If you have digestive problems, you could experience much improvement by adding healing fermented foods to your diet regularly. Growing up in Eastern Europe in the country of Romania, fermented vegetables were a large part of my diet as a child. Every family I knew prepared a variety of fermented vegetables and ate them all winter long. However at that time I did not fully understand how important this side dish was to my health.
Improving the balance between the beneficial bacteria called probiotics and the disease-causing bacteria that exists naturally in our gut is the key. One of the most effective ways to do this is by eating traditional fermented foods rich in lactic acid–producing bacteria. These bacteria are what naturally make milk products go sour and vegetables ferment.
Lactic acid–producing bacteria are common in probiotic supplements, which is why traditional fermented foods are also known as probiotic foods. Lactic acid producing bacteria help to acidify the digestive tract creating an environment conducive to the growth of all healthy bacteria. However, the benefits of fermented foods don’t stop there.
Benefits of Fermented Foods
There are four important health benefits of traditional fermented foods that clearly explain why they are so crucial to maintaining a healthy gut:
Benefit #1: Traditional fermented foods help balance the production of stomach acid. Fermented foods have the unique ability to ease digestive discomfort related to having either too much or too little stomach acid. When the production of hydrochloric acid by the stomach is low, fermented foods help increase the acidity of gastric juices. On the other hand, when the stomach produces too much acid, fermented foods help to balance the pH. As we age, our production of the digestive enzymes and juices required for proper digestion begin to decrease. Eating traditional fermented foods like sauerkraut, pickled vegetables and butter milk can help make up for this loss. The key is to eat a small portion once or twice daily with meals.
Benefit #2: Traditional fermented foods help the body produce acetylcholine. Acetylcholine is a neurotransmitter that facilitates the transmission of nerve impulses. Within the context of digestion, it helps increase the movement of the bowel, and can help decrease constipation. It also helps improve the release of digestive juices and enzymes from the stomach, the pancreas, and the gallbladder. So by helping your body produce acetylcholine, fermented foods act as potent digestive aids.
Benefit #3: Traditional fermented foods are beneficial for diabetics. In addition to improving pancreatic function, which is of great importance to diabetics, the carbohydrates in lactic acid–fermented foods have been broken down or "pre-digested." As a result, they do not place an extra burden on the pancreas, unlike ordinary carbohydrates.
Benefit #4: Traditional fermented foods produce many unknown compounds that destroy and inhibit the growth of pathogenic bacteria. Many pathogenic forms of bacteria are sensitive to acidic environments. This is true of both cholera and typhoid. In the early 1950s, during an epidemic of typhoid fever in Europe, reports emerged showing that fresh sauerkraut was an effective agent for killing the bacteria. More recently, German scientists were working with a strain of lactic acid bacteria found in sourdough bread, and discovered that it seemed to be more effective than other strains at killing microbes. In early lab results, it quickly eliminated the super-bugs currently resistant to most antibiotics.
Making fermented foods is easy. Here is a recipes that has been in my Eastern European family for generations.
Fermented Cabbage – Sauerkraut Recipe.
1 large cabbage head
6 garlic cloves
1 bunch fresh dill
6 bay leaves
1 teaspoon mustard seeds
3 quarts of filtered water
6 tablespoons of Celtic gray salt of pink Himalayan salt
Prepare 3 glass jars with lids, washed and rinsed well.
Make the water solution in a glass bowl by mixing the 3 quarts of water and 6 tbsp. salt together well until the salt is dissolved. Chop the cabbage thinly sliced. Place 1 bay leaf on bottom or empty jar, some dill, slice 1 garlic clove. Add more cabbage, another bay leaf, more dill, the second chopped garlic clove and sprinkle 1/3 tsp. of mustard seeds. Press the cabbage down with your fingers in the jar to fit as much as you can. Leave some space at the top, about ½ inch. Pour salt water over the cabbage almost to the top. Place lid and close it loosely. Follow the same process for the rest of the jars. Place the jars on kitchen counter for 5-7 days until sour. Tighten the lids on the jars, place in refrigerator and eat 3-4 oz. daily and drink the juice.
Other kinds of vegetables can be mixed together as well such as carrots and cabbage or red cabbage and cauliflower. At the end of the tomatoes season, I collect the green tomatoes left in my vegetable garden, chop them and and pickle them with cabbage or cauliflower using the same recipe listed above. Enjoy!
Dr. Otilia Tiutin DNM, PhD, Doctor of Natural Medicine, Board Certified Holistic Health Practitioner.
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