Probiotic foods are a hot topic right now but what is fermentation? Well, simply put it is a way of preserving food while also increasing the nutrition content, making it easier for our bodies to absorb and digest. By introducing living probiotic cultures into our bodies we help it to absorb more essential nutrients from the food we eat and balance our gut microbiome.
We have always loved and even craved a healthy diet of probiotic foods and drinks. Throughout human history we have thrived by eating this food, they would keep us alive when winter made farming and hunting impossible, perhaps we love them because our body is craving to stay healthy and strong.
Probiotic foods are not only good for us but also delicious. Fermentation creates complex flavors to satisfy like no other food. When you make your own you will drive the greatest nutritional benefits from them.
Most items that we find the grocery store today are not truly fermentation but instead been cured in vinegar. Although similar they are rarely as good as a homemade version can lose their potency through the pasteurization process which kills off most of the beneficial bacteria.
Studies have shown that a healthy diet of probiotic foods can reduce allergies, reduce plaque bacteria in the mouth (resulting in fewer cavities and healthier gums), allow you to lose weight more easily, and even help prevent serious disease and arthritis.
When your gut bacteria is out of balance you can start to experience a wide range of problems from headaches to diarrhea. Allergies, making poor food choices, using recreational/pharmaceutical drugs, emotional stress, poor sleep habits, and even environmental conditions like pollution can send your gut out of balance.
Introducing probiotic foods with beneficial living microorganisms can bring back your balance. Balance is reliant on thriving colonies of friendly microbes. When we give microbes a friendly environment with food, water, and nutrients they grow and reproduce.
As they consume sugars in the food they produce alcohol and carbon monoxide, this is what makes the flavor and texture. When we eat them this also encourages the growth of even more healthy bacteria. The word probiotic comes from a Greek word meaning “promoting life”.
A probiotic is a living organism, most foods contain probiotics and prebiotics. Prebiotics do not actually contain the living organisms but they do create a favorable environment for healthy microbes. Both probiotics and prebiotics work together to promote digestive health and boost the immune system.
Antibiotics perform the opposite tasks if you take antibiotics in order to kill harmful bacteria that has caused illness you should also take probiotics because they promote the growth of beneficial bacteria that support the immune system. Antibiotics will kill all of your gut Flora good, bad and stagnant, so by adding in fermented foods, we recreate a healthy environment where healthy microbes can thrive.
Our digestive system contains 80% of the body’s bacteria, that’s nearly a hundred trillion bacteria – our gut bacteria outweigh the body cells. Our gut is the largest organ in the immune system and responsible for nearly half the body’s immune response.
Additionally, there are the same number of neurotransmitters in our gut as is in our brain and this is what scientists and researchers who study the immune system to refer to it as a second nervous system or the second brain. 98% of or serotonin (happy chemicals) are also created here despite the common misconception that it is produced by our brain.
The microbes in the gut communicate with immune system cells and cause them to
form in a specific way. In addition to providing good digestion, these microbes also support and may even activate the immune system inflammation associated with a wide range of diseases. It appears that probiotics and fermented foods can reduce the inflammation by communicating directly with the cells that cause inflammation in the first place.
The standard American diet interferes with our body’s ability to digest and absorb most of the nutrients we need, this is one reason why everyone is taking supplements. The process of fermentation activates substances in food that might otherwise give us digestion trouble like anti-nutrients which prevent us from digesting food. Probiotic foods are already digested by the time we consume them because the beneficial bacteria has already consumed and converted the parts that we would otherwise have trouble with.
Fermentation creates a balance between an environment that allows good microbes to thrive and slows down or stops bad microbes from multiplying. If you control the process successfully you end up with something wonderful.
Many fermented foods are often made with a salt brine. Every cuisine on Earth has a tradition of fermented foods, even the ancient controlled yeast to make bread, beer and wine have been made for thousands of years. They’re part of a culinary tradition anywhere. The fermented recipes I’m sharing with you today are using traditional techniques that are easy to make and create fantastic flavor. That being said fermentation is also craft, everything that you make will be unique because every environment is different. The good news is you can experiment along the way to find out when the taste is right for you, then you throw them in the fridge where they will last until you eat them.
