- How to Improve Your Digestive Health with Fermented Foods
How to Improve Your Digestive Health with Fermented Foods
Fermented foods are a crucial part of the human diet, but they’ve gradually been disappearing. Some researchers are beginning to suspect that an unbalanced microbiome in the body could be responsible for health woes like allergies and celiac disease. That poses a big problem for the modern diet, however.
Fermented foods aren’t easy to find anymore – their mass-produced counterparts don’t involve the use of the same healthy probiotics as homemade recipes. And THAT could be affecting your health. Read on to learn more…
Could Your Tummy Troubles Be Telling You to Eat More Fermented Foods?
If you have IBS, celiac, IBD, or are overweight, look down. Not at your waist…at your plate. These conditions have all been linked, at least partially, to the absence of vital gut flora and fauna. Anyone who has taken antibiotics is susceptible, and the effects can be long-lasting.
In some areas, doctors now prescribe probiotic tablets with antibiotics. They’ve recognized that the absence of healthy gut bacteria can cause significant health issues, but antibiotics are the best weapons we have against bacterial illnesses. It’s a catch-22 scenario.
A few years ago, the situation wasn’t as grim. In fact, it wasn’t until the late 1980s and early 1990s that we witnessed a spike in illnesses related to this bacterial imbalance. But why? If antibiotics are to blame, we should have seen signs of the problem sooner, right?
Our diet was different at the dawn of antibiotics. Our ancestors, both recent and ancient, ate more fermented foods than we did. That meant two things:
- They had stronger immune systems, thanks to the probiotics present in their bodies.
- Antibiotics didn’t wipe out crucial gut flora – fermented foods constantly replaced good bacteria.
The modern diet has gradually turned away from raw lacto-fermented foods. Not many people make their own cheeses or yogurts at home anymore, and canning – once commonplace – has fallen out of fashion, too. The result is fewer homemade fermented foods, which once formed the staple of a healthy diet.
Adding to the problem, refined carbohydrates and sugars can further damage healthy gut flora. As a result, the modern diet, full of processed foods and lacking in fermented and lacto-fermented foods, may be our species greatest health enemy.
How Fermented Foods Help Your Digestion
When you eat fermented foods, you get more than healthy gut bacteria – many fermented vegetables are prebiotics. The fermentation process provides probiotics, and the result is nutritional harmony for your body. Dairy goods that are fermented can provide excellent sources of vitamins, minerals, and essential fats for the body.
Think of fermented foods as your daily dietary supplements, no pills required.
- The digestive benefits of fermented foods are numerous. Here’s a mini-list of some of the key digestive effects people who eat fermented foods experience:
- Balanced stomach acid (reduced heartburn from high acid and reduced digestive discomfort from low acid)
- Relief from chronic constipation (via the production of acetylcholine, a neurotransmitter that tells your intestinal muscles to get to work)
- Stronger immune systems (did you know that sauerkraut contains compounds that fight typhoid fever-causing bacteria?)
- Decreased allergy symptoms
- Weight loss
The impact of micro-organisms on the human body is immense – partially as a result of the prevalence of bacteria in the body. You actually host more bacteria than there are cells in your body. Amazing, isn’t it?
By eating fermented foods, you make sure that your body’s bacterial population is balanced. You protect your health, and you optimize digestion.
Weight Loss and Fermented Foods
One of the first reasons people turn to fermented foods is the desire to lose weight. Although many of the mechanisms behind weight loss from fermented foods aren’t yet understood, there are a few things that recent research has confirmed:
- Healthy gut flora and fauna are more likely to be found in individuals with a healthy BMI
- Specific strains of bacteria are missing from the guts of obese individuals
- Yogurt consumption has been linked to lower BMI in several studies
- Consuming the fermented food kimchi was associated with significant weight loss and improved health markers in a 2011 study reported in the journal Nutrition Research
- Fermented foods combat inflammation in the body
The next time you worry about your weight, have an upset stomach, or feel the need to reach for an antacid, evaluate what’s on your plate. Are you eating enough fermented foods? If not, it’s time to start.
If you’d like to learn more about the health benefits of fermented foods, check out the following articles:
Image Credits: Graphic Stock
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