So How Do You Change Your Microbiome?
Helping Friends Get Better
I talk a lot about your body and what your body is made out of. Those 100 trillion microbes (which is more than ten times the cells in the body) that call you home are your constant companions. Most of you don’t even know your microbes because you can’t see them, but they know you and work their darndest to keep you alive each day. These unseen helpers made their presence known to me and saved my life, and the life of my daughter and family; and then in gratefulness, I started sharing all they could do with all my friends and started seeing them and their children recover from a myriad of diseases and it was pure joy. I felt I had stumbled upon a secret that nobody knew about and then I met Jolene.
People like to think that I’m special or weird. They say things like, "Oh yeah, that works for her, but not me." Or, "She’s a freak and it's weird and she’s crazy and I don’t want to do that. Let foods ferment on your counter? That’s just nuts and dangerous." Jolene's daughter was in the same dance and acting classes as my daughter, and she would watch me and my friends (whose kids had gotten better) and thought we had lost our minds. She said we had a "food cult" and all the stuff we ate was weird. Jolene was pregnant at the time. A few years later when her little boy was two, he was, as she put it, “in a stupor." He wasn’t communicating or crawling and he wasn’t thriving. He had a distended belly and he didn’t seem to be developing at the right pace, but I would watch this little guy and he was observing everything! I could see his mind working, but he was locked away from finding his way out and expressing himself in words and actions. She went to so many dietitians and doctors and to no avail. Nothing was working. He had so many food allergies, and it was so overwhelming that after years of discouragement she sat down in a chair across from me at dance class and said, “I’m ready to listen. Nothing is working. I’ve tried everything, please help me understand what you do. I’m desperate." He wasn’t absorbing his nutrients from his food and his diet was so limited that we had to do things in many special ways. We started with coconut kefir because he was allergic to dairy. He did great with vegetables so he could have lots of cultured vegetables. He loved kombucha, so we started with what I call The Trilogy: kefir, kombucha, and cultured vegetables. She had to give him a special protein made from peas because he couldn't handle any other kind of protein. He seemed to do well using coconut oil as a fat. This little guy was mostly living on just a few foods and not absorbing any nutrients so his brain wasn’t working. She gave him one of these cultured foods at every meal to help him digest his food and unlock the nutrients. And, lo and below, I kid you not, in a few weeks he started speaking in sentences. Fast forward a year later and he was no longer allergic to the foods he had been allergic to. And he was reading at 3 years old! It was as if he was making up for lost time and he was made brand new. This is not an uncommon thing to see in my work; and actually, there is a lot of science to support and explain why this works.
Reset Your Gut And Your Body Will Respond Accordingly
Inside of you are trillions of microbes that make up the body known as you. Without them, you can’t digest your food and receive the nutrients that you need to build your body and to have the building blocks of nutrients needed for cognitive function. Your emotions, believe it or not, are controlled by your gut bacteria. Studies now suggest that gut bacteria help control anxiety and stress responses. Your cravings for food are determined by how many microbes you have in your gut. If you crave a lot of sugar and fat then you have a lot of sugar- and fat-loving microbes - and the same with healthy foods. If you reset your microbes, you can change your habits, your behavior, and the markers that create inflammation and disease in your body. You will begin to heal just by resetting the microbes in your gut.
There’s a lot of crazy stuff going on in this world that is out of your control, but there is one thing you can control and that is what you put in your mouth. Just do this one thing and watch your microbes help you. Reset your gut and your body will respond accordingly. It's amazing! It takes a firm decision on your part and you're gonna see such a change. Here’s what happened to me just because I made the decision to make a kefir smoothie for breakfast. I started to feel better so I drank more of it, and then I decided to try some kombucha and then cultured vegetables. I felt so much better, so I added more healthy foods that fed my microbes like fruits and vegetables and legumes and it started to snowball. This is how I found myself here, telling everyone I know how to feed their microbes. Call it what it is, I call it Grace, I call it answers to my prayers, I call it a miracle. Who would have thought that the microbes that are in me and you are calling us to wellness and we don’t even know it?
Do you want to have an impact on your world? Then change what you eat. You won’t be needing the doctor anymore so you save money and use it other places and help increase the economy. You‘ll be happy and feel good so you’ll do more things to help others. You‘ll need less sleep so you’ll have more time to do things you love. You’ll need less sick days at work so you‘ll become Employee of the Year. You’ll share your knowledge with others and they will get better and then people will think you’re crazy or join you. You might even find yourself with a book and a website and podcast and it is not my fault if this happens to you! It’s a side effect of being happy.
7 Ways To Change Your Microbiome
#1 Stop Murdering Your Microbes!
Chemicals and pesticides that flood our environment disrupt our inner flora and can even kill it. A common ingredient in antibacterial soaps called Triclosan1 has been linked to food allergens and thyroid issues. The FDA issued a final rule establishing that over-the-counter consumer antiseptic wash products containing the active ingredient Triclosan can no longer be marketed.2
Overuse of antibiotics - I'm not against antibiotics. I think they're necessary in some cases, but they are way overprescribed and wind up causing more damage than they do helping if they're not used properly. If you do need to take an antibiotic, then you need to also rebuild your ecosystem when the antibiotics wipe out the good and bad bacteria indiscriminately. There are many ways to do this and ingesting cultured foods is a great place to start. You can check out this article for more help. What to do if you have to take an antibiotic.
