult a registered healthcare professional to find one suitable for your particular needs. As a quality marker you would want a product with as many different strains as possible (variety being the spice of life and all), one that is gastric resistant (i.e. it will survive the bubbling acid bath that is your stomach) and one where the levels stated have been tested to remain constant to the end of the product’s shelf life.
We mentioned a couple of our favourite kombucha brands in this post earlier in the week so it would seem unfair to leave you without suggestions for the rest (and we’d never want to leave you high and dry!) so here are a few ideas to get you started in the fabulous world of ferments 😀
Natto: Osato Organic
So that’s it from us for today, we hope you enjoyed this post and if you haven’t checked out our awesome probiotic power up recipe this week find our MACACHA Miso and Almond Butter Sauce here.
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Written by Phoebe Liebling, Nutritional Therapist BSc DipNT mBANT mNNA mCNHC