It’s taken me a while to get this one up between family vacation, the eclipse, and, well…life. But that might be a good thing, because I’ve been learning more and tweaking this post along the way with new information! This is one that I’m REALLY excited to share with you. It’s a subject I’ve been really passionate about lately. Hope you enjoy and learn something along the way!
Just for the record, this information is intended for informational purposes only and is based on my own study and personal experience. I’m not a doctor and cannot diagnose or prescribe treatment. If you think you have a medical condition, you should contact your doctor.
Hypocrites, the father of medicine, said, “Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food.” We live in a pill-popping society… at least here in America. Got a headache?… take this pill. Overweight?… take this pill. Can’t sleep?… take this pill. Can’t wake up?… take this pill. Family history of cancer?… take this pill. There’s a pill for every symptom, and a pill to counter the side affects of the pill that was taken for the symptom. We are so busy taking pills with just as many or more side effects as the conditions they are meant to treat that we have lost sight of how powerful our food can be in treating and preventing these conditions in the first place. (Are most of those pills really for your benefit anyway or are they just another way for big pharma to make a buck? Just some food for thought…)
Hypocrites also said, “All disease begins in the gut.” While it might not be 100% accurate (think genetic anomalies), it’s pretty close! Modern science is starting to look into this theory and is realizing that Hypocrites knew what he was talking about!
You’ve probably heard the term “probiotic” thrown around a lot more recently. Or maybe you’ve noticed all the gut-related illness that are becoming mainstream these days. It’s very obvious that something is very wrong with our diet and it is devastating our health!
So what’s the big deal with gut health anyway? Well, obviously, the gut is where you take in your nutrients and your body absorbs them for use… At least it’s supposed to. If you have an unhealthy gut (which most of us do), you are unable to absorb those nutrients properly. Or worse… the food may be leaking into your blood stream causing horrible digestive issues like food allergies, Crohn’s, or celiac disease (research leaky gut syndrome… For extra credit, educate yourself on how GMOs likely play a HUGE role in these issues).
The gut is also where immune function starts. Poor gut health=poor immune system=illness and disease. (This is an interesting article, but there are several more that I could also link to… do a google search, paying attention to scholarly articles and clinical research websites.)
So how can we help make our guts more healthy and positively affect our overall health in the process? Let food be thy medicine! A clean, real-food diet rich in probiotics is key (at least one key)!
What are probiotics? Bacteria. Now before you freak out, let me explain further. Our bacteria-phobic society has taught most of us that bacteria are to be feared and eradicated because they make us sick (hence inappropriate antibiotic overload). But scientists have now discovered that our bodies are actually made up of more bacterial cells than they are tissue cells… so basically you are a giant, walking bacterial colony with a little bit of human mixed in. 😋 But not all bacteria are bad. In fact, many are very beneficial. (Which is why you should only use antibiotics–prescription or natural–as a last resort… They don’t discriminate which bacteria are good or bad, they just kill them all.)
Enter probiotics. Probiotics and prebiotics (which are food for the probiotics) are good, beneficial bacteria that keep the bad bacteria under control and aid your body in detoxing. It’s like a balancing act in your gut.
Melanie Christner, NTP, CGP, RWP, describes it this way in her book A Mother’s Guide to Probiotics: Your gut is like a parking lot with a limited number of spaces. Each space must be filled and can only hold one bacteria at a time. Probiotics fill those spaces with good bacteria so the bad bacteria don’t have a place to “park.”
That’s the best illustration I’ve read. Hopefully i this helps you see why it’s important to be consuming many beneficial bacteria in your diet.
So where do we get all those good guys? From our food. Namely, fermented foods. No, that is not a bad word or taboo. And no, alcoholic beverages are not the only things that are fermented. Fermentation is simply a method of preparing foods that is very good for our bodies that isn’t very popular in our culture anymore (many other cultures still consume large amounts of fermented foods regularly). This is perhaps one reason why we have become so unhealthy… Because we don’t regularly eat these foods.
You may be wondering what foods I am talking about and if they are going to be weird or taste funny. There are several options out there (some you may already eat without knowing they are probiotic rich!), but here is a list of foods that are easy to start incorporating into your diet NOW:
- Sourdough (many bread products and baked goods can be made using sourdough starter. I personally use this method to make our bread, pizza dough, pancakes, tortillas, and crackers. Many people with gluten issues are able to consume sourdough without problems because of the fermentation process.)
- Kefir–water or dairy (add it to smoothies!)
- Kombucha (This is one of our favorite ways of getting in some good, tasty probiotics. You can purchase this fermented tea beverage from most health food stores as well as many grocery stores or you can make your own.)
- Pickles (made with brine instead of vinegar… I just started my first experiment with this one using cucumbers from my garden.)
- Fermented soda (We are starting to make these as well. Super easy…And tasty! This is the recipe we’ve made so far, but there are TONS of other recipes on Pinterest. Check out my “drinks” board for some I want to try.)
- Fermented fruits and vegetables
Good bacteria have to build up over time, and they must be continually supplied to keep the “parking spaces” full of good guys, which is why they need to be part of your normal diet. I encourage you to give it a try and see how different you feel.
We use several of the above-mentioned foods in our regular diets. My son also takes a probiotic supplement, and he tends to avoid catching most of the “bugs” he comes in contact with. I’ve also noticed my immune system doing better since incorporating these probiotic-rich foods. When I start feeling a cold coming on (or when my son starts showing symptoms), I up the probiotic intake (along with some herbs) and the next day we’re feeling better. If I do get sick, it only lasts a few days. (Usually I catch every cold that is going around and it takes well over a week for me to fight it!) Interesting to note, when I don’t have any of these foods for a few days, my gut becomes very sluggish, I get stomach aches, and I feel kind of “blah” all over.
So what about you? Do you eat probiotics? What differences have you noticed in your health? If you don’t currently eat probiotics, have I piqued you interest enough to add them to your diet? Where will you start? Let me know in the comments below!