If you thought fermentation was simply aged mushrooms and gone-off cheeses, then you’re hugely mistaken. Fermentation is one of the only natural means we have of getting good bacteria into our guts.
To put it simply, fermentation is the process of using micro-organisms already in a food which, over time, transform into a new state whereby digestive enzymes are created by the breaking down of sugars, and good bacteria grows. These digestive enzymes help to absorb, digest and utilise nutrients in foods. Some of the foods and drinks you already consume, such as beer, wine, bread, coffee and yogurt, have gone through part of the fermentation process. They also help provide the natural balance of good and bad bacteria in our guts. Since 70/80 per cent of the immune system is controlled by the gut, it is important to establish healthy gut bacteria for a healthy immune system.
You can boost the naturally good bacteria in your body by doing two things: consuming more fermented foods, and consuming more prebiotic foods. Prebiotics such as onions, garlic and artichokes thrive under fermentation and encourage microbe growth. This leads to a healthier gut which can help with various digestive ailments, namely IBS-C and IBS-D. However, to get a healthy gut flora, the quickest way is to go straight for fermented foods.
Take a look at our top fermented foods for a healthy gut, below.
Kefir is a fermented milk drink which contains at least five times as many microbial varieties as standard live yogurt. However, if you can’t find any kefir in your local supermarket, live yogurt is still a good option for a healthy gut.
These are fermented soya beans which have a particularly strong smell and taste. However, they do taste good mixed with soya sauce and rice noodles. Natto is also associated with good bone health.
Kombucha is a fermented sweetened tea which is known to help with digestive ailments and is a natural immune booster.
This dish of salted and fermented vegetables is a traditional side dish in Korean cuisine and usually includes fermented cabbage, radishes and seafood. Of course, as kimchi typically holds a lot of salt, it is best to make your own or seek a low salt alternative.
Sauerkraut is cut cabbage which is fermented by lactic acid bacteria. When uncooked, sauerkraut contains live enzymes such as lactobacilli, which are excellent for the digestive system.
In live yogurt, there is Lactobacillus bulgaricus and Streptococcus thermophilus, two living cultures which help boost gut flora. Choose a live, natural yogurt over a flavoured, sugary yogurt to get maximum impact.
Pickles, or ‘gherkins’ as they are known in Britain, are mini cucumbers which have been pickled in a brine or vinegar. Probiotics, such as the lactobacilli species, L. plantarum and L. brevis, add to the pickles’ nutritional value.
Miso is produced by fermenting soybeans with salt and koji (a fungus called Aspergillus oryzae). It is typically added to soups and is a great source of vitamins, as well as digestive enzymes.