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Lacto-Fermented Foods: Are They Really Good For YOU?

Lacto-Fermented Foods: Are They Really Good For YOU?

Probiotics are important for so many aspects of health. This article by Dr. Mercola explains the many health benefits one stands to gain from healthy gut bacteria. Ancient people did not take a pill to derive these health benefits. People around the world since ancient times have used fermentation to naturally preserve food before there were refrigerators and canning machines. These methods of preservation naturally enhanced health by introducing friendly organisms into the body and increasing the nutritive value of the food. Sauerkraut, pickles, yogurts and kefirs are probably the most popular but there are many interesting options such as kimchi, fruit relishes and chutneys, lacto-fermented ketchup and mustard, kombucha tea, and much more.

Why Fermented Foods are Promoted

Lacto-fermented or cultured foods are an amazing and cost-effective way to get probiotics into your body while also getting valuable enzymes, vitamins and many other health-promoting compounds. By lacto-fermenting foods, we โ€œpredigestโ€ them with good bacteria so that they are often, but not always, better tolerated than the same food in its raw, unfermented state.

In this series of videos (there are six of them so make sure you watch them all!) Donna Gates of Body Ecology Diet and Dr. Natasha Campbell McBride of Gut and Psychology Syndrome discuss the importance of gut flora and fermented foods:

These videos can really inspire one to get started with lacto-fermented foods, and in my opinion they are a must-see for parents and anyone planning on becoming a parent, so please share them with the parents and future parents in your life!

Why They Might Not Be Right For You

Unfortunately, not everyone tolerates these foods. If you are one of these people, it is usually difficult to discern exactly why you may not be tolerating them, but there are legitimate reasons for some people to pass on the ferments. Some advocates of fermented foods would encourage you to keep at it and push through the reactions, asserting the negative symptoms you are experiencing are just “die-off” or “detox” and a temporary adjustment period. But that is not always the case.

Fermented foods are high in glutamates. In my article Excitotoxicity: When Nourishing Foods Do Harm, I explained how very damaging glutamates can be. If you suffer from some of the symptoms I wrote about there, or from some of the conditions associated with glutamate receptor dysfunction, ferments may be problematic for you.

Fermented foods are high in histamine. In my article Could Histamine Be Sabotaging Your Digestive Health?, I explained how histamine overload can have a negative impact on the gut as well as the rest of the body. The symptoms of histamine intolerance are varied and they may really surprise you. Read my article for more information. In cases of histamine intolerance, fermented foods may cause more issues than they solve.

There are certain conditions under which the fermentation process creates problems. For example, sometimes people are already in a state of “over-fermentation” due to an overgrowth of yeast or bacteria (even good bacteria!), and in that state, fermented foods may not be tolerated. Some types of fermentation, such as “wild fermentation” are believed by some experts to be risky and may be detrimental to certain people. Kombucha is an example of a food produced through wild fermentation. And there are those that believe that lacto-fermentation should always be done under anaerobic conditions, which requires special equipment.

Final Thoughts

If you do decide to consume fermented foods, you can make them yourself and save a significant amount of money. Just make sure you are doing it correctly. Buy a good book (some are listed below) and learn how to lacto-ferment safely. You can also purchase fermented foods online or at health foods stores. I like to recommend purchasing a few different fermented foods and experimenting with them so that you know what is enjoyed and tolerated before investing your time and money. But by making them yourself you enjoy a significant savings and you can tailor them to your tolerated foods and taste buds.

If you do buy these foods, you definitely want to make sure they are lacto-fermented (not pasteurized or just pickled with vinegar, etc.) and retain their โ€œlive culturesโ€ and health benefits. Read labels carefully. For example, Bubbies makes different varieties of pickles. Some of them are lacto-fermented and contain live cultures and some do not.

I think it is important to remember that lacto-fermented foods were traditionally eaten as a condiment. Sometimes we adopt a “more is better” mentality with foods purported to heal, such as broths and ferments. As with everything in life, there is definitely such thing as too much of a good thing.

Sometimes fermented foods are promoted as necessary in order to improve our health to the extent that people feel that they must consume fermented foods despite the unpleasant side-effects. These foods can have tremendous positives but for some people they are not the panacea they are purported to be. If you do not tolerate them, do not despair. I have seen plenty of people improve their health without them.

Speak to your doctor or a qualified health professional to discuss your health conditions and whether lacto-fermented foods are likely to be beneficial or detrimental to your health. If a well-meaning friend encourages you to eat the ferments, pushing through negative symptoms believing they are just “die-off” or “detox” you may want to question the wisdom of their advice and listen instead to the wisdom of your body. It is speaking to you. I hope that this article spoke to you as well, and that it provided a little more insight into a subject that is often misunderstood.

