Did you know that there are more bacterial cells in and on your body than your own DNA? Ten times more bacteria than human cells and the majority of them live in your digestive system. There are 100 trillion viable bacteria in the colon comprised of 400-1000 different species. This microbiome is often referred to as the gut flora and we need these bacteria for optimal health.
The bacteria in our digestive system create many benefits. When we have a good balance of bacteria we have a very symbiotic relationship with them. We provide them with food they provide us with myriad benefits such as the synthesis of biotin, cobalamin (B12), pyridoxine (B6), pantothenic acid (B5), riboflavin (B2) and vitamin K. They also synthesize the short chain fatty acids butyrate, propionate, and acetate. When our beneficial bacteria have a stable colony count they prevent other pathogens from thriving by using up all available food sources. A healthy gut flora also helps our immune system by stimulating the maturation of immune cells, metabolizes several components into active forms we can metabolize and inactivates certain mutagens and carcinogens such as N-nitrosamines.
Dysbiosis happens when our gut flora are not balanced between species and colony count or when pathogenic bacteria are thriving. Disbiotic populations produce ammonia, inactivate enzymes needed for protein and carbohydrate metabolism, desaturate bile steroids and create numerous side effects such as diarrhea, abdominal distention, eczema, irritable bowel, depression, food allergies and autoimmune diseases.
The delicate balance of bacterial species is maintained primarily by Lactobacillus acidophilus and Bifidobacteria bifidum. These bacteria maintain the pH of the intestines, where a decreased pH of the stool indicates good population. These bacteria also prevent pathogenic bacteria from proliferating and healthy bacteria from becoming toxic by preventing overpopulation. Each individual person has their own strains of bacteria. Humans share a core of bacterial species, but there is great variability from person to person.
Dysbiosis can occur from antibiotic use or by eating antibiotics hidden in meat, poultry and dairy products. Changes in bowel motility, malabsorption and maldigestion can all contribute to dysbiosis and are each aggravated by dysbiosis. Stress, illness and a diet high in inflammatory foods such as non-organic dairy or meat or hydrogenated trans fatty acids can all disrupt the balance of bacteria in the gut. One of the risks of genetically modified food is that is can also disrupt the balance of bacteria. Eating foods that you are allergic to or have an intolerance to can also produce colony disruptions due to inflammation.
To maintain a healthy gut flora you need to consume both prebiotic foods and probiotics. Prebiotics are high in non-digestible fibers called oligosaccharides that stimulate the growth and activity of beneficial bacteria in the colon. Prebiotics include onions, garlic, leeks, bananas, asparagus, maple syrup, Jerusalem artichoke, rye, oats and barley. Probiotics are live bacteria that will help replenish beneficial flora colony counts. Probiotics can be ingested either via supplementation or via fermented foods such as live active cultured yogurt, kefir, miso, tempeh, sauerkraut or kim chee.
Probiotic supplements are available in a variety of forms, such as freeze dried powder, capsules, wafers, and liquids. The strains of bacteria most researched and recommended are the NCFM strain of L. acidophilus, developed at North Carolina State University from a human intestinal tract, L. acidophilus HMF, and the L. acidophilus DDS-1 strain. Other strains are available but their viability and ability to survive in the presence of bile or stomach acid could be unknown. Remember to exercise caution before using a probiotic supplement, the Food and Drug Administration does not regulate supplements and manufactures use a variety of marketing tactics to help sell their particular product. As always read the label. All probiotic supplements should contain viability information such as colony forming units per gram, strain name and be packaged in a dark container kept refrigerated.
Homemade Kombucha (Cultured Tea)
|Prep time||20 minutes|
|Allergy||Egg, Fish, Milk, Peanuts, Shellfish, Soy, Tree Nuts, Wheat|
|Dietary||Gluten Free, Paleo, Vegetarian|
- 3-4 cups water (boiling hot)
- 3-4 organic black tea bags (caffeinated tea (decaf won't work))
- 1/2 cup ogranic sugar (white sugar works the best)
- 1 cup kombucha from last batch (for first time see Note below)
- 1 Symbiotic Culture of Bacteria and Yeast (SCOBY)
- 2-3 cups water (room temperature)
Kombucha is a fermented probiotic beverage. The caffeine and sugar are "eaten" during the fermentation process and what you are left with is a tangy vinegar-like beverage. The taste of your kombucha will depend on the tea used and the fermentation length. The SCOBY is a bacterial and yeast starter culture that includes beneficial probiotics such as Acetobacter, Saccharomyces, Brettanomyces, Lactobacillus, Pediococcus, Gluconacetobacter and Zygosaccharomyces strains. Drinking kombucha provides many more helpful bacteria for your digestive tract than yogurt.
