Balancing Act

Imagine my glee last night when I really wanted to post something about the wonderful taste of coconut milk kefir but I knew I still had three more blogs to write about your digestive health, so I went to check my agenda and realized that this week’s blog was about the importance of a healthy gut flora. I almost got out of bed and started right away as there is little that is better to increase the good bacteria in your digestive tract than coconut milk kefir. Alas sleepiness overcame my compunction to create. Here I am at almost noon on Monday finally gearing up to share what I know about this balancing act called healthy gut flora.

What is gut flora all about? I am going to give you a very simplistic view but it you would like to read more on the subject I think Jemima Stockton’s information is presented in a thoroughly entertaining format.  A healthy gut flora is composed of bacteria with great names like lactobacillus, Bifidobacterium, E. Coli and Enteroccoccus and these bacteria help to protects us from disease. Even as we come through the birth canal we ingest fluids from our mother’s body full of these bacteria, so they are literally with us from the beginning hanging around in our digestive tract. “Our normal flora produces essential nutrients and generates by-products that reduce the risks of developing certain cancers, digestive disorders, and heart disease. It serves our bodies from the cradle to the grave.”

What disrupts this normal flora? Antibiotics, aging and a diet full of processed foods and sodas can have a profound effect on your gut flora allowing bacterial warriors like Clostridium Difficile to wage war and cause diarrhea for instance. If normal gut flora is disrupted and/or altered it has a deleterious effect on your body’s ability to win battles with heart disease, cancers and allergies to name but a few.

Let’s consider a particular scenario for learning purposes. This morning when you got up your stomach felt queasy and within minutes you found your self on the “throne” gushing out noxious fluids. The best action at that point is to try and balance your out of kilter gut. While not pleasant, if the bad guys have taken up residence you really must allow them to occupy the space and then move out. It can be very cleansing to empty your bowels but then it is time to repopulate the gut with the good guys. Often probiotics in heavy doses taken at first sign of diarrhea will have an immediate effect and the healing can begin. But how do you get the probiotics and which ones are the best?

Now it gets fun for me because one of the best ways to increase your probiotic intake is to make your own kefir (pronounced Keh- fear). Kefir made with raw milk or my new favorite coconut milk is so rich in all the good bacteria and so easy and cheap to make that any other choice seems foolish. Dr. Mercola says kefir is the best way to take your probiotics and it is so simple and the results so good you will be amazed.

 

kefir grains

 

You start with “grains” of kefir which can be easily ordered from eBay or Cultures for Health. I often have extra grains to share with friends and co-workers and I love getting them started on the road to health.

They are odd little mushroom like organisms as you can see by the photo to the right but they are amazing when added to milk. The amount you see will ferment an entire quart of raw milk or two cans of coconut milk (yes you can ferment rice and nut milk but you will need to recharge the grains in milk or they will die). You place them in a quart jar add your “milk” of choice, mix it with a wooden spoon (it is better to not expose the grains to metals) cover lightly and put away in your microwave ( I use my microwave to store things not to cook things) or pantry where it will be out of direct light overnight or 24 hours. The longer they ferment the more tart the taste and also the warmer it is the faster the process.

The coconut milk kefir after 24 hours looks a lot like a whipped cream and it tastes wonderful. (You need to know that coconut kefir will bubble and ferment rather voraciously, so put it in a much larger jar to allow for growth). Admittedly if you don’t like coconut you may not like the taste but I have no such problem and I love the creamy texture and the mildly tart taste. Last night I put a dollop on my Avocado-Chocolate mousse and it was a tongue tingling addition.

Are there other ways to balance the gut flora? Yes, fermenting vegetables like cucumber, cabbage, turnips, eggplant, etc. is a simple and good way to get gut flora normalized as is kombucha (especially kombucha with ginger) and yogurt made with live cultures. Dr. Joe Mercola suggests eating one to two crushed garlic cloves every day as it will support the good guys and kill off the bad ones and of course, he is a raw milk  advocate and it, and its by-products, contain lots of probiotics (despite the media palaver). Also cleaning up your diet is a great help. Just restricting your intake of sugar and white foods, like white flour and white rice is a step in the right direction on the tightrope to good health.

Gosh  I think it is time for a break and some coconut kefir served atop my sprouted buckwheat groats sounds a treat.

Here’s to a healthy gut,

Kris

 

The finished coconut kefir

 

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