Happy Wellness Wednesday, everyone! Hope your week has been great thus far!

I wanted to share with you a little bit about fermented foods today! I have recently been trying to strengthen my immune system, as I have written about in previous wellness posts you may have seen. A major part of doing this is paying attention to your GUT HEALTH! I’m sure I’m not the first person you have ever heard this from, but I definitely agree that it is crucial to our overall health and well-being.

What Are Fermented Foods?

Fermented foods are foods that are steeped and left to sit for long enough periods of time for the sugars in them to break down and begin to grow bacteria or yeast. Some of your favorite things in life might be fermented, like WINE! 🙂 Unfortunately, wine isn’t quite what I’m suggesting you intake for gut health, though 🙁 Our ancestors began fermenting foods so they could enjoy them during times when they weren’t able to harvest them freshly. Now, we eat them for pleasure, or for their many health benefits!

Some wonderful fermented foods are: kimchi, sauerkraut, kefir, yogurt, miso, tempeh, kombucha, raw cheese, and pickles! These foods provide beneficial bacteria for gut health. Most fermented foods in large stores go through pasteurization which will kill off bacteria. So, if you’re eating them for more than the taste and are wanting the benefits of the good bacteria, buying them at your average grocery store wouldn’t be the best idea. There are some brands at specialty food stores, like Whole Foods, Sprouts, Trader Joes, or local health foods stores that are pretty good, though. Some of my favorites are Bubbie’s and Health Ade. They don’t go through quite as heavy pasteurization that conventional brands do. But, it’s best to make them yourself, or to buy them homemade. I was so thrilled to find a small local business, Prescription Foods, that makes them and delivers them to local stores.

Fermented Foods help balance your good gut flora by replenishing it. This can help conditions like autoimmune disease, irritable bowel disease, cancer, arthritis, Lyme disease, liver disease, and really any form infection, chronic infection, chronic illness or disease. It also helps to strengthen our immune system, and keep a healthy weight.

Why Is Gut Health So Important?

We have 100 trillion or more types of bacteria and microorganisms that exist in our digestive tract! We need these bacteria to balance out the bad bacteria. When the gut microbiome is disrupted and becomes unbalanced with more bad bacteria, viruses, fungus, parasites, etc, we become sick. This can lead to a load of health problems, physically, mentally, and emotionally. Remember, serotonin is found in the gut and is a mood stabilizing chemical! So, it’s not just physical problems that can manifest from imbalance gut flora. It can also cause depression and anxiety as well lead to poor sleep. Needless to say, incorporating good bacterias into your diet is a great way to get and stay healthy.

You might notice that after you take an antibiotic you seem bloated and may have trouble digesting. This is because antibiotics kill off good bacteria as well as bad, disrupting the balance of your microbiome. In some cases, they can completely annihilate entire species of good bacteria. This is very dangerous because certain strains cannot be found in probiotics and fermented foods, and we have no way of getting them back into our system currently. (Although, fecal transplants are becoming a thing – no joke) The overuse of antibiotics causes our gut flora to be so imbalanced, which weakens our immune system, and leaves us susceptible to more illness. So, you want to be careful when taking antibiotics. I personally don’t do it. I use natural forms of killing off pathogens without killing off all of the good bacteria. Of course we can all make our own decisions about when we feel it’s appropriate to use antibiotics. But, I would warn against using them for small or questionable purposes, or using them for extended periods of time.

What About Probiotics?

A lot of you may already take a probiotic. That’s great, I am pro-probiotics! However, some probiotics do not have high enough levels of good bacteria. Studies have shown that you need between 100 million and 1 billion bacteria per serving for it to be effective. Lots of probiotics do not contain this amount. There is also the fact that they can start to die off while sitting on the shelf. The actual counts of bacteria may only be what they were when the product was produced, not when it hits your mouth. Also, there is so much that we don’t know about probiotics yet. Probiotics typically contain the species of bacteria that certain researchers and companies believe to be the best ones. But, are they?

So Why Could Fermented Foods Be Better?

Fermented foods have so many more species than just the ones selected for a probiotic. Fermented foods also have more than the 1 billion good bacteria count per serving. They also contain non-digestable carbohydrates that act as “prebiotics”. Prebiotics help to feed the good bacteria in your gut. So, you’re not only supplying your gut with good bacteria from fermented foods, but you’re also giving them the nutrition they need to thrive!

I hope this has helped you learn a bit more about fermented foods and why they would be great to add into your diet! You can find lots of recipes to easily make some at home on Pinterest! If you’re in the Pittsburgh area and would rather buy some, you can visit Prescription Foods’ website here and find the various locations where you can find them. They have many varieties like this “Cogurt” (coconut yogurt), kimchi, garlic beets, sauerkraut, and more! If you’re not local to Pittsburgh, try googling for businesses near you that make them, too!

Kelly Bibza
Author

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