The gut is called the "Second Brain" for good reason. With the explosion of research on the the gut microbiome (meaning "small environment"), we learn more about the fascinating ways the gut affects the brain and the brain affects the gut.
David Perlmutter, neurologist and expert on the gut/brain connection, wrote a book called Brain Maker in 2015. He writes, "The good bacteria in a healthy gut...factor into risk not just for brain disorders and mental illness, but also for cancer, asthma, food allergies, metabolic conditions such as diabetes and obesity, and autoimmune disease...Put simply, they are in charge of your health."
Just the other day, I was on a call with the amazing Doctor Terry Wahls, who was so debilitated by MS that she was wheelchair bound. If you haven't yet found a compelling reason to pay attention to your diet, then become a believer by watching her TEd talk, Minding Your Mitochondria. On this call, she shared: "Tending to your gut garden is one of the most important things you can do to protect against Parkinson's, Alzheimer's and Multiple Sclerosis."
There are more studies showing our microbial community strongly correlates with mood disorders. This makes complete sense knowing that our gut bugs are actually manufacturing many of our B vitamins, which are essential for energy, stress resilience and calm.
There are so many accessible levers to pull when it comes to tending to our gut gardens. Optimizing sleep and reducing stress are two. It works both ways: interestingly enough, our microbiome influences both sleep and stress. The fiber in plants are the preferred food for our gut bugs. So, we gotta eat a lot of veggies, my friends. At least a pound a day. Measure it out to see what that looks like (and no, you can't just eat a big potato and call it good).
Our ancestors from every corner of the planet incorporated fermented foods into their diets. Think of miso in Japan, kimchee in Korea, sauerkraut in Eastern Europe, yogurt in the Mediterranean. Fermentation was a means to preserve foods. But fermentation also made the foods more nutritious and made the ramped up nutrients in the food more readily digestible. We now know that fermented foods, ones containing probiotics or beneficial bacteria, are a way to increase the diversity and abundance of the good guys in our guts. Simply put, fermented foods are super foods.
Over the next couple months, my awesome sidekick Nicole and I are putting together a video series where we demystify the world of ferments. We'll tell you how to make them and why. We'll show you where to buy them, what to look for on a label. We'll talk about what equipment you need (and don't need) to get some ferments brewing in your own kitchen.
This first one is the easiest place to begin: sauerkraut.
I happen to love making ferments. It's satisfying to me to have an intimate and creative connection with foods that heal. Love it. I hope you'll enjoy this series. Please leave questions in the comments below, and we'll be sure to address them. The questions you ask will help drive what information we share in future videos.
By the way, if this video isn't enough to get you going, this summer I have two in-person fermentation workshops on the books. Click here for more information and to get yourself registered.
What you need to make sauerkraut:
- one head of cabbage
- one tablespoon of sea salt
- wide mouth 1 quart size jar (or more depending upon the size the head of cabbage)
- mixing bowl
- cutting board
- clean hands
- cloth and rubber band to cover
Here are links to a couple of items I've found helpful:
- Weights to hold sauerkraut below the brine
- Wide mouth quart size glass jars
- Plastic mason jar lids: I store my finished ferments in the refrigerator with plastic lids. The salt from the ferments erodes the metal lids.
- My favorite book for fun and easy fermented vegetables
- If your fist doesn't fit inside a wide-mouth jar, you might want to use this sauerkraut pounder to make things easier. I don't own one at this point.
If you're interested in an in-person, hands-on, leave-with-your-first-ferments-in-hand kind of workshop, then check out the two fermentation classes I have slated for this summer.
Click on the photo to read more and register.
As you incorporate fermented veggies like sauerkraut into your diet, appreciate the power of what you're doing. You are tending to a flourishing gut garden. You go! Have fun diving in.
Until next time,