Eating processed and junk foods devoid of nutrients starves your microbiome and can even cause them to die. When you start feeding your body real whole foods, your body and microbe population will start to crave them and eating healthy will be easy and fun. You are what you eat!
#2 Rebuild your Microbiome with a Kefir Smoothie
A habit is something you may not know you are doing; but once you realize you are doing it, then it becomes a choice and you can stop doing it or keep it going. We all want something miraculous to change us, but that is seldom how it works. Seventeen years ago, I never dreamed I would be eating and making these foods and teaching others to do the same. My life consisted of just getting through the day because I felt so awful. Trying to survive and take care of my family, my needs were on the back burner; but I got gentle nudges that felt like someone was trying to help me. I was constantly being reminded that I was so much more. I would read books and listen to lectures online and I would ache inside. I wanted to change and be well, and not just my body but my spirit was so hungry and I didn’t know what to do. I found kefir and slowly things began to change. I started rituals every morning. I would make and consume kefir every morning, and then my whole diet began to change and I felt so, so much better. Then as I felt better, the world around me and in me started to change. Wellness became the norm and not the exception. This is where it all began, with something as simple as a kefir smoothie. Check out these recipes.
#3 Feeding the universe of microbes inside of you
Do you remember when eating fiber became the new craze and they were putting fiber in everything? I never understood all this since the body couldn’t absorb any of the fiber. Yes, it was supposed to keep things moving along throughout the colon to speed elimination, but how was it helping the body’s immune system? What about fruits and vegetables? Everyone knows that we should eat more of them, but why are they so special? These prebiotics act as a fertilizer to promote the growth of the good bacteria in our gut. This is essential to the health and function of our immune system. You want a large and diverse amount of good bacteria in your gut, and eating cultured foods accomplishes this. With the addition of prebiotics, you have a super strong combination that boosts your immune system. Prebiotics also strengthen your ability to absorb calcium, magnesium, and other minerals usually lacking in our diets.
Here are just a few of my favorite prebiotic foods and supplements:
Asparagus, artichokes, leeks, onions, nuts, bananas, berries, carrots cabbage, apples, chicory root (inulin), dandelion greens, raw garlic, seeds (such as flax seeds), honey, whole grains, oats, amaranth, quinoa, millet, and buckwheat.
Acacia, often called acacia gum, contains 86% prebiotic content. It is used as a food stabilizer, has a substantial amount of fiber, and is essential for strengthening the population of good bacteria in your gut. One place to find this prebiotic is in the supplement Prebio Plus. I often add it to my tea or stir it into salad dressing. It’s wonderful since it can be used hot or cold. Fructo-oligosaccharides (FOS) contain 35% prebiotic content. FOS is made from fruits and vegetables such as bananas, onions, chicory root, garlic, asparagus, jícama, and leeks. It’s a subgroup of inulin. Grains such as wheat and barley also contain FOS. The Jerusalem artichoke and its relative yacon, together with the Blue Agave plant, have been found to have the highest concentrations of FOS found in cultured plants. You can also find FOS in Prebio Plus.
#4 Get Outside Get dirty
Next, get outside and get your hands dirty – as in, do some gardening, plant some flowers, mow your lawn, or do any activity that will connect you and your immune system with the trillions of microbes in the soil. These microbes have been found to work like Prozac. In 2007, Christopher Lowry, associate professor in the Department of Integrative Physiology and Center for Neuroscience at University of Colorado at Boulder, and a team of researchers published an article in Neuroscience that had people discovering that dirt was the new Prozac.3 A bacteria found in soil called Mycobacterium has been found to affect the same neurons as Prozac, offering people a natural lift in mood. They exposed lung cancer patients to this bacteria called Mycobacterium vaccae, found in soil. The patients unexpectedly reported increases in their quality of life, including a brighter mood. The very same thing was happening to me and it was undeniable that the effects were coming from spending time outside in nature. I have known many gardeners who have exclaimed how gardening is their happy place. Which convinces me more that we should grow our own food. It's good for the body, the mind, and it brings us a quiet peacefulness inside.
#5 Kombucha — the Fermented Tea Your Body Loves
Kombucha has so many benefits that I don't hesitate to drink it every day.
