It can help with
Healthy gut flora
Many traditional foods are full of healthy bacteria - yogurt, kefir, miso, tempeh, natto, pickles, relishes and pestos, sauerkraut, kimchi, and a variety of other foods broken down in the process of fermentation. The lacto-fermentation process was originally a way of souring foods rather than letting them spoil. Because of the presence of beneficial acids and organisms, a fermented food is an inhospitable environment for putrefying organisms. And this is good news to a wanna-be happy healthy belly! A healthy gut has over 100 trillion beneficial microbes, though most of us simply don't have that many. Many factors of modern life and diet strip our gut of these good guys. Not being breastfed, being born via C-section, not picking up the right flora from our mothers, eating lots of sugar and starches, using antibiotics, living in toxic environments - these all contribute to gut flora that is out of balance. We can replenish them by adding probiotic foods like those mentioned above. AND if you feed them with prebiotic foods you are doing yourself an even bigger favor. Give them what they like to eat and they thrive.
Respond to food sensitivities
Food is supposed to be our friend - it nourishes us! Why is it that some people sometimes have so much trouble with certain foods? What is one person's food can be poison to another. A genetic response to a food substances like gluten and lactose could be the body detecting "a foreign object." The result of the "search and destroy" attack mounted by our immune system is inflammation and an increased risk of disease. Sometimes the answer is avoidance forever. But depending on the individual's chemistry, sensitivities can be addressed with 'the middle way!' Altering preparation methods can allow reintegration of certain foods, especially if the food could have a beneficial effect, such as fermented dairy or grains.
Fermentation breaks down Casein, or milk proteins, one of the most difficult proteins to digest. In the fermentation process amino acids are liberated and these proteins are rendered more digestible.
The longer the fermentation, the more these amino acids get broken down, and the more easy the dairy will be to digest. It's helpful to know goat dairy is less allergenic and easier to digest, so when cow dairy isn't tolerated, goat dairy (especially with a 24 hr fermentation) might be! Give it a try -- you might be surprised. If it still doesn't work, coconut yogurt or kefir, or even water kefir are options.
More vitamins and minerals
Many of us may have at some point been turned off by the word "fermented," conjuring up images of unpleasantness. In fact fermented and cultured food are not just exciting and delicious, but essential. Before refrigeration, lacto-fermentation (referring to the lactic acid bacteria present, not Lactose found in dairy) WAS used to preserve the summer and fall harvest to carry it through the winter. The side benefit is that fermentation increases that food's nutritional value and keeps our guts optimally healthy. Vegetables are a source of vitamins and minerals necessary for our health. In the fermentation process the beneficial bacteria create enzymes and additional vitamins, making the vegetable even healthier than it is in its raw state. Most fermentation results in an increase in Vitamins A and C, and some the essential B vitamins.
When dairy is fermented, calcium is better absorbed. When grains are fermented, the process neutralizes phytic acid, which would otherwise bind with minerals in our digestive tract. So we actually can get more vitamins and minerals from foods when they are first fermented (like in sourdough). When soy is fermented (Natto), the bacteria makes Vit K2.
A healthy gut also is a precursor to a strong immune system. Our gut wall, known as our digestive tract, is protected by a layer of bacteria. In a healthy adult, that bacteria weighs between 3 and 4 1/2 lbs! What happens in the gut is not isolated. If pathogenic organisms (bacterial, yeasts, or fungi) take over, they'll damage the gut wall and crowd out the good guys, affecting overall health and immunity. When the beneficial bacterial are in charge, they facilitate efficient absorption of nutrients from food. They produce anti-biotic, anti-tumor, anti-viral and anti-fungal substances. And the acids given off make the gut wall an uncomfortable place for pathogenic microbes to survive. Eating lacto-fermented foods supplies us with probiotics to keep your gut healthy. And when the gut is happy, it works smoothly and keeps our immune system in tip-top shape. Without a healthy immune system, we become vulnerable to unfavorable conditions - like those that can be found in the soil or on a plant or one grown under environmental stress.
Pre-digested food can help blood sugar
As the beneficial organisms eat the food that's being fermented, they do a partial to complete breakdown of proteins, fiber, carbohydrates and fat. This means food is taken in with the process of digestion started. Sourdough partially breaks down gluten. When dairy is fermented, the lactose (milk sugar) is consumed. Overall, starchy foods contain much less sugar when the fermentation is complete. Studies suggest that kimchi may help support insulin function, which is important for keeping blood sugar levels in check. They eat sugars and starches and provide, in most cases, a very beneficial form of nourishment, critical for our gut microbia.
To help our bodies out, we should be eating lots of digestive enzymes with our food -- this frees our bodies up to make enzymes that prevent disease. Fresh foods are not the richest source of digestive enzymes as you might think. They contain some but not many. Cooked foods have none because enzymes expire when heated. The best sources of digestive enzymes are cultured foods. Consuming fermented products can improve digestion in this way and when used properly can decrease the likelihood of gas and bloating.
Healthy gut -- healthy brain
Beneficial organisms are essential for a healthy gut, and a healthy gut is a must for a healthy brain. If you have heard of Leaky Gut and Leaky Brain, you do NOT want either! Both of these are best left protected so that nothing gets through but what is supposed to. A digestive system that has integrity has well-populated and diverse microflora and allows optimal nutrient absorption. It also has healthy microvilli lining the intestinal tract, letting out only what is needed into the bloodstream. You can't truly be healthy without feeding your gut, protecting its walls and keeping all parts of it happy.
A healthy brain also has tight junctions, opening to let in inflammatory agents for short periods of time when needed, like after a brain injury or stroke. When tight junctions are weakened in the gut lining, the same action may happen to the Blood Brain Barrier.
Including at least one fermented food every day, or a tablespoon (or 2!) with each meal can make a big difference with your health. Try it on top or on the side of foods. Yum!
"Love, love, love Belly Hazen Ferments. The goat milk yogurt is my favorite. I trust their quality."