Not many people know that an adult on average carries 2 kg of bacteria in their gut. There are more cells in that microbial mass than there are cells in an entire human body: around 100 TRILLION!

It is a highly organised micro-world where certain species of bacteria have to predominate to keep us healthy physically and mentally. Their role in our health is so monumental that we simply cannot afford to ignore them.

So firstly we have our good guys – the friendly bacteria

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The main members of this group are: Bifidobacteria (Bifidobacterium bifidum), Lactobacteria (Lactobacillus acidophilus, Lactobacillus plantarum, Lactobacillus rhamnosus), Propionobacteria, Peptostreptococci and Enterococci

These are the housekeepers of the gut, without them your gut cannot be healthy. These bacteria fulfil a myriad of vital functions in the body. The whole surface of the digestive system in a healthy gut flora is covered and dominated by beneficial bacteria. In a healthy body these beneficial bacteria predominate and control all other microbes.

The beneficial bacteria provide a natural barrier and protect us against all sorts of invaders, bacteria, parasites, fungi, viruses, toxins etc that are in our food and drink that we ingest every day.

Apart from providing us with a physical barrier, the beneficial bacteria produce antibiotic like substances that are anti-fungal, anti-viral that dissolve viruses and ‘bad’ bacteria. They also reduce pH near the wall of the gut making it uninhabitable for the ‘bad’ bacteria to colonise.

Then we have our bad boys – the opportunistic bacteria

The main members of this group are: Bacteriods, Peptococci, Staphylococci, Streptococci, Bacilli, Clostridia, Yeasts, Enterobacteria, Fuzobacteria, Eubacteria and Catenobacteria

These can cause havoc and when you consider that 85% of the body’s immune system can be found in the gut then you realise that most disease can be linked back to who is running the show.

What lives in your Gut_4

So if you were a bottle fed baby or born by caesarean, then chances are high that you never formed a good colony in your gut of the good guys. We get a huge dose of bacteria from our mother as we come out through the womb and that process continues through the breastfeeding process.

Then like most people, you’ve had the occasional dose of antibiotics, and let’s just throw in some stress and a bad diet, then you’ve just found the one of the main culprits to address for better health.

So how do we improve things?

Fermented Foods – meaning ingredients like cabbage and cucumbers have been left to sit and steep until their sugars and carbs become bacteria-boosting agents, or probiotics as we commonly know them as. Fermentation has a long history – it was used in pre-modern times primarily to preserve food. Yet over the years, science has learned that the process of fermentation yields powerful health benefits.

When you eat fermented foods, you introduce friendly bacteria, or probiotics (“for life”), into your digestive system. What they do in food, they also do in the gut – they repel pathogenic bacteria and help break down nutrients so you can absorb them more easily.

Here are four sources of fermented/probiotic foods to include in your diet:

Kefir – Also known as drinkable yogurt, kefir is a cultured dairy product similar to yogurt, but it contains more strains of friendly bacteria than yogurt.

Sauerkraut – another very simple home fermenting project. You can ferment cabbage easily with just salt, or you can use a lacto-fermentation method by adding a little yogurt whey.

Kimchi – Like sauerkraut, though may contain different types of vegetables and seasonings, sugar and often some type of dried or fermented fish product.

Kombucha – This popular drink, like yogurt, and unlike wild fermented items like sauerkraut, is the product of a very specific culture. The culture is a spongy, slightly slimy disc that is sometimes called mother and sometimes called a skoby. The culture ferments a mixture of black tea and sugar into a tart, slightly fizzy drink that some people insist is a cure-all for many ailments

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