Kombucha has antibiotic-resistant probiotic yeast: In addition to the good bacteria in kombucha there is a special probiotic yeast called Saccharomyces Boulardii (S. boulardii) that is resistant to antibiotics, which makes it incredibly useful for maintaining a healthy gut when treating an illness with antibiotics.4
Kombucha protects the stomach lining: It neutralizes toxins produced by harmful pathogens and sends out a signal to the body to reduce inflammation that can lead to a number of negative health outcomes. The probiotic in kombucha (S. boulardii) can also act as a decoy to harmful pathogens. It attracts and binds with the pathogens, keeping them from attaching to the intestinal wall and doing damage. 5
Kombucha reduces joint pain: Kombucha contains acetic acid, which not only helps stabilize blood sugar but also contains an analgesic (pain reliever) and anti-arthritic compounds which help remove toxins that may have accumulated in joints causing pain and inflammation. Other compounds in kombucha include mucoitin sulfate, heparin, and hyaluronic acid, which help provide lubrication and protection to existing joint tissue. 6
Kombucha assists the liver in detoxification: Kombucha is full of glucuronic acid, which plays a part in one of the body’s most important detoxification processes: glucuronidation, a process in which glucuronic acid binds to toxins and transforms them so they can be easily eliminated by the kidneys. The liver produces this substance naturally, but sometimes the body can’t keep up with the number of pollutants that it comes into contact with. The extra glucuronic acid in kombucha basically helps make up the difference.7
#6 Cultured Vegetables and Its Many Wonders
Make a jar of cultured vegetables that can last many, many months perfectly preserved in your fridge. It will have many health benefits and if you don't have a jar, you can't reap those benefits so I encourage you to make or buy one and see for yourself all they can do.
The process of fermentation removes pesticides from the vegetables with the
special bacteria L. plantarum. 8 Not only does it help remove pesticides and chemicals from the veggies, but it removes them from inside of you, too. It’s exciting that microbes can help us by removing pesticides from our vegetables. It’s often a hardship for people to always buy organic, but the healthy bacteria L. plantarum can remedy this. L. plantarum bacterial strains studied from fermented vegetables in kimchi were found to be capable of degrading four different organophosphorus insecticides by using them as a source of carbon and phosphorous.
Adds Vitamins And Minerals: When you culture or ferment your cabbage into sauerkraut, the vitamin C and antioxidant levels go through the roof. Researchers at Cornell University tested levels of antioxidants and vitamin C in sauerkraut. They found the average level of vitamin C in raw cabbage was 57 mg per cup; but when fermented, the level was close 700 mg! Vitamin C is also an antioxidant and it protects the body against stress and helps boost the immune system.
Safest And Best Food Method To Preserve Vegetables: U.S. Department of Agriculture research service microbiologist Fred Breidt says properly fermented vegetables are actually safer than raw vegetables, which might have been exposed to pathogens like E. coli on the farm. “With fermented products, there is no safety concern. I can flat-out say that. The reason is the lactic acid bacteria that carry out the fermentation are the world’s best killers of other bacteria,” says Breidt, who works at a lab at North Carolina State University, Raleigh, where scientists have been studying fermented and other pickled foods since the 1930s.
Stomach Distress Of Any Kind: L. plantarum is pretty powerful and can even knock out food poisoning (as I myself have witnessed). It has been studied and found successful in the inhibition of food poisoning and pathogenic bacteria, and it is being studied for use in improving the microbiological safety of foods. 9 It’s also superior for any kind of stomach distress. I’ve seen this again and again and received so many emails with stories telling me how effective it was in stopping vomiting, stomach cramps, and nausea with just a spoonful of the brine or vegetables. Try it and it will make you a believer, too. Nothing works better for stomach distress.
#7 Replace Your Soda With Water Kefir
Water kefir grains, or we call them kefir crystals, are unlike milk kefir grains as they thrive on sugars and not lactose. The special probiotic yeasts and beneficial bacteria in the water kefir crystals consume the sugar in the sugar water. Then they produce probiotics, new enzymes, vitamins, and help repopulate your gut flora. They are dairy free and gluten free despite being called “grains.” They look slightly different from milk kefir grains and are translucent while milk kefir grains are white.
These live active crystals contain over 14 different types of yeast and bacteria existing in what some people call a symbiotic relationship, but that is not exactly true. Bacteria and yeast fight for dominance and each of them keeps the other in balance. The yeasts (which are probiotics too) are fast growers but run out of room to grow due to the larger amount of good bacteria. They are then forced to ferment and the by-product is the lovely naturally occurring carbonation present in water kefir. Bacteria and yeasts work in our bodies much the same way. You need both to have a healthy gut microbiome. You need more beneficial bacteria than yeasts and when you have this harmony, all is well. I love all that bacteria can do, and water kefir can help you replace drinks that don’t have health benefits such as sodas and energy drinks. For thousands of years, probiotic cultures have helped keep our foods and drinks safe through the process of fermentation. When a food or beverage is fermented, it is loaded with beneficial bacteria and yeasts that keep out harmful bacteria. The fermentation increases the minerals and vitamins and helps you digest the foods you eat when you have a glass with your meal.
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It's so important to heal and nourish your gut. Hippocrates stated, "All diseases begin in the gut". I found seven ways to accomplish the task and it changed everything for me. Let me show you easy ways to heal your gut. Love your body and let it shine for you!
- S. Fallon, Nourishing Traditions (Washington, D.C: New Trends Publishing, 1999): 596.