It’s estimated that over 80% of Americans have a leaky gut. That means there is a high probability that your symptoms are directly related to the gut and a leaky gut. A leaky gut means the cells in the gut (enterocytes) actually open up and allow particles to pass through the gut cells and into the bloodstream. Our cells in our gut are held together by something called tight junctions and they are meant to allow certain small molecules to pass through. When the gut becomes unhealthy, whether from diet or nutrition sources or toxins, those tight junctions are broken apart. And healing those cells can be a hard process. You need to know what to do and how to do it.
One of the key pieces to healing the gut and keeping it well is through the traditional method of fermentation. It is something that goes way back into ancient history as a means to preserve food without refrigeration. One thing that was found when studying cultures with a high level of fermented foods in their diet was good health. Europeans commonly use cabbage and they make sauerkraut. Asian cultures ferment soy to make miso, tempeh and natto. They also make kimchi with sauerkraut, ginger, garlic and hot peppers. And I bet you have heard of kombucha, which is fermented tea, which also originated in China.
Fermented foods are extremely healthy for your gut because they contain healthy or beneficial bacteria. They feed the beneficial bacteria already present in our digestive systems. (See my article on the gut here to learn more). And you want more good bacteria present then bad bacteria, or pathogens although it really is a balance of both. Our bodies work best when in a balanced state. Fermented foods contain high levels of nutrients and when you consume them you actually absorb more nutrients from the foods you eat. Fermented foods are what I like to call “pre-digested”. That means that they are very easy to breakdown and assimilate the nutrients from. Your body doesn’t have to work as hard to break down the food which makes digestion easier. Imagine how much easier to digest sauerkraut is vs a big bowl of raw vegetables. I never liked raw vegetables because my own digestive system wouldn’t feel good when I ate them. I still remember those post-raw veggie stomach aches. One thing I started doing was to cut way back on raw veggies and eat more cooked vegetables and increasing how many probiotic rich foods I ate per day. There was a time I completely cut out raw vegetables while my I was on more extreme healing protocols. I still prefer cooked vegetables to raw ones to this day.
Because of all of the amazing health benefits of fermented foods you may be thinking that if a little is good, then a lot must be better. Well, that’s not exactly the case. You want to consume fermented foods a few times per week. But you don’t want to consume them in mass quantities on a daily basis because you could have the potential to throw off the balance of your gut to too much good bacteria. An extreme overabundance isn’t what you want either. And if that overabundance is in the small intestine it is called SIBO, Small Intestine Bacteria Overgrowth. (One of the main symptom is bloating and gas about 30 minutes after eating). Actually, SIBO sufferers don’t do well on fermented foods. They get some major GI problems from it. If that is you, send me an email or check out my services to learn more. You need a deeper level of healing that can’t be addressed in a blogpost.
How do you Start Introducing Fermented Foods?
Start low and slow. Start with 1-2 Tablespoons. It can take a little while for the digestive system to get used to the influx of good bacteria. You don’t want to start by drinking kombucha and eating pickles, sauerkraut and kimchi at every meal. You’re probably going to feel poorly from that. That is too many fermented foods for anyone.
Where do I get Fermented Foods?
You can buy some amazing fermented veggies and drinks at your local health food store (and even at some Target stores too now). But they can be fairly expensive.
Guess what? You can make your own. It’s both easy and inexpensive. It takes some time to get into the groove of fermenting and learn the basics, but once you have learned the basics you will be an expert before you know it. It takes a little bit of a mindset change at first. Realize that the key to fermentation is temperature and it is ok to keep your vegetables or tea on the counter during the fermentation process. We think everything needs to be refrigerated or else it goes bad. It’s the exact opposite with ferments. They thrive (and will allow you to thrive too) by being at room temperature until they are done fermenting.
Realize that not all sauerkraut and pickles are created equally. A quality fermented food is found in the refrigerator. You must purchase your kombucha, pickles, sauerkraut, etc in the refrigerator or else they are not a fermented food. There are other ways to make pickles and sauerkraut other than by the fermentation process. Not refrigerated = not fermented. Refrigeration is the key.
What if I Don’t Like the Taste of Fermented Foods?
Sometimes things worth liking take a little work. There was a time I didn’t like coffee but that didn’t stop me from learning to love it. (I know I’m not the only one with the coffee thing). Fermented foods can be an acquired taste and that is ok. That’s another reason to start low and slow. Keep at it and you will like the taste of the ferments and your body may actually start to crave the fermented foods. My body does and I look forward to eating and drinking my ferments. There’s rarely a day that goes by without me consuming a fermented product.
I don’t have any many recipes on my blog that are specific to fermentation. So, in order to provide you with amazing recipes and resources to get you started fermenting foods, I put together a recipe round-up. There are some amazing recipes here, so spend some time looking over these recipes!
How to Make Kombucha: A Beginner’s Guide from Delicious Obsessions
Continuous Kombucha Brewing: How To and Why… from Delicious Obsessions
Kombucha 101 from Health Starts in the Kitchen
How to make Kombucha from Real Food Outlaws
How to second ferment or flavor Kombucha from Divine Health From the Inside Out
How to Make Water Kefir from Delicious Obsessions
I drink Soda Everyday (Water Kefir Basics) from Real Food Outlaws
VIDEO: Making Water Kefir from Real Food Whole Health
Lacto-Fermentation (With Whey)
What is Lacto-Fermentation and How To Make Lactofermented Sauerkraut from Girl Meets Nourishment
Lacto-Fermented Kimchi from Nourishing Minimalism
Lacto-Fermented Garlic Pickles from Real Food Outlaws
Lacto-Fermented Ginger Carrots from Real Food Outlaws
Lacto-Fermentation of Vegetables from How We Flourish
How to Make Kimchi from Real Food Outlaws
Brine Pickled Brussels Sprouts from Delicious Obsessions
Lacto-Fermented May (with video!) from Girl Meets Nourishment
Easy Lacto-Fermented Ketchup from Girl Meets Nourishment
Making Fermented Garlic and Ways to Use It from Learning and Yearning
Sweet and Spicy Fermented Fruit Chutney from Real Food Outlaws
Garlicky Salsa from Divine Health From the Inside Out
Milk Kefir from Divine Health From the Inside Out
How to Make Sour Cream from Divine Health From the Inside Out
Yogurt from Divine Health From the Inside Out
And a Bonus…
DIY Airlock for Fermentation from Learning and Yearning
Fermenting Methods: We’ve Had it All Wrong from Delicious Obsessions
I hope you Enjoyed the Round-Up. Now you can really begin fermenting.