What about my gut bacteria? Is it good or bad?
I always endeavour to have all my health markers perfect. I strive to be healthy inside as well as outside. I regularly monitor my glucose, cholesterol, triglycerides, blood pressure, resting heart rate, sleep patterns, liver function, kidney function, colon function, lung function and all the rest, doing all I can to make then run perfectly through training and diet.
My 'Forever Diet' was and has been for the last few months, LCHF (Low Carb high fat) diet with IF (Intermittent Fasting), which I have found fabulous for weight maintenance, energy levels, great sleep patterns and glucose/triglycerides/HDL Cholesterol management. And I enjoy the food. Intermittent Fasting I will always do forever, as I strongly believe that it does me good by resting my digestive system and autophagy (purging damaged body cells and replenishing with new), reduces inflammation and bloating, keeping insulin and blood sugars in check and keeps giving my brain a regular burst of ketone (fat) fuel so it isn't always being fuelled by glycogen (carb/protein fuel). I love the LCHF concept too, love the foods, I prefer to keep carbs low and only eat real or raw carbs that have high fibre. So lots of veg, occasional fruit, I only eat real locally produced honey, grass fed meats, raw unpasteurised milk/butter/cheese etc. My daily diet as a rule doesn't have any sugary foods, so no cakes or sweets nor does it include pasta, no breads, no rice and nothing processed, all carbs being eaten it there original form as nature intended. All my food that I prepare at home and for work, must look like real food, and as much as I can, buy it locally from farms. Although there are also times for social reasons, I will eat what everyone else is eating, as I think its important not to alienate myself with friends and family, as these social feasting gatherings are part of our human culture.
After trialling all the diets there are out there, Keto, Paleo, Carb Cycling, IF, Back Loading, Vegan...and so the list goes on, I have come to the conclusion that no one diet is the 'best'. As much as Vegan, Paleo and Keto fans preach theirs is the 'best' of all diets, I think they all have great aspects to them, and all have there place. Keto and IF are great for reversing Diabetes Type 2 and helping kick start an obese individuals diet, Veganism is great for helping people with heart disease, Paleo is great for people with MS and other auto immune diseases and so on. But no one diet is ideal for everyone, and some are not lifetime diets and should be used to achieve a goal such as Keto to reverse Diabetes, once you are no longer diabetic, I think there is a need to re-introduce a balance of carbs to encourage your body to utilise sugars again as they should, and get your insulin working and balanced again. I now find I take a piece of each making a good healthy balance, and a diverse range of foods.
I have been including daily probiotics and prebiotics into my daily diet for some time now. Making my own probiotic Kefir, and eating others such as fermented Sauerkraut and Tofu, Kimchi and trying Kombucha drinks to introduce new bacteria into my gut. And adding some prebiotics too, to naturally help stimulate growth of any good bacteria in my gut. So adding Probiotics introduce new gut bacteria, and Prebotics feed the gut bacteria, acting like a fertiliser. More about both of these later.
However, LCHF does raise my LDL cholesterol (although as per my Facebook Page rants, I don't believe high LDL cholesterol is always a bad thing) as the diet does for many, due to eating higher fats than most standard diets. And I have finally come off my colon cleansing tablets after 12 years or so of taking them, but only if I rigidly stick to my super high fibre diet do I get away with needing them. One week in a hotel at work the other week put me back to where I was, as wasn't eating as I normally did. So this still needs a proper fix.
So, what is going on in my gut? is it in good condition? Does it need improving? I wanted to know. So I sent off for one of these ....
So what are Probiotic and Prebiotic foods?
There are supplements that mean you can pop a pill to add Prebiotics and Probiotics to your diet. But I believe in food and adding them the natural way. I thought I would show you my fridge and food cupboards and walk you through some ingredients...
Probiotic - Kefir
The Kefir I make is made with raw milk and Kefir grains (live bacteria). You need to store it in a glass jar as the bacteria can eat into plastic containers, and only use stainless steel or plastic utensils to stir or serve, as aluminium, brass, iron and copper can react to the acid in the Kefir which isn't great for us. I bought this little kefir making pack from Kerfirko which really does the job.
I use about 1 large tablespoon of grains to start with about half a pint of milk. This is 2 servings. Put them together in an aired jar and leave on side for 24 hours for it to ferment. You may see separation form and it go lumpy. Then strain it and drink it (its a bitter sour creamy tastes, not to everyone's taste) I add it to my morning veggie shake. Some people add berries and such and blend to a berry milkshake.