For Further Reading:

The Art of Fermentation: An In-Depth Exploration of Essential Concepts and Processes from around the World

The Body Ecology Diet: Recovering Your Health and Rebuilding Your Immunity

Nourishing Traditions: The Cookbook that Challenges Politically Correct Nutrition and the Diet Dictocrats

Dealing with Food Allergies: A Practical Guide to Detecting Culprit Foods and Eating a Healthy, Enjoyable Diet

Excitotoxins: The Taste That Kills

 



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This article was featured at Real Food Forager and Healthy 2Day Wednesday at The Cheapskate Cook, Whole Intentions, Young Living Oil Lady and Heart + Home.

 

37 Comments

  1. thanks so much for this interesting and informative post!

    i need to keep this in mind when buying foods.

  2. Good advice! When I messed up my gut with eating cherry stones and kept getting sick every week for 2 months, drinking fermented beverages helped me get back on track. Now I don’t feel the need to eat or drink them as much. I do love the idea of thinking of them as condiments, not a side dish.

    Thanks for linking up at Motivation Monday. Have a great week!

    • Dawn Tasher says:

      Thanks for sharing your experience, Barb! I am sure others will learn from it. I hope you also have a great week!

  3. Username* says:

    Very informative post, thank you for sharing. And yes, we are eating lots of probiotics here ๐Ÿ™‚

  4. Another reason some people don’t do well with fermented foods is due to yeast being a potential gluten cross-reactive food, and all fermented foods contain beneficial yeasts. I’m lucky that I respond really well to ferments, because I much prefer getting nutrition from food instead of pills, but I realize it’s not that simple for everyone!

    • Dawn Tasher says:

      It definitely is not that simple for everyone, Eileen! I do think people can control yeast to some extent in some fermented foods, such as SCD yogurt. Some people will respond well to that and not to kefir, for example. And there are many reasons for people not to tolerate yeast. I see yeast come up on food allergy tests so frequently! You raised another great issue for people to think about. Thank you for that!

  5. Thank you for this great post. We really enjoyed it!

    Rosevine Cottage Girls

  6. Kim Tobin says:

    Very very informative! I’ve always had a lot of trouble with my stomach so this is really something I should look into further! Found you through Mommy-Brain Mixer ๐Ÿ™‚

  7. LydiaF says:

    What an informative article! I bookmarked it so I can get to the other articles mentioned. I would love if you could share it on the Real Food Friday link up located at the bottom of this post : http://www.lydiasflexitariankitchen.com/instead-soft-drinks-try-these/

  8. Thank you so much for this information. We’ve just recently discovered lacto-fermented recipes for pickles and cabbage and have, in fact, just started our first bottles. I didn’t know that processing foods this way was so healthy. So now, we’ll get great taste, we’ll be eating local (all the produce was purchased from local farmers), and we’ll be doing something good for our health. I hope that we are able to tolerate the foods. ๐Ÿ™‚

    • Dawn Tasher says:

      How wonderful! Most people really do tolerate them. There is a sensitive population though, and I wrote this with them in mind. ๐Ÿ™‚

  9. Becky says:

    Wow, I really didn’t know any of this. Thank you for sharing this information.

  10. What an excellent and informative post Dawn! I really love your reminder that these foods were usually eaten as condiments ๐Ÿ™‚

  11. Thank you for sharing at the Thursday Favorite Things blog hop xo

  12. Love the note about eating fermented foods as a side dish. Not every can or wants to eat a giant plate of sauerkraut. Certainly when I was growing up with 2 German grandmothers, kraut was a regular, but small part of a larger meal.

    Thanks for sharing this on Waste Not Want Not Wednesday, I’ve pinned it ๐Ÿ™‚

  13. […] Flour from Stacy at Stacy Makes Sense. Dawn from Peeling Back the Onion Layers asks, “Lacto-Fermented Foods: Are They Really Good for YOU?” This Perfect Chocolate Ice Cream is healthy for you too! By Lauren of Oatmeal With A […]

  14. […] Flourย from Stacy at Stacy Makes Sense. Dawn from Peeling Back the Onion Layers asks, “Lacto-Fermented Foods: Are They Really Good for YOU?” This Perfect Chocolate Ice Cream is healthy for you too! By Lauren of Oatmeal With A […]

  15. […] Flour from Stacy at Stacy Makes Sense. Dawn from Peeling Back the Onion Layers asks, “Lacto-Fermented Foods: Are They Really Good for YOU?” This Perfect Chocolate Ice Cream is healthy for you too! By Lauren of Oatmeal With A […]

  16. Kathi says:

    Thank you for linking up to the HomeAcre Hop. I hope you’ll join us again this Thursday.

  17. Mary@Back to the Basics! says:

    Great info. I’ve never made lacto-fermented food but I’m definitely interested.
    Thanks for sharing at Real Food Friday. Come on over and share a now OR older real food post!
    http://maryshealthymeals.blogspot.com/2013/09/real-food-friday-4-is-live.html

  18. What an interesting and informative post! Thank you for sharing it at Tuesdays with a Twist! -Marci @ Stone Cottage Adventures

  19. Kristin says:

    So interesting! Thanks so much for linking up with is at Tips and Tricks Tuesday!

  20. Heart+Home says:

    […] Peeling Back the Onion Layers // Lacto Fermented Foods […]

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