Herb Girls here,
If you didn't already know, we're hosting a fermentation workshop at Thrive this Saturday! In prelude to that, we thought we'd introduce you to your gut. Eileen wrote a little snippet to help you get acquainted. Enjoy!
The Healthy Gut
The gut is the jungle of the body- it is a biodiverse region teaming with trillions of microbes (bacteria and yeasts). Even germaphobes who eat no fermented food or veggies are still internally crawling with bacteria. It’s a complex environment that we are only beginning to understand. But we do know one thing: chronic inflammatory conditions, degenerative diseases, and neurological imbalances like autism and depression are all linked to insufficient probiotics in the gut.
A little bit of live ferments goes a long way. Just as too many “bad” bacteria wreck havoc, too many “good” bacteria can also turn into a negative situation, or dysbiosis. For example, someone who eats bowls of kimchi, liters of kombucha, sourdough bread, and nutritional yeast with every meal might be feeding his bacteria rather than his own cells, causing him belly distension and discomfort. It’s all about the balance. “Good” bacteria in wild ferments keep the bad guys like Candida and E. Coli at bay, but healthy guts need these “bad” guys in small numbers to maintain the balance. It’s only when they invade areas they aren’t supposed to be or proliferate extensively that issues arise. By eating a little bit of fermented food each day, washing your hands, meat, and vegetables, and keeping simple sugar ingestion to a minimum (Candida and cancer cells need simple sugar to thrive), you are ensuring that you have a well balanced microbial community with the right ratio of good versus bad guys.
The gut is the source of life! Foster a healthy one by eating wild ferments every day.
A Very Abbreviated List of What Gut Bacteria Do
Create B vitamins- essential vitamin complex that provide cellular energy and support nervous and immune system function
Create Vitamin K2- essential vitamin that deserves more attention. K2 is needed to deliver Calcium to the bone matrix, keeping it out of arteries and joints. Doctors are now connecting K2 deficiency with atherosclerosis, coronary artery disease, stroke, bone spurs, and stones; fermented foods are one of the greatest sources of K2.
Assimilate minerals- many minerals, like iron and copper, can’t be properly utilized without sufficient stomach acid to unlock enzymes and good bacteria to process them. With mineral-rich soil quality depleting (this is largely the reason how Americans are well-fed but undernourished; just like our guts, our soils lack the microbial life responsible for making critical vitamins and minerals available to us), it is more important than ever to optimize mineral absorption.
Remove toxins- healthy populations of good bacteria keep bad bacteria at bay. If left unchecked, bad bacteria produce endotoxins. Our body responds by initiating its alarm state, which is inflammation. Long-term inflammation causes our gut walls to become highly permeable (“Leaky Gut Syndrome”), allowing those toxins to escape into our bloodstream and circulate throughout our body, furthering inflammation in other parts of the body.
(You can remove toxins by reducing your consumption of “junk foods”- i.e. processed foods, sugars, and trans fats. Bad bacteria and yeast love sugary, processed foods. When we eat these foods regularly, we are feeding bad bacteria rather than our own cells.)
Prevent obesity and diabetes- gut bacteria moderate fat absorption and glucose processing- central for proper insulin signaling and metabolism. Furthermore, the hypothalamus is the appetite control center of the body. Studies have shown inflamed and damaged hypothalamic in obese individuals. When inflammation affects your brain- especially the control center- the entire way we metabolize morphs to a suboptimal state.
Improves immune system and antioxidant defense- 80% of immune system cells are made in our gut. Why? If you consider how our immune system is our body’s defense and that we are constantly ingesting foreign elements from the outside world through our gastrointestinal tract, this design makes perfect sense.
Glutathione, aka The Mother of All Antioxidants, is more powerful than any antioxidant we could ever ingest, but it has to be produced endogenously- that is, we can’t supplement with it. A very smart microbiologist, Marika Mikelsaar, was the first one to identify and isolate a bacterial strain, Lactobacillus fermentum ME-3- especially efficient at boosting immunity by producing glutathione. When we have ample glutathione, oxidative damage is greatly reduced, antioxidants like Vitamin C and E are recycled, and cells have more energy. Glutathione production wanes with age and when we don’t supply the right raw materials to create it (Dr. Ohhira products contain ME-3).
Improve mental health- in utero, the same tissue that becomes our brain also becomes our gastrointestinal track. This is why the Central Nervous System (CNS) is so entangled with our Enteric Nervous System (ENS)- enteric means “intestines”. Producing 70% of serotonin and interacting with our brain in profound ways, gut microflora significantly influence brain signaling and neurotransmitter manufacturing.
Improve liver function- When our bacterial populations are functioning, the breakdown and assimilation of food is relatively complete. When our populations are jeopardized, the liver has an added burden to its already incredible task of breaking down every single thing we ingest, from the unforeseeable pollutants in the air to the food we eat. An overburdened liver can’t eliminate toxins efficiently, leading to systemic dysregulation.
- Prevent acne- signals from our gut microorganisms interact with organisms on our skin. Grain and sugar carbohydrates cause a surge of insulin and IGF-1 (Insulin-like growth factor) secretion, stimulating excessive male hormone production. Excessive male hormones cause overproduction of sebum and the keratinocyte skin cells- both associated with acne. Carb-rich foods, especially refined carbohydrates, also increase inflammation in the body, triggering acne and wreaking havoc on your good gut microbes.