Folk medicine and ancient wisdom are sometimes discounted as medical antiques, more for entertainment than actual use in modern medicine. However, as we learn more about our gut flora and our microbiome, certain ancient practices are proving to be modern miracles. 

The bacteria that live in your intestines, your microbiome, is crucial to your healthy immune system. A person who eats a balanced diet and avoids frivolous antibiotics is likely to culture a healthy microbiome naturally, but it’s not guaranteed.

Food as Medicine
If you have recently experienced a serious illness and been on strong medication, you will need to proactively strengthen your gut flora. There is a myriad of delicious options that you should employ to build your immune system by strengthening the bacteria and yeasts (and other things that science is just starting to understand) in your digestive tract.

1. Yogurt
The first thing people think of as a probiotic is yogurt. Be sure you are not eating yogurt with added sugars, and check the ingredients for gelatin. If your yogurt is artificially thickened, it’s probiotic value is lower than less processed options. 

2. Raw Organic Apple Cider Vinegar
The word “raw” is crucial because that means it has not been pasteurized. Yes, pasteurization is a good thing when you’re talking about milk, eggs, and things that spoil quickly. Raw vinegar is not pasteurized and it is not going to make you sick. Vinegar is a potent and effective natural remedy for many ailments because of its ability to balance the body. It is very acidic, however, and can harm your teeth if you often drink it undiluted. Raw vinegar contains an amazing amount of yeast and bacteria. 

Spiced apple “cider”
8-ounce apple juice
1 tablespoon raw apple cider vinegar
1 teaspoon ginger juice
1 tablespoon raw honey
Combine, mix, and drink chilled.

3. Fermented Foods
Fermenting vegetables at home is like pickling, but with even healthier results. People often forget that sauerkraut and buttermilk are historically fermented foods, though most people do not make these foods at home anymore because they are inexpensive to purchase. Fermenting foods at home is safe – if a batch goes “bad,” the smell will not leave any doubt in your mind that you should try again!

Easy Sauerkraut
Shred 1 head of cabbage into a large bowl
Sprinkle generously with salt and wait 15 minutes.
Once the cabbage begins to release its natural juices, mash it a bit to help express the juices. 
Pack all the cabbage and juice into a half gallon mason jar. (If the liquid doesn’t cover the cabbage, add just enough water to submerge the cabbage.)
Put a weight on top to keep the cabbage under the liquid.
Place the jar on a plate in a quiet, dark, cool place. Check on it each day to make sure it smells crisp and no cabbage poked up above the liquid. Sample your kraut after a week and move it to the refrigerator if it’s tangy enough. If not, allow the fermentation to continue for a few more days. 

Maintaining Your Microbiome
Avoid hand sanitizer and unnecessary antibiotics. Take a fermented enzyme supplement to boost the pre- and probiotics that are present in your fermented foods. Keep practicing home fermenting. Getting back in touch with your food by creating it yourself is a great step in taking control of your health!