“Your gut is like inner garden; just as with any garden—when you let the weeds take over, you get into trouble”
We currently estimate the number of bacteria in our body to be in the order of a trillion – weighing a total of 3 kilos. This means that for every one of the cells that make up your body, there are nine impostor cells hitching a ride. You are not just flesh and blood, muscle and bone, brain and skin, but also bacteria and fungi. Over your lifetime, you will carry the equivalent weight of five African elephants in microbes. You are not an individual but a colony. Your skin is crawling with them: they are more on the tips of your fingers than the population of England. Until recently, we had thought our microbes hardly mattered, but science is revealing a different story, one in which microbes run our bodies and becoming a healthy human being is frankly impossible without them.
You might have already heard that our second brain is in our gut, and that there is communication between the central nervous system (brain) and the enteric nervous system (gut) : this is called The gut brain axis. This means that the gut is able to regulate brain chemistry and influence neurologic and immune function ( as well as digestive functions, endocrine functions and anything associated with stress response, anxiety and memory function.)
The latest scientific research show how our personal colony of gut microbes influences:
- our immune system: Around 70% of your immune cells are found in your gastro intestinal tract: their job is to identify and kill any pathogens, toxins or other health-robbing substances we may have ingested.Probiotics form a barrier on the intestinal wall, serving as a powerful line of defence to prevent pathogens and germs from being absorbed into the blood stream. They are also key for overall immunity, as they have been shown to enhance the function of “Natural Killer” immune cells.
- our mental health: Your gastrointestinal track is the most abundant source of neurotransmitters outside the brain. Take serotonin: one of the brain’s chemicals that influences mood, and makes us feel happy , actually has its highest concentrations in the gut… and, it is estimated that 90 percent of the body’s serotonin is made in the digestive tract. What is the route of communication between the microbiota and the brain? Bacterias are able to speak the same language as a serotonin molecules and actually, stimulates dialogue (neurotransmission) in the enteric nervous system ( the gut ) The message is then passed on through nerves via the vagus nerves ( nerves that link the gut to the brain ) and this really, enables gut–brain communication, providing this happy feeling with the delivery of serotonin to the brain.
Unfortunately, the standard western diet is poor of the things our beneficial gut bacteria requires. Our guts become damaged when we eat a processed diet that’s high in sugar and starch, don’t eat enough of the right fiber and prebiotics (the food the probiotic feed off), or take too many gut-busting drugs (like antibiotics, acid blockers for reflux, anti-inflammatories, hormones, and more). The chemicals from processed foods and the environmental toxins we take in only make the situation worse. With the current health crisis we are adding an extra layer of trouble to our beneficial little guys… In order to kill this virus we have become even more obsessed with sanitizing, leaving little room for our beneficial bacteria.
In order to help your colony thrive you can either incorporate more fermented food ( recipe below) into your diet or take some supplements. There are many different varieties of probiotics out there and you should look for one with at least 25-50 billion living CFUs (colony-forming units) Please get in touch for more infos, if needed.
Easy preserved lemon recipe ( morrocan style )
Why fermentation? Fermentation is a natural process performed by beneficial bacteria. Its main benefit is that they are lacto-fermented. Homemade fermentation, in a salt brine solution is more interesting than store bought fermented food because you naturally encourage the lacto-bascilli bacteria to feed on the starches in your foods and boost the natural beneficial bacteria . The salt solution is also useful to stop pathogenic and harmful bacteria
You will need:
- a clean mason jar
- 5 whole lemons
- non iodised salt
- Simply cut 3 lemons into quarters and about 3 quarters of the way so that the lemon stays whole ( see pix above) fill in the gap with salt ( at least a table spoon worth if not more)
- Squeeze and press your lemons down the jar
- Top up with the juice of the two remaining lemons
- Store for at least 3 weeks, occasionally pushing the lemons to release more juice.
- I ve added coriander seed and star anis on this occasion, but it is not necessary.
You can use it as a condiment with salad , with fish, in tagines or anytime you would normally add lemons to your recipe!