How Healing Your Gut with Fermented Foods
Updated: Oct 5, 2018
Before the invention of the refrigerator, fermentation was one of the main ways people kept foods edible for long periods of time. Fermentation involves storing foods in such a way that bacteria begin to form, but not disease causing bacteria. Through use of spices and salts, foods were created that would grow edible bacteria which in turn lengthened the shelf life of the food. In the modern day, fermented food is more the delicacy than staple, and it may be a primary reason why chronic disease is on the rise. If you follow this blog, you may already be aware of the importance of gut health, but in case you don’t I’ll give you a brief introduction. Our digestive system contains a steril upper gut which includes the stomach, and a fermenting lower gut. Bacteria inhabit our intestines in wide variety and number. Studies in the past decade have discovered that these bacteria may be one of the most important factors in staying healthy. In a healthy human, there is a stable culture of approximately 30,000 species of bacteria in our gut. However, in today’s day and age, you only see this culture in the bellies of tribal peoples. In the united states, study participants were found to have a 10,000 strains in their gut on the high end, and many of us have imbalanced ratios of good and bad bacteria. This condition, called gut disbiosis, is linked to not only poor physical health, but even schizophrenia and autism, among other mental conditions.
The primary reasons for our poor gut health are likely the heavy use of antibiotics, un-naturally sterile environments at birth and young age, and lack of fermented foods in our diets. This data has caused a major increase in the popularity of probiotic supplements, which contain several million or billion copies of a few strains of bacteria. The problem is that these supplements have not been proven to re-populate the gut, and even when they do, it’s like trying to fill a swimming pool using a cup of water. This is where fermented food come in. The bacterial cultures of fermented foods are diverse and powerfully healthy. Whey water alone contains billions of bacteria, compared to the at-most billions in the best probiotics. Further-more, these foods are fairly cheap and easy to make. Some examples of great fermented foods are Whey Water, Kefir, Kambucha, Kimchi, Miso soup, Yogurt, and Sauer Kraut. Likely you’ve heard of at least one of these, as they are staples in cultures from all over the world. Many of the world’s leading health experts suggest a daily diet inclusive of fermented foods
So, where do we start? Well, a fun way to get into fermented foods is to learn to make them yourself. Most of them require little prep or attention. Kimchi, for example, can be started with a few spices, whey water, salt, and cabbage. The other advantage of making your own fermented foods is that it is inexpensive. A small bottle of kombucha from the store costs $4. For the same price, you might be able to make a few quarts on your own. If you’re pressed for time, you can buy many fermented foods from the store.
Here’s a video of Jessa Greenfield, wife of the renowned biohacker and fitness expert Ben Greenfield, making Kimchi from scratch. You can find similar recipes and videos for Sauer Kraut, Kambucha, Miso Soup, etc. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4pMyx2vBfeo
I would also suggest beginning to use whey water specifically. You can get whey water by buying mozzarella cheese stored in liquid. The liquid is whey water. You can also take it from yogurt, it’s the liquid floating on top. Here’s another great thing about fermented foods: you can start eating dairy again. Many people seeking health stop consuming conventional dairy products, which is good. However, much of the issue with dairy is where it’s from and how it is processed. Proper dairy products are very good for gut health. Goat dairy is a great, clean source that most people can tolerate, and as are A2 dairy products. Switching to goat dairy or A2 dairy is a great way to improve your gut without giving up cheese.
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