What is the secret to feeling good, being energized, and having focus? Believe it or not, it could all come down to your gut.
Medical science in recent years has been exploding with discoveries about a topic that might make you squirm. The gut microbiome (a.k.a. the microorganisms/bacteria that inhabit our digestive tracts) is a complex and incredible mini ecosystem of organisms that live symbiotically with our own cells. In fact, these little critters outnumber our own human cells at least 10-1. Though we are far from understanding what they all do, the gut bacteria have been found to play a part in our brain health, digestion, immune function, energy levels, and more.
With so many organisms living with us I believe it’s important to think about what kind of a role they play in our lives and how our habits effect them positively and negatively, because you want to be the most energized and focused you can be, right? Well there are hundreds of different species of bacteria living in your gut, some being more beneficial than others, and if the various species grow out of balance it can cause big problems for our health.
Strep throat is one example. It’s an overgrowth of the bacteria called streptococcus. In reality, we all have strep bacteria present in our body but it doesn’t really matter unless they get out of balance. And how can they grow out of balance? Stress, poor diet, inactive lifestyle, environmental stress, antibiotics, etc.
You see, there are a lot of factors that effect our gut microbiome and there’s still lots of research being done on this topic, but there are a couple things that I can confidently tell you now that will help feed those good gut bacteria and create a healthy environment for your gut microbiome.
1. Eat Whole, Unprocessed (and organic) Foods
The best foods to feed our gut bacteria are whole foods that are as close to their natural state as possible, a.k.a lots of fruits and vegetables, whole grains, legumes, and the like (compare a baked potato with a french fry). Your gut bacteria thrive on the fiber in these whole foods and whatever you eat will be further broken down by the bacteria living in your gut: whole foods to their life giving nutrients and processed foods to their toxins. But why organic? Simply put, pesticides, herbicides, and fungicides are designed to kill microorganisms. You have microorganisms in your gut. They will kill your gut bacteria and that doesn’t lead to good health, so whenever possible, buy organic.
Now I know I’ve barely said anything here but there’s way too much on this topic than I can possibly cover, so here are some interesting articles on how the gut microbiome interacts with food.
2. Stop Taking Antibiotics!
I know that the discovery of antibiotics is miraculous and has saved countless lives, but these days antibiotics are given out willy nilly with little consideration taken for impact it has on our guts! Antibiotics kill bacteria that cause infection, which is great, but they also kill the good bacteria. Without the healthy bacteria to buffer against the harmful bacteria, you will be more susceptible to over growths of these baddies, and no one wants that! My go-to for sickness and colds is organic apple cider vinegar (with the mother) and cinnamon tea, and mega-dose vitamine C (15,000-19,000mg a day). It’s all natural and super effective!
*Mega-dosing vitamin C can sometimes result in diarrhea. If this happens to you, simply lower your dose until your body can tolerate it.
Scientific Article: The Effects of Antibiotics on the Microbiome
3. Eat Probiotic Rich Fermented Foods
Now for the good part! This is a great way to boost your gut’s health. Why? Because you’re actually putting good bacteria (probiotics) back into your gut! There are many, many fermented foods to eat like kefir, kombucha, sauerkraut, and probiotic yogurt, and while these are often somewhat expensive in the store, you can learn to make all of these at home for cheep! Not to mention they are fresher and probably healthier when made from home. So let’s start with something simple that I absolutely LOVE! Sauerkraut!
In my opinion sauerkraut is the simplest fermented food you can make. It’s just cabbage and salt. Yes, it’s that simple. And when you make it from home you can cultivate TRILLIONS of good bacteria to occupy your gut and bolster your immunity. The more the better in my opinion!
Improving your gut health will undoubtedly improve your energy, mental clarity, digestion, and resilience to sickness. All this I share with you to help you be all that you were made to be and live our your adventurous life, because none of us are thriving when we’re sluggish and tired all the time. You may be surprised at how good you can feel if you make a healthy gut your priority. So without further adieu, I hope you enjoy the recipe and cheers to your good health!
- 1 head of cabbage (approximately 2 pounds)
- 1.5 tbsp natural salt*
- 1 quart sized jar
- Peel off the outer leaves of the cabbage until it's all nice and clean and cut out any persistent blemishes. Then peel off one nice leaf and save it for later.
- Cut the cabbage in half and remove the core, then thinly slice using a food processor or by hand.
- Put cabbage in a big, non metal bowl and add salt. Do not use a metal bowl. The metal will react with the salt and could ruin your sauerkraut.
- Using your hands mix the salt into the cabbage, scrunching and punching as you go. This will bruise the cabbage and allow it to release water, which we need to create the brine for our fermentation. Once well mixed, let stand for one hour to further release liquid from the cabbage.
- Wash a quart jar with hot, soapy water and rinse well to sterilize.
- At the end of one hour carefully put the salted cabbage into the jar. Add in by small hand-fulls and thoroughly squish down after each using your hand or a wooden spoon. This presses out any large air bubbles which can ruin the fermentation and cause the cabbage to rot. There should be enough liquid from your mixture to completely immerse the cabbage. If there isn't simply combine 1/2 tsp salt and 1/2 cup water to make a brine and top up your jar. You need the brine to keep oxygen away from the cabbage which will cause it to rot.
- Once the jar is full, put your left over leaf into the top of the jar to press down any floating pieces of cabbage, then place a water filled glass or jar on top of your cabbage. Yes it looks funny, but this will hold all your cabbage under the brine and get you that amazing sauerkraut!
- Set the jar on a plate or in a bowl (the liquids will rise and possibly spill over during the fermentation) and place it in a cozy spot. Now it's time to leave your cabbage and let it ferment.
- Let the sauerkraut ferment for at least one week. Three is recommended though, to fully develop the flavour and probiotic activity. The longer you wait, the more probiotic goodness you'll get! However, the flavour and texture of the sauerkraut will change as time goes on so if you're new to sauerkraut try a taste test after one week and then every two days after that to see how you like it, because if you don't like it, you won't eat it!
- Once fermentation is finished remove the large top leaf and store in the fridge in an airtight container.
*Use a natural salt like sea salt or Himalayan salt, not table salt, because most table salts have anti-caking agents and whatnot in there that will mess up your sauerkraut.