Gut health has finally been getting the spotlight it deserves. Maybe it is a side effect of the amount of time many had to start focusing on wellness during the COVID-19 pandemic. Maybe everyone is starting to notice when they consult with their favorite doc, Google MD, everything seems to mention gut imbalance. Regardless, giving our gastrointestinal system the recognition it deserves, as the core of our health, not just an independent organ, is long overdue and a pivotal movement for health and well being. Promoting a healthy microbiota or levels of positive bacteria in our gut has always been on the radar, and the supplement industry has thrived off of the indisputable importance of keeping it balanced. However, since the world came to a screeching halt about a year ago, we all tried to step out of our instant gratification-esque ways and really chewed into our current nutritional habits. As a result, there is a demand for foods that satisfies our guts need for balance.
The gut microbe population is highly susceptible to changes in its environment much like the environment of the planet we live on. When the bacteria population is unbalanced, gut dysbiosis occurs and left untreated it can cause damage to the walls of our stomach and intestines. When the gut lining is weakened the contents from the gastrointestinal track can leak into the bloodstream causing damage elsewhere in the body and igniting a potentially systemic inflammatory response. Damage to the gut lining can also lead to maldigestion and malabsorption of beneficial nutrients like our macronutrients, vitamins, minerals, and gluten (a protein found in grains). All of these negative outcomes don’t just stop at making consumption and digestion difficult. They can manifest as further consequences ranging from skin issues like eczema to autoimmune conditions, cardiovascular disease, IBS, neurological issues and more. It truly impacts us from head to toe. One way we can protect our gut’s ecology and the integrity of its lining is through consuming fermented foods.
Fermented foods and fluids are key in maintaining the balance of our gut microbiome. They are produced through controlled microbial growth (aka tiny little beneficial organisms like bacteria), and the conversion of food components through enzymatic action. Fermented food products promote the microbe population via:
- The Probiotics aka good bacteria and fungus that help maintain the microbiota population in the gut. Different strains have unique contributions to our health.
- Fermentation Derived Metabolites like bioactive peptides can benefit our cardiovascular, immune and metabolic health.
- Converting Regular Joe Shmo Compounds into Bioactive Metabolites that are now useful for our body compared to a previous neutral state (this one is definitely the coolest!).
- Reducing Toxins and Other “Anti-Nutrients” like high acid concentration in some foods, or the quantity of some compounds that may be indigestible for some like lactose or gluten.
Fermented foods may seem far-fetched to incorporate into your diet, but I bet you know a few of the ones below plus some you definitely need to. Try adding:
- Fermented Vegetables
- Beet Kvass