Building good gut bacteria comes from eating a varied, whole foods diet and supplementing with a good quality probiotic as needed. Probiotics take up space in your intestines so bad bacteria have less holding ground. They also help digest food properly, promote a balanced immune system, produce some needed vitamins and most importantly, contribute to a healthy (not leaky) intestinal lining. The word probiotic signifies “for life”, indeed, without good bacteria in our intestines, we don’t thrive well.
A baby in utero has an intestinal tract that is sterile. During birth, passing through the vaginal canal is when babies are first colonized with healthy flora, healthy bacteria, from mom. Breastfeeding completes the process by providing beneficial bacterial flora on a daily basis, many times per day, through mom’s milk. Babies that are born by Caesarean section or who are not breastfed do not have as varied of a intestinal flora.
An excellent way to get healthy bacteria brewing in you is to eat lacto-fermented vegetables. Traditionally-made sauerkraut and kimchi are both excellent choices, organic if possible. I am not talking about jarred or canned sauerkraut that has been cooked and cured with vinegar. I am talking about live fermented foods that are teeming with lactobacilli strains. These fermented wonders also contribute to a healthy intestinal pH. When the above is not possible, a good quality probiotic formula can help keep our flora at an optimal level.
Here is a simple recipe to make your own:
Thinly slice half of a medium-sized organic cabbage. Sprinkle 1 tbsp sea salt on it and mix it in a glass bowl. Let it sit and generate liquid for an hour or so. If you need more liquid, add filtered water. You want to be able to squish the cabbage down and have enough liquid to cover the cabbage. Add 1/2 tsp caraway seeds and 1 tsp juniper berries if desired for flavor and texture. You can also add 1 grated carrot. Squish it all down, submerge it in the liquid, cover with a plate that is smaller in diameter than the glass bowl you are using and weigh it down so the cabbage remains submerged. If any cabbage is exposed to air, it will rot instead of ferment. Mine is in a big glass bowl covered with a plate with another smaller bowl on top with some garden rocks in it to weigh it down. Cover the entire bowl with a dark towel and let it sit at room temperature for approximately 7 days. Then refrigerate and enjoy. You can start another batch with the other half of cabbage so you always have a supply on hand.
Add a 1/4 cup fermented sauerkraut to your daily cup of bone broth for added intestinal healing benefit. Do not cook or heat it up, just add it to your warmed broth. Even if you do not like the taste of these foods, it would be beneficial to at least have a small amount on a regular basis.
A well-functioning gut with healthy gut flora holds the roots of our health. And like a tree with sick roots is not going to thrive, the rest of the body cannot thrive without a well-functioning digestive system. —Dr Natasha Campbell-McBride