On Tuesday 3rd September 2019 Darina and Penny Allen welcomed us to a packed demo theatre at Ballymaloe Cookery School. The talk on Food to Nourish Our Guts was part of the Feast East Cork, Food and Drink Festival.

The Bubble Shed/Fermentation Shed was established at Ballymaloe Cookery School in 2018. Penny and Maria Walshe, our Dairy Queen, continue to ferment and experiment.
Penny Allen told us of her story – how she needed to improve her health as a mother of young children, how she started to experiment with eating the correct food, fermentation and how she continues to add to her knowledge.

There are up to 2 kilos of bacteria on our gut, the wisdom of our ancestors teaches us that pure, real, unprocessed foods feed the good bacteria in our gut. Microbes help us digest our food, get more nutrition from our food and manufacture vitamins. Microbes also protect us from pathogens, break down toxins and medications, stimulate our immune system – make immune cells multiply, improve our mood and reduce anxiety, protect us from autoimmune diseases and regulate hormones and metabolism. Penny spoke about why our guts are having such a hard time now with the overuse of antibiotics, processed foods and overuse of antibacterial cleaning products, pollution, chronic stress and so many other factors. Sugar and refined carbohydrates are detrimental to our guts; wheat is not what it used to be. Conventional dairy processing is making milk very hard to digest. Highly refined and processed oils and tap water are also not good.

Darina reminded us that our health comes from our soil, that glyphosate has now been found to cross the barrier in mothers’ breast milk and that it is now more important than ever to seek out organic foods.

Darina demonstrated how to make a bone broth/chicken stock. Kylie Manger from Magners Farm spoke of how she uses older birds in her stock which have more nutrients as they have been on the organic grass for longer.

What can we do to nourish our gut?

  • Eat real food; banish ultra processed foods completely from our diet.
  • Eat organic/sustainably grown food. Glyphosate, a component of Round-Up, is known to cross the placenta barrier, is registered as an antibiotic. Residues are now found in our food, water and air and now in our very cells, are known to kill the beneficial bacteria in our guts and allow the bad bacteria to thrive. Residues have been found in breastmilk.
  • Meat stocks/bone broths from organic chicken and meats are crucially important to gut health, use in stews and soups – they are easy to digest, can help heal a damaged gut, are full of amino acids, collagen, gelatin and easy to absorb minerals.
  • Filter tap water to remove chlorine.
  • Eat some wild foods from your local area as they include the antibodies from your area.
  • Eat more bitters such as dandelion, artichokes, chicory, endives and citrus peel – eat a dandelion leaf a day. We have lost our taste for bitter foods, they help stimulate appetites, help with nutrient absorption, are high in prebiotics and prevent water retention.
  • Eat and drink fermented foods which contain multitudes of microbes and probiotics which improve digestive functions, balance intestinal ph, help detoxification and boost immune function. Try even just a teaspoon of sauerkraut or kimichi a day to begin with; other foods and drinks include kimichi, kombucha, water kefir, milk kefir, yoghurt and miso.
  • Seek out raw dairy from a small organic herd, it contains its own enzyme lactose that enables us to digest it. Organic milk, raw and fermented butter and unsweetened yoghurt are also hugely beneficial to the gut biome.
  • Reduce sugar and swap to better alternative – never before have we had so much sugary foods and fruits – we are not meant to eat that much.
  • Eat organic meats and offal.
  • Seek out natural sourdough bread – AVOID sliced pan and other highly processed breads and baked goods.
  • Return to ancient grains and properly prepared grains, nuts and seeds. Soak grains overnight before use. The nutrients will be more accessible to the body and easier to digest
  • Good animal fats – nourish the good gut bacteria. Try butter, ghee, lard, beef fat, duck fat and chicken fat (organic where possible) seek out cold pressed extra virgin olive oil, rapeseed oil, coconut oil, avoid refined oils where possible.
  • Eat some foods raw.
  • Get outside; sunlight is very important for our gut health.