Gut health, human microbiome, intestinal flora, probiotics and healthy bacteria are all terms we hear a lot lately, and for a good reason! Did you know we have 10 times more bacteria than gene cells in our body? Here are some more fascinating facts:
99% of our microbiome (the community of microbes, an ecosystem of bacteria within our bodies) is located in our digestive system.
The microbiome in our intestine can weigh up to 2 kg and contains about 100 trillions bacteria.
Our digestion system is home to more than 1000 different bacterial species, as well as a number of viruses, yeasts and fungus, and a variety of some other unicellular organisms.
Most people associate bacteria as a cause for sickness but in fact 80% of our immune system is in our digestion. Except boosting our immune system our friendly bacteria produces vitamins and makes sure our digestion is working smoothly, our hormone levels are balance and our brain is functioning properly.
Our individual microbiome is unique to each person and serves as our ‘genetic footprint’. The type of bacteria, its quality and amount, in our microbiome helps us understand unique DNA factors such as predisposition to disease and body type/weight. Your gut’s health can have an impact on the way your body extracts nutrients from your diet and stores fat.
This community is commonly referred to as our hidden metabolic ‘organ’ due to their immense impact on human wellbeing, including host metabolism, physiology, nutrition and immune function.
It’s been said by some researchers that up to 90 percent of all diseases can be traced in some way back to the gut and health of the microbiome*. Our gut microbiome evolves as we evolve and changes to its population can have major consequences, both beneficial and harmful, on our health.
If you suffer from pathological intestinal conditions such as obesity and malnutrition, systematic diseases such as diabetes and chronic inflammatory diseases such as inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), encompassing Ulcerative Colitis (UC) and Crohn’s Disease (CD), it has been suggested that disruption of the gut microbiota (or dysbiosis) can be significant.
How is our microbiome population formed into its unique composition?
While we are in our mother’s womb we live in an enviornment which is comepletley strile and clean of bacteria. The moment of breach in our mothers amniotic sac is the moment the population process starts.
The composition of the infant gut can vary significantly based on a number of factors, including mode of delivery, feeding type, or antibiotics, prebiotic and probiotic use. By age 2-3 the infant’s gut microbiota is thought to display a community structure similar to the adult’s gut. The common understanding today is that the first microorganism populations that inhibit our intestines lay the foundation for our future health. Saying that, throughout our lives we help shape our own microbiomes, and they they adapt to changes in our environment. The foods you eat, how you sleep, whether you exercise or not, the amount of bacteria you’re exposed to on a daily basis and the level of stress you live with all help establish the state of your microbiota.
Consuming probiotic foods regularly (such as kombucha, kefir and cultured veggies (kimchi, sauerkraut)) is a great way to populate your gut with good bacteria.
1 large head of shredded cabbage
1-3 tablespoons kosher salt
1 tablespoon caraway seeds
1 sterilized air tight jar (I use the 1 L Ikea jar)*
Pull out and set aside 2 outer leaves from the cabbage.
Cut off and set aside the bottom part of the cabbage and finely shred the cabbage.
In a large bowl, mix the shredded cabbage with 2-3 tablespoons of salt (depends on the cabbage size).
Massage the cabbage to release juices (about 10 minutes).
Add the caraway seeds and mix.
Pack the cabbage mix into a large glass container, pressing it down.
Add the remaining liquids from the bowl into the jar.
Fill the jar up to about 2-3 cm from the top. Use the outer leaf and the bottom of the cabbage to press everything down, which insures the cabbage stays in the brine. In case it doesn’t, add a splash of filtered water or you might need to use a smaller jar (depending on size of cabbage used).
Put the jar on a plate (it might leak), and place it in a cool, dark place (with no direct sunlight). In the morning, make sure the sauerkraut is totally submerged in the liquid (if not, add some more filtered water). There will be cabbage “scum”, don’t worry, this is totally normal. Every other day ‘burp’ the cabbage (slightly open the jar) to allow the air to escape
Leave the sauerkraut to ferment for at least 2 weeks and up to 6 weeks (the longer it ferments the more types of bacteria occur). After 2-6 weeks its ready to eat and you can put it in the fridge (for up to six months).
* If the jar came out of your dishwasher that should be sufficient, otherwise submerge it in hot water for about 10 min
* Use a clean fork when handling the kraut to insure it won’t get spoiled.
My hope is that after reading this article, not only that you’ll start eating fermented foods but also start listen to your ‘gut feeling’. Even scientists are beginning to call our gut our “second brain”.
*Gut: The Inside Story of Our Body's Most Underrated Organ/Giulia Enders
*Dr. Josh Axe. MD