Did you know that we are more microbial than human? There are 10 times more bacteria that live in and on our bodies than cells of our own body, so about 100.000.000.000.000 (100 trillion!!!) microorganisms. Most of them live in our gut and have a large influence on our health and wellbeing. If we have the right bacteria in the right amounts in our intestines, we are likely thriving and healthy; if we don’t, we have a higher likelihood of suffering from illnesses such as obesity, type 2 diabetes, and heart disease. Our gut bacteria can even affect our moods and libido. So they are kind of a big deal, and you want to be sure to have the right ones with you!
The composition of our microbial community, which scientists believe consists of up to 1000 different types of bacteria and yeasts, is affected by your birth history (vaginal or caesarean delivery), your anti-biotic history, your general contact with microbes and by what you eat. You literally are what you eat which means you have the power to step up your health another notch!
You have probably heard of Lactobacillus and Bifidos species bacteria before, but science knows so little about what lives in our gut and what role it has there, that it is best to cover all your bases. So make sure to eat ‘good’ bacteria themselves (called pro-biotics) with the food you eat and to also include foods for the bacteria themselves (called pre-biotics)! Don’t start running to the next pharmacy, though, for a good tablet. We can get it all from natural sources, particularly if we travel back in time a bit. Our ancestors got it right there: wherever you are in the world, you are likely to have come across any of these foods that a high in natural probiotics before. Think:
- Sauerkraut (in Germany or the Eastern European countries)
- Kimchi (Korean fermented cabbage)
- other fermented vegetables
- Ayran or Lassi (fermented yoghurt drinks from Turkey and India, respectively)
- Salami (Italy)
- fermented beer (Africa)
All of these foods come with a healthy dose of bacteria that support your gut health and so your overall wellbeing. To make sure these bacteria are thriving eat lots of what scientists call resistant fibre: underripe banana, oats, leeks, onions, artichokes, asparagus and chicoree are examples of natural prebiotics. So next time you eat, don’t just think about what tastes good to you, but make it real good for your ‘flatmates’ also!