By: Carol Kirkpatrick
When I was a kid, we had the prettiest lawn in the neighborhood. It was my dad’s pride and joy, and I loved the feeling of running through soft, dewy grass on lazy summer mornings. A lawn was on my “must-have” list when my husband and I were looking for a house years ago. We settled on a small house with a tiny lawn, which was remarkable only because of the number of dandelions that grew there. There were three dandelions for every blade of grass, which meant that our little lawn was bright yellow. I tried everything to get rid of them. I was always digging them up or spraying them with weed killer, but they just kept coming back and my grass refused to flourish.
Frustrated, I asked my dad for the secret to having a beautiful lawn. He told me, “A healthy lawn will crowd out the weeds. Put down lots of grass seed, and then fertilize it well. That way you will grow lots of healthy grass, and it will begin to crowd out the weeds. Ultimately, no lawn is weed-free, but a lawn that is almost all weed-free will be beautiful.”
That was many years ago. Now my computer sits by a window, and I sometimes sit and admire my little, healthy green lawn while I’m writing. As I was writing this article on gut health, I realized that my lawn is the perfect analogy for gut bacteria.
Think of your gut as a lawn. You have 100 trillion bacterial cells in your gut lawn. The good bacteria represent the grass, and the bad bacteria are the weeds. In reality, your lawn will never be weed-free, just as a healthy gut will always have some bad bacteria. Your job is to constantly support the good bacteria, so that it is able to crowd out the bad bacteria.
Scientists are only now beginning to understand the importance of good gut bacteria to overall health. A healthy gut, with a predominance of good bacteria, will regulate digestion and metabolism so that the body can efficiently absorb nutrients from food. Good bacteria are critical to the body’s immune system, and help build and maintain the gut wall. If good gut bacteria are unsupported and the percentage of bad bacteria begins to increase, a number of health conditions, such as constipation, diarrhea, IBS, and even depression, may result.
So how can you maintain your healthy gut lawn? First, put down a lot of grass seed. This means adding more good bacteria to your gut. To do this you must eat good bacteria, such as probiotics. There are many foods and beverages that contain probiotics, including Greek yogurt, Kefir, kombucha, kimchi and traditionally made sauerkraut and pickles. There are also many probiotic supplements available over the counter.
Second, just as you need to fertilize the grass on your lawn, you must fertilize your probiotics with prebiotics. Prebiotics are dietary fiber that is not digested in the small intestine. This fiber passes into the colon where it is fermented and stimulates the growth of probiotics. If you eat the recommended 5-8 servings of fruits and vegetables every day, you will most likely be getting sufficient prebiotics. However, I wanted a list of the best prebiotics to “fertilize” my probiotics. Here is what I found. For maximum prebiotics I should eat asparagus, garlic, leeks and onions. And believe it or not, dandelion greens!
The irony that my lawn weeds are a major source of “fertilizer” for my gut lawn is hilarious! Tonight I am going to treat my gut lawn with an awesome salad of dandelion greens with goat cheese and walnuts.