Fermented Foods: Why they are so beneficial


Fermented Foods: Why they are so beneficial

By Elaine Charles, part 3 in my series on healthy eating

Long before the beneficial bacteria known as probiotics hit store shelves, cultures around the globe have been enjoying the benefits of a microbe-rich diet courtesy of fermented foods.

Thousands of years ago, when fermented foods and beverages were first consumed, the microbial and enzymatic processes responsible for the transformations were largely unknown.

What was known was that fermentation extended the longevity of foods and they came to be valued for their medicinal and nutritive properties. According to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO):

“Fermentation is one of the oldest forms of food preservation technologies in the world. Indigenous fermented foods such as bread, cheese, and wine, have been prepared and consumed for thousands of years and are strongly linked to culture and tradition, especially in rural households and village communities.

The development of fermentation technologies is lost in the mists of history. Anthropologists have suggested that it was the production of alcohol that motivated primitive people to settle down and become agriculturists. Some even think the consumption of fermented food is pre-human.

The first fermented foods consumed probably were fermented fruits. Hunter-gatherers would have consumed fresh fruits but at times of scarcity would have eaten rotten and fermented fruits. Repeated consumption would have led to the development of the taste for fermented fruits.

There is reliable information that fermented drinks were being produced over 7,000 years ago in Babylon (now Iraq), 5,000 years ago in Egypt, 4,000 years ago in Mexico, and 3,500 years ago in Sudan…

Fermentation of milk started in many places with evidence of fermented products in use in Babylon over 5,000 years ago… China is thought to be the birth-place of fermented vegetables

… Knowledge about traditional fermentation technologies has been handed down from parent to child, for centuries. These fermented products have been adapted over generations; some products and practices no doubt fell by the wayside.

Those that remain today have not only survived the test of time but also more importantly are appropriate to the technical, social, and economic conditions of the region.”


Why Fermented Foods Should Be a Part of Your Diet

In the US, the preparation of fermented foods is a largely lost art, and even in areas where such foods are still widely consumed, there is danger of them being lost. FAO noted:

What they provide is a food source packed with beneficial microorganisms that most people, especially in the US, do not get elsewhere. Many are not aware that your gut houses about 85 percent of your immune system.

This is in large part due to the 100 trillion bacteria that live there, both beneficial and pathogenic, which can stimulate secretory IgA to nourish your immune response.

When your GI tract is not properly balanced, a wide range of health problems can appear, including allergies and autoimmune diseases. In fact, over the past several years, research has revealed that microbes of all kinds — bacteria, fungi, and even viruses — play instrumental roles in the functioning of your body. For example, beneficial bacteria have been shown to:

  • Counteract inflammation and control the growth of disease-causing bacteria
  • Produce vitamins, amino acids (protein precursors), absorb minerals, and eliminate toxins
  • Control asthma and reduce risk of allergies
  • Benefit your mood and mental health
  • Impact your weight

One of the quickest and easiest ways to improve your gut health is via your diet. Beneficial microbes tend to feed on foods that are known to benefit health and vice versa.

Sugar, for example, is a preferred food source for fungi that produce yeast infections and sinusitis, whereas healthy probiotic-rich foods like fermented vegetables boost populations of health-promoting bacteria, thereby disallowing potentially pathogenic colonies from taking over.


Health Benefits of Fermented Foods

Fermented foods are potent chelators (detoxifiers) and contain much higher levels of beneficial bacteria than probiotic supplements, making them ideal for optimizing your gut flora. In addition to helping break down and eliminate heavy metals and other toxins from your body, beneficial gut bacteria perform a number of surprising functions, including:

  • Mineral absorption, and producing nutrients such as B vitamins and vitamin K2 (vitamin K2 and vitamin D are necessary for integrating calcium into your bones and keeping it out of your arteries, thereby reducing your risk for coronary artery disease and stroke)
  • Preventing obesity and diabetes, and regulating dietary fat absorption
  • Lowering your risk for cancer
  • Improving your mood and mental health
  • Preventing acne

In the US, imbalances in gut flora are widespread, not only due to high sugar, high-processed food diets, but also due to exposure to antibiotics, both in medicine and via conventionally raised livestock.