Then I keep the second portion in the fridge till the next day. And so the cycle goes. The grains will grow. They multiply as they are live bacteria living of the milk.
You can also buy ready made Kefir from more and more supermarkets now if you prefer.
Note - If you don't need them for a while, still store them in some milk as they need it to live and feed on. Look after them, and they will look after you!
Probiotic - Fermented Raw Sauerkraut
Sauerkraut is shredded cabbage which has been left to ferment in salted water, and stored in an air tight jar to allow the various lactic acid bacteria to develop and ferment. You can let them ferment for as long as you want, days, weeks or months in some cases, although most people probably leave it a week or two. I have to confess, I haven't yet made my own, as I have found some great off the shelf sauerkraut.
Please note - Pickled sauerkraut bought in most supermarkets are not raw nor generally fermented. These have been heat treated or 'pasteurised' for longer shelf life and to actually kill the bacteria to aid long term shelf storage but in this process also kills all the good bacteria and most nutrients too . Hurly Burly sell a raw slaw that is great and won't break the bank, and Loving Foods sell a whole range of Sauerkraut, Kombucha and Kimchi on the site if you fancy trying a few natural pre made Probiotics.
This meal I had in the picture is some avocado with a cold cooked salmon that I submerged in a lemon, salt, honey and thyme mix for 24 hours for it to cold cook. No heat means all its natural nutrients were in tact. And then I topped it with some Sauerkraut to finish. A lovely fresh summer meal.
Probiotic - Kimchi
Kimchi is a pickle that originally comes from Korea. It is a fermented pickle make with various vegetables like cabbage, radishes, onions, garlic, and is often flavoured with turmeric and chilli and other spices.
I have tried a few and some did make me wince (face scrunched up!) but some where tasty like the one in the picture and is lovely with cheese or a good sausage like a spicy chutney.
My favourites have been from Culture Collective and Loving foods so far.
It is pretty much made the same as sauerkraut. With the various ingredients added to a brine mix in an airtight jar and left to ferment for a number of days, weeks or months.
I think for some it would probably be more flavoursome than just a sauerkraut as it has a little more taste and a bit of a kick.
Probiotic - Kombucha
Kombucha is a fermented brew and a type of tea.
There are a lot of ready brewed bottles that are started to be sold in various supermarkets. They can be a little steep cost wise but shop about. And there is some lovely ready made flavours out there too. I tried a ginger flavoured one from Waitrose made by Rude Health and it was delish.
It should have a little fizz to it, so those who do home brew it do tend to treat it like a social drink or with meals and it does taste good. The fermentation process can make it slightly alcoholic. And if you are tea-total like me, it feels like a bit of a naughty but nice treat to have when friends are over, or a Saturday night watching Netflix. Makes me feel all grown up!
There are a number of Kombucha starter kits out there is you want to brew your own. Supplying the jars, the weave cloth, plastic or wood stirring utensils, and the Kombucha SCOBY which stands for 'symbiotic colony of bacteria and yeast' and is your little family of yeast and bacteria that ferments the Kombucha. It is just like brewing a home beer, but with health benefits too!
Chicory Root - Massively high in fibre, around 50% of it is fibre, so helps constipation, and also aids fat absorption during digestion. Some countries grind it down and drink it like coffee. I add a spoonful to my turmeric and ginger latte I have most evenings.
Jerusalem Artichokes - These seem to be a favourite on all prebiotic best of listings. Massively high in inulin fibre at 76%, which increases good bacteria in the colon. I can't think of any other prebiotic higher than this per gram. They are also high in thiamine (Vitamin B1) and potassium too. It helps the immune system and nervous system. I add these raw to my morning veggie shake. But they can be roasted or sauteed, and are very much to be treated like parsnips or potatoes.
Apple Cider Vinegar - This prebiotic aids digestion, lowers LDL cholesterol, and blood pressure as well as the gut supporting benefits. Always look for an unpasteurised, unfiltered and organic one. It is perfectly normal to have 'bits' floating around in it. I make a great salad dressing with this mentioned in the dandelion leaves, and the good ones taste great straight from the bottle. It is also believed to help with weight loss. Although I am always sceptical about this phrase. (One eye brow is currently raised)
Dandelion Leaves - fresh and dried - Again, high fibre so helps constipation, improves immune system, reduces inflammation, and is believed to help lower LDL cholesterol. I use the fresh greens as salad leaves, and the dried I add to my veggie morning shake. The leaves can be slightly sour. But I make a cider vinegar, olive oil, lemon, and honey and mustard dressing to drizzle on them, which makes them delish! The bitter sweet mix works well like it does with most salad leaves. They are hard to find to buy..so go into your garden and pick them!
