A recent encounter with antibiotics has set me thinking about the very best way to replenish my gut biome with oodles of good microbes after a course of essential antibiotics. In their quest to kill off all the pathogenic bacteria, many of the beneficial as well as the harmful microbes are extinguished, that’s just the way it is.
From a growing body of research, we all know just how important it is to maintain a healthy gut biome and not just for physical, but also for our mental health.
Good bacteria don’t just facilitate digestion but also help to keep harmful bacteria in check so it’s vital to be proactive and rebuild the gut biome as soon as possible. It’s worth knowing that it can take several weeks, even months to restore gut health after a course of antibiotics.
So how best to go about it? For me as a non-medic there are just two P words to remember – probiotics and pre-biotics.
PROBIOTICS are foods, (or supplements) containing live microorganisms, principally, lactobacillus, and bifidobacterium (healthy bacteria) and saccharomyces boulardi (a type of yeast). Probiotics have a beneficial influence on the immune system.
Prebiotics come from high fibre foods, fruit, vegetables, nuts, seeds, beans. They provide nourishment for good bacteria in the gut, help to restore gut flora and slow down the growth of harmful bacteria.
Fermented foods like yoghurt, natural cheese, sauerkraut, kimchi, kombucha and particularly milk kefir are also brilliant to restore a healthy gut biome.
Make your own for extra complexity, see how easy it is to make your own ferments and yoghurt, but do use organic ingredients when possible.
I’m a big fan of BONE BROTH, it’s all about collagen to strengthen the gut lining. It also helps to rebuild the intestinal barrier, repair connective tissue and the intestinal wall, particularly relevant for those with diverticulitis. Apparently 65% of people over 60 have the condition though some are not bothered by it.
Lots of rest, keep stress to the minimum and get as much really good sleep as you possibly can.
So here’s my not altogether comprehensive list of nourishing foods to put the pep back into our step…
Probiotics like pure natural organic yoghurt, raw milk kefir and raw milk from a small organic dairy herd (your choice). Fermented products mentioned above plus miso, real cheese, fresh fish, avocados, garlic, Jerusalem artichokes, the highest inulin content of any vegetable, a superstar for building back diversity in the gut, Winter greens and turmeric, bananas – lots there to keep you sated.
Here’s to a happy, healthy and delicious Spring…
Roast Jerusalem Artichokes (Slices)
Jerusalem artichokes are superstars for reintroducing beneficial bacteria into the gut. They have the highest insulin content of any vegetable; Jerusalem Artichoke soup is delicious (see column 9th December ‘sleepwalking in a food security crisis) but this is a totally brilliant way to cook Jerusalem artichokes. Great as a vegetable accompaniment of course, but also super delicious in warm salads, starters or with any meat particularly goose, duck, pheasant…
Serves 4 to 6
450g Jerusalem artichokes, well-scrubbed
2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
salt and freshly ground pepper
a few rosemary or thyme sprigs, optional
Preheat the oven to 220°C/Gas Mark 7.
Slice the well-scrubbed artichokes into 7mm
rounds or lengthwise. Toss the Jerusalem artichokes with the extra virgin olive
oil. Season well with salt and freshly
ground black pepper. Arrange in a single
layer on silicone paper on a roasting tin.
Roast for 10 minutes or until golden on one side then flip over and cook
on the other side until nicely caramelised.
Test with the tip of a knife – they should be tender. One could sprinkle with a little thyme or
rosemary, but they are perfectly delicious without any further embellishment.
Season with freshly ground pepper and serve.
It is so simple to make your own yoghurt – the higher the quality the milk, the better the end result will be.
We use organic Jersey milk and ingredients where possible.
600ml fresh milk
2-3 tsp live natural yoghurt
Heat the milk to 90°C in a heavy bottomed saucepan. Allow to cool to 42°C. Gently whisk in the yogurt. Leave in the saucepan or pour into a deep terracotta bowl, cover and put into a warm draught-free place until set. This usually takes about 14 hours. The cooler the temperature, the longer the yogurt will take to set, but too high a temperature (over 50°C) will kill the bacillus and the yogurt will not form, 43-44°C is the ideal temperature.
Yoghurt can be set in a warm airing cupboard or boiler room, a vacuum flask with a wide neck or an insulated ice bucket
To keep the yoghurt warm, an earthenware pot with a lid, wrapped up in a warm blanket, put close to a radiator will also do the job. The simple aim is to provide steady even warmth to allow the bacillus to grow. Remember to keep back 2 tablespoons of your bowl of yoghurt as the starter of the next lot.
On a trip to Turkey, I came across Ayran – a drinking yoghurt which is not only brilliantly healthy but becomes addictive. It’s almost a national drink in Turkey and is an excellent way to build up a healthy gut flora.
Simply dilute best quality natural yoghurt
with cold iced water, approximately one third water to yoghurt depending on
quality and thickness of the original, it should have a frothy top – it’s best
to whisk in the water.
Penny’s Kombucha from the Ballymaloe Fermentation Shed
Kombucha is a fermented drink made from sweet tea. It is said to have many health benefits when consumed regularly. It’s super easy to make, don’t be intimidated by unfamiliar terms like scoby.
Link in with your local fermentation hub to source a scoby and kombucha to get going – there are various active groups on Facebook and Instagram.
The following websites are also worth checking out:
750ml boiling water
2 tsp loose leaf tea or 2 tea bags (green, white or black – organic is best)
150g organic caster sugar
1.25 litres dechlorinated water
1 Kombucha SCOBY (Symbiotic Colony of Bacteria and Yeast)
Equipment – 3 litre Kilner jar or large Pyrex bowl or similar. Measuring jug
*Don’t use a metal container when brewing kombucha
Pour the cold water into the Kilner jar.
Make the tea with 750ml of boiling water in a teapot or bowl. Let this sit for a few minutes to infuse. Add the caster sugar and stir to dissolve. Strain the sweet tea into the cold water in the jar.
The temperature of the sweetened tea should now be tepid and you should have just over 2 litres of liquid.
Add 250ml of Kombucha and the Scoby.
Cover the jar or bowl with a clean cloth tied around with string or an elastic band. Don’t be tempted to put a lid on it because the Kombucha Scoby needs air to thrive.
Put in a warmish place for 10-14 days. It should be out of direct sunlight and somewhere it won’t have to be moved. Taste after 10 days and decide if it’s to your liking and if not, leave a little longer – the taste you are looking for is a pleasing balance between sweet and sour.
Lift off the Scoby (which looks like a jelly) and put it in a bowl with 250ml of your just brewed Kombucha and cover this with a plate or bowl while you bottle the rest.
Pour the brewed Kombucha into bottles through a funnel (makes 2 x 1 litre bottles), or into another large Kilner jar. You can then store this in the fridge and enjoy as it is, or you can do a second ferment to add flavour and extra nutritional benefits!
To each bottle you can add a handful of any of the following:
- fresh or frozen (defrosted) raspberries.
- fresh or frozen (defrosted) strawberries and 1 tsp raw cacao
- ½ apple and a small beetroot chopped
- 1 ripe peach sliced
Let this sit for 24-48 hours at room temperature with a lid on and then strain out the fruit (or vegetables) and bottle. Store in the fridge and enjoy. Delicious!