"Culture" Your Way To Great Health!
There is an abundance of nutritional therapies that can help you get to new levels of health...You've seen me advocating them for a while now, but there is one that I've found to have amazing benefits in your overall wellness: Eating fermented foods!
There are many positive changes fermented or cultured foods can provide your body: they can "heal and seal" your gut to optimize health or reverse disease!
The best part, is that its a simple process that you can do yourself at home!
Only in recent years has science really come to understand the function of the probiotic when it comes to our health. Improved digestion, reduced inflammation, increased B12, K2, beneficial enzymes and T cells (important for immune response) and restored balance of yeast, “bad” and “good” bacteria in the body. The results are in and it looks like, hands-down, we need these beneficial bacteria to live a life of vitality. Soooo, why would I suggest you put down your bottle of expensive probiotics & eat cultured foods instead?
First, let me say that I do not suggest that you stop supplements if recommended by your medical provider, but let’s look at some at what science is telling us about these supplements.
Probiotics, along with a host of other microorganisms, are so crucial to your health that researchers have compared them to "a newly recognized organ." Your microflora – a term used to describe the bacteria, fungi, viruses and other microbes that make up your microbial inner ecosystem – impact far more than your digestive tract.
Here are areas where your gut bacteria play key roles in:
1. Behavior — A study published in Neurogastroenterology & Motility found that mice lacking in gut bacteria behave differently from normal mice, engaging in what would be referred to as "high-risk behavior." This altered behavior was accompanied by neurochemical changes in the mouse brain.
In fact, your gut serves as your second brain. It produces more of the neurotransmitter serotonin, which is known to have a positive influence on your mood, than your brain does.
2. Gene expression — A probiotic-rich beverage has been shown to influence the activity of hundreds of your genes to help them express in a positive, disease-fighting way.
3. Diabetes — According to a study from Denmark, bacterial population in the gut of diabetics differs from non-diabetics. According to the authors, the results of their study indicate that type 2 diabetes in humans is linked to compositional changes in intestinal microbiota.
A healthy diet – low in sugar and grains; high in whole raw foods and fermented foods – allows your beneficial gut bacteria to flourish.
4. Autism — Establishment of normal gut flora in the first 20 days or so of life is critical in appropriate maturation of your baby's immune system. Babies with abnormal gut flora have compromised immune systems and are particularly at risk for developing ADHD, learning disabilities, and autism, especially if they are vaccinated before restoring balance to their gut flora.
5. Obesity — Probiotics may help fight obesity. Restoring your gut flora is therefore a crucial consideration if you're struggling to lose weight.
Benefits of Fermented Foods
Budget – Fermented foods can contain up to 100 times more probiotics than a supplement! This makes these foods a more affordable probiotic source.
Nutrients – Some fermented foods are amazing sources of a rare to come by, but essential vitamin called vitamin K2. Vitamin K2 can help to prevent arterial plaque buildup and heart disease. K2 can also minimize the negative bone effects of nightshade vegetables such as peppers, tomatoes & potatoes. You can also get many B vitamins from fermented foods.
Optimizing your immune system — An estimated 80% of your immune system is located in your gut. Probiotics play a crucial role in the development and operation of the mucosal immune system in your digestive tract, and aid in the production of antibodies to pathogens. This means that a healthy gut is a MAJOR factor in maintaining optimal health. A robust immune system is your top defense system against all disease.
Natural variety of microflora — As long as you vary the fermented and cultured foods you eat, you'll get a much wider variety of beneficial bacteria than you could ever get from a supplement.
What about Probiotic Supplements?
Your higher quality and most expensive probiotics claim to have on average about 50 billion viable bacterium (CFUs) and studies do tend to support their claims. This sounds like a lot of bacteria and it is, but when you consider that at any given time a healthy gut holds more bacteria cells than the cells that compose your entire body, is it really?
Respected independent scientific studies (the only kind that should concern us) also show that if we are receiving probiotics in the most natural and effective way, we are getting anywhere from 90 to 500 billion CFUs per serving or nearly 100 to 1000% more than we would receive from a capsule.
On top of this, sadly, similar studies found that many of the more “affordable” supplements have as little as 1% of the CFUs that they claimed because the bacteria die when not properly stored and nourished, meaning that, in the scope of things, you are taking a placebo of no real value other than to make you “feel” like you are doing something good for your body.
Cultured foods are very efficient detoxifiers – you may experience a "healing crisis" or detox symptoms if you introduce too many of these foods at once.
Begin with very small servings (tsp-tbsp), then work your way up to the quarter- to half-cup serving size. This gives your intestinal microbiota the chance of adjusting.
Its ideal to include a variety of fermented foods and beverages in your diet, because each food with inoculate your gut with a mix of different microorganisms. There are many fermented foods you can easily make at home, including:
• Cultured vegetables, including pureed baby foods
• Condiments, such as salsa and mayonnaise
• Cultured dairy, such as yogurt, coconut kefir, and sour cream
• Fish, such as mackerel and Swedish gravlax
Store Bought Cultured Foods
It's important that you're aware of the HUGE difference between healthy fermented foods and commercially processed ones.
The best place to get the highest percentage of living, active, beneficial probiotics is in the foods you eat, but these foods are likely not found in your local grocery store.
Fermentation is an inconsistent process, and is more of an art than a science. Commercial food processors developed techniques to help standardize more consistent yields. These include pasteurization, which effectively destroys the naturally occurring probiotics.
Some olives, too, are not generally fermented; they are simply treated with lye to remove the bitterness, packed in salt, and canned. Olive producers can now hold olives in salt-free brines using an acidic solution of lactic acid, acetic acid, sodium benzoate, and potassium sorbate – long way away from the old, time-tested, natural lactic acid-fermenting method of salt alone. Simply put, some pickles are simply packed in salt, vinegar, and are pasteurized.
Beware of "probiotic" yogurts and store-bought kefirs also. Most of them that you find in the grocery are NOT recommended for many reasons: they are pasteurized (and are linked to the problems of pasteurized milk products), and typically contain added sugars, high-fructose corn syrup, dyes, and/or artificial sweeteners, which can be detrimental to your health.
How to make Sauerkraut at home
It's actually pretty simple! Check out my video below for deets! All you need is a head of organic cabbage, sea salt, a cutting board & sharp knife (or a food processor) and this easy fermenter kit. (The kit comes with everything you need plus recipes and troubleshooting tips! but I promise, it's a cinch!)
Thanks for taking some time with me today!
Brianna Marie, HHFC
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