A Healthy Gut
As humans, our bodies - and gut, in particular - house a combination of good and bad bacteria. Under normal or "balanced" conditions, a widely diverse selection of good bacteria in the gut outnumber the bad. A lack of bacterial diversity and/or increased unfriendly bacteria can lead to a range of health problems. Lack of sleep, high levels of stress, consumption of high-fat and high-calorie food such as junk food, and a lack of prebiotics in the diet can all contribute to an unhealthy gut. So, how to reverse the effects of modern life?
The Benefits of Probiotics
Probiotics - a name which means "for life" - are thought to be able to significantly help improve gut health and balance.
"More and more, we’re learning about the value of bacteria and probiotics to maintain a healthy population of microorganisms in our digestive systems,” Explains Stephanie Maxson, MS, RD, a senior clinical dietician at the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Centre.
There is evidence to suggest that they could protect us against harmful bacteria by crowding them out in the gut, stimulating the immune system to fight them off, and naturally creating growth inhibiting acids. They are also believed to improve digestion and our bodies ability to absorb food and nutrients.
Fermented Food for a Healthy Gut
Probiotics can be introduced to the body in many ways, but one common and easy method is the regular consumption of naturally fermented foods. Foods that go through a natural fermentation process gain probiotic properties. These include common products such as yogurt, kefir, kimchi, sauerkraut and kombucha. A good indicator of whether a food could contain probiotics is if the label advertises live cultures and/or natural fermentation.
Finally, if probiotics don't always prevent illness entirely, then they are also a great way of rebalancing your gut after a dose of antibiotics. Learn more about natural health solutions here.
Easy, immune-boosting Ginger, Honey and Green Tea Kombucha Recipe
Makes: 1.5 litres | Time: 40 minutes plus fermentation time
- A 1.7 litre (or larger) vessel
- A Cheesecloth or similar mesh material to cover plus an elastic band to secure with
- Clip top fermentation bottles
- 100g ginger peeled and finely chopped
- 1.32kg water
- 20g loose leaf green tea
- 180g sugar of your choice or alternative sweetener (honey, etc)
- 150g previously made or bought live kombucha, or the liquid your new SCOBY came in
- 1 SCOBY
In a medium pot, bring the ginger and 300ml of cold water until to a boil. Simmer, covered, for 10 minutes. Remove from the heat and allow to cool for roughly a minute, so it's just off boiling, and add the loose leaf tea. Allow this to steep off the heat for 10 minutes, covered. Strain the tea carefully and while it's still hot add the sugar or sugar alternative. The sweetened tea must now be left to cool to room temperature before moving on.
Once cooled, add the sweetened tea to your fermentation vessel along with the 150g of previous kombucha, the remaining water and a SCOBY. Be careful not to introduce harmful bacteria to the SCOBY by handling it without gloves or using unclean kitchen equipment. Cover the vessel with a mesh cloth, using an elastic band to secure it - the SCOBY needs oxygen to survive, so it's important not to cover with a non-breathable material - and place it in a relatively warm, dark location.
The fermentation will take roughly between 6 and 10 days, depending on your personal preference to taste and the environment it is in. Once finished, remove the kombucha from the SCOBY and transfer it to a clip top bottle to carbonate for a further 24 - 48 hours.