It’s not the bacteria that causes illness, it’s the terrain. – Louis PASTEUR (1822 – 1895)
Since the dawn of time, humans have been creating and consuming living foods. No, we do not mean still-moving chickens or wriggling fish or even raw foods that have never been heated. We mean all of those fermented foods that leverage the special properties that the microbial world can bring us. These foods include yogurt, miso, tofu, sauerkraut, cheese, pickles, kimchi, beer, sourdough, and dozens more in every culture and civilization.
Why are these foods so wonderful? They taste great of course. But beyond flavor, a truly living food will be filled with living microbial activity that works to create digestive harmony in our bodies. Though we’ve been told that germs are dirty and bacteria are harmful, the fact is that over 90% of the cells in our bodies are microbes. In our guts alone, scientists have identified up to 100 trillion microbes, representing more than 1,000 species.
This isn’t about being “purists” or only eating “healthy” foods, and it’s certainly not about creating a “do and don’t” list. It’s just about thinking about these issues. Of course, we understand that we don’t always have a choice in such matters or have the ability to figure out just how free the chickens were from their cages or what went on behind the scenes in the places our meals come from. We can’t always afford celebrity-priced food either.
Living foods help regulate our digestion and create a climate that allows the good bugs to flourish (the ones that help speed our digestion, extract nutrients and improve our body function) and the bad ones to die-off. Creepy as it may seem at first (you’ll get over it, trust us), we are part of the microbial system – we have a relationship. As with all relationships, the goal is to maintain a happy balance.
The idea that only people are conscious makes me laugh.” – Lynn Margulis (1938 – 2011)
Though for thousands of years every culture and society has enjoyed its own living (fermented) foods, only recently has the food industry caught on, marketing “probiotics” and touting their benefits in products and supplements. When you wake up, you will learn what Hippocrates knew: food is our best medicine and that goes double for “magic” living foods.
As we learn more about the way our bodies and metabolism respond, we are gaining a new understanding of the relationship between the creatures in our digestive tract and ourselves. Today, despite what we know, many more discoveries lie ahead. But, we do not all suddenly have to learn microbiology to benefit from our “little friends.”
Truth is, microbes do an amazing job without us really knowing anything. We can start with a flourishing digestive system – truly a good gut feeling – and discover which foods make our digestive systems run efficiently and which help bring us back to balance if we get sick or if we take antibiotic medicines. We learn how we can truly eat a little life.