Microbiome. Microbiota. Beneficial bacteria. Gut bugs. Call it what you will, you’ve probably read or heard somebody talking about this subject recently. But did you know that gut health is correlated with everything from Parkinson’s disease to cardiovascular health to skin conditions like eczema and psoriasis, to anxiety, depression and cognitive function?. There is more and more evidence that the vast quantity of microscopic critters in our guts can play a huge role in our physical and mental health, both positive and negative.
This is achieved via another term you may have heard of: the gut-brain connection. Gut microbes influence how we digest and metabolise the precursors of important neurotransmitters like serotonin and dopamine. Then there is a direct line of communication to the brain, through the vagus nerve, which has receptors near the gut lining that allow it to keep a check on our digestion. Microbes in the intestine can therefore release chemical messengers that alter the signalling of the vagus nerve – and, as a consequence, the brain’s activity.
These pathways are not one-way streets, however, as brain activity can also influence the gut flora composition. Stress can increase inflammation, for instance, which can then affect the microbes in our gut. The result can be a feedback loop. Gut, brain, gut, brain, gut.
Humans used to eat a huge quantity of fermented foods as fermentation was one of the few ways to preserve fresh foods for later. This would have included pickled vegetables, dairy (yoghurt and cheeses) and meat. However, the advent of packaged foods and refrigeration has lead to the reduction and even, sometimes, elimination of this category from our diets.
Over the past 10 years or so, the idea of feeding and maintaining our gut microbiome has become increasingly mainstream. It seems clear that today’s Western lifestyle featuring vast amounts of stress, poor sleep, antibiotics and nutritionally-depleted diets are impacting the type and amount of microbes present in our guts, leading to a variety of health problems. This has led to a booming probiotic supplement industry that aims to help increase the number and variety of microbes. We believe that even though probiotics can be helpful to deal with specific conditions – we always take a supplement to increase resilience when travelling – it is better to include fermented foods as a mainstay of the diet. So we regularly eat home-made sauerkraut, pickles and kombucha. Of course not everyone has the time and inclination to make all of these from scratch (even though basic fermented veggies are dead easy!) but fortunately some of the commercial products out there get the job done handily and tastily (Okay, not sure if that’s a real word, but if not, it should be.) UK friends, check out the kefir made by our friends at Ki, straight outta Vauxhall! (Shameless plug alert)
Ki Kefir is a new sustainable & organic company based in South West London, hand delivering traditional and powerful kefir to your door. Frustrated with buying kefir without the powerful kick of life it should have, we decided it was time for Londoners to get their hands on a real kefir, full of probiotic goodness that’s exceptionally powerful and really makes a difference to your gut health. Unlike many shop-bought Kefirs who use a powdered (lab-made) bacteria to make kefir, at Ki we make it the traditional way with living cultures. This ensures the highest quantity and most diverse range of good bacteria. Our kefir also contains a cocktail of vital vitamins and minerals crucial for good health, including B12, K2, calcium and magnesium. It is made with the finest organic milk from grass-fed cows in Sussex. We are also a minimal waste company, packaging our kefir in glass and offering local deliveries.