Have you thought about your gut lately? And no, I don’t mean the one that you’re constantly resenting because it’s a little larger than you’d like.

I’m talking about your literal guts. The one’s that are all nice and cozy inside your beautiful little body.

Did you know that your intestines aren’t just this boring tube that your food passes through as it makes its way neatly to the nearest exit (or should I say rear-est??? Too much…)? Nope, those puppies are chalk full of bacteria, and the good kind.

Our guts house an abundance of bacterial microbes that aid in the digestion of food and the production of nutrients from our food. For example, according to Web MD, the bacteria in our guts perform a number of valuable functions in our bodies:

  • Make vitamins that are essential to our health
  • Send signals to the immune system
  • Make molecules that help our brain function properly

The bacteria in our gut are actually responsible for pulling the nutrients, vitamins, and minerals from the foods that we consume so that they can be absorbed into our bloodstream and transported through our cells to keep our whole body functioning effectively and efficiently (Kriss Carr)!

Furthermore, it is widely agreed that our guts are actually the center of our overall well-being. Think about the wide variety of digestive issues you hear about these days: IBS, leaky gut, chrohns, etc. All these stem directly from issues in the digestive tract. But even aside from those examples, a number of issues with our physical health can experience substantial healing by focusing on improving the health of our gut: fatigue, fogginess, achiness, and other types of pain.

Without diving into too great of detail on the subject, here are a few other things that our gut plays a role in:

  • Houses the enteric nervous system, which is made up of 100 million neurons with the intestinal wall. These neurons control digestion and report back to the brain on the health of your digestive system.
  • Holds your gut-associated lymphoid tissue (GALT) that houses specialized immune structures known as Peyer’s patches. These structures contain B cells and T cells, immune cells responsible for identifying and neutralizing bad bacteria. Peyer’s patches comprise the mechanism that triggers our immune response to prevent harmful bacteria from passing through the intestinal wall and into our bloodstream (Kris Carr) .

 

So what throws this balance of bacteria out of whack? Medications, such as antibiotics tend to wipe out the good bacteria in our gut, leaving the door open for bad bacteria to flourish and reduces the overall function of all the systems of our body. This is where chronic health issues become prevalent. Because the enteric nervous system lives in your gut, it is no surprise that stress and anxiety can factor heavily into suppressing our gut bacteria’s ability to do their jobs!

There are a number of ways that we can show some love to our gut and keep it happy and healthy, including things like drinking plenty of water, cutting back on refined sugars and processed foods, and exercising regularly. Additionally, and more specifically, we can consume probiotic rich foods that feed our guts with good bacteria already present in the food.

I’m going to share three gut-loving recipes with you that are so incredibly simple to make and will get you started on your way toward showing your gut a little extra love this month!

Sauerkraut

Yields about a half gallon jar

Ingredients:

  • 2 large heads of cabbage (green or red, but I prefer red)
  • 2 tbsp. sea salt
  • ¼ cup whey, optional

Chop the cabbage finely (or if you want the “cheat” version like me, grate it with the food processor ;P) and place in a large bowl. Sprinkle sea salt over the cabbage and toss with your hands. Then, press the cabbage with your fist, twisting as you press if need be, to get it to release all its juices. I will even take fistfuls and squeeze the life out of them until the juice comes out. Add whey if using and mix thoroughly. Cram your cabbage mixture into a wide mouth half-gallon jar, or other large storage container (do not use stainless steel). Leave about two inches at the top, as the juices will bubble up and out as the sauerkraut ferments. Seal your container and leave sitting on the counter for about 3 days. Transfer to refrigerator for storage. You can eat it right away, but I recommend waiting a couple of weeks so that the tangy flavor can really develop!

Kombucha

Yield: 1 gallon

Ingredients:

  • 1 gallon water
  • 12 black or green tea bags
  • 1 cup sugar
  • A piece of kombucha “scoby”

Bring water to a boil and remove from heat. Add tea bags to water and let steep about 10 minutes. Stir in sugar until completely dissolved. Let tea cool to room temperature. Pour tea into your fermenting container (a half-gallon mason jar is preferable, and you may have to split it into multiple containers...if you do split it, you will need a piece of scoby for each container). Drop your scoby into the liquid, then cover the top of your container with a coffee filter and rubber band. Your kombucha needs to ferment in a warm place (around 85 degrees is preferable) so an upper cabinet with a heat pad is suitable. I have also a heat lamp with success as well, just make sure that your kombucha is blocked from sunlight. Check your kombucha regularly for mold. If mold develops, you must throw out the batch :( After 2 weeks, check you kombucha for flavor. You may notice a slight tartness developing. Continue to check the flavor every 5 days, but it will likely take 30 or more days before it is finished. Once it has reached the desire tartness, transfer your kombucha to sealing bottles (I use grolsch bottles) and store in a cabinet. The kombucha will continue to gain in tartness the longer it sits, even in the sealed bottles...I had some that had been sitting for a few months and when I did get around to drinking it, it was nothing short of divine!!! (If you’re into that sort of thing :P)

Kefir

Yield: 1 quart

Ingredients:

  • 1 quart milk (avoid ultra-pasteurized)
  • Kefir grains (can order from here)

Once you’ve ordered your grains and received them in the mail, follow these instructions for growing your grains.

Place your grains in a jar with 1 quart of fresh milk. Stir well to mix the grains into the milk. Cover your jar with a coffee filter or clean tea towel, secured with a rubber band. Place in a warm place (65-85 degrees) and let sit for 24 hours.

Strain grains out of milk and place in a pint jar with 1 cup fresh milk. Store grains in refrigerate and refresh the milk weekly.

Store your kefir in a sealed container in the refrigerator. Enjoy with granola, fresh fruit, or even by itself!

Sources:

Carr, Kris. "How to Improve Your Gut Health." KrisCarr.com. N.p., 02 Sept. 2016. Web. 03 Feb. 2017.

Collins, Sonya. "What Is Your Gut Telling You?" WebMD. WebMD, 20 Aug. 2014. Web. 03 Feb. 2017.

 

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