Eat Fermented Foods and Your Gut Will Be Happy!

Fermented food jars
  • Kombucha
  • Sauerkraut
  • Kefir tempeh
  • Kimchi,Kombucha
  • auerkraut
  • Kefir tempeh
  • Kimchi,

Fermented foods and your gut have a bond that’s necessary to feed. You may be familiar with some of these foods or you may have never heard of them (unlikely).

The last couple of years these foods have sawed in popularity, but unlike most health fads they have stuck around and continue to grow in popularity.

According to a consumer report in the US Kefir in contrast to standard yogurts growth of 0.5%, kefir experienced 16% sales growth, for the third year in a row. Vinegars, a $544 million market, grew 11.7%, with an average annual growth rate of 9% in the past three years, and kombucha grew by 7% with many new brands and additional products continually being added to the market.

These figures show that the general public has warmly welcomed fermented foods into their diet. Experts believe this is due to a mentality shift of the 21st century with the population now heavily invested in wellness.

People are striving for better products, with recognisable ingredients that promote health, moving towards products that are naturally processed. Previous surveys have shown that 49% of generation z and millennials are interested in trying and experimenting with new flavours.

Bottle of Kombucha

Just Another Health Fad… or Nah?

We have established fermented foods are a popular product, but why is that the case, and is it just another health fad?

The short answer is no, fermented foods have been around for generations and are signature foods for many countries.

However, only recently have the health benefits really been acknowledged.

gut is the second brain

The acknowledgment came about when more attention was paid to the gut. Now not only is our gastrointestinal tract recognised as a place we store, process and excrete food, but we are also aware of many other valid functions. Top researchers now claiming the GI tract is the bodies second brain.

The interest in the gut was sparked by the gut microbiome and the compelling research that links an imbalance in the microbiome with a variety of conditions such as depression, parkinsons and many other autoimmune conditions.

Gut Microbiome & It’s Bacteria

gut clip art with magnifying glass showing microbiome

The gut microbiome is the billions of healthy and unhealthy bacteria that reside in our GI tract. We are born sterile and during the birthing process we are exposed to our mothers’ bacteria and the growth begins.

The microbiome serves to help digest our food, regulate our immune system, protect against other bacteria that cause disease, and produce vitamins including B vitamins such as B12, thiamine, and riboflavin, and Vitamin K, which is needed for blood coagulation. Thus, an important aspect of our overall health.

Vitamins and fruit in the background

Effects of Microbiome Disruption

Furthermore, there have been some studies that suggest alterations in the gut microbiome may play a pathophysiological role in human brain diseases, including autism spectrum disorder, anxiety, depression, and chronic pain (Gut Microbes and the Brain: Paradigm Shift in Neuroscience

Emeran A. Mayer,1 Rob Knight,2 Sarkis K. Mazmanian,3)

The speculation is that bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, and other psychological or neurological problems may also be associated with imbalances in the microbiome.

With any disruption to the normal, healthful balance of bacteria in the microbiome perhaps causing the immune system to overreact and contribute to inflammation of the GI tract, resulting in disease throughout your body, and also in your brain.

The microbiome is naturally formed by the body and is influenced by our environment and also heavily influenced by our diet. Research shows just one meal can alter our microbiome.

This was shown in a study performed on mice, which demonstrated that switching from a fiber-and-antioxidant rich Mediterranean diet to a Western diet heavy in fat and protein can alter the microbiome’s population within a day.

Furthermore, diets high in sugar are able to decrease microbiome diversity within a week, increasing the likelihood of diseases such as diabetes and irritable bowel syndrome.

Prescription medication such as antibiotics disrupts and kill off the human body’s natural microflora decreasing our own ability to fight off diseases and pathogens. From all this, we can safely say the microbiome is an important aspect of our health and should be well taken care of.

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This is a difficult task with the majority of modern foods containing high amounts of hidden sugars, and many of our meat products loaded with additional hormones and antibiotics. All of which greatly decline our natural microflora.

The research also shows that the human microbiome is an intensely complex system. The skin, gut and reproductive organs are home to roughly 1,000 different species of bacteria and 5,000 different bacterial strains.

So to think that a supplement or a kombucha drink can heal an imbalanced microbiome is a mass oversimplification.

Required Research to Expand What We Know

Even with the research now available, we are only scratching the surface. Even so, we must do our best with the information we have available to aid our gastrointestinal tract, aka our second brain. 

Though it is a complex system and we may not know the exact strain of bacteria we require the studies to show what positively affect and negatively affect the microbiome.

Therefore, the best approach is to decrease the substances that negatively affect our microbiome and increase the substances that have an overall positive effect. Giving our body the best opportunity to flourish.

The research does not identify any specific food or supplement that helps but rather takes the advice of any well-trained physician and encourages people to have a healthy, balanced diet of complex carbohydrates and fiber with a wide variety of plant foods to promote best gut health.

Preventing Disruption in Your Microbiome

To prevent harming the microbiome, lower the amount of sugar and processed foods consumed, and with many studies also suggesting an increase in the percentage of plants within your diet and decreasing your meat consumption.

There is no conclusive research indicating that fermented foods are the ultimate source for the microbiome, but it has been a part of many cultures diets for years with exceptionally positive results. Therefore, it is encouraged to include some degree of fermented foods into your diet, to promote the production of good bacteria.

bowl of Kimchi

It is also heavily encouraged following courses of antibiotics to start a course of probiotics which are loaded with good bacteria found in the human GI tract.

Furthermore, you may see a nutritionist or naturopath who can take a stool sample and identify the exact strain/s that are absent and prescribe a more specific probiotic to you.

However, in saying that it is always best to acquire from your diet rather than supplementation. The best approach is to overhaul the diet, not only consuming probiotic-rich foods but reducing the intake of foods that harm the microbiome.

Below I have created a table that indicates foods to eat in a surplus and those to avoid. All in all the research needs a lot more conclusive results, and there is a long way to go before we are closer to understanding the microbiome. But the interest and the discoveries already made are steps in the right direction. So happy fermenting!

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