When building strength and balance in the body I often talk about the importance of chiropractic adjustments, probiotics, filtered water, a clean wholesome diet, reducing toxins where ever possible, sharing bugs, getting dirty, sweaty exercise and quality sleep…
With all of this in mind there’s no doubt that at times the budget may be stretched so I’d love you to discover an additional inexpensive way to support your health and well-being by incorporating home-made probiotics into your week through fermenting food.
I get it – the thought of reverting back to an ancient preservation technique that encourages the breakdown of carbohydrates and proteins by bacteria, yeasts and molds may not initially float your boat but I ask you to reserve your judgement until you have had a look at the health benefits that fermented foods offer and UNTIL you try a recipe or two. At this point as you create homemade digestive super-foods such as kombucha, sauerkraut, yoghurt, preserved fruits and vegetables for your family you might then just find yourself feeling like an incredibly sophisticated ‘health guru’ 🙂 … That’s always incredibly satisfying and some of these foods are actually way more exciting then they sound!
But Why Would I Ferment My Food?
It’s important to explore new healthy habits and as we work through a series of posts on the gut-brain-axis we are going to look at a number of different lifestyle ideas that boost our innate health.
The digestive process has two distinct features:
- the breaking down of ingested foods — decomposition
- the building up of nutrients needed by the body — reconstruction
If the breaking down is incomplete, the building up cannot proceed correctly. In reality we nourish ourselves not by what we eat but by what we are capable of breaking down and transforming into nutrients the body can use.
The main by-product of this process of lacto-fermentation is lactic acid and what is astonishing is that lactic acid contributes to both processes—that of decomposition and that of reconstruction. On the one hand it supplies digestive juices in the form of organic acids that help break down the foods we eat, and on the other it activates the metabolic processes. It’s pure genius really.
Health Benefits of Fermenting Foods
Here’s just a few other reasons these foods are well worth the effort and wait.
1. Fermented foods restore the proper balance of bacteria in the gut.
If you experience bloating, flatulence, nausea, bad breath, vomiting and diarrhoea and/or constipation chances are you have dysbiosis or an imbalance of good to bad bacteria and recent research has revealed that dysbiosis is strongly linked with all chronic gastrointestinal, inflammatory and autoimmune diseases. It may also be very important in conditions such as fatigue, poor immunity, cancer and allergies.1
Traditionally fermented foods, or “functional foods,” are highly beneficial as they contain natural probiotics which promote the growth of friendly intestinal bacteria and have been shown to help with many health challenges.2 The lactic acid created not only keeps vegetables and fruits in a state of perfect preservation (inhibiting putrefying bacteria) but also promotes the growth of healthy flora throughout the intestine.
2. Raw, fermented foods are rich in enzymes.
Our body creates digestive enzymes for a multitude of functions, including the breakdown and digestion of food. These enzymes not only help to break down food but eliminate bad bacteria and microbes introduced to the digestive tract in doing so it is suggested that fermentation helps to regulate stomach acid and eases bowel movements helping with acidity issues and constipation.3 As we age digestive enzymes decrease so it’s a great idea for adults who may not identify with dysbiosis symptoms to incorporate fermented foods as a proactive healthy aging habit.
3. Fermented foods improve digestion.
When we ferment our foods they become partially digested by the friendly bacteria which sounds disgusting I know BUT it does make these foods easier for our body to breakdown. For example some people can’t tolerate milk but can eat yogurt because it is fermented dairy and the lactose is broken down through the souring process. Fermented foods are great to combine with meats and other foods that are hard to digest.
4. Natural Chelators — added bonus!!
One thing that many people do not realize is that fermented foods are some of the best chelators available. Chelators are molecules that bind to metal ions and in this scenario the beneficial bacteria created in fermented foods which are potent detoxifiers are capable of binding to metals that have been held within the body and draws them all the way through the digestive tract and out the body through our poo!!
5. Fermenting food increases the vitamin content of the food and helps us to absorb the nutrients we’re consuming.
With fermentation, foods are partially digested deepening our accessibility to the richness of vitamins and minerals that are available. Additionally the probiotic component of fermented foods increases our capacity to absorb nutrients and builds our digestive power.4
Well in the next post I’d like to share with you a host of recipes on how you can ferment foods at home. Let me be honest I did have to read my fermenting recipe books and the set of instructions a couple of times before embarking on the process but like anything, it becomes easy with practice.
Not Intrigued enough to don on an apron? “Can’t I just buy fermented foods?”
Yes absolutely you can find some high quality traditionally fermented varieties of foods at good health food stores and delis. There are BIG differences between genuinely authentic fermented foods and commercially fermented foods — such as fish preserved in brine (or anything in brine) and most yoghurts sold in supermarkets — so make sure you buy the good stuff.
How often should I eat fermented foods?
We don’t need to consume huge amounts. Most experts recommend eating about a quarter to a half a cup of fermented vegetables, or cultured food such as raw yoghurt, per day. Bear in mind that since cultured foods are very efficient detoxifiers, you may experience detox symptoms, or a “healing crisis,” if you introduce too many at once.
My favourite way to indulge in fermented foods is via Kombucha, a fermented drink. It’s a refreshing spin on homemade lemonade (my children will tell you that’s a lie but I love it and they are now use to it — my rule is: it’s a swig every day in our household).
The key though really is “variety”: The greater the variety of fermented and cultured foods you include in your diet, the better, as each food will inoculate your gut with a variety of different microorganisms.
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Yours in health…
Dr Jennifer Barham-Floreani
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2) Cross ML. Microbes versus microbes: Immune signals generated by probiotic lactobacilli and their role in protection against microbial pathogens. FEMS Immunology and Medical Microbiology 2002;34:245-253.
Gill HS, Rutherfurd KJ, Prasad J, Gopal PH. Enhancement of natural and acquired immunity by Lactobacillus rhamnosus HN001, Lactobacillus acidophilus HN017 and Bifidobacterium lactis HN019. Br J Nutr 2000:83;167-176
Gill HS, Rutherfurd KJ, Cross ML. Dietary Probiotic Supplementation Enhances Natural Killer Cell Activity in the Elderly: An Investigation of Age-Related Immunological Changes. Jour Clin Immunol 2001:21(4);264-271
3) Williams, D. 2013. Traditional Fermented Foods: The Digestive Health Benefits, 17 January. Available from: <www.drdavidwilliams.com/traditional-fermented-foods-benefits/>. [22 November 2013]
4) Vitamin Profiles of Kefirs Made from Milk of Different Species. International Journal of Food Science & Technology. 1991. Kneifel et al]”