Tag Archives: fermented foods

Foods that are good for the GUT

 

The digestive tract houses 100 trillion microbes. This is referred to as the microbiome. These bugs have tremendous influence over our health and mood. We hope that in our microbiome there are more good than bad bugs. Simply put, if the bugs are good we are healthy and happy, if they are bad we suffer. There isn’t a health condition to which the microbiome isn’t linked. Seriously. (some examples: anxiety/depression, ADHD, Autism, IBS, IBD, Parkinson’s, Chronic Fatigue, Fibromyalgia, All autoimmune diseases, eczema/psoriasis). If you have a health condition, your gut may need a full overhaul, not just probiotics and prebiotics as outlined below.

Most of us have heard of probiotics. The research on probiotics is overwhelmingly strong and positive. You can ingest probiotics in a pill form. This is a good option for anyone. But especially those who have histamine intolerance or Candida overgrowth or some other condition where eating fermented foods is a bad idea. Make sure your probiotic is a reputable brand (which guarantees to have in it what it says it has in it). The best brands can be bought through Wellevate, create an account and shop away!

In this blog post I wanted to just touch upon the foods that are good for our microbiome.

Fermented foods:

Fermented foods have probiotics in them. Some foods were produced with live probiotics (such as yogurt), make sure these say “active live cultures”. Some foods are fermented with whatever wild bacteria are on the original vegetable (sauerkraut). These need to be found in the refrigerated section and not be pasteurized.

Examples of fermented foods:

  • acidophilus milk
  • buttermilk
  • cheese (aged)
  • fermented meats
  • fermented vegetables
  • fermented grains
  • kefir
  • kimchi
  • kombucha
  • kvass
  • miso
  • natto
  • pickled vegetables (raw)
  • raw vinegars
  • sauerkraut
  • sour cream
  • tempeh
  • yogurt (plain, no added sugar, active cultures)

Prebiotic foods

Prebiotics are fibers that feed the beneficial probiotics in your gut. These are helpful to feed the good so they can proliferate. Sometimes prebiotics are added to foods (bars, probiotic supplements, etc). These are:  galactooligosaccharides (GOS), fructooligosaccharides (FOS), oligofructose (OF), chicory fiber, or inulin.

Foods we find prebiotics in:

  • Asparagus
  • Apples
  • artichokes
  • banana
  • berries
  • black beans
  • cherries
  • dandelion greens
  • chicory root
  • chickpeas
  • eggplant
  • endive
  • flaxseeds
  • garlic
  • honey
  • jerusalem artichokes (sunchokes)
  • jicama
  • kefir
  • kiwis
  • leafy greens
  • leeks
  • legumes
  • lentils
  • mangoes
  • oatmeal
  • onions
  • peas
  • pears
  • quinoa
  • radicchio
  • tomatoes
  • white beans
  • whole grains
  • yogurt

Polyphenols:

These are chemical compunds that come from plants. They are used by your gut bacteria to make beneficial substances. These chemical compounds have names such as flavanones, isoflavones, flavonols, anthocyanins, flavones.

Foods that we find them in:

  • cloves
  • cocoa powder
  • flaxseed meal
  • dried sage
  • berries
  • pomegranate
  • apples
  • hazelnut
  • dried peppermint
  • dried rosemary, dried thyme
  • grapes
  • capers
  • pecan
  • celery seed
  • dark chocolate (70% or higher)
  • chestnut
  • black olives
  • plums
  • lemons
  • tea

How many of these can you eat on a regular basis?

 

Got Sauerkraut?

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And the third Fermented Food: Sauerkraut

Sauerkraut is an effective way to get your probiotics without worrying about FODMAPs or dairy. There are FODMAPs in cabbage but the bacteria eat them in the fermentation process. Bacteria basically ferment the FODMAPs in a jar instead of in your intestines. It is relatively easy to make your own sauerkraut with cabbage and salt. After shredding and pounding the cabbage, the salt pulls water out of the cabbage and creates the brine. And it can be left in a loosely sealed jar (to let the gas escape) for 2-3 weeks. If you buy sauerkraut, make sure the product is jarred and needs refrigeration. That indicates live organisms. Canned sauerkraut has had all the microbes killed in the canning process. Start with ¼ of a teaspoon a day and work your way up to as much as you can tolerate several times a day.

mage courtesy of Lavoview at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Got Kefir?

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In the second in my Fermented Foods series: Kefir.

Kefir is a thick fermented milk beverage. Like yogurt, kefir also has the protein and calcium, however the method of fermentation and the types of organisms differ from yogurt. A kefir grain is used in the fermentation process and the products of that process are 1% alcohol as well as yeast.

You can find Kefir at most health food grocery stores.

Image courtesy of Danilo Rizzuti at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Got yogurt?

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In the first of my Fermented Food series, may I present yogurt.

Yogurt is known for containing the beneficial bacteria Lactobacillus. It also has calcium and protein and other healthy nutrients. Store bought yogurt must be labeled: ‘live active cultures’. If the product was pasteurized after it was fermented then all the beneficial bacteria would have been killed. You want either raw milk yogurt, or yogurt that was cultured after pasteurization. When making yogurt at home, you can use a scoop of store bought yogurt as a starter, or you can purchase a ‘starter kit’ (a packet of bacteria and other organisms) online. The point is to introduce some bacteria to milk and they will ferment it, populate it, and create yogurt.

mage courtesy of Master isolated images at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Fermented Foods

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Since we depend on microbes for our health, we need to ingest healthful beneficial ones into our body’s ecosystem. Fermented foods and probiotic supplements are two ways to do just that. Fermented foods contain live microbes. (Examples of fermented foods are: sauerkraut, yogurt and kefir).

When food is prepared in specific ways and under certain conditions, the healthful bacteria and yeast are able to grow and ferment. The bacteria actually eat and break down the food they are growing on which can actually make the food easier for people to digest.

Fermented foods have a couple benefits over probiotic supplements. First, they are more affordable and second, you can get a wider variety of beneficial bacteria from fermented foods. Probiotics supplements usually only have between one and eight strains of different bacteria. Since diversity is so important for your gut, you want more variety and types of microbes.

You can buy fermented foods or make your own. Buying is tricky, because many products have been heated or sterilized before packaging, thus killing the microbes you are seeking. Making your own may sound intimidating but it can be done with a little time and effort. There are many websites and cookbooks available that can instruct you.

When making your own fermented food, you can either ‘culture’ or go ‘wild’. Culturing refers to using specific isolated organisms (a “starter kit”) that you introduce to the food and then grow. Wild fermentation uses whatever microbes are on the original food or in the air. Usually, vegetable ferments are wild, where as milk ferments are cultured.

Since fermented foods have bacteria and yeast in them, the first thing you need to do is clear up any infections, Candida, or SIBO first. Otherwise, the fermented foods or probiotics will make symptoms worse! Re-inoculating your gut is the last step in healing. For people without those bacteria or yeast overgrowth issues, eating fermented foods can be done along side the other healing steps.

Whatever method you use to reintroduce beneficial microbes into your gut, you need to go slowly. At first, you should only ingest very small amounts daily so that your gut can adjust to them. Taking in too much too fast can cause gastrointestinal symptoms. If this happens, don’t give up just start again more slowly. You also must eat these foods (or take the supplements) regularly and consistently, as it is difficult for new microbes to establish themselves in an already formed ecosystem (your gut).

Stay tuned for future posts about specific fermented foods.

Image courtesy of SOMMAI at FreeDigitalPhotos.net