The well being of our gut might be the most important thing to focus on when it comes to our health and prevention of disease. Recent science and research are just touching the surface of this mind-blowing ecosystem, and I'm sure we'll see lots of new discoveries within the next few years. One thing is for sure though; our gut microbiome is kind of amazing. It's the home for about 100 trillion cells (!), and several trillions of different bacterias, making it the highest density bacterial ecosystem we know of. All these bacterias live symbiotically in our gut, and creating and maintaining balance between these little guys is beyond important to our health. When it comes to immunity Hippocrates had it right, given the fact that about 70% of our body's immune cells live in our intestines. I talk about this a lot with my clients, but an outlook that helped me truly understand the importance of this was when I started thinking of our intestines as the only barrier between us and the outside world (because it is). When I understood this, it was easier to accept that keeping my gut healthy had to be a priority, as the integrity of the gut lining depends on it in order to function as the barrier system it is.
However, due to our current western diet and lifestyle we've lost the microbial diversity that once kept us healthy. It's well documented how anti-nutrients such as lectins found mainly in grains and legumes ruins our intestinal lining, as well as how too much carbs (sugar) and all our processed foods supports the growth of unhealthy bacteria while decreasing the healthy flora.
In addition to this, our emotional life affect our gut as well. Every single emotion we feel has a direct biochemical effect in our bodies, and the one that's most concerning in relation to our gut health is....stress! What a surprise, right? Stress is an adaptive response to any real or perceived threat that we developed to ensure survival. It's primal, and can be either acute or chronic. The gut is sensitive to both, although chronic stress seem to pose a greater issue than acute. Antibiotics is another thing worth mentioning as a serious issue for us modern humans. Not only does western medicine tend to over-prescribe antibiotics, but it's also in the food we eat. This is bad for many reasons, but in terms of our gut it kills the good bacteria as well as the bad. It's really no wonder we've seen such a rise in not only metabolic disorders, but also autoimmune diseases over the past 4-5 decades.
So what to do? Are we just all toast here? Nope, we can work to re-populate our guts with proper nutrition. Change our diet, remove the harmful stuff and keep the good (whole foods only, no grains, legumes, soy, sugar, pasteurized dairy, crap etc.). And, we should also add some high quality probiotics to our diet. Probiotics are live bacteria that are good for your gut. Aside from supplements, they come in the form of fermented foods, and many of us include daily doses of yogurt or other fermented dairy products in the hunt for these good bacterias. However, this isn't really optimal due to conventional western practices of raising cattle, pasteurization and the all too common added sugars. So unless you can get your hands on some good raw, full fat, fermented dairy I recommend sticking to fermented vegetables and a good supplement.
A couple of things to think about when purchasing these stinky veggies is to look for a product containing clean ingredients. It shouldn't contain more than the veggie(s) itself and a good source of salt. Also, make sure you get the ones stored in the cooler! If you find them in room temp they have been pasteurized, which kills off the good bacteria. I am personally fond of this brand of fermented veggies, but I am sure there's plenty more great options out there!