GUT Instincts – Part Two of the Microbiome
Your Microbiome – Part 1 explains the importance of the ‘inner garden’ (the trillions of bacteria residing and working in the human gut) and how certain anti-nutrients in foods can cause problems. In this second installment, Sandrine Clayton explains how to add certain foods to sew the seeds of a strong and healthy ‘inner garden.’
Frigidaire, an American brand from which the word ‘fridge’ is derived, created a commercialized domestic self-contained cooling unit in 1923. Unless one was very wealthy, most homes in the Western world did not have a fridge until the late 1920s. Many homes had a cool cellar where food would be kept from perishing too quickly. Those responsible for food preparation at home bought fresh produce daily to a few times a week. In the winter months many fruits and vegetables were not available, so our ancestors preserved food, and in doing so provided the ultimate food for our bodies microbiome.
Fermented or Cultured Foods were the traditional way of preserving food, substantially enhancing a food’s enzyme and nutrient content. Fermented foods are a powerhouse of vitamins, minerals, enzymes and friendly micro-flora that will replenish and germinate the flowers in your inner garden. They also help reduce certain anti-nutrients in foods.
Another reason to eat fermented foods is their relationship with our stomach acid. The stomach is the gateway to the intestines and immune system. For optimum digestion, the body needs strong stomach acid to sterilize and neutralize pathogens, bacteria or parasites in our food. Its other job is to liquefy food allowing for proper absorption in the intestines.
Our ancestors did not just ferment foods to preserve them during the winter months when vegetables were in shorter supply, they knew that for health an array of pro-biotic foods would keep their gut healthy and the immune system strong. Traditional diets are high in fermented foods; cheese is made by fermenting milk and/or cream, wine is fermented grape juice, cider is fermented apple juice and both then make vinegar, yoghurt and milk-kefir comes from fermented milk.
Traditional cultures often accompany a raw animal protein dish with a little fermented food. The French often have a small fermented food when eating raw steak tartare in the form of a pickled gherkin or unpasteurised vinegar in the dressing on a salad. Italians accompany carpaccio (thinly sliced raw steak) with little fermented capers or vinegar in salad dressing. The Japanese always have fermented (pickled) ginger when consuming sashimi or sushi. The Spanish make raw ceviche fish dishes traditionally marinated using citrus fruit juice or raw, unpasteurised vinegars. Sauerkraut, popular in Germany and Central Europe, is a dish of fermented cabbage, carrots and onions. Kimchi is a wonderfully fragrant, crunchy and spicy fermented dish from Korea. These little tricks raise the stomach acid to kill any pathogens or parasites in the raw meat and assist in digestion.
Our micro-flora also communicate with each other to establish how many bacterial strains are present in the colon, as well as to measure the strength of competing strains. It has recently been shown that our micro-flora communicate with our brains, thereby influencing our thoughts, feelings, and behaviours. The research reveals that our intestines influence our levels of emotional stability, anxiety, cognition and pain, which suggests that our brain chemistry will differ based on the specific gut micro-flora present in our systems. The type and quantity of micro-flora interacts with the body in ways that can either prevent or encourage the development of mental health issues and other diseases.
Below are two easy fermented recipes to include in daily meals. Only a little tablespoon is needed at the beginning of a meal to improve digestion!
- 1 large green cabbage, finely shredded
- ½ cup sea salt
- About 12 cups cold water, plus more as needed
- 1 carrot, grated
- 1 large daikon, finely shredded
- 2 red onions, finely shredded
- ½ cup fish sauce (preferably naturally fermented)
- 4 cm fresh ginger, peeled and finely shredded
- 10 garlic cloves, minced
In a large bowl add the cabbage, daikon, carrot, sea salt and water. Cover with a clean cloth and set to the side on the counter for 24 hours. After 24 hours, drain the water and rinse the vegetables in filtered water, then allow to drain. In a large glass bowl add the vegetables with the onions, garlic and fish sauce and using your hands, mix and crush everything together, massaging and squeezing the liquid out of the vegetables. Firmly pack this mixture into a fermenting/pickling jar or a large mason jar that has been sterilised in boiling water. Cover the vegetables with a sterilised weight or a sterilised glass that you have filled with marbles. You need to ensure that the vegetables are fully submerged in the liquid so that there is no excess air. Then, place a clean muslin cloth over the lid of the jar and glass weight, securing it with an elastic band. Allow the jar to sit at room temperature, out of direct sunlight, for about 10 days to 2 weeks depending on the warmth of the room so as to allow the vegetables to ferment and release gas. After this time you may release the weight and taste the kimchi. It should be slightly “vinegary” and crunchy. Once made, transfer your kimchi to sterilised glass jars with screw lids. Keep in the fridge or a cool cellar. This will keep for up to a year.
Kimchi is a potent probiotic and can be eaten daily. A small tablespoon before a meal or as a light snack is a perfect way to nourish yourself with the vitamin C, minerals and important probiotics found in this delicious dish.
4 large ripe tomatoes, seeds removed and diced into small pieces
½ cup red pepper, cored, deseeded and diced into small pieces
1 red onion
3 garlic cloves, chopped
½ teaspoon dried oregano
½ teaspoon dried marjoram
½ teaspoon dried sage
½ cup fresh coriander leaves, chopped
2 teaspoons sea salt
1 packet vegetable starter
Place all the ingredients together into a large bowl and mix well. Pour into a fermenting jar or a large mason jar that has been sterilised in boiling water and loosely cover with a clean muslin secured with an elastic band. Allow this to sit in a warm room for 48 hours. After 48 hours, cover tightly with screw lids and keep in the fridge. This will keep for up to 6 months. Serve the salsa as a side to any meat, as a salad dressing or scoop into the middle of an avocado.
 How gut bacteria communicate within our bodies, build special relationship” Ingestion of Lactobacillus strain regulates emotional behavior and central GABA receptor expression in a mouse via the vagus nerve Javier A. Bravo, Paul Forsythe, Marianne V. Chew, Emily Escaravage, Hélène M. Savignac, Timothy G. Dinan, John Bienenstock, and John F. Cryan. February 13, 2014 Norwich BioScience Institutes Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. Sep 20, 2011; 108(38): 16050–16055.