There are about 10 times as many outside organisms as there are human cells within the human body. We have an internal complex ecological system of bacteria located within our bodies that we call the microbiome. These are microbes that inhabit both the inside and outside of our bodies, especially residing in the gut, digestive tract, genitals, mouth and nose areas. What determines if someone’s microbiome is in good shape or not? It comes down to the balance of “bad bacteria” versus “good bacteria” which is sometimes called probiotics.

So what are probiotics and where do I get them?

We can get them in the form of nutritional drinks, packets that we empty and dissolve under our tongue, in pills, added to processed foods… so many artificial ways, but the best way is to get them naturally. Fermented foods—naturally fermented foods are the very best way to add them to our microbiome.

"It may seem strange to us that, in earlier times, people knew how to preserve vegetables for long periods without the use of freezers or canning machines. This was done through the process of lacto-fermentation. Lactic acid is a natural preservative that inhibits putrefying bacteria. Starches and sugars in vegetables and fruits are converted into lactic acid by the many species of lactic-acid producing bacteria. These lactobacilli are ubiquitous, present on the surface of all living things and especially numerous on leaves and roots of plants growing in or near the ground. Man needs only to learn the techniques for controlling and encouraging their proliferation to put them to his own use, just as he learned to put certain yeasts to use in converting the sugars in grape juice to alcohol in wine.

The ancients understood the fact that important chemical changes took place during this type of fermentation. Their name for this change was "alchemy." Like the fermentation of dairy products, preservation of vegetables and fruits by the process of lacto-fermentation has numerous advantages beyond those of simple preservation. The proliferation of lactobacilli in fermented vegetables enhances their digestibility and increases vitamin levels." (Sally Fallon, Nourishing Traditions, 2001 New Trend Publishing, page 89.)

Recently, the scientific community has come to embrace the important role that bacteria have in fostering a strong immune system and keeping us healthy. Not only are all bacteria NOT detrimental to our health, but some are actually crucial for boosting immunity, keeping our digestive systems running smoothly, keeping our hormone levels balanced and our brains working properly.

Poor gut health is tied to dozens of diseases, especially:

  • Autoimmune diseases (arthritis, inflammatory bowel disease, Hashimoto’s disease, etc.)
  • Fatigue and joint pain
  • Brain disorders/cognitive decline (Alzheimer’s, dementia, etc.)
  • Mood disorders (depression, anxiety)
  • Learning disabilities (ADHD, autism)
  • Cancer
  • Infertility and pregnancy complications
  • Allergies, asthma and sensitivities

These good bacteria—particularly those in our gut—may improve digestion, boost immunity and—according to some preliminary studies—they may even help us get leaner. Research is still emerging on just how important these mighty microbes might be for our health, but the early results are promising. There’s plenty you can do now to encourage their growth. The most effective way is by eating foods packed with probiotics—good bacteria that live in your gut and show up in fermented foods. Add fermented foods to your diet for a healthy dose of probiotics.