The good and the bad bacteria

Most of us have probably heard of gut-friendly bacteria by now. Those are the bacteria that feed a healthy gut flora, like lactic acids. Our health basically starts in our gut, which means having a healthy gut makes us healthy in general. Having too much unhealthy bacteria in the gut on the other hand can lead to chronic infection in the body and cause a whole range of chronic conditions.

And again, when it comes to food, it’s about what you eat, but it’s just as much about what you don’t eat. Our guts like fermented foods: yoghurt, kefir, kombucha, pickled foods, kimchi, kraut etc and need their daily portion of good bacteria. What the gut doesn’t like, is food causing inflammation: simple carbs like flour and sugar.

I stress the point that the occasional treat is not the problem, but our daily habits are. The balance between health promoting and inflammation causing foods should always be right.

The whole kombucha brewing for me started out as a love-hate relationship. I loved the bottled store-bought kombucha I could find in specialty stores in Bogotá and was thrilled when I got my hands on my own scoby (that’s the live bacteria that you use to make the drink). However, I was so disappointed by my first home made batches. They say practice makes a master, and I guess kombucha is no exception: I have gotten much better at it by now.

I have made some fantastic favor combinations, my favourites probably being lemon-ginger and mint-raspberry.

Back to the gut… To complicate things further, it’s not enough to know that we should feed our gut with probiotics. These bacteria need food as well and what they like for dinner is prebiotics. Prebiotics are a type of plat fibers that reach the colon unchanged (the colon is where both prebiotics and probiotics end up. Prebiotics are widely available in plant based foods like garlic, onion, leek, asparagus, jerusalem artichoke and bananas to name a few.

If you can’t find enough ways to add fermented foods to your diet, you can take a probiotic supplement (preferably a capsule without any artificial sweeteners or added taste, and make sure to eat enough prebiotic foods.

The reason antibiotics are harmful, is that they kill all bacteria: good and bad, leaving our gut flora less and less diverse every time. So when you’re really in need of antibiotics, make sure to boost your probiotic and prebiotic intake simultaneously and during the whole treatment to minimize the harm.

Now back to the kitchen… Another thing I started making at home is plant based yoghurt. The variety I’ve succeeded with so far is soygurt (sooo much better than the store bought junk and the kids love it!) but my attempt making oatgurt was a complete failure. I am going to try coconut next, I’ll keep you updated on how it goes.

Want to give it a go? It is actually really simple! You only need a bit of patience (like with all fermentation).

Soygurt

  • 1 liter of organic soy milk without additives
  • 2 scoops of soygurt
  • 1 capsule of probiotics (optional)
  • i spoonful honey (optional)

Utensils:

  • a thermometer
  • a pan
  • a whisk
  • clean glass jars

When using soy, always go organic. Soy is a bit controverial and a major percent of non-organic soy on the market is GMO.

Start by heating your milk to 70°C. This kills harmful bacteria, still leaving enough good ones to start the fermentation process. Let the milk cool to about 37°C and add your soygurt and probiotic capsule if using and stir (you can open the capsules you buy at the pharmacy and empty the content into your milk).  You can add a spoon of honey if you feel your milk is not sweet enough: the fermentation happens when bacteria start breaking down sugar molecules, but milk is usually sweet enough on its own to start the process.

Put the lid on your pan and leave your yoghurt in a warm place (25°C) for 24 hours. I usually put it one my heated bathroom floor, but choose any warm spot you have in your home; where the warm water pipes are, where the warm air exits the fridge etc.

Check your yoghurt every once in a while, it’s ready after 24 hours, but you can also leave it to ferment for longer.

When the taste is right according to your taste (24 hours or more), whisk it even. You can then make your yoghurt thicker by putting a thick gauze inside a sieve and let some liquid drip out. This step is by no means necessary, but some people like their yoghurt thick, and this is the way to do it. Stir around occasionally, scraping off the thicker layer closest to the gauze while draining to speed up the process.

Add pure vanilla extract if you fancy that and scoop your yoghurt into glass jars and store in the fridge.

If you plan on making a new badge, set aside a few scoops of yoghurt in a separate, small glass jar as you might accidentally finish it otherwise (read: I know from experience).

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