At The Real Food Company we have a particular interest in digestive health, as we believe it is a foundation for a robust and healthy body.
Many things in our modern life can disturb our gut health. From the chemicals in our tap water to the antibiotics we sometimes may need to take. Rarely is the effect on our gut flora taken into consideration. Damage occurs, and various uncomfortable symptoms can arise.
It is not just about what you do eat, but just as important is what you choose to leave out. Many modern processed foods place quite a strain on the digestion. It is quite common to see people avoiding grains generally but also gluten, wheat, dairy and/or sugar. Some people keep a food diary to see if they can discover a pattern in their symptoms. A good starting point is to remove processed foods and refined carbohydrates, replacing them with real, properly prepared natural foods, as discussed in books like Nourishing Traditions. Many people notice a difference from doing this.
We have attended several lectures given by Dr. Natasha Campbell-McBride MD, an expert on gut health and the creator of the GAPS Diet. We are happy to talk to you about these ideas. We continue to listen to a broad array of practitioners working in this field and enjoy being able to share what we have learned.
Our digestive system needs to be inhabited by a strong, healthily balanced colony of microbes. We call this our gut flora. This inner ecosystem needs to be looked after by us. Traditionally, cultures all around the world knew this instinctively, and ate some form of live fermented food daily.Traditionally fermented foods naturally develop a broad range of beneficial microbes that act to preserve the food, but also pass benefits on to us in a range of ways, such as:
- Promoting the growth of beneficial bacteria
- Aiding digestion and supporting immune function
- Increasing B vitamins, including B12 and omega 3 fatty acids
- Increases overall nutrition
- Encourages beneficial digestive enzymes, lactase and lactic acid and other immune chemicals that fight off harmful bacteria
These foods have largely been lost from the modern diet. Reintroducing them can be very helpful. Why not try eating or drinking something “live” with each meal to encourage your own healthy digestive function. This could be live yoghurt, one of a range of fermented vegetables that are available or a perhaps a kombucha aperitif. Alternatively you could take your friendly bacteria in the form of a capsule. Probiotic supplements have been shown to be an aid to digestion, detoxification and general wellbeing.
We can offer you a great choice of live fermented foods and drinks, as well as a broad range of probiotic capsules, all with a high guaranteed number of live organisms. We have probiotics from BioKult, BioCare, Udo Erasmus, Proven, Optibac, Quest, Lamberts and Lifeplan. We have recently introduced Elixa Probiotics which, at the time of writing, are the most potent on the market. There will certainly be one to suit you. Probiotic capsules are a better choice than the sugar and additive filled probiotic drinks widely available.
Effective digestion is achieved by keeping all the different parts of the digestive tract healthy. The stomach should be very acidic, around pH 2. This will kill any unwanted microbes and prevent them from entering the inside environment of our body, as well as breaking down foods for digestion.
This acidity is also responsible for triggering the next stage of digestion that happens in our duodenum. Here our body should be releasing enzymes and bicarbonate to neutralise the acidity in the food that is passing from the stomach. There is a long tradition of consuming bitter foods as a starter to meals that have been shown to support the stomach during this process. This tradition has largely been lost today.
Bitter herbs stimulate the proper functioning of our digestive system. They encourage the release of digestive secretions, which support the proper breakdown of our foods. Recently scientific research has shown that a great many people have insufficient stomach acid, leading to the poor digestive function seen so much today, such as gas, bloating, feeling like foods “sit like a lead weight" in the stomach resulting in poor nutrient absorption.
The traditional herbal company, Napiers produce a good digestive bitters preparation, as do A.Vogel and Viridian. Digestive enzymes and betaine hydrochloride capsules can be taken as a supplement to ease the symptoms associated with low stomach acid and encourage full digestion of foods. One of the best supports of digestive function is to drink a shot of live sauerkraut juice before your meal.
Sometimes a simple thing like not enough real salt in the diet, something many people shy away from due to misinformation about its effect on us, means the body perhaps does not have sufficient raw materials it needs to produce hydrochloric acid effectively, making it very difficult for the body to function at its best.
Some of the digestive aids we stock:
- Live Fermented Vegetables - such as sauerkraut and kimchi, traditionally eaten as a condiment with meals
- Live Sauerkraut Juice - often taken in small amounts to aid digestion
- Live Kimchi Juice - a powerful boost for your system, again taken in small amounts
- Live Kombucha - a probiotic fizzy drink, that originated in Central and Eastern Europe many years ago
- Live Miso - an ancient traditional food from the far East, made from fermented soya beans
- Live Natto - a well loved traditional food from Japan
- Live Yoghurt
- Live Kefir - both milk and water
- Live Jun Drinks - similar to kombucha, but made using honey instead of sugar
- Probiotic Capsules
- Bitter Herbs and Herbal Preparations
- Digestive Enzymes
- Betaine Hydrochloride Capsules
- Manuka Honey
- Lactase Enzyme
- Bicarbonate of Soda
- Epsom Salts
- Slippery Elm Powder
- Psyllium Husk
- Aloe Vera
- Traditional, Organic Unrefined Celtic Sea Salt
- Organic Gelatine - from pigs, and gelatine from pasture fed cows
- Live Apple Cider Vinegar
- Even our Raw Butters, Cheeses and Crème Fraiche are properly cultured, which helps in their digestibility
Many cultures around the world that have eaten live fermented foods and drinks for generations believe that they are helpful in strengthening the body and particularly the gut flora and digestion, and result in enhanced wellbeing.
We, and a number of our customers make kefir (using both water and milk kefir cultures) and also kombucha at home. We are willing and happy to share our experiences. We will share any excess live cultures, for a small donation when available. Please ask when visiting our shop.
The whole new science of the microbiome is helping to create a sense of awe and wonder about how we will view ourselves and the world around us in the future. Consider the discovery that the human body is comprised of 99% bacterial DNA and what was classed as "human" DNA, the human genome, is only 1% of the total genetic information we carry. There are exciting times ahead.