Why Fermented Foods: Breaking Down the Benefits.Dr. Miranda Wiley, ND
August 24, 2016
Before the days of the refrigerator, food had to be processed to preserve the energy and nutrition that it held to make it available in times of scarcity. Some common processing techniques included: smoking, air-drying, salting, curing, and fermentation to preserve meat, fish, legumes, dairy, fruits, and vegetables.
How Fermentation Works
Fermentation uses microbes to alter the chemistry of the food to make them less susceptible to damage. Friendly yeasts and bacteria begin the process of digesting the sugars within the foods, creating acids that prevent spoilage from non-probiotic microbes. These acids give fermented foods their characteristic tang and provide a number of benefits to our digestive system and immune health.
- Fermented foods, such as sauerkraut, kimchi, pickles, beer, wine, yogurt, and sourdough breads provide probiotic strains of bacteria to our small and large intestines along with organic acids, enzymes, B vitamins, and other health-promoting compounds. Probiotic microbes confer a health benefit to their host, and the friendly yeast and bacteria in fermented foods do that through a variety of pathways.
- Probiotic bacteria and yeast release enzymes that support our bodies in the digestion of food, thereby decreasing the digestive effort required from our stomach, pancreatic, and intestinal enzymes. They add bulk to stool, contributing to regular elimination of solid waste through the bowels. These bacteria also regulate immune function and protect us from harmful bacteria.
- Organic acids lower the pH of food, preventing the growth of microbes that encourage spoiling. When they are consumed with other foods, these acids also support our body’s inherent digestive functions. Our stomach secretes acid to create an environment in the body with the lowest pH. This strong acid bath helps to sterilize the incoming food and water, thereby killing pathogenic bacteria (such as salmonella or cholera) that may be contaminating food.
Today, there are more fermented products than ever for us to enjoy. Many health supplements contain fermented ingredients which enhance the bioavailability of active ingredients – meaning your body can get more of what it potentially needs. There are single source ingredient fermented botanicals such as our very own Daily Immune Shot. And there are fermented probiotics like Dr. Ohhira’s where we get the benefit of the probiotics themselves, while also getting organic acids and lactic acids, resulting in a synergistic formula that improves absorption and makes a more potent probiotic.
We evolved on a diet that was rich in fermented foods and the shift away from this in the last 100+ years has been to our detriment. Thankfully, we are re-discovering the many benefits of friendly microbes and fermented foods. They are a delicious boon to our digestive health and balanced immune function.