Unless you have been living under the rocks, you have come across a plethora of information regarding the human Microbiome. If you haven’t heard of it, no worries, I won’t assume anything about your living conditions. You will soon know just enough to drop the loaded word ‘Microbiome’ at your next gathering and watch the reaction from unsuspecting folks, rocks or no rocks.
Numerous articles and books have been published on this topic. Every blogger worth their microbes has blogged about it. The human Microbiome is essentially all of the microbes that live inside and on you. We contain trillions of them and it is estimated that on average we each have somewhere around 2Kgs of them in total. They outnumber our cells by 3 to 1. The microbes or their lack of, is implicated in many health conditions both physical and psychological, right from most autoimmune diseases, obesity, autism, depression, schizophrenia, social behavior, mood, food satiety – the list goes on. It almost seems like this is the holy grail of health that we have been looking for. Perhaps the silver bullet for all that ails the human body and mind ?
The hype surrounding it could give one a feeling that it is another passing fad. I can emphatically assure you that it is not. This is an area I’ve been into and following closely for more than a decade now, long before it became a mainstream topic, online and offline. From my own meta analysis of all the research out there I firmly believe in this field – It is a promising future of our health and wellness. More importantly you don’t need to wait on big pharmaceutical companies spending billions to bring out new drugs to help you in this regard. You can start today in your own humble kitchen with inexpensive ingredients. You only need time and patience.
The strategy to improve your Microbiome is simple. Do these three things on a regular basis :
- Eat naturally fermented foods. My suggestions – Yogurt, Indian pickles, Idli, Dosa, Sauerkraut, Sourdough bread, Kefir, any vegetable ferments. These are what we use on a regular basis and so come personally recommended.
- Eat more fiber – Vegetables, fruits, lentils, grains, nuts
- Be active – Surprisingly, the amount of your daily activity affects your Microbiome. So get off your couch and move, right after reading this article.
That’s it. I won’t go into the details of the research backing this information. Google is your friend, if you want to find out more.
What I want to do instead, in this post, is inspire you to bake some Sourdough bread. If you have to eat bread, please choose sourdough over the regular kind. Although the microbes die in the heat when baked, there are numerous benefits to it, both in terms of the nutritional content and improved digestibility. It is also said that the sourdough baker benefits just by making it, I might be a walking sourdough microbial host.
Regarding people sensitive to gluten, there are several reports that they can tolerate long fermented sourdough bread. (Note that this does not apply to Celiacs – There is some research that indicates that sourdough with selected strains of bacteria and a mix of gluten/non-gluten flours with very long ferments have been tolerated by Celiacs, but as of now, the evidence is not sufficient for me to recommend it.)
Classic Sourdough Bread
I developed my first starter in Dallas (perhaps about 15 years ago?) and I still use it, although now it also has the famous San Fransisco sourdough strains mixed in along with whatever is floating around in my kitchen here. The recipe makes a basic Sourdough Sandwich bread. I’ve been using this recipe as far as I can remember. It hasn’t failed me once. A majority of lunchbox sandwiches that my son has eaten has been made of this. It has a slightly tangy and delicious taste. The crust is thin and crackly. The crumb is substantial but just airy enough to support fillings without oozing out. It holds up fabulously through the day without getting soggy. That is testimony enough! On to the recipe..
You need an active Sourdough starter for this recipe. If you don’t have one, you can either start one of your own, borrow it or buy it online. The recipe is from Rose Levy Beranbaum. She is a master baker and I own most of her books and they are all excellent. This recipe is from her book The Bread Bible. I won’t reprint the detailed recipe here as she has published it on Epicurious. The only change in my recipe, is that I use a whole wheat starter. I’ve switched my starter to whole wheat (atta based) since my move, as it is easier to get fresh ground whole wheat flour locally. We have it milled fresh as required.
Follow the recipe from the link below.
My first feed is with a whole wheat starter. The second feed is with bread or all purpose flour.