The link between fermented foods and gut health

lacto fermentation 861551 640Fermentation was used often in our past as a common food preservation method. It is recognized as a way to increase our good gut microbes and bacteria which have a profound influence on our overall health and well being. These days the gut microbiome as it is called, is being studied widely and recent studies have repeatedly demonstrated that the makeup of your intestinal flora can have an impact on many things including whether you lose or gain weight.

Lean people tend to have higher amounts of healthy bacteria compared to non healthy, obese people, but in tests conducted with obese people they were able to reduce their abdominal fat by nearly five percent, and their subcutaneous fat by over three percent, just by drinking a probiotic-rich fermented milk drink for 12 weeks. A control group had no significant fat reductions at all during this test.

Fermented foods along with other probiotics, needs to be consumed on a regular basis for optimum benefit, but you also need to avoid sugar and processed foods as these disrupt gut flora.

About 80 percent of your immune system is in your gut and when your intestinal flora is destroyed by eating bad food, health problems of all kinds including obesity, diabetes, allergies and autoimmune diseases are more likely to occur. The wide variety of fiber found in vegetables and beneficial bacteria found in fermented and cultured foods are your best bet in combating these health problems.

Nearly all organic plant matter contains lacto-fermenting bacteria called Lactobacilli, or Lactobacillus acidophilus. You often see this bacteria in good quality yogurt. When Lactobacilli start multiplying during the fermentation process, lactic acid is produced and this helps to preserve gut homeostasis. (balance) After lactic acid is formed its presence changes the pH of the gut system. Pathogenic bacteria do not like an acidic environment (i.e. low pH) and their growth and development is halted, thus reducing the chance for infection and inflammation.

Maintaining the right pH in the gut is important for other processes such as gut motility (peristalsis) and for the absorption of many vital minerals. This can mean a reduction in pain, diarrhea, constipation, bloating and what is called “leaky gut syndrome”. Indirectly PH and gut balance helps maintain bone integrity and reduce the development of autoimmune conditions.

Fermentation also makes nutrients more bio-available and can produce high amounts of the antioxidant vitamin C.

Another great benefit of fermentation is it makes vitamin K2. K2 is a very important vitamin having many advantages and these include:

K2 prevents calcium from going into all the wrong places - for example, it keeps it out of your kidneys, where it could cause kidney stones, and out of your blood vessels, where it could have a negative effect on heart disease, but the other good thing is it helps to get calcium into your bones and teeth, making your bones strong and your teeth resistant to cavities.

It also helps you to become more insulin sensitive. This means it helps stabilize your blood sugar, protects against diabetes, and prevents the metabolic problems that often arise as a consequence of obesity.

K2 promotes sexual health by helping you optimize your sex hormones. For example, it increases testosterone and fertility in males, and it helps bring down to normal levels, male hormones found in women with polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS).

It helps improve exercise performance by enhancing your ability to utilize energy during bouts of physical activity.

And it helps to protect against cancer by suppressing the genes that make cells cancerous and expressing the genes that make cells healthy.

Fermentation activity and fiber will help nourish the cells lining your gut and colon. This helps prevent health problems associated with leaky gut syndrome. The most important fermentation by products are short-chain fatty acids like butyrate, propionate, and acetate. These short-chain fatty acids help nourish and re-calibrate your immune system, thereby helping to prevent inflammatory disorders such as asthma and Crohn's disease, also autoimmune diseases, obesity and even colon cancer .

You can get butyrate from food or supplements, but save yourself the money and eat natural fermented foods so your digestive system can do it's intended job of optimum functioning. Fermented foods has their amazing effects by increasing specialized immune cells called T regulatory cells, which help prevent negative autoimmune responses. It can also stimulate the release of a gut hormone known as peptide YY (PYY), which increases satiety, meaning you don't feel hungry.

The latest research has shown that many people are deficient in healthy beneficial gut bacteria, and because of this they suffer more illnesses and contract more diseases than others that have a healthy gut flora..............So what do you eat?

Here are some healthy fermented foods that will get your gut health back on track - and the good thing they are all healthy.

Kefir - fermented milk product (cow, goat or sheep milk) that tastes like a drinkable yogurt
Kombucha - fermented black tea beverage
Sauerkraut - fermented cabbage
Pickles - contains a lot of vitamins and minerals, antioxidants and gut-friendly bacteria
Miso - fermented soybeans, barley or brown rice with koji, which is a fungus
Tempeh - soybean product that is created by adding live mold
Natto - another fermented soybean food from Japan
Kimchi - fermented Korean dish made from vegetables including cabbage
Natural yogurt although not right for everyone is a good source of beneficial bacteria. I wouldn't eat heaps though especially if you have a dairy intolerance or your are counting carbs. (although natural yogurt may not be as high in carbs as the number suggests) Make sure you don't get the flavored, low fat variety, that is full of sugar and has not as much beneficial bacteria.

So making cultured or fermented foods a regular part of your diet can only be a good thing, especially if your not taking probiotics or you are eating a lot of unhealthy processed foods, including refined grains and sugars. If you have to take antibiotics, make sure that you replace your gut bacteria with those foods suggested or a good probiotic. But remember this, don't try to replace your gut bugs until the antibiotics has left your system, (around 12 hours, the longer the better) because they will kill the good stuff you are eating.

Graeme