Fermented foods - for your guts sake!

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Reading time: 3 minutes, 50 seconds
Location: Miami, FL
Date: March 4th 2018
What is fermentation?
In simple terms, fermentation means that the sugars and carbohydrates in a food have been broken down by beneficial (or "good") bacteria, resulting in the formation of lactic acid, which our taste buds recognize as a complex, pungent burst of flavor.
Why is gut health important?
In 400 BC, Hippocrates famously said, "All disease begins in the gut." His words are even more true today than they were then. As the largest mucosal organ of the body, the gut plays a central role in maintaining the immune system. The intestinal lining functions as the bouncer at the door, deciding what's allowed to pass through into the bloodstream. The characters lobbying for access range from essential nutrients to dangerous pathogens and toxins. And in order for the door to run smoothly, the gut ecosystem must be healthy.
gut health
The gut lining is a tightly woven net, permeable only to small molecules when healthy. Unfortunately, there are all sorts of factors that can disrupt this delicate lattice, including infections, toxin exposure (mercury, pesticides, and BPA), antibiotic overuse, stress, excess sugar, alcohol, and yes, gluten. When the net becomes irritated (also known as leaky gut), the lining breaks apart, allowing harmful particles to seep through into the bloodstream. The infusion of undigested food particles causes the body to attack them as it would pathogens. Over time, this immune response translates to food allergies and sensitivities.

Resetting your flora is totally possible. The GI tract is one big ecosystem, made up of over 500 diverse bacterial species. But when we talk about beneficial bacteria, we're typically referring to lactic acid producing bacteria like lactobacillus and bifidobacteria, which you may recognize from oral probiotic labels.
Benefits of fermented foods

Gut health: When the protective lining of the gut is inflamed, the body is more vulnerable to allergies, infections, and yeast overgrowth. Lucky for us, lactic acid bacteria have the ability to reduce intestinal permeability, thereby restoring the net. They also create pH changes in the GI tract that make it difficult for pathogens to survive. Sayonara, leaky gut.

Nutritional boost: The fermentation process makes nutrients more bio-available for the body to absorb. For instance, the amount of vitamin C in sauerkraut is significantly higher than in the same serving of fresh cabbage. This is because the vitamin C in fresh cabbage is woven into the fibrous plant walls, so it's less readily available for the intestinal cells to take in.

Detoxification: Both the beneficial bacteria and the active enzymes act as potent detoxifiers in the intestines. Beneficial microbes ferment fiber from foods like onions, garlic, leeks, artichokes, and chicory root as a means to fuel their own growth. These foods are also called prebiotics, known for amping up the detoxification process.

Sugar cravings: Yeast and pathogenic bacteria feed off sugar. The more sugar you ingest, the more hospitable you're making your intestines for harmful microbes. This creates a less-than-ideal cycle: the more sugar you eat, the more "bad" bacteria you have…which makes you crave more sugar. The reverse, however, is also true, meaning the fewer of these "bad" bacteria you have, the less you crave sugar.
Editor: Valentina Hartel
Photos: www.unsplash.comt
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