Feeding the Beast Within

Staff Sgt. Pablo Piedra took third place in the Division I digital darkroom category of the 2010 Army Digital Photography Contest with the self portrait "Beast within Me." Photo by Staff Sgt. Pablo Piedra
“Beast within Me.” Photo by Staff Sgt. Pablo Piedra, Flickr CC By-2.0

A decade ago, my cousin was visiting and we spent the night enjoying the great cheeses and beers he brought.  In the morning, my cousin introduced me to another treat that he brought, a crazy hangover-curing beverage.  I loved it.

He brought cheese, beer, and a hangover cure?  Yes, he was prepared!

This bottled beverage was bubbly and tangy and delicious, created from fermented tea.  I hadn’t had anything like this ancient beverage before, and I was hooked on kombucha.

Kombucha is now big business and can be found in any co-op and many grocery stores.  Around the world, kombucha enthusiasts are brewing their own — myself included!

Kombucha might be popular now, but there are other fermented foods that you may be familiar with.  Sriracha hot sauce?  Fermented.  Sour kraut?  Yep, and soy sauce, yogurt, kimchi, and more.

Holy Hot Sauce, by Mighty Travels, Flicker CC-By-2.0
Holy Hot Sauce, by Mighty Travels, Flicker CC-By-2.0

The fact is, humanity’s evolution has included fermented foods for over 8,000 years, all around the world.  Fermentation preserves foods and can help protect against food-borne illnesses.  Plus, fermentation makes things tasty and complex in a way that no other food preparation can.  Case in point: Beer!

The microbiome is the trillions of bacteria and non-human cells that live inside us and around us… This microbiome is the beast within you.  It’s health affects your mood and your food.

Fermented foods contribute to a healthy microbiome in our stomach.  The microbiome is the trillions of bacteria and non-human cells that live inside us and around us.  These bacteria help digest our foods and keep us healthy. Eating fermented foods adds additional, beneficial bacteria to this existing microbiome.  This microbiome is the beast within you.  It’s health affects your mood and your food. Adding beneficial bacteria to our microbiome via fermented foods should be part of a healthy diet.  Eat more yogurt.

Jerusalem Artichokes, by allispossible.org.uk, Flicker CC-By-2.0
Jerusalem Artichokes, allispossible.org.uk, Flicker CC-By-2.0

We also have an existing microbiome within our digestive tract.  Support that, nurture that. Eating the Real Food Diet, and not eating processed foods or artificial sweeteners, provides our microbiome with prebiotics, the foods that the microbiome needs to thrive.

Fake foods don’t nurture your microbiome. Artificial sweeteners create problems by altering the microbiome so that it can’t access the glucose that your body needs.  I don’t think altering our microbiome with artificial food is the best idea: the microbiome also affects our brain and moods.

This is the crazy part: if I’m eating a lot of sweets, I’m also feeding my microbiome a lot of sweets.  I’m shifting the balance of bacteria towards sugar-loving varieties.  Now that sugar-loving gut bacteria can send signals to my brain to crave more sweets.  Yep, the bacteria that thrive on sugars are partly to blame for our cravings!   Your microbiome controls you if you don’t control it.

Your microbiome controls you if you don’t control it.

The good news is that, by reducing our sugar intake, we reduce the sugar-craving bacteria.  Eating the Real Food Diet provides prebiotics to nurture the good bacteria that we need and helps balance our inner microbiome.  A balanced, healthy microbiome is one building block to gain control over our cravings, to build ourselves a better system.  Join us, join our mailing list.

Sunday Morning Tea by Flickr user Thomas Leuthard
Sunday Morning Tea by Thomas Leuthard, Flickr, CC-By-2.0