Any of you who have been following this blog from the start, and I doubt there are many of you, may remember my initial blog on the microbiota and probiotics, if not you should definitely read it here. That one is a bit more science based and this one I think I got a bit lost in a crazy metaphor. As I stated in that blog, in the past I’ve tended to take a strong, high level probiotic twice a year, once as I start Winter training and once as I begin training again towards the summer, but this time I’ve taken a slightly different tactic and this blog goes into a little detail on what this is and why.
You are an ecosystem
Lets remember that there are more bacterial organisms residing in your gut than there are cells in your body. So what you would generally consider as you, could be considered to be more of an ecosystem for this bacterial growth than a human being, if we go on just cell counts. In a way you are a God to this colony of life.
Continuing this metaphor you have two options you can be the real angry and vengeful God of the old testament putting plagues on your subjects where they can starve to death and wiping out the population with flood. Or you can be the more kind and caring new testament God who looks after his people as long as they are nice and pray to him once a week (read; produce a solid stool at least once a day).
What kind of God are you?
Are you the kind of God who gets upset when your gut bacteria aren’t working properly? Is it really their fault? What are you feeding them? If your diet is just mainly processed junk and you take a course of antibiotics every time you get a minor illness, you’re a mean vengeful God who tries to control through fear and mass genocide. However you can help generate further life and healthy well fed population through healthier dietary choices including fibre and resistant starch which help feed the people and regular probiotics to keep flora high and diverse.
The problem that we have nowadays is because we’re coming out of a couple of generations of thinking bacteria is bad we’ve wiped out a lot of the sources of bacteria in our diet, which isn’t necessarily a good thing. Our gut bacteria used to be an amalgamation of the bacteria in the soil we lived on and the animals gut bacteria which we consumed. Bacteria is high in the soil, consuming wild vegetation would inherently come with a high level of bacterial growth, but the wide use of pesticides has messed with the bacterial balance of the soils and requires thorough washing of anything which comes out of the ground. Similarly we no longer consume relatively raw animal intestines, with their influx of bacteria to repopulate our own.
If we move a bit further up the paleolithic timeline it’s very interesting to see how many cultures have developed their own fermented foods to supplement their diet. Fermentation uses a bacterial source, usually contained in the food or of a specific strain, introduced to a food which can feed its growth, once the bacteria has been allowed to feed and proliferate, then the food stuff is consumed. India has its kefir, Eastern Europe its sauerkraut, South Africa has its amasi, and Asia seems to have loads, kimchee, fermented fish dishes and my favourite Kombucha.
If independently over time all of these separate cultures came up with these fermented foods for health, is it such a leap to assume that there’s something to this probiotic thing. Even the science seems to be catching up and proving some beneficial effects. Your micro biome could have a link to whether you’re fat or not and from an athletic perspective, I’d put money on them finding that hormone levels (read; testosterone, increased performance anyone) being linked to it as well.
So now that I’ve got you just as interested in the bacteria in your gut as I am, what am I doing for a probiotic this time.
Home brewed Kombucha
Yep, you read it right, I’m brewing my own probiotics. Kombucha is a sweetened green tea to which you introduce a SCOBY (Symbiotic Colony of Bacteria and Yeast, mmm, sexy), these bacteria respire, grow and reproduce, leaving a wonderful sweet and sour fizzy drink filled with bacteria.
Clearly there’s a risk with this of cross-contamination or not quite getting the good bacteria you want, but so far it seems to be going well. I bought a SCOBY and a continuous brewing vessel and have gone through several litres of the stuff so far. Also, its fun to brew.
I try where I can to do things as naturally as I can, i.e. eat local meat and veg instead of mass manufactured processed foods, mimicking the patterns of daylight in my room (blog coming soon) or just trying to get outside more etc. but there are some hacks that can be really useful to an athlete or someone who is having to compromise due to certain life restrictions. This more natural probiotic supplement is just me taking a more holistic step towards a more natural approach and I’m going to stop there before people start accusing me of being a dirty hippy.
Thank you for reading