Why are more and more of us experiencing an imbalance in gut bacteria?The answer is complicated and very unique to the individual, but there are factors that contribute to a decreased microflora and ways to counteract this. The prevalent use of antibiotics, especially for a prolonged period of time, chronically, or starting from a young age have a huge impact on our gut bacteria. While antibiotics certainly have their place in the world of medicine and have saved many lives, they don’t distinguish between the harmful invading bacteria and our beneficial bacteria. Slowly, over time and with increased use, they can eradicate species of bacteria that help us thrive. The health of our mother’s microflora and whether we were breastfed has profound effects on our immunity and the wellbeing of our gut. Choosing farms who certify their animals weren’t given antibiotics ensures we aren’t consuming antibiotics unintentionally through our food supply. Birth control and other prescribed medications have an effect on bacteria as well. As a society, we don’t eat as many fermented foods and therefore don’t expose ourselves to a wide variety of bacterial strains found in them. Even supplemental probiotics may not be colonizing the way they’ve been promised. Some studies are finding that the strains found in common probiotic supplements are slightly different than the ones that would colonize our gut and can’t withstand the acidic environment of the stomach. This is such an excellent reason to consume fermented foods and beverages on a regular basis. The bacteria they contain are more likely to colonize the human gut and we’re more likely to expose ourselves to more strains of bacteria, thereby increasing biodiversity.
Benefits of eating fermented food:
- Fermented foods contain live bacteria that feed on yeasts and sugars. This actually translates to a lower-sugar food because the bacteria digest sugars.
- They are living foods with enzymes and organic acids. Whatever is fermenting is partially digested for us, and any active ingredients are far more bioavailable for absorption.
- Bacteria make B vitamins which help our metabolism, immune system, and nervous system function properly.
- 85% of the immune system resides in the gut. Healing the gut is the ultimate way to increase immune function.
- Fermenting food eliminates anti-nutrients found in food such as phytates and oxalic acid.
This recipe is:
- Caffeine-free - no tea is being used, as opposed to kombucha
- Free of added sugar - the kefir grains eat the naturally occurring sugars in coconut water and elderberry crystals
- Immune-enhancing due to the addition of elderberry, naturally occurring beneficial bacteria, and B vitamins which are made by bacteria during the fermentation process
- Easy to digest - ginger aids digestion
- Perfectly spiced - ginger and cloves are a great compliment to elderberry
- Use spring water instead of tap or distilled water. Kefir grains won’t grow in fluoridated or chlorinated water, and they need minerals like the ones found in spring water. Using coconut water, ginger, and elderberry also provide minerals.
- Don’t let the kefir grains touch metal at any point as this causes a chemical reaction that will alter the taste and efficacy of the fermentation.
- Fastening a lid on this process may create too much pressure or prevent fermentation altogether
- Don’t discard your grains! You can use them for a second ferment by refrigerating them in a closed glass container covered just barely with spring water. They will keep in the fridge for 2 weeks.
Lindsey Young is a registered holistic nutritionist, advocate for intuitive eating, and functional food recipe creator. For more delicious recipes, follow her on Instagram @eatyoungnutrition and visit EatYoungNutrition.com.