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Real ferments pop. They bubble beneath a liquid brine. They have enough snap in them to chase away a crampy stomachache or even heartburn.
Fermented foods are that good.
The art of culturing our food with lactic acid bacteria has been around for generations. And yet, most of us have forgotten about all that goodness that is locked into a jar of homemade sauerkraut or truly fermented dill pickles.
Nowadays, traditionally fermented foods like sauerkraut and pickles swim in white vinegar on supermarket shelves. White vinegar may give the right kind of sour tang, but not the many health benefits that we receive from friendly bacteria.
The friendly bacteria found in fermented foods and probiotic beverages are valuable to our health and to our wellbeing. For example, when good bacteria go missing from the diet for too long, we begin to see:
Making fermented foods at home can supply the gut with beneficial bacteria to alleviate allergies, acne, constipation, and even anxiety. Research has proven that probiotics are better consumed as fermented foods or drinks instead of as a supplement.
- Imbalances in immune function, such as reoccurring allergies.
- Compromised gut health, which includes issues like constipation and heartburn.
- Unexplained weight gain.
- Brain fog and mood disorders, like anxiety and depression.
- Acne and other skin troubles.
Repairing the inner ecology of the digestive tract is at the heart of addressing so many of the common health problems we face today. And this begins with fermented foods.
Studies show that probiotics fare better in the stomach when they are consumed in the form of a fermented food or drink. (1)
Fermented Foods: Nature’s Probiotic
Fermentation was at one time an important way to preserve food. Without refrigeration, human beings had a limited number of ways to store food for long periods of time without it spoiling.
As it turns out, the same bacteria that help us to preserve food also play an essential role in gut health and in a well-balanced immune response. Friendly lactic acid bacteria are so vital to our wellbeing that nature intended for our first contact with the outside world to be with these good bacteria.
As a baby exits the womb and slides through the birth canal, he is coated with beneficial bacteria. These bacteria immediately colonize the newborn. Studies have shown that babies born cesarean section may be at a slight disadvantage since they miss out on mom’s good bacteria and instead are imprinted with the bacteria on the surface of the skin. (2)
In the human body, bacteria outnumber our own cells 10 to 1. If you can imagine it, each one of us is a cloud of carefully organized bacteria!
These gut bacteria affect just about everything in the human body - from our mental wellbeing to our waist size!
Scientists refer to this population of bacteria as a microbiome, which is another way of describing the complex metropolis of bugs that inhabit the human body.
The microbiome in the digestive tract is particularly influential. So much so that doctors from the Department of Medicine at the National University of Ireland have described it as “the forgotten organ.” (3)
As we transition from 2012 to 2013, the NIH (National Institutes of Health) just announced a new research project. The NIH is investing 3 million dollars into research on the human microbiome in order to gain new insight into health and disease. (4)
Beware of Wild Fermentation
Healthy gut bacteria are critical to our survival. By choosing fermented foods and fermented beverages on a daily basis, we can help to nourish our inner ecology.
The inner ecology in the gut is made up of bacteria and yeast. Most of these microorganisms are beneficial to our health. They help to break down food and synthesize vitamins.
They also help to keep Candida yeast infections in check.
The yeast known as Candida albicans is an opportunistic microorganism. It will grow wherever it can, whenever it can!
Unfortunately, many people have an overgrowth of Candida and do not yet know it. This can show up as itching in the throat or ears, joint pain, skin breakouts, brain fog, and of course in the gut itself. The best way to work with the body during this time is to support it with very specific strains of bacteria.
In other words, you want to know your starter culture.
Some people will use kombucha as a starter for their fermented veggies. We cannot stress enough the value of knowing the specific strains of bacteria and yeast that are in the starter that you choose.
Many wild starters are just that - wild. There is simply no way of knowing what bugs you are dealing with.
You may be risking the integrity of your gut and your health when you ferment foods with the following starters:
- A pure salt brine
When fermenting vegetables or making kefir at home, we always suggest to:
- Use a starter culture or kefir starter that contains specific strains of beneficial bacteria and beneficial yeast.
- Feed your starter culture with a pre-biotic. A prebiotic is easily metabolized by good bacteria, and it can give your batch of fermented vegetables the edge that it needs to flourish. EcoBloom is an example of a prebiotic.
- Add a pinch of trace minerals, such as fulvic and humic acid. Good bacteria love minerals as much as we do! They thrive in a mineral-rich environment.
What To Remember Most About This Article:
- Correcting immune imbalances, including allergies.
- Restoring gut health to treat heartburn and constipation.
- Relieving brain fog and mood disorders, including depression and anxiety.
- Alleviating weight gain and skin issues.
Fermentation was once used as a food preservation method, and it also provides beneficial bacteria that support gut health and immune response. The bacteria in the digestive tract affect every aspect of human health, including weight and mental wellbeing!
When fermenting at home, it’s important to know what type of bacteria you’re using in your starter culture. Wild ferments made from kombucha, whey, and pure salt brine could risk the integrity of your gut health.
Instead, we recommend:
- Fermenting with a starter culture or kefir starter made with specific beneficial bacteria and yeast.
- Feeding a starter culture a prebiotic like EcoBloom that is easily metabolized by good bacteria.
- Adding a pinch of trace minerals since friendly bacteria thrive in a mineral-rich environment.
- 3. T. Faye, et al. Survival of lactic acid bacteria from fermented milks in an in vitro digestion model exploiting sequential incubation in human gastric and duodenum juice J. Dairy Sci. 2012; 95 (2). DOI: 10.3168/jds.2011-4705
- Dominguez-Bello MG, et al. Delivery mode shapes the acquisition and structure of the initial microbiota across multiple body habitats in newborns. Proc Natl Acad Sci USA. 2010; 107: 11971–11975.
- O’Hara, Ann M. and Fergus Shanahan. The Gut Flora as a Forgotten Organ. EMBO Rep. 2006 July; 7(7): 688–693.