Over the past decade, there has been an explosion of investigation into one of the most exciting areas of research – the gut microbiome. It has become increasingly obvious that the bacteria and viruses that reside in our guts are not only essential to life, but more closely related to the condition of our health than we first suspected.
The Death of Diversity
Over the past century or more, as our diet has drastically changed, the number of bacterial species residing in our gut has decreased by about one-third. Sadly, about one-third of the earth’s biodiversity has also been lost in the past decades – perhaps we really are a reflection of the eco-system we inhabit?
Just as greater diversity in the environment contributes to greater resilience of ecosystems, so does the diversity of our own gut microbiome. The greater the diversity, the greater our resilience to infections, nutritional and dietary variations, stress, and the ever-growing onslaught of chemicals and electromagnetic frequencies in our modern world.
What’s the alternative?
Thankfully, there is an alternative to faster and faster food, that is also fast destroying us. It’s known as the “slow food” movement, and sees a return to farmers markets, home-grown produce and preserving of foods by the age-old traditions of drying, smoking, or fermentation.
Fermentation not only increases the activity of certain strains of healthy bacteria, but increases digestibility, and the bioavailability of many nutrients, making the addition of fermented foods to our diet a smart move. Fermented food products, such as sourdough breads or milk kefirs, can sometimes be tolerated by those who are usually allergic or sensitive to gluten or lactose. This is because friendly bacteria have already began to pre-digest and neutralize some enzymes and substances in the food.
What is Kefir?
Milk kefir, is a fermented drink, made and consumed for centuries in the Caucasus Mountains. It was originally made with goat’s or cow’s milk, but may also be made with coconut milk. It is made by adding kefir “grains” to the liquid and leaving at room temperature to ferment. During this time, healthy bacteria proliferate, changing the taste of the milk to a tangy, yeasty flavor.
Because our gut bacteria is constantly communicating with our brain, changes in our gut microbiota also affect our mental acuity, moods and emotional health. Regular consumption of kefir and yogurt has been shown to:
- have a beneficial effect on your mood
- reduce levels of anxiety and depression
Recent experiments in Britain have shown that regular drinking of kefir may have more benefits than expensive probiotic drinks (which often contain sugar to make them more palatable). One of the benefits seen in volunteers who consumed kefir for four weeks, was an increase in lactobacillus – a family of friendly bacteria, known to help create balance in the gut, which may benefit those with lactose intolerance or enteric infection causing traveller’s diarrhoea .
Let us hope that the comeback of kefir and other fermented food items is not just a passing fad, but a real return to some of the eating habits and practices of our ancestors, who may not have had the scientific studies to back up their food choices, but instinctively knew what was good for them.
I would recommend Kefir Plus by Turmeric and Honey, for it’s unique mix of Lactobacillus Kefir and Lactobacillus bulgaricus, which complement each other in helping heal and support the gut, increase immunity, reduce pH levels, and regulate serum lipid levels.
 Mayer E. The Mind-Gut Connection, (2016), Harper Collins Books, New York, NY.
 Do pricey probiotic drinks boost stomach health?
http://www.dailymail.co.uk/health/article-4173294/Do-pricey-probiotic-drinks-boost-stomach-s-health.html#ixzz4anKkZ300. Accessed 9th March, 2017.