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How to introduce healthy bacteria to your diet — without necessarily eating it

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Step one: Stop obsessing about germs.

In our hasty hurricane evacuation, our diets got way, way messed up. I’m talking chicken-nugget-and-doughnuts messed up, for weeks. Even when we made it back home, we had to throw out all the food in our fridge and freezer and start from scratch, which meant I lost my sourdough starter (again) and batches of frozen bone broth.

I would never call myself a health nut. I eat way too much chocolate for that. But I did go through a crazy Nourishing Traditions phase a few years ago, and the health benefits we saw were legit. I couldn’t keep up the intense (and expensive) shopping and food prep for long, but I did keep up with the bone broth and fermented foods.

One of the biggest changes I saw was a drastic reduction in the reflux I had developed after three kids. Other benefits included a boost in energy levels, reduction in breakouts, and fewer colds and minor illnesses. So I steeled myself after our return home, because I knew what was coming.

Sure enough, this week we’ve been plagued with a nasty cold, family-wide heartburn, general crankiness and malaise, and my skin has given me the gift of making like it’s 1999 and breaking out with a vengeance. Lovely.

According to Hyperbiotics, these are all signs of a gut imbalance, almost certainly induced by processed food and stress. But they recommend some relatively painless ways to start getting our guts back in order — at least until I can build back up my supply of starter and stock.

Stop obsessing about germs: It turns out all those popular anti-microbial cleansing products that make us feel safe may, in fact, be harmful to your microbiome. There’s even evidence that our immune system actually learns to function effectively by getting a healthy exposure to dirt and bacteria. So when it comes to cleaning up, it’s best to relax a little. Basic natural soaps and cleansers — plus a little elbow grease — are all you really need to get the job done.

Commune with nature: One of the best ways to introduce your microbiome to a wide variety of friendly flora is to enjoy the outdoors and even get a little dirty. Throw a tennis ball with your dog, plant a tree, join a softball game, or spend a peaceful weekend camping in the woods for a healthy dose of microbial exposure.

In addition to eating a healthy diet, being active, and not stressing (ha!), getting dirty and being okay with it is one of the easiest ways to introduce healthy bacteria into our guts. My kids have this one covered — they are completely delighted with the spectacular new upturned tree roots to climb on and dig into. I just need to find enough chill to let them do it (and maybe join them myself). Between that and banning chicken nuggets (preferably forever, ugh), we should be back to normal in no time.

Which will be great, because there is not enough makeup in the world to cover up what’s happening on my face. Is this an option for polite society?

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