By Maureen (Bindu) Shortt
“Microbiome” refers to all the organisms that live on us and in us. There are primarily bacteria in your gut. Your gut — your digestion — starts in your mouth extending down through your esophagus and stomach, on into your small intestine and through your large intestine. Hole to hole, I fondly call it.
Within this system you have about six cups of bacteria. They are meant to reside in a ratio of about four cups good bacteria to two cups bad bacteria. The good bacteria finish digestion, particularly of carbohydrates and dairy. They produce immune factors and Vitamin K, which keeps your blood as thick or thin as it needs to be. They produce energy. They kill off bad bacteria and viruses. They neutralize carcinogenic substances. They produce neurotransmitters that influence our mood and stress handling abilities.
The bad bacteria let their other bad bacteria set up in your GI tract. They let viruses and harmful substances through. They deplete energy, making us crave carbs, the food easiest for them to digest. They don’t help with the digestion of other foods. They weaken immunity.
Unfortunately, it’s all too easy to reverse the ideal ratio of good to bad bacteria. All it took was that first course of antibiotics when you were a child. It reversed your microbiome, leaving up to four cups of bad bacteria and only two of the good. This inverse ratio impacts health throughout your body. It impairs your ability to think clearly and to emote well. Steroid medications, chlorinated water, smoking, birth control pills and even the biochemicals of chronic stress — all compromise your microbiome.
This compromise is now known to contribute to many health imbalances. And not just in your digestive system. The state of your microbiome influences obesity, allergies, auto-immune diseases, skin conditions, and many psychological conditions. Ayurveda teaches that ama, toxins from an imbalanced microbiome, can settle in any body tissue. This activates an immune response.
Fortunately, Ayurveda offers us many foods that replenish the good bacteria for stronger digestion and immunity. Turmeric is anti-inflammatory. Psyllium binds and removes toxins and bad bacteria. Leafy greens, bran, barley and oats, onions, garlic and leeks, beans and lentils are all prebiotics. Prebiotics feed the good bacteria, helping grow their population.
Ayurveda does not recommend taking probiotic supplements. Instead, re-implant friendly bacteria by drinking homemade lassi a few times a week. Lassi is made with live bacteria yogurt. It feeds a fresh supply of good bacteria, which can then colonize further.
You can make the following recipe with just the yogurt, water, salt and cumin. The mango, cilantro, and rose water help to soothe and calm excess summer pitta. Have some of your lassi with your lunch, and then sip and enjoy the rest throughout the afternoon. For one servicing of lassi, mix the ingredients below in a blender for 2 minutes (no less):
¼ cup live culture whole milk plain yogurt
1 cup water
Mango-fresh or frozen-to taste
Capful of rose water
Fresh cilantro to taste
Pinch of salt 2 pinches of ground cumin