Your body’s ability digest food and successfully extract the maximum amount of nutrients is in many ways more important than the type of food you eat. Eating healthy food when your gut is not functioning at its best will only lead to adding extra calories and a wastage of vital nutrients.
Apart from the digestive juices your gut produces, there are bacteria present in your gut which play a huge role in breaking down food into compounds that your body can absorb and use. Regular gut problems like constipation, diarrhea, and food allergies could be the result of an imbalance of bacteria in the gut environment. This imbalance also has a larger effect on your overall health, especially on your skin.
Fermented foods can help you to naturally heal your gut and allow the good bacteria in your gut to thrive. When the fermentation process is brought about using certain types of bacteria, they make food more digestible and produce enzymes that help the beneficial bacteria in your gut to grow. So here are 6 fermented foods you can add to your diet to heal your gut.
Kefir is a fermented milk product that is made with cow, goat or sheep milk. Traditionally, kefir was made in goatskin bags that were hung near a doorway. The fermentation is done using kefir grains which are a yeast/bacterial fermentation starter. Fermentation of the lactose yields a sour, carbonated, slightly alcoholic beverage, with a consistency and taste similar to thin yogurt. Kefir is also rich in many essential nutrients like vitamin B12, calcium, magnesium, vitamin K2, biotin, folate, enzymes, and probiotics. However, the main reason to include kefir in your diet is for its probiotic benefits. The bacteria found in kefir can stimulate your immune system, inhibit and suppress tumor growth, and have an antimicrobial effect on the bad microbes in your gut.1
Kombucha is a variety of fermented black tea made with sugar from various sources like cane sugar, fruit or honey and fermented using a colony of bacteria and yeast. It is consumed largely in Manchuria (Northeast Asia), Russia, and eastern Europe. The fermented drink consists of contains vinegar, B-vitamins, enzymes, probiotics and a high concentration of acid. There are many reasons to drink kombucha. Research has found that the natural antibacterial properties of kombucha help kill harmful bacteria like Staphylococcus aureus and E. coli.2 Also, kombucha tea has potent antioxidant and immunomodulating properties which make your immune system more effective in fighting away infections.3
Sauerkraut is one of the oldest traditional fermented foods. Made from fermented cabbage, it’s high in dietary fiber, vitamin A, vitamin C, vitamin K and B vitamins. It’s also a great source of iron, copper, calcium, sodium, manganese and magnesium. Naturally made, unprocessed sauerkraut contains probiotic microorganisms called Lactic Acid Bacteria (LAB). Lactic Acid Bacteria has established benefits with the treatment of diarrhea, constipation, irritable bowel syndrome, and infections by candida. LAB have also been shown to enhance immune system function to help prevent various illnesses and promote lactose digestion.4
Miso is used widely in Japan, both in traditional and modern cooking, and has been gaining worldwide interest for its health benefits. It is a thick paste made by fermenting soybean, barley or brown rice with a fungus called koji. High in protein and rich in vitamins and minerals, miso is used to make sauces and spreads, pickling vegetables or meats, and soups. The fungus used to make miso not only increases the nutritional quality of soybeans but also provides probiotic benefits like boosting your immune system.5 However, if you have hypertension, you should avoid miso as it has high a high amount of salt.
Tempeh is a soy-based fermented food that has its origins in Java, Indonesia. The natural culturing and controlled fermentation process used to make tempeh results in the formation of a soy cake with a firm texture and an earthy flavor. Soy is not easily digested in your gut but the fermentation process breaks it down reducing chances of indigestion or bloating. Traditional tempeh has been known to contain bacteria that significantly increase the vitamin B12 content of tempeh.6 This makes tempeh ideal for vegans because vitamin B12 is largely found in meat and dairy products.
Though it is of Korean origin, kimchi has become a well-known food in the western world today. This salty food is made by fermenting vegetables, most commonly napa cabbage and Korean radishes, with a variety of seasonings including chili powder, scallions, garlic, ginger, and jeotgal (salted seafood). There are many bacteria involved in the fermentation of kimchi, but lactic acid bacteria (LAB) are the most dominant and beneficial. LAB helps reduce the harmful bacteria in your gut and other pathogens that cause disease. Research has also found that kimchi has anticancer, antiobesity, anti-constipation, and cholesterol reduction properties.7
How To Start Having Fermented Foods
If you’re new to fermented foods, it’s recommended that you start slow. Have ½ a cup of fermented vegetables or 2 oz. of probiotic drink. You might experience some discomfort for the first few days as bad bacteria like candida, pathogenic bacteria, and parasites die off. The symptoms may include digestive pain like gas and bloating, headaches, flu-like symptoms, and skin eruptions. Talk to your doctor immediately if you have any severe reactions.
As your body gets used to fermented foods and drinks, you can add another serving taking the quantity to 1 cup or 4 oz. spread over two meals. This way you can work your way to having a serving of cultured vegetables and probiotic liquids at every meal.
|↑1||Gibson, Glenn R. Food Science and Technology Bulletin. IFIS Publishing. 2006.|
|↑2||Sreeramulu, Guttapadu, Yang Zhu, and Wieger Knol. “Kombucha fermentation and its antimicrobial activity.” Journal of agricultural and food chemistry 48, no. 6 (2000): 2589-2594.|
|↑3||Dipti, P., B. Yogesh, A. K. Kain, T. Pauline, B. Anju, M. Sairam, B. Singh, S. S. Mongia, G. I. Kumar, and W. Selvamurthy. “Lead induced oxidative stress: beneficial effects of Kombucha tea.” Biomedical and environmental sciences: BES 16, no. 3 (2003): 276-282.|
|↑4||Orgeron II, Ryan Paul, Angela Corbin, and Brigett Scott. “Sauerkraut: A Probiotic Superfood.” Functional Foods in Health and Disease 6, no. 8 (2016): 536-543.|
|↑5||Frias, Juana, Young Soo Song, Cristina Martínez-Villaluenga, Elvira González De Mejia, and Concepcion Vidal-Valverde. “Immunoreactivity and amino acid content of fermented soybean products.” Journal of agricultural and food chemistry 56, no. 1 (2007): 99-105.|
|↑6||Keuth, Sylvia, and Bernward Bisping. “Vitamin B12 production by Citrobacter freundii or Klebsiella pneumoniae during tempeh fermentation and proof of enterotoxin absence by PCR.” Applied and environmental microbiology 60, no. 5 (1994): 1495-1499.|
|↑7||Park, Kun-Young, Ji-Kang Jeong, Young-Eun Lee, and James W. Daily III. “Health benefits of kimchi (Korean fermented vegetables) as a probiotic food.” Journal of medicinal food 17, no. 1 (2014): 6-20.|