“The health benefits of cultured or fermented foods”
The human body has an average of 37.2 TRILLION cells. This is pretty amazing because it means that we are a “community” of living cells.
Now, what is even more amazing is that we also have in our bodies an average of about 40 trillion bacteria, most of which (ABOUT 70 %) reside in our digestive tract.
The American Academy of Microbiology suggested in 2013 that the real figure is probably closer to three bacterial cells for each human cell.
In other words, biologically speaking, our bodies are a collective community of a majority of bacteria which live among a slightly lesser minority of human cells.
However, we are totally unaware of the fact that we live in a microbial world, in a so called “microbiome”.
In the past it was thought that babies were born totally free from bacteria until they pass through the birth canal. New research shows that babies start to develop their microbiome in the woumb from their mother’s digestive system, however; it’s only once they come into our world through the birth canal (vaginal delivery) that they ingest some of the first bacteria that will colonize their digestive tracts. This is very beneficial for babies because it provides them with a certain initial immunity, the rest of course they will get from their mothers milk.
According to a number of studies, there is evidence that babies born via C-section, (in other words, born surgically by Caesarean section), miss this natural opportunity and they acquire a different set of bacteria, including some from the hospital environment. This can make children more susceptible later in life to problems such as food allergies, hay fever, obesity and asthma.
The Mount Sinai School of Medicine is looking into giving C-section born babies a swab of vaginal fluid to provide them with a more beneficial set of bacteria.
Why is our “gut” bacteria so important?
This microbiome of natural bacteria or “good” bacteria in our bodies works very hard for us each day, aiding in digestion, making vitamins and food, breaking down proteins and sugars (fermentation), synthesizing hormones, cleaning our bodies from pollutants and toxins and modulating our “immunity” to pathogens (the bad bacteria that cause disease). By battling against “bad bacteria” they protect our human community of cells and keep us healthy. In order to keep our good bacteria or microorganisms functioning at their best, we need to feed them the foods that they need. These foods are probiotics and prebiotics.
- What are PROBIOTICS? “PRO” originates from the Latin preposition which means “FOR” or “PROMOTING” and the Greek adjective BIOTIKOS meaning fit for life or Lively, so they are “live micro-organisms” that benefit their host (us). Basically, they are the “good” bacteria that help keep our digestive system healthy by controlling growth of harmful bacteria.
- What are PREBIOTICS?
They are are carbohydrates (such as inulin) that cannot be digested by the human body. They are actual food for probiotics or for our “good bacteria” community.
- What is an ANTIBIOTIC? “ANTI” comes from the Latin and Greek roots meaning “AGAINST”, therefore “against life”. It’s a substance (or poison) that can destroy or inhibit the growth of other microorganisms (widely used in the prevention and treatment of infectious diseases). Unfortunately, antibiotics not only kill the bad bacteria but they also kill our good bacteria flora. Each time you take an antibiotic you are killing the beneficial bacteria within your intestines. We all have about 3 to 4 pounds of beneficial bacteria and yeast living in our intestines which are always competing for nutrients. When we kill our own beneficial bacteria with the use of antibiotics we upset the balance of our flora. Yeasts which are opportunistic organisms in nature, will grow unchecked into a large colony taking over and creating a condition called “DYSBIOSIS”. “DYS” comes from the Greek root and means “BADLY or ILL”. The yeasts begin to thrive as they get access to more food and they begin to use their tendrils to poke holes in the lining of our intestinal walls causing a syndrome called “leaky gut”. Other factors can also alter the beneficial bacterial flora
such as other medications. In addition, these parasitic yeasts will cause you to start craving the food they like: pasta, breads especially white flours and pastries, sugar, etc, and consequently causing weight gain. In addition, we can also start to become sensitive to food allergies and many other “gut disorders”. Candida overgrowth can cause many of the same symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome.
Our livestock is fed with tons of antibiotics on a daily basis. This contributes to our own antibiotic resistance.This is why after you take antibiotics it’s so important that you replenish your good bacterial flora by eating live probiotics. Amazingly once you start eating more food rich in probiotics your food cravings for sugary, fried or white flour carbs will begin to disappear and your weight will gradually normalize.
So, what are good sources of probiotics and prebiotics?
When we talk about fermented foods such as Sauerkraut or pickles we are not talking about store bought foods which are processed for prolonged shelf life by canning and adding vinegar, brine and heat, thus killing all the natural beneficial bacteria and nutrients in the process, including vitamins. Unfortunately, store bought krauts and pickles are depleted of all the health benefits that truly old fashioned lacto-fermented foods provide. You need to ensure when you are looking for these products that you buy them from health food stores in the refrigerator section and that don’t contain vinegar and that say “active cultures” in their labels. Best of all you can easily prepare your own at home. The preparation time takes only minutes, the rest is just waiting for the bacteria to do the work and transform the food into nutritious foods rich with high doses of vitamin C and other essential vitamins and minerals. Their healing properties are amazing, combating inflammation and strengthening your immune system.
I will continue to discuss and share recipes of probiotics foods so you can also begin your own healing journey by re-establishing balance in your “inner community”.
If you would like to research this into more depth I recommend a website named “Cultures for health” (http://www.culturesforhealth.com) where you can get access to free recipes and you can purchase live bacteria to start your own home made line of probiotics. I don’t get any financial gain for recommending this site, I just had a very good experience dealing with this company. Another great resource is the book by Donna Schwenk “Cultured food for life” as cited in my references below.
Schwenk, Donna, D.S, 2013. CULTURED FOOD FOR LIFE, how to make and serve delicious foods for better health and wellness. 1st ed. USA: HAY HOUSE.
CULTURES FOR HEALTH. 2015. Natural Fermentation. [ONLINE] Available at: http://www.culturesforhealth.com/natural-fermentation.html?trk_msg=VQVUTOS4UKQ4FD4RNDMU5Q3MAG&trk_contact=0G4DMMCEE8BDF2KLF4LQSH1QQC&utm_source=Listrak&utm_medium=Email&utm_term=Fermentation&utm_campaign=2016+Newsletters&utm_content=6_19_16+Newsletter. [Accessed 28 June 2016].
SCIENCE NEWS. 2016. Body’s bacteria don’t outnumber human cells so much after all. [ONLINE] Available at: https://www.sciencenews.org/article/body%E2%80%99s-bacteria-don%E2%80%99t-outnumber-human-cells-so-much-after-all. [Accessed 27 June 2016].
WEB MD. 2016. Probiotics and Prebiotics: ask the Nutritionist. [ONLINE] Available at: http://www.webmd.com/vitamins-and-supplements/nutrition-vitamins-11/probiotics. [Accessed 27 June 2016].
NEW SCIENTIST. 2016. Boost C-section babies by giving them vaginal bacteria. [ONLINE] Available at: https://www.newscientist.com/article/2075768-boost-c-section-babies-by-giving-them-vaginal-bacteria/. [Accessed 28 June 2016].
Wikipedia. 2016. Probiotic. [ONLINE] Available at: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Probiotic. [Accessed 28 June 2016].
Doug Kaufmann. 2003. Antibiotics Kill Your Body’s Good Bacteria, Too, Leading to Serious Health Risks. [ONLINE] Available at: http://articles.mercola.com/sites/articles/archive/2003/06/18/antibiotics-bacteria.aspx. [Accessed 28 June 2016].
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