Chia Seeds - Chia seeds are some of the best plant sources of anti-inflammatory omega-3 fat known as alpha-linoleic acid (ALA), these are normally found in oily fish. These are full of prebiotic soluble fibres and help repair gut lining. I soak these in coconut milk and honey overnight sometimes, as they swell and set. Then I have them as a dessert or breakfast.
Tiger Nuts - Are not actually a nut but a tuber, so grows underground like a root plant. So its more a vegetable and can be eaten by people with nut allergies, as it isn't a nut. It is sweet to eat, and I often eat them out the bag, although they can make your jaw ache, but are terrible moreish! They are anti-bacterial fighting salmonella and E-coli to name a few. Very high in fibre and another great anti-oxidant. They can be made into a sweet milk too. But soaking them in water for around 24 hours and then squeezing out all the fluid in a mesh cloth. Then the fluid is drunk and is like a sweet milk full of rich fibre goodness, and tastes great.
Burdock Root - Like the rest, this also aids the immune system, high in various fibres and helps constipation, (as you've probably seen a pattern forming in my choice of prebiotics!) It also is an antioxidant and helps lower blood sugars. This gets added each morning to my veggie shake.
Green Blends - a mix of Spirulina, Wheat grass, Chlorella, Matcha and Green Tea - All these have health benefits and I bought this mix when I went looking to buy a spirulina product. I figured I'd buy a mixed green blend to get a little bit of everything. Spirulina and Chlorella are both blue green algae. So basically a seaweed, with massive health benefits.
This is a quote about spriulina in the Journal of Microbiology and Experimentation document 'It contains 78% proteins, vitamins, 4-7% lipids (fats), minerals, carbohydrates and some natural pigments. Due to the presence of these phytonutrients, it has corrective properties against several diseases like cancer, hypertension, hypercholesterolemia, diabetes, anaemia etc. Research studies have reported that the extracellular products produced by Spirulina platensis significantly promotes the growth of lactic acid bacteria such as Lactococcus lactis, Streptococcus thermophilus, Lactobacillus casei, Lactobacillus acidophilus, and Lactobacillus bulgaricus.' .....WOW....these is recognised as as a fabulous prebiotic which helps growth of a range of gut bacteria. Stick it straight in my shake! However...I should mention, don't use much, I use half to a full teaspoon of this powder as it is very concentrated and also tastes pretty crap and can overpower the food or shake you put it in and make it undrinkable. So, be careful and use sparingly!
My favourite - Dark Chocolate over 80% or cocoa - Flavanol rich and is great for the heart and cardiovascular system, it helps to lower LDL cholesterol and can lift your mood. I have about two Lindt squares of dark chocolate daily with a coffee. Lush!
These are some of the prebiotics I have used for a while or introduced recently. Some prebiotics I have been eating forever, and probably so have you. Such as asparagus, onions, garlic, apples, pears, bananas, leeks and such, so some don't need to be so unusual, however, the key to a good gut bacteria is diversity, so eating a range of new foods you may not have had before could very well improve your gut even more. And keep you eating interesting and new.
So what else is in the veggie shake?
- Half an avocado
- A mini apple or pear or berries
- Mint leaves
- Tablespoon of Tiger Nuts
- Half my homemade Kefir
- Tablespoon Dried Dandelion leaves
- Tablespoon Burdock Root
- One Jerusalem Artichoke
- 1 1/2 inch square of raw ginger
- Half teaspoon of Greens Blend
- Teaspoon of local honey
- And top with water and blend
It's sometimes so thick I eat it with a spoon. I actually look forward to it and see it not only as a tasty start to the day but medicinal too. It's probably not for everyone, but it could spark an idea or two for you.
And my Microbiome test results are back...
Our microbiome is as unique as our fingerprints. No one is the same. Identical twins can have massively different microbiome make ups. Some of it is passed down from generations, your Mother during pregnancy and birth will pass on some of hers, and her grandmother before hand..and then you start building your own with what you eat, who you kiss, what you touch, stroking your cat, travelling the world and with everything you do. And it is clear my travels have had a big impact on mine as as far as I am aware I have no american ancestors. It would be interesting to see my sisters results? As our travels have been quite different.
