Nourishing the immune system through probiotics and fermented foods such as kefir
Today is one of those days when I know exactly what I want to focus on for this week, that is most topical as the temperatures plummets and veers between dry and cold, then wet and cold and cold and not much else!
This is the time of year when the big focus on nourishment is about supporting the immune system to get through winter. This entails a focus on: additional nutrients, focusing on the seasonal produce right for our climate as much as focusing on warm spices and herbs that all have antibiotic, antimicrobial and anti viral properties as well as being rich in antioxidants and phytonutrients. The former necessary to help the immune system fight bad bacteria and the latter being the building blocks for a solid immune system. That’s how all conversations about immunity used to be.
Now, we have even more ammunition against getting ill in the form of ever expanding knowledge coming to us about other dimensions of the complex dynamic between nutrition and the immune system. This leads to the importance of gut health as we now know that the immune system is very closely connected to gut health. We are learning more and more due to large amounts of research and so many progressive nutritionists focusing on it. We are now equipped with the knowledge that a rich and alive gut – teeming with all the right bacteria affects our immunity as much as the presence or lack of vitamins and antioxidants responsible for a thriving immune system.
Awareness of the health benefits of fermented foods with their role in restoring vital probiotics into the gut so that it can function and be a good bacterial landscape responsible for protecting the entire body is increasing and a current focus of research. We now know that the gut is the nerve and command centre for immunity and how bacteria, vitamins, minerals and antioxidants are distributed around the body.
It’s such an exciting new – yet old – field of study that I really believe in the future it will one day seem absurd that we used to think about curing bacterial infections with antibiotics – which wipe out all the beneficial beneficial that are critical for our life – instead of treating a bacterial infection with probiotics – the right kinds of good bacteria that will kill bad bacteria. I say new – yet old – because fermented foods and drinks that fed the gut have been a large part of traditional diets across most cultures.
I was recently fascinated reading a thesis by a Kenyan scholar, Richard Mokua, a Wisconsin Master’s student in Food and Nutrition Sciences. He studied the benefits of a the traditional drink ‘amasi’, one of our countries’ oldest traditional fermented sour milk drinks. Mokua had grown up in Kenya and observed that the children who consumed amasi were less prone to diarrhoea. His observation gave him an idea for a study for his Master’s thesis, a fascinating study that revealed the huge probiotic role this sour milk was playing that was responsible for protecting children from upset stomachs.
What struck me the most, as the probiotic feature of cultured and soured milks doesn’t surprise me anymore – is the fact that he actually took a strain of e-coli – a deadly bacteria, and put it in pasteurised milk and in amass and discovered that the probiotic strength of the amasi was so potent that it actually killed the e-coli.
Whereas in the pasteurised milk, it thrived and grew. Of course, because there is no bacteria left in pasteurised milk – the process designed to kill it all. We need to focus on creating a rich gut health of good bacteria who will handle and over power the bad – not kill the entire load.
The western diet of over sanitised and refined food and eating food that has little life left in it – which can read little bacteria – has harmed the life and health of the universe of bacteria that lives in our guts and is responsible for so many western diseases.
We are making the link more and more between live food – grown in a way that preserves it’s life force – in the form of its vitamins, antioxidants, phytonutrients, bacteria and minerals and the preservation of our own life and vitality. One interconnected system of energy, life and nourishment.
So in short – as short as I can make this, this is why I’m going a bit crazy making new things for the store that are as loaded as we can make them with nutrition that is going to help you through this winter system.
We stock a range of fermented food in the shop. We have focused on kefir smoothies in the recipe this week which uses Mooberry kefir and we also have two different ready made kefir smoothies available from the shop.
References and Further Reading:
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23621727 – The effect of kefir consumption on human immune system: a cytokine study