Probiotic rich foods can boost immunity and improve gut health

In a study published Immunobiology in 2006, researchers found that a probiotic beverage called kefir can decrease the allergic response. (1)

One out of 12 children in the United States has a food allergy.

Results from the study also suggest that kefir may control inflammation in the digestive system, which is one major hallmark of leaky gut and food allergies.

Other studies confirm that fermented foods—like kefir—can calm down an overactive immune system, dramatically reducing allergies. (2)(3)(4)

An allergy is your body’s way of communicating that your immune system is out of balance. During an allergic reaction, the immune system overreacts to a normally harmless substance in the environment, also known as an allergen.

Whether an allergic response takes place in the lungs, the skin, or the digestive tract, the signs of an allergic response include redness, swelling and pain, itchy skin, and a buildup of mucus.

Over the past several decades, the numbers of those affected by allergies have been climbing. One study found that 20%-30% of the Western population is affected by one allergy or another. (5)

Another study in Pediatrics published in 2011 found that one out of 12 children in the United States has a food allergy. (6) This translates into 6 million children.

Where Do Allergies Come From?

Excessive cleanliness may be to blame for childhood allergies and related disorders. You can boost your child’s immunity to reduce allergies with friendly bacteria found in fermented foods!

According to the hygiene hypothesis, our cleanliness may be one way that allergies develop.

The hygiene hypothesis asserts that the less time children spend on the farm, in the mud, with siblings, and out of the city, the less contact they have with microbial bugs. (7)(8)

As it turns out, a diverse mix of microbes is extremely important to the developing immune system of a young child. Many of these microbes turn “on” the immune system’s ability to self-regulate. In other words, microbes from the environment keep the immune system from overreacting, turning “off” cues for inflammation and an allergic response. (9)

For example, one study found that when an expecting mother is exposed to a rich microbial environment (like a farm), her child is less likely to develop asthma and other allergies. (10)

These days, we see less microbial diversity and more allergies because of:

  1. Standard American Diet, which relies on refined and processed foods
  2. Antibiotic overuse
  3. Vaccinations
  4. Reduced household size (siblings are a great way to pass along germs)
  5. “Improved” hygiene

Experts tell us that these five factors have manipulated the digestive system and the immune system, throwing them both out of balance. (11)

Fermented Foods: The Strongest Probiotic

In order to restore this balance and support a healthy immune response, we suggest that you get reacquainted with the good microbes in your environment. One gentle way to do this is with fermented foods.

Fermented foods contain probiotic microbes that feed on the sugars naturally present in food. (12)(13)

As bacteria and yeast feed on the sugars around them, they release enzymes to break down large food particles. This means that fermented foods are predigested and full of enzymes. Predigested foods contain nutrients that are easy to absorb, meaning less work for your stomach and your small intestine.

Examples of fermented foods include:

Raw foods have a special therapeutic value in the body because raw foods contain active enzymes. When it comes to fully digesting a meal, enzymes are essential.

Heat destroys enzymes, making foods tougher to digest. For example, raw milk contains an enzyme that helps you digest milk sugars. Without this enzyme, when you drink pasteurized milk you may find that you are unable to digest milk and are lactose intolerant. Often, missing enzymes mean that the gut will become sensitive and inflamed.

Unfortunately, research shows that as early as 30 years old, your body stops making the enzymes that it needs. (14) In this context, raw and fermented foods are an important food group that many of us are missing from our diet.

How Fermented Foods Support the Immune System

When you eat fermented foods, you re-introduce beneficial microbes to the gastrointestinal tract—some of which you may have missed out on during your childhood.

Probiotic-rich foods are foods that are full of beneficial bacteria and yeast. They synthesize nutrients like biotin, folate, and vitamin K2. (15) These nutrients protect our cells from damage, nourish the brain, and support the skeletal system. Good bacteria actively fight harmful bacteria and produce specialized fats that control inflammation. (16)(17)

When it comes to allergies, fermented foods work in your favor.

This is because the probiotics in fermented foods work in concert with your immune system.  Studies show that beneficial microbes control outbreaks of allergic hypersensitivity and inflammation. (18)(19)

Making Your Own Fermented Vegetables at Home

When you decide to make a batch of fermented vegetables at home, be sure and use an airtight container that is either glass or stainless steel. Mason jars work beautifully for this purpose.

Ferment your shredded vegetables at room temperature—or 72°F —for at least three days. Depending on the fluctuations of temperature in your home, you may need to ferment your vegetables for up to a week. Be sure and taste them in order to check where they are at in the fermentation process.

When fermenting foods at home, we always suggest using a starter culture that contains specific strains of beneficial microbes. This prevents wild and pathogenic microbes from feeding on your vegetables as they ferment.

We also suggest feeding your starter culture with a prebiotic like EcoBloom.  A prebiotic nourishes the starter culture and gives your batch of fermented vegetables the edge that it needs to flourish. Be sure to encourage bacteria growth by adding a pinch of minerals and Celtic Sea Salt; good bacteria thrive in a mineral-rich environment.

How to Make Cultured Vegetables at Home

  1. Combine shredded vegetables in a large bowl. Good choices include cabbage, carrots, or kale.
  2. Remove several cups of this mixture and blend with enough filtered water to make a “brine.” Add brine and activated starter culture back into the bowl with the shredded vegetables. Stir well.
  3. Pack mixed veggies down into a 1½ quart glass or stainless steel container. Use your fist, a wooden dowel, or a potato masher to pack veggies tightly.
  4. Fill container almost full, but leave about 2 inches of room at the top for veggies to expand.
  5. Roll up several cabbage leaves and place them on top to fill the remaining 2 inch space. Clamp jar closed.
  6. Let veggies sit at room temperature for at least three days. A week is even better. Refrigerate to slow down fermentation. Enjoy!

What To Remember Most About This Article:

Research has proven beyond a shadow of a doubt that probiotics can help to reduce an allergic response in the body. A probiotic beverage called kefir can help to control digestive inflammation, which contributes to leaky gut and food allergies.

Other research supports fermented foods as a means to calm down an overactive immune system and reduce allergies. This research is especially helpful for the 6 million children in the US that suffer from food allergies. Unfortunately, allergies in today’s children are even more prevalent because of processed foods, antibiotic overuse, vaccinations, and so-called improved hygiene.

Fermented foods are the strongest probiotic available to support a healthy immune system with beneficial bacteria.

Fermented foods can be found in raw fermented vegetables, fermented Spirulina, dairy kefir, and coconut water kefir. For help with chronic allergies, digestive distress, and weakened immunity, you can start making fermented vegetables at home in as little as three days. We recommend using a handy starter culture along with a prebiotic like EcoBloom to whip up your own fermented veggies thriving with friendly bacteria!

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  2. Adiloğlu, A. K., Gönülateş, N., Işler, M., & Senol, A. (2013). [The effect of kefir consumption on human immune system: a cytokine study]. Mikrobiyoloji bulteni, 47(2), 273-281.
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