My results also showed my total probiotic and prebiotic levels are great, 9/10 in fact. So I couldn't of asked for more and have clearly got a good intake of these going.
So, time for a rethink on my dietry intake. So I decided to add some carbs. I added the following for to aid raising my B3 levels ...
Prebiotic and Probiotic Carbohydrates
OAT Groats -
So because I like to buy food in its original form. The word groats can refer to any whole kernel of grain that has been minimally processed. Some processing removes its outer husk or hull. Groats are a whole grain that retains the germ and bran in all its glory.
They have to be prepared in a certain way. You simmer then for 50 minutes on a hob, and let them cool, then let them sit and soak for 8-12 hours in milk cinnamon and honey in the fridge, then I eat them for breakfast sometimes heated again with added pear, macadamia and tiger nuts for texture. They are delicious.
For speed, I also found I can cook them in the pressure cooker for 8-10 mins, let them cool, then soak them as before.
So I have these on weekends, and my veg shake during my weekday non fasting days.
Wheat and Rye Sourdough -
I chose this as it hits 3 birds with one stone. It adds wheat, rye and another fermented food which is the bread making process itself, that is sourdough.
Yes I bough the first batch pre-made, to see what its like. I will at some point attempt to make it myself.
Sourdough is a probiotic as it is fermented for 16-24 hours, some leave it for days using organic wheat. It helps remove the indigestible molecules from the grains and grows and stimulates the good bacteria, which is why it is much easier to digest. Its not cheap but you are paying for the process. It have also been reported many supermarket ones are fake in many newspapers. Waitrose got a 'real' marker on this, so I tried this one. I will be baking my own too at some point.
Please note - When supplementing with vitamins be careful of amounts. I only need about 16 mg (0.016 gram) of B3 daily. This is a tiny amount and if you take too much you get a 'Niacin Flush' which withing 5 minutes of taking it will turn most of your body bright red starting from your head, and your skin will have a burning itchy sensation. This will disappear after about 30 mins - 2 hrs and isn't really harmful. Unless you do it daily for days on end, which can make the kidneys over work, but why would you? This is the powerful effect of vitamins, and how they can have an impact on your body, so stick to the 16 mg or suggested daily vitamin dosage, and don't guess the amount...like I did. (Red burning skin went after about 2 hrs ....doh! Looked like a lobster!)
A little note on local honey....
You have probably seen I often use honey, and always locally sourced. This is a sugar carb, but it is the best one you can buy, and worth seeking it out.
We only produce about a third of the honey we consume from real bees. They do not and can not due to them disappearing produce the volume we actually eat. So what are you eating?
Often just a man made syrup with added pollen to pass the 'honey' test. So you don't really know what your getting.
There are Bedford and Northampton bee keepers that sell there honey in local farm shops. I got this from one in from a farm in Stagsden.
Honey is about 75% sugar and the rest is made up of other nutrients. So is the only sugar that actually contains natural nutrients and antioxidants. The sugar percentage is half glucose and half sucrose, so its a nice mix of natural sugars for you cells (sucrose delivers energy to all your body cells and liver) and liver (glucose digests only in the liver for energy to be used at a later date).
Eating honey local to your address is also claimed to be beneficial to any allergies too, so could help improve your hayfever. Honey rocks!
A little note on raw dairy...
I go to a local farm weekly to collect my veg, dairy and meat. I found a wonderful little Farm in North Crawley run by the lovely Angela. Get onto their Raw Milk Diary Facebook page on this link.
Raw Milk means its unpasteurised, so hasn't been heat treated (pasteurised) killing the natural bacteria's and nutrients in the milk. Pasteurisation for shop bought milks was introduced in the early 1900's to get longer shelf life. But again, it kills a lot of its natural nutrients. This process means standard milk can store for 3-4 weeks (farm to your fridge), and UHT (Ultra Heat Treated) lasts for up to 9 months.
So drinking it raw is as nature intended means you get all nutrients, even more so when you know the cows that produce it is grass fed natural roaming animals, and not fed on sugary fattening pellets.
Do your research and make your own decision. As I have done. Been eating and drinking raw dairy for 6 weeks now, and its a routine that's staying. Tastes so much better too.
Conclusion to date...
I will be doing another microbiome test 3 months after this one, which will bring me to June, to see what impact these changes have made. And I will update you all with those results and how I have been getting on.
I hope you enjoyed reading this and maybe learn't a little more about the foods we eat and should eat.
And I'll catch up with you all soon.
Have a great day!