I was sitting in the office of a wellness professional who has been supporting my son with the autoimmune journey we are on. She asked what probiotics we used and I listed several different brands. She replied, “You know, probiotics are great, but what’s better is eating fermented foods.” She went onto explain that probiotics, as helpful as they are, cannot give our microbiome the same diversity of healthy bacteria that comes from foods properly fermented. She gave me some information and thus began my fermentation journey.
This excerpt is from one of the resources she led me to:
“The foundation of good health is in the gut. The key to a healthy gut is the quality of the microbial community that lives there. Probiotics influence gut health in powerful ways. While they can be sourced from capsules, regularly consuming living probiotic food provides the best impact for long-term gut health. Maintaining a community of healthy microbes is one of the most important aspects of healthy living. These beneficial microbes help us in many ways, including the suppression of harmful microbes that can make us sick. If dormant, freeze-dried microbes in capsules have beneficial influence over our gut health, imagine what living, thriving food-based probiotic bacteria can do. Trillions in every heaping forkful!”
- From the people at probioticjar.com
Fermentation is a metabolic process in which an organism converts a carbohydrate, such as starch or a sugar, into an alcohol or an acid. Bacteria perform fermentation, converting carbohydrates into lactic acid bacteria (LAB). LAB has many different stains and it protects the gut (simply put), among other amazing things.
There are five main fermented foods I prepare weekly, that we eat on the regular to create an army gut-friendly bacteria in the wild world of our microbiome.
BREAD: I had already been making Einkorn sourdough bread for a few years, so we had that going for us. The starter used to make sourdough is a mixture of flour and water, left in a dark place at room temperature for a period of time to ferment, preparing it for the bread-making process. If you are interested in the science behind the sourdough starter, here is a brief explanation: enzymes in flour convert starch molecules into simple sugars, providing the perfect fuel for microbial reproduction. Mainly yeast and lactic acid bacteria (LAB) in the starter produce CO2 that leavens the bread. The wild bacteria and yeast ‘pre-digest’ the flour, by consuming its sugar sources. As a result, our guts are a lot happier, as some of the difficult digestive tasks have already been done by the time it reaches our digestive systems. Because the bacteria and yeasts consume the sugars, sourdough bread has a much lower glycemic index than other commercially yeasted breads. Sourdough bread may not contain probiotics by the time you eat it (because of the oven heat the bread is cooked in), but it definitely contains prebiotics. Prebiotics are able to survive the baking process, as they are not affected by high heat. They are a type of fiber, which our gut bacteria uses as a food source. When the bacteria in our guts feed on these prebiotics, they release nutrients to the body. Prebiotics essentially work like a fertilizer for the friendly bacteria in our guts.
2. PANCAKES (and other baked goods): We add a batch sourdough levain (made from starter) to our Pankake mix. I use a Paleo grain-free & dairy-free pancake mix made by Birch Benders. Adding the sourdough levain helps to stretch the pancake mix + it contains all of the gut-friendly LAB. We have a friend who helps with our meal prep - she makes a fresh batch of pancakes each week. We store them in the fridge and the kids warm them up in the toaster. They can add Kerrygold or raw butter, but can only use maple syrup or honey on the weekends. 😆 She also preps a large bowl of cut up strawberries with blueberries, and makes about a dozen hard-boiled eggs each week. We also always have a batch of homemade granola (often fermented) in the pantry and homemade yogurt in the fridge. The most common breakfast my kids make for themselves in the morning is a plate with a fermented pancake & butter + hard boiled egg with salt & pepper + strawberries & blueberries or granola and yogurt. They can make this on their own and it is easy to clean up.
3. GRANOLA: I recently discovered that I could ferment my granola. I have been making homemade granola for years, but never fermented until this year. All you do is soak the whole oats overnight in a culture before making the granola, that’s it. I use whey that is left over after I strain my yogurt, which contains LAB, probiotics & colostrum. Other cultures you can use include sourdough starter, kefir grains, or kombucha. Once the oats are soaked overnight I add the rest of my ingredients and bake it. I add ground flax, whole flax seeds, unsweetened coconut flakes, raisins or chocolate chips (if they’re lucky) or sometimes neither, sometimes pumpkin seeds, cinnamon, salt, coconut oil and a touch of maple syrup. Nothing gives your home a better fragrance than a batch of granola in the oven.
4. SAUERKRAUT: My son’s doctor sent me to probioticjar.com, where I purchased several of their jars to make sauerkraut (and any other vegetable I want to ferment). The jars have a seal and airlock mechanism that creates an anaerobic environment, which is ideal and necessary for effective fermenting. I follow their recipe for German sauerkraut. It is very simple. For dinner, I have a small bowl of sauerkraut at the table, and put just a forkful on the side of the kids’ plates.
5. YOGURT: We recently found a source for raw dairy. There are several families in our community who place a weekly order and we rotate a weekly pickup. We consume more dairy now that we can get raw, non-homogenized milk, butter, cheese and kefir. We use very little dairy from the store because most of it has been over-processed and homogenized, which makes it difficult to digest and even harmful to your health. For yogurt, I bring about a half gallon of raw milk to a boil on the stove and then transfer it to a glass bowl to let it cool for about an hour. Then I add a powdered yogurt culture with probiotics + colostrum. I leave it in our pantry for about 36-48 hours and then I strain it. It is very yummy and rarely lasts more than a day or two before it is gobbled up.
The average person with an average lifespan spends about 4.5 years of their life just on the simple task of eating. Eating is right up there with the other two things that humans do the most: sleeping and working. To live is to eat and to eat is to live. It is an integral part of being a human and we organize our lives and social gatherings around eating. With so much time spent on this simple and delightful activity, it seems prudent to do it right and do it well.
I hope this inspires you to add some fermentation to your life!