I’ve never been much of a bandwagon jumper. I don’t know what clothes are trendy. I can’t remember the last time I listened to new music on purpose. I just started watching Game of Thrones two months ago (and, if things continue as they have been will be finished some time in the next two weeks.) That being said, I found it very confusing when a restaurant that only served bone broth opened in Manhattan because I somehow didn’t realize in 2014 that the world had gone crazy about gut health.
The craze may be fairly new, but apparently the idea behind it isn’t. Hippocrates is credited with saying “All disease begins in the gut” and he may have been onto something. As a compulsive researcher, I’ve been casually reading about gut health ever since I stumbled upon the concept, but there seems to be some confusion about how important it is, what effect it can have on humans and how we can go about improving it, but here are some things that seem to be true:
Gut Health Is Important
One thing everyone, (including legitimate articles from organizations such as Mayo Clinic, not just blog entries with titles like “OMG Probiotics Cured My Bunions and Gave Me Telekinesis”) seems to agree on is that gut health is probably important. The gut obviously takes care of the majority of digestion, but it also seems to have an effect on immune function, hormone regulation and possibly even overall well-being. The composition of the gut microbiome, which is made of bacteria, fungi and other microorganisms, may affect central nervous system function, heart health, weight control, blood sugar, brain health and other important functions.
The problem with many of those claims though is that, as the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health puts it: “Although a great deal of research has been done on [good bacteria used to improve gut health,] much remains to be learned.” Part of this is because “At the very basic level, we don’t understand how probiotics work… this means that the evidence surrounding probiotics for various conditions gets complicated, fast” according to Katherine Hobson reporting for Five Thirty Eight who goes onto say that there’s really no point in attempting to alter gut health if you don’t have any specific ailments.
But Registered Dietitian Katherine Zeratsky says there’s evidence improving gut health might help diarrhea associated with antibiotics, irritable bowel syndrome, intestinal infections, colds and flu, and allergic disorders like eczema and hay fever. I definitely have those last two, occasionally have the two prior and never want to have any of the others.
Thanks to uBiome, I also knew that I was missing or very low on some of the most important types of gut flora, so I figured I had very little to lose experimenting with things like probiotics. That’s when I realized that…
Taking Steps To Improve Gut Health Is Ridiculously Easy
Looking at some of the experiments and articles associated with gut health got confusing, but I had something that swayed my opinion even more than research (which I didn’t think was possible): a personal testimony. Apparently all of the people at the broth shop in the West Village were onto something because my friend who struggles with Celiac disease, low-functioning thyroid and chronic inflammation told me that bone broth helped ease all of it. As far as I know, she’s not an operative for Big Broth, so I decided to take her suggestion which was very easy for me to do since I walk by house-made broth pretty much every day.
Our meat department manager, Jon, makes chicken, beef or turkey bone broth regularly saving me not just from dealing with gross animal scraps, but also the 24 hours or more of recommended cooking time. There are plenty of powders and jars of broth available too which I will probably utilize if I’m traveling and
Fermented food and drinks are another of the most recommended ways to cultivate gut health. There’s also plenty of those around the Co-op. In addition to an entire refrigerator of fermented food, there are at least eight different brands of kombucha and related products including my favorites, Kentucky Kombucha and Jun Bug. There are even two kinds of Kentucky Kombucha on tap in the cafe, but, inspired by my unplanned foray into vinegar making, I decided to make my own.
I started with a dehydrated starter culture from Cultures for Health, which was conveniently located in the fermented foods case, to make things much easier. don’t want to take a quart of weird liquid with me, but it seems like the house made variety gets the job done best.
The package said things like “you can do this” and “we make it easy” and it mentioned “simple instructions” and “DIY videos” the latter of which were unnecessary because the whole process after the SCOBY (Symbiotic Culture Of Bacteria and Yeast) was hydrated was basically just making tea and pouring some of the starter culture into it. The starter culture itself (right) was pretty disturbing to look at, but that was the most difficult part of the process. It was so easy, in fact, that I don’t have any reason to believe I can’t keep up my production to continue my goal of drinking at least a little kombucha every day.
Probiotics are also available in supplement form. You can take them as a liquid or a pill. I chose a coconut water based one which actually tastes pretty good. It doesn’t really seem like it can get much easier than this.
I’ve only been working on my gut health for a couple of weeks now and there are a few confounding variables, but even in that short time I feel like I have more energy, I barely need face moisturizer even though the temperatures have been Hoth cold lately, my morning workouts have felt a little easier, and I just feel generally better than I did before. I don’t have any scientific evidence to back up my theory that my diet changes had anything to do with it, but I can’t argue with results.