SFH #21: Balancing the Gut

My approach to keeping a healthy microbiome ⚡️

We are incredibly complex organisms—case in point, we have trillions of tiny bacteria living right in our gut. You can probably imagine that what we put into our bodies will likely have a meaningful effect on our microbiome.

I've tried a few different methods to keep my gut in balance, and I want to share my approach today. 

After taking probiotic supplements for different periods over the last ten years, I can honestly say I have no idea how well they work and if they work for me. Now, I'm not saying that they don't work, but we don't know how well they work or how well they work versus a healthy and balanced diet. There isn't enough science to validate probiotic supplementation (this coming from the field's scientific experts). And when it comes to an understanding where you should invest your time and energy (especially your money), I can tell you that keeping the bar at 'prove it to me' through experimentation or 'enough science' should be your minimum. Below is a short 5-minute podcast episode about this topic.

So if we can’t necessarily supplement our way to a balanced gut, then how can we get there?

My preferred method, which has proven effective for me, has been an intentional lifestyle of a diverse diet with plenty of veggies, fiber, probiotic 'real' foods, regular exercise, and regular mediation. Yes, believe it, or not meditation can have a profound effect on our gut health1. We are still at the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the gut and brain connection.

Here is a list of my favorites from the fermented food list

Sauerkraut

Sauerkraut is my jam. I keep two containers of the Wildbrine Raw Sauerkraut 50oz container (pictured below) in my fridge most of the time. I add it to 95% of my salads. I eat it straight. I put it over roasted sweet potato, avocado, salt, pepper, and EVOO. Shout out to Elijah for that last combo. 🎉

Pickles

There isn't a pickle I've met that I don't like. Half sour, full sour, dill, spicy, you name it! I love going to the farmer's market to try out different pickles from the barrels. Pro tip: Trader Joe's is the most affordable healthy pickles (no sugar added). The ingredient list should not include sugar or unknown substances. You want cucumber, brine (vinegar, water, salt), herbs. 🤤

Kimchi

Kimchi, to me, is just the fun party version of sauerkraut. I love the unique flavors and combos you can find in kimchi. I admittedly don't eat as much kimchi as other foods on this list (besides the dairy), but I enjoy it, and I just ordered a big container to try to recreate the Urban Bowl I order from Harlow in Portland.

Kombucha

If you are late to the party on kombucha, don't worry. It's not for everyone, and it's not any more effective than the rest of this list. I love it, and I've been drinking it for 17 years now. I especially like drinking it to digest the meal I recently ate or settling an upset stomach. Try different ones out to see what you like. I look for lower sugar contents. Sugar is needed to grow the bacteria, so no getting around it. Amber bottles are essential. UV can change the chemistry and 'skunk' the 'buch! 🦨

Miso

I was looking for a good picture to share but haven't found it yet. Our son, Henry, used to drink miso soup on the regular out of his baby bottle. It was his umami treat. I'm always searching for fun and interesting brothy soups to try out, and this staple is excellent for the all-around satisfying and healthy punch it gives. I try and gravitate towards the homemade or authentic rather than the pre-packaged with the additives. 🍼

Tempeh

This delicious fermented soybean meat replacement has been around for a while but has grown in popularity with the push for less meat consumption and the vegan movement. I have purchased to make at home but have failed to make my planned recipes of tempeh scramble, salad, or sandwich to date. Look for tempeh as a BLT sub for the bacon or marinated teriyaki style. Delish. 🥓

Kefir

Drinkable yogurt, anyone? 😂  I don't consume kefir often. I've enjoyed it when I have, but I consider dairy a treat. And I usually like to reserve that treat for a milkshake, ice cream sandwich, or ice cream 🍨. The fermented version of dairy would be an ideal healthy choice. Hey, I'm certainly not perfect at this health game. 🤷🏼‍♂️

Yogurt

I could probably write a whole thing about yogurt, but I'll keep this short and sweet. It CAN be a good source of probiotics and protein. I like to limit my dairy. I go for full fat and as close to the real deal as possible. I believe in getting all the nutrients available. Too much can happen as food is processed and stripped of its natural state. 🥄

1

https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/29306937/#:~:text=During%20stress%2C%20an%20altered%20gut,a%20healthy%20gut%2Dbarrier%20function.