Fermentation at home
I have fond memories as a child sitting in my families’ kitchen at the end of a long, hot summer, watching my father make naturally fermented cucumber dill pickles. He would fill many jars with cucumbers, garlic, peppercorns, bay leaves, dill, and a hot water and salt mixture. Then he would put the filled jars on a window sill until the cucumbers turned a darker shade of green and tasted “sour enough,” as he would always say. The kitchen always smelled of dill and garlic, a scent that stills brings back fond memories of my father. I would eat them just on their own out of the jar, or my favourite was with bagels, smoked salmon, and cream cheese.
As with many of my family’s recipes, these were passed on via word of mouth. Meaning, I had to find my own way of learning how to lacto- ferment, especially with cucumbers.
It took some practice before I felt that I had perfected the taste the way I remembered from my childhood. My father had many variations to the original recipe. When he wanted it to be a bit spicy, he would add a hot chilli or extra garlic.
Growing up in a Jewish Household in NYC, we ate lots of fermented foods. Sourdough Rye bread, cheese, sour cream, salami, sauerkraut, vinegar, chocolate, and coffee were prominent in the house. When I discovered Japanese Macrobiotic foods, I noticed the similarities in dietary style, as each meal was served with all kinds of different ferments.
I started to discover what the benefits of fermentation were, how to ferment, various kinds of ferments, and the benefits of live bacteria in wild fermented foods for my gut health.
What is fermentation?
Fermentation is a metabolic process that converts sugar to acids, gases, or alcohol. It usually happens in oxygen-free conditions and involves desirable microorganisms.
Lacto-fermentation is a particular type of fermentation and has existed in just about every traditional society and culture throughout history.
From Kimchi in Korea, sauerkraut in Germany, Alaskan fermented fish, and sour grains in Africa, Lacto-fermented foods are prevalent in many societies worldwide.
Lacto-fermentation is a simple, inexpensive process. Its produce can be referred to as cultured or pickled and has many uses:
- vegetable accompaniment
- sandwich filling
- soup or salad addition
Most food fermentation processes are as old as the hills, yet today we have a tremendous fear of leaving food outside the fridge to age. We mainly were raised to view bacteria as dangerous, and the idea of leaving food outside of refrigeration to encourage bacterial growth sends fear of disease and even death.
How does Lacto fermentation work?
When they hear the word fermentation, most people think about wine or beer, where specific yeasts are used to convert the sugars in grapes or grains into alcohol. When it comes to the Lacto fermentation process, because fruits and vegetables already have certain bacteria, namely Lactobacillus, on them, they are easy to ferment. These bacteria prefer an environment with very little oxygen, moisture, and carbohydrate and are present on all plants, gastrointestinal tracts, mouths, noses, and genitals of humans and other animal species. As lactobacilli eat, they produce lactic acid, carbon dioxide, and acetic acid. This fermentation is what preserves the food.
This strain was discovered in milk ferments, and these bacteria used lactose to convert them into lactic acid. However, Lacto-fermentation does not need to use dairy products.
Lactic acid is a natural preservative that does not allow the growth of harmful bacteria, helps digestion, and increases enzyme and vitamin levels.
With fermentation becoming so popular today, it is good to understand its part in keeping our gut healthy.
The best way to restore beneficial bacteria in the gut is to create an acidic environment through traditional fermented “live” foods rich in beneficial lactic acid-producing bacteria, promoting the growth of various Lactobacillus bacteria.
Eating fermented foods provides beneficial microorganisms to our whole digestive tract, especially our gut. These bacteria help ferment carbohydrates which are difficult for us to digest. These foods help establish and promote the right balance of healthy digestive flora (probiotics) and nutrient density throughout the intestine. In turn, these bacteria aid in the digestion and absorption of nutrients and support our immune system. 80% of your immune system is in your microbiome, your body’s bacteria. These bacteria help to digest food, think clearly, and even maintain a healthy weight. They are everywhere in, on, and around your body.
An unbalanced gut microbiome can be highly detrimental to your overall health. It can cause a host of symptoms, including acne, fatigue, weight gain, brain fog, digestion issues, depression, and candida.
How to improve your gut health
1. Remove the sugar and processed foods from your diet.
Refined carbohydrates, sugar, and processed foods get absorbed quickly into your small intestine without any help from your microbes. That means your gut microbes stay hungry, so they begin snacking on the cells that line your intestines, causing what we call Leaky gut. Your intestinal lining should be a strong barrier between your gut and the rest of your body. When your intestinal wall becomes leaky, food particles enter your bloodstream, causing your immune system to attack them, and ultimately your tissues. This process leads to inflammation and a whole cascade of conditions, including autoimmunity. Sugar also feeds organisms like Candida Albicans, which also attacks your intestinal wall and can lead to a systemic Candida infection. http://www.drnorthrup.com/how-to-improve-your-gut-microbiome-in-a-day/#sthash.HGDa5qbE.dpuf
2. Include prebiotics that help feed probiotics.
They are a non-digestible fibre compound found in garlic, Jerusalem artichokes, dandelion greens, onions, leeks, radishes, asparagus, carrots, ginger, turmeric, and black pepper. They pass through the small intestine into the colon, where the gut microflora ferments them.
3. Include fermented foods in your diet with every meal.
Fermented foods help to replenish your healthy microbiome. Cultured dairy such as yogurt and kefir, Lacto-fermented sauerkraut, kimchi, fermented tomato sauce, and salsa and sourdough bread all have probiotic bacteria needed to support good health.
4. Eat a lot of green leafy vegetables.
Researchers from Melbourne and the UK identified a previously unknown enzyme used by bacteria, fungi, and other organisms to feed on the unusual but abundant sugar sulfoquinovose – SQ for short – found in green vegetables.
5. Avoid antibiotics and chlorinated water.
The use of antibiotics causes permanent changes in the gut flora.
Drinking chlorinated water can make it almost impossible to maintain ideal bacterial flora in the gastrointestinal (GI) tract because chlorine kills all bacteria, whether good or bad.