The solution is simple – in addition to cutting back on sugar and antibiotics (choose organic foods as much as possible), consuming fermented foods will give your gut health a complete overhaul, helping to clear out pathogenic varieties, and promoting the spread of healing, nourishing microorganisms instead.


9 Tips for Making Fermented Vegetables at Home

You can ferment almost any vegetable, although cucumbers (pickles) and cabbage (sauerkraut) are among the most popular. Fermenting your own vegetables may seem intimidating, but it is not difficult once you have the basic method down. The nine tips that follow can help you get started:

1. Use Organic Ingredients

Starting out with fresh, toxin-free food will ensure a better outcome. If you don’t grow your own, a local organic farmer may sell cabbage, cucumbers, and other veggies by the case if you’re thinking of making a large batch.

2. Wash Your Veggies and Prepare Them Properly

Wash your vegetables thoroughly under cold running water. You want to remove bacteria, enzymes, and other debris from the veggies, as remnants could affect the outcome of your fermentation.

Next you’ll want to decide whether to grate, slice, or chop the veggies, or simply leave them whole. The decision is up to you and depends mostly on what you plan to do with the finished veggies (will you be using them as a condiment, a side dish, or as an appetizer?).

However, one “rule” is to keep the size of the veggies consistent within each batch, as the size and shape will impact the speed of fermentation. Grated veggies will have the texture of relish when finished (and may not need an added brine). Chopped veggies will take longer to ferment and usually require brine, while cucumbers, radishes, green beans, and Brussels sprouts may be left whole.

3. Try Pint and Quart Jars

There’s no need to spend large amounts of money on containers. The material they’re made of is important however. You do NOT want to use plastic, which may leach chemicals into your food, or metal, as salts can corrode the metal. Large, glass Mason jars with self-sealing lids make perfect fermentation containers, and they are a good size for most families. Make sure they are the wide-mouthed variety, as you’ll need to get your hand or a tool down into the jar for tightly packing the veggies.

4. Try a Stone Crock

If you want to make larger batches, try a stone crock. You can ferment about five pounds of vegetables in a one-gallon container, so a five-pound crock will hold about a five-gallon batch.

5. Prepare the Brine

Most fermented vegetables will need to be covered with brine. While you can do wild fermentation (allowing whatever is naturally on the vegetable to take hold), this method is more time consuming, and the end product is less certain. Instead, try one of the following brine fermentation methods:

Salt – Salt suppresses the growth of undesirable bacteria while allow salt-tolerant Lactobacilli strains to flourish. Salt will also lead to a crisper texture, since salt hardens the pectins in the vegetables. There are actually quite a few compelling reasons for adding a small amount of natural, unprocessed salt — such as Himalayan salt — to your vegetables. For example, salt:

  • Strengthens the ferment’s ability to eliminate any potential pathogenic bacteria present
  • Adds to the flavor
  • Acts as a natural preservative, which may be necessary if you’re making large batches that need to last for a larger portion of the year
  • Slows the enzymatic digestion of the vegetables, leaving them crunchier
  • Inhibits surface molds

Salt-Free Brine – If you prefer to make your vegetables without salt, try celery juice instead. I recommend using a starter culture dissolved in celery juice.

Starter Culture – Starter cultures may be used on their own or in addition to salt, and they can provide additional benefits. For instance, I recommend using a starter culture specifically designed to optimize vitamin K2. My research team found we could get 400 to 500 mcgs of vitamin K2 in a two-ounce serving of fermented vegetables using a starter culture, which is a clinically therapeutic dose. The water used for your brine is also important. Use water that is filtered to be free of contaminants, chlorine, and fluoride.

6. Let Your Veggies “Ripen”

Once you’ve packed your veggies for fermentation, they’ll need to “ripen” for a week or more for the flavor to develop. You’ll need to weigh the vegetables down to keep them submerged below the brine.

