If you follow health related news, you have probably heard about the microbiome, or the environment of our digestive system and the thousands of different types of bacteria and other organisms living there. I talked about this in my last post, and you can read about it here: http://chefamynutrition.com/listen-to-your-gut/ The connection between our gut and our body and brain is an extremely close one; so close that the health of the microbes in our gut directly affects everything else, from heart health and hormone balance to weight management, and even our moods. Feeding and caring for the critters living in the gut can be really beneficial for people with depression! Here’s a good article on the subject: https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/mental-health-may-depend-on-creatures-in-the-gut/
There are lots of ways we can care for our gut microbes
We can cut out sugar.
Sugar and highly processed grain products like bread, pasta, crackers, and baked goods are the favorite foods of many of the undesirable microbes that can grow out of control in our systems. Yeast in particular REALLY loves sugar. Removing or severely limiting this category of foods can go a long way toward balancing the microbiome.
We can eat probiotic foods.
Fermented foods like kefir, sauerkraut, miso, kvass, and traditionally fermented pickles (I like this brand http://bubbies.com/pantry), are all live foods full of beneficial bacteria. I try to have a bit of something fermented with most of my meals, and I enjoy fermenting my own garden fresh veggies at home.
We can make sure we get enough sleep.
When we’re sleeping our body is repairing the lining of our intestinal system of everyday wear and tear, and creating an environment that’s comfy for those beneficial microbes.
We can practice relaxation techniques.
If we live every moment in high stress, we don’t get good blood circulation to the organs of the digestive system. We need to “rest and digest” in order to create a healthy microbiome.
We can eat foods high in fiber.
The beneficial bacteria and other organisms inside of us are alive, so they need to eat too! Vegetables and fruits with lots of fiber are their favorite foods.
We can take probiotic supplements.
Sometimes eating probiotic rich foods isn’t enough to get the good guys into our systems, and we need to take supplements that have high numbers of organisms. Look for a supplement that has at least 4 billion bacteria per capsule (yes, I said four BILLION!), and is kept in the refrigerator to keep those critters alive. You want to make sure it’s a quality supplement without fillers, binders, milk products, soy, or corn.
If you take care of them, they’ll take care of you!
I’ve learned this lesson the hard way, having found out that I have an out-of-balance microbiome myself. My symptoms of depression, weight loss problems, sugar cravings, and digestive upsets were in large part the result of too many of some microbes and too few of others. I’m putting all of the suggestions above into action in my own life and I am seeing results. My microbes are happier, and so am I!
Here’s a yummy recipe for fermented green beans-enjoy!
- One quart filtered water
- 2 tablespoons sea salt
- A pinch of pepper flakes, more if you like things spicy
- 2 garlic cloves, peeled and lightly smashed
- 1/2 teaspoon black peppercorns
- 1 large handful fresh dill
- 1/2 pound green beans, raw
- Combine the water and salt, stir till the salt is dissolved. This is called brine. Set it aside.
- Put the pepper flakes, garlic, peppercorns, and fresh dill in the bottom of a one quart mason jar.
- Add the green beans to the jar. If they’re whole, they can fit vertically. If you like them cut in half you can pack them into the jar horizontally.
- Pour the brine over all of the contents of the jar, making sure that everything is covered by the liquid. Leave one inch of head space at the top of the jar. Cover the jar with the lid, leaving the ring just a little bit loose.
- Leave the jar at room temperature (around 70 degrees) for several days or up to two weeks, or until they taste good to you. You will notice that there is lots of activity in the jar-bubbling and fizzing. That means that the fermentation is in full swing. “Burp” the jar once a day to release some of the build up pressure. Just loosen the ring and take the top of for a moment, then put it back on and tighten it up again.
- When the beans are crispy, tangy, and taste the way you like them, put the jar into the refrigerator. They will last for many months. I fermented beans from my garden last June and finished the last jar in January and they were still crunchy and wonderful!