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Happy belly, happy everything!

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Happy belly, happy everything!

Cary Berkley

Ok, not really happy everything, but certainly a lot of things! It is said that 70% of our immune system lies in our gut. When we are healthy, our intestinal tract hosts over 100 trillion good bacteria that aid in digestion, boost our immune system, and consume bad bacteria.  According to WebMD, probiotics are "live bacteria and yeasts that are good for your healthy especially your digestive system." In a normal, healthy person there is a 5 to 1 ratio of good to bad bacteria.  When the good bacteria (probiotics) are killed off and the bad bacteria become the majority, we start to experience some ill effects. 

Some of the signs that manifest when our gut bacteria is out of whack are:

  • Digestive problems (e.g. constipation, colitis, IBS)
  • Skin problems (e.g. eczema, acne)
  • Joint problems (e.g. arthritis)

First, it is important to understand the things that can damage your gut bacteria. Things that can kill the good bacteria and allow the bad bacteria to run rampant are:

  • Antibiotics
  • NSAID’s (Advil, Motrin, Tylenol)
  • Chlorine 
  • Animal protein containing antibiotics
  • Constipation
  • Stress
  • Radiation and chemotherapy

Second, how do we help our good bacteria flourish and win their continuous battle over bad bacteria? One way is to make sure to pack a probiotic refrigerator and consume some source of probiotic foods every day. The best way to deliver a variety of good bacteria to the gut is to increase your consumption of fermented foods. This includes miso, tempeh, kim chi, sauerkraut, and kefir. In addition to these foods, probiotic supplementation is also very effective.

There is no official recommended daily dose of probiotics, but a good number to shoot for when trying to increase or repair gut bacteria through supplementation is 5-30 billion bacteria per day. Labels of supplements will include these levels. Look for the two most common and useful types of good gut bacteria: Lactobacillus and Bifidobacteria.  I like the HLC High Potency Powder by Pharmax because they contain human-derived strains of probiotics, as apposed to the animal and dairy strains commonly contained in most other products. 

When cooking probiotic foods, overheating has the same effect that pasteurization does on yogurt after it is made, it kills the bacteria. The yogurt you get in the store doesn’t always contain “live” cultures. The best way is to make your own, or make sure your store-bought brand says "live cultures". The same is true for Kombucha. Most commercial Kombuchas are pasteurized, killing most of the live beneficial bacteria. To ensure you are getting the most out of your kombucha, try making your own.  Additionally, when you use miso in a soup, be sure to let the soup cool down a bit before you add the miso at the end. 

Take a look at this list of probiotic foods to keep on-hand, and aim to consume at least one or two from this list every day:

1. Yogurt with live cultures (preferably homemade)

2. Kefir (make your own)

3. Cultured butter (make your own)

4. Sour pickles (make your own)

5. Water kefir

6. Kombucha (preferably homemade)

7. Cultured sour cream

8. Sauerkraut (make your own)

Here are some additional resources so you can conduct further research on your own: 

And, here is a delicious miso dressing recipe that my family loves on salads, or even just dip veggies or chicken into! 

Miso Dressing

Ingredients

  • 1 rounded Tblsp white or yellow miso. I love South River Miso, and they have additional recipes on their website
  • 2 Tblsp rice vinegar or raw coconut vinegar
  • 1/2 tsp grated fresh ginger
  • 1 small garlic clove, mined or put through a press
  • Pinch of cayenne (or paprika)
  • 2 Tblsp sesame oil
  • 2 Tblsp EVOO (I like this brand)
  • 2 Tblsp whole-milk yogurt, preferably from grass-fed cows (optional)

DIRECTIONS

  1. Combine the miso and vinegar (or vinegar and lime juice) in a small bowl and whisk together. Add the remaining ingredients and whisk until amalgamated. You can also mix this in a blender.
  2. Toss with the salad of your choice.

This will keep for a week in the refrigerator.