Fermented foods have been around for thousands of years. They contain beneficial bacteria that can keep our own gut flora healthy.

It was through the use of fermented foods that our current love affair with probiotic supplements has come from.

Back in 1907, Russian scientist Metchnikoff noted the health benefits of fermented milk. He said that the lactic acid bacteria in the milk prevented ‘intestinal putrefaction’. He identified the strain lactobacillus bulgaricus which is used in yoghurts today.

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What are fermented foods good for?

We have since been able to identify many other beneficial probiotic strains in fermented foods.

These strains have been used to help allergic symptoms, diarrhoea, inflammatory bowel disease and irritable bowel syndrome. We are also learning that a healthy gut flora and good digestion is crucial for the health of other body systems.

Gut flora can influence mood, cognition, inflammatory conditions like eczema and auto immune issues like rheumatoid arthritis too.

Fermented foods I recommend

There’s so many fermented foods that are great for you but here are three of my favourites:

1. Sauerkraut

Fermented sauerkraut contains mostly lactic acid species of bacteria. One of the key bacteria in sauerkraut is Lactobacillus Plantarum.

This probiotic bacteria is useful for reducing permeability of the gut lining i.e. it helps reduce ‘leaky gut’ and it plays an important role in reducing inflammation.

This is why it has been used to good effect in cases of Crohn’s disease and other inflammatory bowel disorders.

Sauerkraut is a key therapeutic food in the Gut and Psychology Syndrome Protocol (GAPS) which has been used to help people with autism, depression and eating disorders. This shows us that tending to our digestive health and gut flora has far reaching effects on the health of the rest of our body.

fermented foods for gut_2In practice, I find that sauerkraut juice helps for raising stomach acid levels, aiding digestion as well. Through its high vitamin U content it is also useful for repairing damaged stomach linings that have been affected by ulcers and long term use of stomach acid reducing medication.

2. Kombucha

Kombucha starts life as a scoby, with care and attention, over time it becomes a powerful therapeutic tool for gut health.

Kombucha contains a type of yeast called saccharomyces boulardii.

This yeast helps to raise secretory IGA in the gut, in doing so it helps crowd out pathogens and other less beneficial yeasts like candida.

For this reason kombucha is a powerful anti-candida tool.However, be warned that the therapeutic effect of crowding out candida and other unwelcome guests can produce a powerful ‘die-off’ effect.

My advice would be to introduce kombucha slowly and make sure you have a supportive nutritional programme in place to help you to deal with die-off.

3. Beet Kvass

Beet kvass can be a useful tool for constipation.

Again, introduce it slowly because it is powerful. The beetroot juice encourages bile to flow and the bacteria help to restore gut flora levels. Lack of bile is a common issue in constipation, especially if a low fat diet has been followed in the past.

Fermented foods should be a regular feature in our diets. The billions of probiotic bacteria in them make them a real superfood. If you are new to them then start with a little and work your way up to larger amounts.

Connect with Expert Sarah Hanratty 

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