Fermented Food, Probiotics and What You Need to Know
Updated: May 23
Have you wondered what all the talk about prebiotic and probiotics is, and why they are getting so much hype lately? Well, like most great things for our bodies, they have been around for decades. This isn't a new process or beneficial food we are just discovering.
Historically the fermentation technique was used as a way of preserving foods and drinks long before the days of refrigeration. During the process of fermentation, microorganisms such as bacteria, yeast, or fungi convert organic compounds, such as sugars and starch, into alcohol or acids.
The consumption of foods and drinks that have undergone fermentation contain benefits to our health far beyond food preservation.
The transformation of sugars and starches enhances the natural, beneficial bacteria in food. These bacteria, known as probiotics or good bacteria are thought to help a multitude of health issues, specifically digestive health.
The bacteria that live in our gut are essential to our overall health.
They help with the digestion, absorption, and assimilation of our nutrients. Plus, they play a role in the function of our immune system.
However, there are bad bacteria that also reside in the gut, and of course, the challenge is achieving the right balance between the two. When the balance is shifted in favor of the bad bacteria, symptoms may arise such as bloating, constipation, or diarrhea. This is termed dysbiosis, (also called dysbacteriosis) the state in which the gut flora are out of balance. Also known as a microbial imbalance or maladaptation on or inside the body, such as an impaired microbiota.
Now, let's address the nutrition side of this for our gut.
Modern diets, high in refined sugars, combined with stress and a lack of physical activity, contribute to dysbiosis by feeding the bad bacteria, enabling them to flourish. Then your body continues down a path of destruction, basically. Refined sugar intake is linked to other conditions like obesity, type 2 diabetes, and heart disease. Yet, it’s found in a variety of foods, making it particularly challenging to avoid. Sugar is naturally found in many foods, including fruits, vegetables, dairy, grains, and even nuts and seeds. This natural sugar can be extracted to produce the refined sugar currently so abundant in the food supply. Table sugar and high-fructose corn syrup (HFCS) are two common examples of refined sugars created this way. Foods enriched with HFCS may cause you to become resistant to leptin, a hormone that signals your body when to eat and when to stop. This may partly explain the link between refined sugar and obesity.
All this to say, sugar in your gut can cause many health concerns. Once it starts to damage your gut, it goes to your joints, your brain, and so on.
Eliminating refined, high sugar foods and including probiotic-rich fermented foods is thought to bring the gut back into balance and support the immune system. As some of the sugars and starches in food have been broken down through the process, fermented foods are easier to digest. For example, fermentation breaks down the lactose in milk to simpler sugars, glucose and galactose, which, if you are lactose intolerant, can make products such as yogurt and cheese potentially easier to digest.
Fermentation can also increase the availability of vitamins and minerals for our bodies to absorb.
Additionally, by boosting the beneficial bacteria in your gut, you are promoting their ability to manufacture B vitamins and synthesise vitamin K.
A large proportion of the immune system is housed in the gut.
By consuming probiotic-rich foods, you are supporting the gut lining as a natural barrier, making the immune system more robust. A lack of beneficial bacteria allows disease causing microbes to grow causing inflammation in the gut wall. If you have recently taken a course of antibiotics, probiotic foods are particularly helpful in the restoration of your gut.
The gut and brain are linked, through the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis. Technically called the enteric nervous system, the gut is lined with neurons that can influence our emotions and feelings.
Serotonin, a neurotransmitter involved in mood, is made in the gut and research further suggests that as probiotic bacteria contribute to a healthy gut, they are also linked to a healthy mind.
To wrap this all up, a prebiotic and a probiotic in the form of a supplement or as a food is crucial for good health.
Probiotic powerhouses in the store:
Kefir – A probiotic cultured drink, kefir contains multiple strains of bacteria and yeast. Kefir is rich in minerals and vitamins, particularly the B vitamins and vitamin K. We have the unflavored, 100% Grass fed, Organic Maple Kill yogurt and Kefir in stock.
Sauerkraut – Easy to make at home, this fermented cabbage dish has been around for centuries. It’s high in fibre, as well as vitamins A, C, K and various B vitamins. It’s also a good source of iron, manganese, copper, sodium, magnesium and calcium. Enjoy cold on a salad or add to a warm dish last. We have Eden Foods and Bubbies brand in store.
Kombucha – A fizzy, fermented black tea. Yeast turns sugar into alcohol and carbon dioxide, and bacteria called acetobacter convert the alcohol into acetic acid, giving it a sour taste. Watch out for sugar in shop-bought kombucha, you’re better off making it at home. Unless you get GTs Synergy brand like we carry, where sugar is not listed as an ingredient. They taste delicious and we offer several flavors!
Almond Yogurt – made with encompass Lactobacillus casei, Lactobacillus rhamnosus, or Bifidobacterium bifidus bacteria to convert natural sugars in almond milk, which break down further into lactic acid, giving yogurt its sour taste. Live bacteria remain in the yogurt and provide a valuable contribution to gut microflora. We have Kite Hill's Organic Unflavored almond yogurt. Tasty and a light, smooth yogurt. Vegan!
For supplementation we also carry Prebiotic options like Chlorella and Spirulina.
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