7. Move the Veggies to Cold Storage

When the vegetables are ready, you should move them to the refrigerator. How do you know when they’re “done”? First, you might notice bubbles throughout the jar, which is a good sign. Next, there should be a pleasant sour aroma. If you notice a rotten or spoiled odor, toss the veggies, wash the container, and try again. Ideally, test the vegetables daily until you reach the desired flavor and texture. They should have a tangy, sour flavor when they’re done fermenting, but you can let them ferment an extra day or two depending on your preference.

8. Label Them

You’ll quickly forget when you made which batch and what’s inside your jars. A label can include the ingredients, the date made and even how many days you left it to ferment (the latter will help you in perfecting the “perfect” recipe).

9. Take a Local Class

Many communities host pickling or preserving classes to help you learn this traditional method of food preservation. So even if you don’t have a recipe passed down from your grandmother, you can still learn how to make fermented foods. Many groups even get together to make large batches at a time.



Our Favorite Leaky Gut Trio

Here are some powerful technologies for leaky gut that work extremely well together.

In the past two months we have attended two conferences including the Gut Brain and Microbiome conferences in Florida. While much information on various aspects of complex interactions were presented there were few innovative or outstanding products or protocols that excite me as much as the ones I will discuss here.

Check out some of our favorite technologies:

1. Pharmax HLC or Genestra HMF human microflora strains
2. Anova Health MBM Proven Prebiotic Formulation
3. Anova Health AvinoCort for core SIgA support

There is overwhelming evidence that 4 human human strain floras have the ability to reinoculate the upper intestinal track where others cannot. Chosen from over 600 human strains after years of research this consortium 4 found products from Pharmax and sister company Genestra. They have both proven themselves in several long term trials unrivaled by any other probiotic strains. HLC and HMF probiotics come in various strengths based on need. Pharmax HLC Replenish is my favorite for one to two week intensive small intestine reinoculation

Human strain probiotics are the safest in the industry. Please be aware that many of the new “spore” based probiotics while hardly have not been proven SAFE in many instances and can actually be dangerous to certain individuals.  There have been 9 deaths from septicemia form spore based organisms. Human strains and many food derived probiotics have a track record for safety.

One of the major reasons people have difficulty maintaining a health intestinal mucosa is stress. Prolonged stress leads to the suppression of Secretory or (SIgA) and the protection SIgA provides from pathogens.

Anova Health AvinoCort has been proven to reduce many aspects of stress in a number of ways. Because of the many factors in AvinoCort, about 70% of individuals  tend to report better sleep, more stamina, improved mood levels and more mental clarity. Individuals report varying degrees of these felt benefits within 2-5 days. Blood tests confirm better adrenal functions and metabolic syndrome markers in about 60 days in the 30% of individuals who don’t necessarily feel AvinoCort’s wow factor.

Anova Health MBM is a novel and highly effective prebiotic without the downside of sugar/starch based inulin. MBM has proven to repair leaky gut and elongate intestinal villi in pathology photographs. No other prebiotic has been able to prove this.

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Feature Blog: Digestive Health During Seasonal Transitions

Smiley face stomach

by Erin Stokes, ND, Medical Director at FoodState®

Autumn is the season of harvest, as well as a time of transition. We see evidence of this transition everywhere, as the days become shorter and the nights grow longer. Leaves change color and fall from the trees, and animals prepare for the upcoming winter by gathering food.

What are humans doing to adapt to the seasonal change? Usually, not much.

At this time of year, our bodies need more sleep (but we often don’t get it), and it’s also an ideal time to focus on optimizing digestive function. Between 60-80% of immune cells are located in and around the gastrointestinal tract. So, it stands to reason that a healthy GI tract is an excellent way to prepare ahead of time for winter’s immune challenges.

It’s a concept called seasonal therapeutics. No matter which season it is, there is always an emphasis on being proactive to get ahead of seasonal challenges.

