These days it seems that every other person has high cholesterol, high triglycerides, fatty liver disease or is overweight. Many have combinations of these problems and are constantly on medications to try to control runaway cholesterol or triglycerides. Statin drugs, used to lower cholesterol, are plagued with serious side effects that keep many people from using them. Fatty liver disease results when the body does not manage the metabolism of fats properly and fats accumulate in the liver instead.
Why does the body sometimes do such a poor job of managing these factors? The answer may surprise you! Our human bodies do not function well at all without the population of symbiotic bacteria that live in the intestines. A recent research study showed that gut bacteria produce bile salts that help control host functions. Bile salts are used as a messenger in a “microbe-host dialog” to normalize the metabolism of fats. The bacteria are therefore able to control:
-Fat (lipid) metabolism of the host
-Circadian rhythms (when you naturally wake or sleep, and how much)
This is an example of the holobiont concept at work; the host does not function normally at all without the symbiont organisms. What are the factors that promote healthy gut bacteria? What are the factors that are harmful to gut bacteria? What do we need to do in order to grow healthy gut bacteria? These are just some of the questions that will be answered in The Symbiont Factor, due to be published next month!
With so much being written today about the benefits of fermented foods like kombucha and kefir, some people may wonder how making these at home works out. So, today I thought I would share an image of the top of the refrigerator here at home, aka Symbiont Central. Making kombucha is almost as simple as leaving something out to spoil! The hardest part, as in many things, is just getting started. Kombucha is a fermented sweet tea, and the culture that ferments it is usually known as a scoby. Scoby is short for Symbiotic Culture Of Bacteria and Yeast. A descriptive name really, but…hey, it’s cute also! Although one of my daughters prefers to call it Kevin. Not sure where that came from! To get started, you must acquire a scoby or some source of the culture to grow one. There are videos on YouTube about using a commercial bottled kombucha as a starter, but the traditional way is that someone gives you one. It’s a pay-it-forward activity for the good of bacterial symbionts, getting good microbial Karma and all. Looking at the image of my ‘fridge, the gallon jar on the left is black tea kombucha, the one to its right is green tea kombucha, the white one is goat milk kefir, and the ugly frightening specimen jar on the right is full of extra scobys. You see, the scoby that ferments the tea is always growing more cellulose to house a bigger colony, and in the process it grows new layers. These can be peeled off and given away, dried for preservation and some people say that they can be stir fried as a meat substitute. I haven’t tried that yet…but am thinking about it. At this point, extra scobys have been put in a jar as spares, awaiting a new home. I have dried some of them for future rehydration as well. The kombucha in the left two jars is a continuous fermentation-some is removed using the hand tap at the bottom of the jar, and periodically more sweet tea is added from the top. This keeps the process perking along nicely. There is not much more to it after it gets started-we just drink some and add more tea from time to time. The first time may take a week to 10 days to get going, depending on how lively or large the first scoby is. Green tea kombucha is a bit more reluctant-I had to use a warming pad to keep it at an optimum 80-something farenheit temperature. It’s the same kind of warming pad used for pet reptile tanks. The kefir is started with granules that can be purchased from online stores such as fermentables.com, or it can be started with a shared scoby from another batch of kefir. This is a different kind of scoby; kefir scobys look a lot like soaked cauliflower dipped in yogurt. Not as unattractive as a kombucha scoby but similar in many ways. This fermentation takes 48 hours at my house. It might be a little different at yours, either due to variations in temperature, scoby activity levels or personal taste. The goat milk does not spoil if left longer, it just becomes more kefir-like until it’s really more like a strong yogurt. There’s probably a limit to how long it should be left out, but it’s much longer than I ever would-I like mine at about 48 hours! Growing your own kefir and kombucha is fascinating, nutritious and tasty. There are many health benefits to both; hundreds of studies support their use. Just as examples, green tea kombucha has been shown to help heal liver cells damaged from alcohol consumption, as well as helping heal Non Alcoholic Steatohepatitis (NASH; “fatty liver”). Kombucha has been recommended, in a peer-reviewed research journal, as a prevention or even cure for diabetes as well as healing both liver and kidneys. Happy fermenting!
Supporting studies: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23221715 http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19430612 http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23705670 http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22591682