The importance of the health of the gut is an emerging field of new understanding and past wisdom.
As Hippocrates said,
“All disease begins in the gut”
With new research, we are understanding the wisdom of our ancestors, and the role that gut health plays in disease and our overall health.
For instance, it has been shown that if there is inflammation in the gut, this inflammation will be reflected in our brains, causing neuroinflammation.
The gut is called the “Second Brain” because of it’s feedback to our brains and its influence over our physiology and our psychology.
Dysbiosis, inflammation, and illness of the gut affects the rest of the body.
Many studies have confirmed beneficial effects of probiotics and introduction of “good” bacteria into our gut biomes, ranging from improving autism to metabolism and weight gain, as well as depression and anxiety, and fertility.
One study found significant improvements in male fertility parameters and sperm count with supplementation of a probiotic strain, prebiotic fiber, and glutamine.
Bacterial transplants, such as a fecal transplants, have been found to improve autism and metabolism, and in mice, a fecal transplant from a young healthy mouse to an elderly mouse was even shown to improve cognitive decline.
Taking care of our guts and healing them has many avenues of treatment, but today I wanted to focus on fermented foods and drinks that one can eat or make themselves, and incorporate into their diets for beneficial effects on gut health and restoring and introducing good microorganisms.
Below are some fermented food and drink one can consume for better gut health.
This fermented cabbage has long been a staple in various parts in Europe, and is great for the gut.
Sauerkraut is easy to make at home, with just salt and cabbage, and a fermentation vessel, but its also widely available in grocery stores or online.
Female Polish immigrants to the U.S. have about three-times higher rate of breast cancer, and it was hypothesized this might have been due to the reduction in consumption of cabbage and sauerkraut in the U.S., as cabbage has compounds with anti-carcinogenic effects, and was even studied, but found no correlation purportedly.
The important part to note though, is that you want to get unpasteurized sauerkraut, as most brands available pasteurize their sauerkraut, killing the beneficial probiotics in them.
Look for unpasteurized sauerkraut.
Yoghurt is a fermented dairy food which contains beneficial probiotics.
Yoghurt is easy to make, and can be as simple as adding ready made yoghurt to milk and allowing it to ferment until desired.
The first time I made yoghurt, I simply add a spoonful of yoghurt from the store to milk and let it ferment for 1-3 days, and amazingly, tasted just like the blueberry yoghurt I started with, despite not adding any blueberry.
Yoghurts aren’t pasteurized like sauerkraut, but some have more beneficial probiotics than others.
Bulgarian yoghurt is well known for being beneficial for gut health, and starters are available online.
Try experimenting with various brands and flavours, and recipes and starters online, until you find one you like best.
Kefir is fermented milk. It differs in part form yoghurt by remaining more fluid than yoghurt, and is drank rather than eaten like yoghurt.
There are Kefir starters available online, or you can make your own with milk and ready-made kefir at home.
I’ve made yoghurt and various fermented dairies, but I haven’t made kefir.
Kimchi is fermented napa cabbage, and sometimes other vegetables too.
Although not as readily available as sauerkraut, I had no trouble finding it in my local grocery stores.
Kimchi is more likely to be unpasteurized than sauerkraut, which might make it a better alternative if you can’t find unpasteurized sauerkraut.
It goes great with ramen, and I enjoy it as a fermented side dish with meat along with other pickled or fermented vegetables like sauerkraut, pickled onions, and radish.
Kombucha is a fermented tea beverage.
It is made from fermenting tea and a substrate like sugar, and sometimes fruit.
You can make your own at home with a SCOBY – Symbiotic-Culture-Of-Bacteria-and-Yeast – available online, or you can even make your own with a store-bought finished product just like most other fermented foods and drinks.
6. Lacto-Fermented Fruits & Vegetables
Fermented fruits and vegetables, produced through a process called lacto-fermentation, are another great fermented food to consume for probiotics. Yoghurt, traditional fermented pickles, sauerkraut, and kimchi are all produced through this process, where carbohydrates are broken down and lactic acid is produced, which creates the sour taste of such foods.
Lacto-fermented vegetables and fruits are easy to make, with many recipes online. The basic process is generally to combine these ingredients with salt, and allow to ferment over a few days.