When I first became a mum I was bombarded with too many conflicting messages regarding basically everything, but one worth noting was the topic of bacteria. Growing up in Egypt, our mums (if your mum was like mine) took extreme measures to ensure that our homes and bodies were wiped clean of any sort of living organism. This meant constant wiping down of floors, hands, counters, faces, everything. This also meant that every time you sneezed you were taken to the doctor and went home with a generous list of medications and antibiotics to chow down. So when we hear the word bacteria we’re running for our lives.
What I discovered later is that there is a whole world of GOOD bacteria that we actually need for optimal health. These are PROBIOTICS; the good bacteria and yeast (yikes) found readily in our body, and also in certain types of food, and probiotic supplements. Some people decide to add the good bacteria through drinks from the kings of kefir.
It is said that our gut is our body’s second brain, meaning that it is extremely important in regulating many of our various bodily functions. Probiotics are especially important for gut health. They help with nutrient absorption and with fighting off disease. So basically, the state of your gut determines your overall health, so you want to get that a bit straight.
Your body contains a healthy balance of good and bad bacteria. Unfortunately though, in our modern diet we tend to wipe out the gut healthy bacteria in many ways; like taking antibiotics (and meds in general), eating animals that have been given antibiotics (meat, chicken, eggs, farmed fish; you name it), and consuming fruits and vegetables that have been having a pesticide field day. Oh, and eating fast food and processed food. Which ultimately means everything that you are doing is undermining the health of your gut, and therefore your overall health.
But behold, there are steps you could take to counter this issue. You could:
1- Load up on fermented food, which includes all the pickled/mekhalil stuff. This is good news because we are big on torshi in the Arab world, we’ve nailed it. The key point here though is to get your hands on the good quality stuff. We all have that Tante or Nanna that makes these in their kitchen, because homemade is best. Alternatively you could find them in farmers markets, health food stores, or you could make your own (will demonstrate later).
2- In theory, dairy products should be a good source of probiotics, especially yogurt and kefir (laban rayeb). Unfortunately most of the yogurt on supermarket shelves is a hoax. The good news is you could now get your hands on fresh Greek yogurt from numerous places in Cairo. These will be your best bet. You could also make your own! (I’ll explain how later).
3- STOP POPPING PILLS for every malady! Your body is a miraculous phenomenon that can fight off almost anything when given a chance. Pills affect your gut microbiome, all pills, not just antibiotics. You know your doctor who doesn’t let you leave the office without a prescription? Don’t just blindly swallow anything you’re given, most of the time it isn’t necessary (I am not talking about serious health issues that may require intervention, I’m addressing issues such as colds, coughs, headaches and other mild pains that we’re used to medicating). Antibiotics are detrimental, besides weakening your natural immune system and diminishing your energy, they wipe out bacteria; the good and the bad. If you must take them, follow them up with a double dose of a probiotic supplement.
4- Go for organic produce as much as possible. Luckily cleaner produce becoming more available around Egypt as we are becoming more aware.
5- Take a daily probiotic supplement. These are found in pharmacies. If you’re lucky enough to travel abroad you could find better quality supplements; the ones stored in fridges are the best.
6- A spoon of raw, unfiltered apple cider vinegar does wonders for your body, and good bacteria love it! It creates a favorable environment for them, so drink up.
1- Choose a fresh, lightly pasteurized milk.
2- Heat some up to 80 degrees Celsius (using a food thermometer).
3- Pour the milk into your jars and let it cool off on the counter.
4- Add 2 tablespoons of yogurt (I’d go for a fresh Greek yogurt kind).
5- Place the jars in a warm place over night. Your oven could be a good idea after its been turned off and has cooled a bit (too much heat could kill the culture). 37 degrees Celsius is a good temp to work with.
1- Choose what you want to ferment; carrots, cucumbers, lemons, absolutely what ever! (Going for organic is even better).
2- Place them in a jar with filtered water.
3- Add 1 teaspoon of sea salt. Seal the jar tightly.
4- That’s it! Let them ferment for a month and then refrigerate.