What to consider
Diversity: Different organisms have different requirements some may need plenty of oxygen all the time while others cannot be exposed to oxygen, these are important keys to success. You can ferment almost any food as long as you have the right combination of microbes in a rich source of nutrients, these ingredients are rarely difficult to find you probably have most of them in your kitchen right now. Some bacteria can thrive through many generations as long as they’re fed regularly this is especially true of cultures that start with wild ferments.
SCOBY (Symbiotic Colony of Bacteria and Yeast): A mother will develop on any raw unfiltered vinegar, this bacteria is responsible for turning wine into vinegar. Eventually, a colony of cellulose and bacteria start to form and what is described as a blob. The Blob is called a mother and will continue to live almost indefinitely as long as it has periodically fresh food.
Tradition: Bread bakeries around the world have always relied on the fermented dough. Sourdough uses a portion of a mother while the rest is kept live – you refeed it daily like a pet. Maintaining a sourdough mother is a commitment of time and energy but there is no substitute for the rich flavor it produces and it also makes eating bread easier to digest. Many people with gluten sensitivity and celiac disease can still manage a way to get with away with this form of wheat without any inflammation.
Healthy Food: Buying or growing foods that are in season and grown without chemical fertilizers/pesticides makes a lot of sense when your preserving food especially if you will be including the skins. There are no specific requirements that the food must be organic but fermentation practices have always been practiced within a season and organic farming methods.
Tasty Food: Buy or pick ingredients when they are at its peak, this is the time to preserve them. Fruits and vegetables should be rinsed and trimmed, stems and impurities removed, the only exception is grapes for making wine.
Brine: I recommend Celtic, Himalayan or kosher salts because they have no additives. Table salt may contain dextrose sugar, iodine and other ingredients that can affect the flavor and appearance of your food. If your drinking water is treated with chlorine and fluoride you should consider using filtered or spring water.
Equipment: I prefer glass canning jars, some are recycled and some are new mason jars. You may also need weights when making things like sauerkraut but you can easily use a smaller mason jar and fill it with water or use a temper. from a food.
Tasty Food Recipes
Kombucha + SCOBY: is a variety of fermented, lightly sweetened tea drink that has been consumed for thousands of years. Kombucha is commonly intended as functional beverages for their health benefits such as probiotics and antioxidants.
Sourdough Mother: is a bread made from the naturally occurring yeast and bacteria in flour. We cultivate the wild yeast in a form that we can use for baking. Since wild yeast is present in all flour, the easiest way to make a starter is simply by combining flour and water and letting it sit for several days. You then use it as you in addition to or instead of bakers yeast.
Veggies + Sourkrout: is one way to boost up your gut health. Fermented foods, like veggies, are rich in probiotics. The action of the bacteria makes the minerals in cultured foods more readily available to the body and the bacteria also produce vitamins and enzymes that are beneficial for digestion.
Ferments may attract fruit flies if this happens put a dish bowl filled with apple cider vinegar next to it. You can add a few drops of dish detergent as well to make them stick.
Many ferments should be not be moved or jiggled so pick on the spot and stick with it and keep them about 10 ft separated.
Make sure they are completely submerged in the brine, this may require the use of weights.
You may want to use an airlock this gives you the ability to control the amount of oxygen that gets in
Check out my friends over at wellpreserved.ca or watch Preserving Food – You Are What You Eat: Joel MacCharles at TEDxToronto.
Fermentation for Beginners: The Step-By-Step Guide to Fermentation and Probiotic Foods
physician before starting a new diet/natural therapies.
Hi there, I am Ashley Michaud, Mama, Healer, Integrative Nutrition Health Coach and Founder of Elemental Growth. I am passionate about travel, using plants as food/medicine and realigning people like yourself with nature and your natural flow of energy so that you can be your happy healthy best.
In addition to graduating from the world’s largest Nutrition school I have been trained in transformational coaching, attuned as a Reiki Master, actively practicing yoga since 2014, sharing natural alternatives to everyday products for the majority of my life and experienced in the following areas: Fertility, Natural Pregnancy, Home Birth, Breastfeeding, Parenting, Meditation, Intuitive Healing, Herbology, Foraging and Permaculture.
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