We are beginning to understand a thing or two about what a healthy gut environment looks like. But that’s about it – a thing or two. So how can you use this limited information to improve your life?
We know of a few strains of bacteria that are probably “good” in general. And we don’t even know for a fact that they are “good” in and of themselves. It could simply be that the presence of these strains is a sign of a healthy gut, which is healthy for other (unrelated) reasons.
But we know at least this. For patients afflicted with C. Diff, fecal transplants save lives. And fecal transplants have shown some very interesting results in studies on humans and rats. So a healthy balance of bacteria in the gut is essential. We just don’t know exactly what a healthy gut looks like.
What does your gut look like?
We also don’t know what your gut looks like. Partly because we don’t care, but mostly because you haven’t shit in a cup and sent it to us. And even if you did send us a cup full of feces, we wouldn’t look at it. We’d probably just call the police.
Even if we did know what your gut bugs looked like – what would we do with that information? Sure, we could see if you had an overgrowth of something terrible. Or a deficiency of good stuff. But is there an ideal to aspire to? Is it the same for everyone? Is it even the same at every stage of life? We simply don’t know.
So we’re working with limited information. Which is why incorporating probiotic foods is, in general, your best bet for a healthy gut.
Probiotic Supplements versus Fermented Foods
When you buy a probiotic supplement, you could be getting one strain of bacteria, or five strains or whatever. Sure, these strains have been studied – but the question is, do we even know enough about gut bugs to know what to look for? How likely is it that these supplements capture the bigger picture of what we want in the gut?
The other issue with supplements is that they only contain bacteria. And there is more to your microbiome than that. Even if you have the right gut bugs, they might thrive better when delivered along their perfect fuel.
Fermented foods, unlike supplements, are whole. Fermentation goes back a long way in human history. We have evolved with these foods, and they have evolved with us.
When we look at the diversity of fermented foods that we can eat, we realize that if we begin to regularly incorporate fermented foods into our diet, we can increase the chances that we are putting a variety of healthy bugs into our gut.
Beware of Yogurt
Yogurt is great. But many yogurts that purport to contain “healthy” bacteria also contain a ton of added sugar. It is very possible that too much sugar in the diet fuels an overgrowth of “unhealthy” bacteria. Plus, added sugar is generally a bad idea – especially for breakfast. There are better ways to shape up your gut.
Yogurt can be good, just pick something without added sugar. And given the overuse of antibiotics in modern society, you probably won’t get everything your gut needs from yogurt alone.
So try to include a variety of other probiotic foods and beverages into your diet. Including:
- Pickled anything
- Miso Soup
- fresh sourdough breads (but watch out, for the same reason as yogurt)
14 Days of Probiotic Foods
I challenge you to incorporate at least one of the foods from the above list into your diet every day for the next 14 days. And try mixing it up if you can.
If you don’t regularly eat any of the foods on this list, it’s likely that increasing your intake will put you in the direction of a better, stronger, and more diverse gut microbiome. Especially if you have a long history with antibiotics, as most of us do.
After the 14 days is up, continue to regularly incorporate these foods into your diet. I am confident that as time marches on, we’ll learn so much more about the nature of our insides that this post will look silly. But until then, it’s the least we can do.
Happy Cultivating 🙂
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