Here are a few ways to support your patient’s digestive and overall health during the fall season:

  1. Avoid individual food allergens and high glycemic load carbohydrates. Focus instead on whole foods with a strong emphasis on increasing vegetable intake. This is a good time of year to help people identify those food allergens and sensitivities. Food allergens can be identified with an elimination diet, or alternatively, some prefer to selectively eliminate the most common offenders one at a time, such as gluten or dairy.
  2. Support a healthy inflammatory response in the GI tract with herbs such as tumeric root, boswelia serrate, and ginger root.
  3. Depending in the individual, consider proactively increasing frequency and/or potency of probiotics when moving into the Autumn months. Some individuals may need additional immune support as the seasons transition. One way to improve digestive and immune support is with probiotics.

These statements have not been evaluated by the FDA. This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.

Posted with permission from Innate Response™

Guest Post: Which Enzymes Should You Be Taking?

Reposted from the website of Dr. DicQie Fuller-Looney

Food enzymes are preserved intact in raw foods. Uncooked fruit and vegetables contain their own enzymes. A ripening banana is a good example of how raw-food enzymes work. The banana transforms itself from a hard, starchy plant into a very soft, brown and sweet one through a process requiring energy from its enzymes. Their plant enzymes work first to take in nutrients and then allow them to ripen with the same enzyme process the soil, tree or host they grow on. They are not available during human digestion. There is confusion in the raw food world over the enzymes that raw foods contain. These food enzymes are specifically for the food itself to obtain their own nutrients from because they are destroyed and/or made dormant in the acid environment of the human stomach. We may eat or juice these raw foods but their enzymes are only present to work for their own needs. Such enzymes are not available for our needs because they have to first go through our stomach where they are made dormant.

Plant Enzymes are bromelain, kiwi and papain. Bromelain is a proteolytic (breaks down protein) and milk-clotting enzyme derived from the pineapple stem. Papain is taken from the fruit of the papaya tree. Both bromelain and papain are used in tenderizers and to break down proteins. In the human digestive tract and because of their ultimate pH they are used mostly for inflammation between meals rather than in the main digestive tract. Kiwi has some value in the breaking down of fiber and some dairy products. There are those who experience bowel irritation with the use of kiwi and papain similar to the bloating from eating at salad bars.

Plant based supplemental digestive enzymes is the third source for these miraculous substances. They are grown on plant foods (as their host) in a laboratory where they are fed to become whatever digestive enzyme type is required, but they do not contain their host. The host is a plant source and its use is just a platform to host the mycelial or biochemical enzymes. When mature, the fungus is removed and the remainder is a pure fluid that is dried to a fine powder substance. They are known as plant enzymes but they are really mycelial or microbial produced bio-identical enzymes to the human body. Enzymes cannot be made like synthetic vitamins and minerals. They must be grown in plant form and extracted without chemicals in a laboratory process. Supplemental plant-based enzymes are usually sold in capsule form. They are swallowed with food to assist in the digestion of a particular meal. They work throughout the entire digestive system, from esophagus to rectum.

Animal enzymes also known as glandular enzymes are the other enzymes available for human consumption. For instance, pancreatin comes from the pancreas of a slaughterhouse hog or ox. Pancreatin requires an alkaline pH setting to work. Therefore, It begins working only in the latter stages of the digestive process. Parts of the glands enzymes are chymotrypsin, trypsin and pepsin. They all require an enteric coating for protection from the human stomach. Their best work is in the alkaline setting of the blood but not necessarily for digestive purposes. Animal produced enzymes are not recommended for children or pregnant women due to their coating.

Supplemental plant based digestive enzymes, which work from a pH of 2 to 9 throughout the digestive system and into the pH of the blood are obviously the best choice for digestive supplementation.

You would want to ingest those enzymes that are most available to your system for proper digestion. For instance there are 13 different carbohydrate-splitting enzymes not just amylase, which is limited to the breaking down of starch into glucose.

There are a few lipase enzymes to assist in the breaking down of fats and moving them into the lymphatic system to make their way to the liver. One type does not call for bile, which is good for those with the gallbladder removed.

Protease enzymes come in different pH factors from acid bearing to work in the stomach, acid to neutral to work in the small intestine and alkaline to work in the blood.