The Connection Between Fermentation and Your Gut Health
Fermented foods have received a lot of attention over the last several years. Science is continuing to research and learn how fermented foods can better your gut health. We often forget the importance of gut health until the system goes awry. Then we end up spending too much time in the bathroom or in pain. Keeping your gut healthy and balanced is important for not just your overall well- being but the all-important immune system.
The Gut: What Does it Do?
Most of the human population believe the gut is just a processing center for the food we put in our mouths. How wrong is that thought! Dr. Lisa Ganjhu, a clinical assistant professor of medicine at NYU Langone Medical Center, states
“The gastrointestinal system is more than the body’s primary site of taking in and absorbing nutrients. This system of critical digestive organs also acts as a type of switchboard or communication center to and from the brain, and functions as one of the body’s front lines in the fight against disease.” (Ganjhu, 2013)
From the beginning of digestion, done by the mouth, to the release of waste from the rectum, the gut holds all the blocks that absorb and get nutrients to all parts of the body. The gut also becomes a center for communication with the brain. Your gut and brain are constantly “speaking” with one another. They decide together what is to be done with each meal you consume. They also speak about your mood as 90% of the body’s serotonin is released in the gut.
The gut also holds your army for fighting disease. It is located on the front lines. The enzymes and acid work to sterilize our food as it enters the intestines. The bacteria in the gut help your body to gain immunity or fight whatever disease or virus that may invade your body.
Why Should You Eat Fermented Foods?
Because it is good for you! That is the simple answer of course. Let’s dig a little deeper and learn what the benefits really are.
A dose of healthy probiotics — According to the Mayo Clinic, “Probiotics are good bacteria that are either the same as or very similar to the bacteria that are already in your body.” (Clinic, 2017) So it seems like a very good idea to add more of the good bacteria to the body. Due to our 21st century diets which include fast-food burgers, fried chicken, pizza, and French fries we can wreak havoc on our gut.
Boost Your Immune System- a healthy serving of sauerkraut, miso, or tempeh can boost your immune system by providing antioxidants that in turn protect your body from the bad bacteria.
Strengthen Bones — Fermented foods are usually loaded with calcium. Calcium intake can help keep osteoporosis or other bone conditions at bay.
Weight Loss — Fermented foods do not contain sugar or cholesterol. They help to keep your cravings at bay by keeping you feeling fuller longer.
Better Food Absorption- It is essential that our bodies can absorb the foods we consume. Vitamins and minerals are necessary to keep cells doing their jobs.
Increase Body Energy- Kombucha, a fermented black or green tea, is known to have high levels of vitamin B. An extra dose of vitamin B can help you feel energized and vibrant.
You now know the benefits of fermented foods but choosing the right ones is done by knowing the differences between them.
Fermented vs. Naturally Fermented
Not all fermented foods are equal. Fermentation can happen in two ways, naturally and unnaturally. Naturally fermented foods are a process as old as time. It was developed to preserve the harvest of the autumn days. Naturally fermented foods include:
- Kimchi (Korean pickled vegetables)
4. Assorted variety of pickles
Naturally fermented foods are made one of two ways, lacto-fermentation or ethanol fermentation. Lacto-fermentation uses lactobacillus to break down sugars into alcohol while ethanol fermentation uses pyruvate which is converted into carbon dioxide and ethanol.
With the occurrence of the Industrial Revolution, people began to add vinegar to vegetables to get the pickled, or fermented taste they desired. The process of fermentation with vinegar is faster but not as healthy as naturally fermented foods.
When choosing fermented foods from the grocery store, look in the refrigerated section. If you choose items off the shelf, look at the labels. Naturally fermented foods will be labeled and contain few ingredients.
The importance of gut health may be forgotten for most, but we must consider the repercussions of an unhealthy gut and digestive system. Experiencing an unhealthy gut will leave you vulnerable to many diseases and some life-threatening issues. To prevent health complications in the future, add a helping of kimchi or sauerkraut to your dinner plate.
Clinic, M. (2017). What are Probiotics?
Ganjhu, D. L. (2013). Your Gut Feeling: A Healthier Digestive System Means a Healthier You. NYU Lagone Health.