For more information on Kombucha or to order a starter culture see the Cultures for Health website: http://www.culturesforhealth.com/kombucha-yeast-bacteria
To get started you can purchase a dehydrated scoby online, obtain one from a friend or grow your own. Growing your own takes quite a bit longer but it's typically a fifth of the price of an online purchase.
To grow your own scoby: Purchase a bottle of kombucha (I like GT Original). Pour that kombucha into a quart size ball jar. Steep 1 tea bag into 1 cup of water and add in 1/4 cup of granulated sugar. Once your tea has steeped and cooled add it to the kombucha and wait a week for the SCOBY to form.
I use a SCOBY for 1-3 batches then either toss it into the compost bin, eat it, or feed it to my dog. If your SCOBY baby has attached to your mother, no worries, simply cut them in 1/2 with scissors.
|Step 1.||Place the sugar into a 1/2 gallon ball jar (or split into two 1-quart jars). Add in 2-4 cups of boiling water and stir if needed to ensure all sugar is dissolved. Add your tea bags and let your tea steep till room temperature (I let mine steep overnight).|
|Step 2.||Remove the tea bags.|
|Step 3.||Add in the SCOBY and 1 cup of kombucha from the last batch as a starter. Top off your jar till the water line is about 6 or 6 1/2 cups total.|
|Step 4.||Cover your jar with a non-bleached coffee filter, paper towel or cheese cloth, securing it with a rubber band or your ball jar ring (not the metal top).|
|Step 5.||Let this mixture ferment for 10-16 days depending on your taste preferences. I do not ferment in direct light, but in a room that has ambient natural light. The longer the fermentation the less sugar will be left. A three week fermentation is pretty vinegary for my taste. I ferment for 2 weeks as my preferred taste.|
|Step 6.||After your 10-16 day fermentation, remove the new "baby" SCOBY that forms (typically on the top) and 1 cup from this batch of kombucha to start another round. Drink the rest or proceed to a secondary fermentation to create a fizzier drink. You can discard the "mother" SCOBY, eat it, put it in your compost, or use it again to double your batch.|
|Optional secondary fermentation|
|Step 7.||Pour the fermented kombucha (after you have removed the SCOBY and 1 cup of tea as a starter) into smaller serving size containers. I use 2-cup size ball jars or clean 16 oz jars. Jars must have lids. Leave a little bit of room (like 1/3-1/2 cup) for flavoring if wanted.|
|Step 8.||Add additional optional flavoring such as fruit, 1/4 cup fruit juice, 1/4 strongly flavored tea, or 1-2 TBST lemon juice. I often use grated ginger or ginger tea, blueberries (about 6-8), or some sweet fruit herbal tea like cherry.|
|Step 9.||Close the jar tightly and let this secondary fermentation sit for an additional couple of days to add carbonation.|
|Step 10.||Transfer your finished kombucha to the refrigerator for storage. Kombucha will be drinkable for up to six months. The tea will still ferment in the fridge, just at a much slower rate.|
|First time - Growing a SCOBY|
|Step 11.||If you don't have a SCOBY from a friend or neighbor, no problem, you can grow one. Purchase a bottle of Kombucha from the store. Original flavor is best, and I personally like the GT brand best for growing a new SCOBY. Transfer that liquid into a larger bottle.|
|Step 12.||Add 1 cup cooled sweetened tea (1 black tea bag, 1/4 cup sugar and 1 cup water) to the kombucha.|
|Step 13.||Cover with a coffee filter or paper towel and secure with a rubber band. A SCOBY should grow within a week to you to use as a starter.|
|Allergy||Egg, Fish, Peanuts, Shellfish, Soy, Tree Nuts, Wheat|
|Dietary||Gluten Free, Paleo, Vegan|
|Meal type||Appetizer, Condiment, Side Dish|
|By author||Sally Fallon|
- 4-5 pickling cucumbers
- 1 tablespoon mustard seeds
- 2 teaspoons fresh dill sprigs
- 1 tablespoon sea salt
- 4 tablespoons whey
- 1 cup filtered water
An easy recipe to make fermented vegetables. You could use cabbage, carrots, celery, cucumbers, beets... the possibilities are endless.
If you don't have whey you can increase the salt by 1 tablespoon.
|Step 1.||Wash cucumbers well and place in a quart-sized wide mouth jar.|
|Step 2.||Combine remaining ingredients and pour it over the cucumbers. Add more water if necessary to cover the cucumbers but leave at least 1 inch of room at the top of the jar.|
|Step 3.||Cover tightly and keep at room temperature for about 3 days before transferring to cold storage.|