Fermentation is one of the oldest ways to preserve and prepare food. We have been using it for thousands of years. Fermentation is a very simple way of preserving food. All you need to do is provide the bacteria with the right conditions while they do all the work themselves. The symbiotic existence of bacteria and human body is remarkable and we still have so much to learn about it. What we know now is that eating a vide variety of fermented foods enhances and strengthens this coexistence.
Fermented food is full of beneficial microorganisms like bacteria and yeast. As we know, bacteria play a vital role in nutrient cycling for all living things, humans included. We evolved coexisting and as a result, the human body is a host to trillions of bacteria. There are about 10 bacterial cells per each human cell in the body! And the majority of them resides in our digestive tract where they provide us most valuable services.
Health benefits of Gut bacteria and fermentation
- Digest or process nutrients for us from other wise indigestible material like fiber.
- Make minerals bioavailable by releasing them from phytic acid.
- Provide energy to the cells lining our colon.
- Make vitamins for us, for example, bacteria supplies most of our vitamin K2, and increases levels of vitamin B and C.
- Protect us from dangerous species of bacteria.
- Communicate with and “train” our immune system.
Modern life is not supportive of healthy Gut flora
Unfortunately, fermentation has mostly disappeared form our culture and our kitchens. Instead, we started using different methods of preservation. We rely and trust the food industry to do it for us. As a result, we end up with foods that’s been stripped of their nutrients in order to extend shelf life. In addition, we use preservatives to help food last even longer. Other chemicals and flavorings improve the taste of otherwise tasteless ingredients. All these artificial ingredients are a burden to our bodies. Because we did not evolve eating them we have no physiological use for them.
A big concern is GMO foods and the use of glyphosates in agriculture. Glyphosates are powerful herbicides that disrupt a metabolic process in plant cells but not human cells. Therefor they are considered safe for us. However, bacterial cells do have the same pathways that gluphosates disrupt. So they are detrimental to our friendly bacteria and consequently, to us. Learn more about glyphosates here.
In addition, our lifestyle interferes with our mictoflora (the bacteria living in our gut). Things that can create an imbalance in bacterial composition and numbers and make us more vulnerable to pathogenic or bad bacteria are:
- Some medications
- Extreme cleanliness
- Chemical and temperature sterilization of water and food
- Cesarean Sections
What we can do to support your bacteria
To improve and keep the diversity and quantity of your microflora I encourage you to:
- Eat fermented food
- The process of fermentation is super simple. Try making your own ferments!
- Reduce the use of antibiotics to an absolute minimum, consider it your last resort
- Choose methods of contraception other than the Pill
- Do not use antibacterial soaps (seriously!)
- Engage yourself and your kids in activities around nature and animals. Get your hands dirty!
- Avoid GMO foods and grains that are sprayed with glyphosates, like oats that go into Cheerios!
If you don’t already enjoy fermented foods on a daily basis, I encourage you to start with small amounts and build up your intake, variety and diversity. I also highly recommend making your own ferments, because most commercially made fermented foods are pasteurized to increase shelf life. Pasteurization destroys live bacteria and their probiotic benefits.