(Written by Acupuncturist and Herbalist: Autumn Bear)
Fermentation is something most of us are familiar with. In fact, whenever I talk about fermentation with my patients I usually get some response like “you mean like beer?” Beer seems to be the most familiar and one could argue maybe the most popular use of fermentation but there are loads of different forms that fermented products take. For example, there is sour kraut, pickles, kombucha tea, salami, yogurt, kefir, kimchi, and sour dough bread to name a few. We have fermented vegetables and products in every culture around the world that goes back 10,000 years to all of our ancient civilizations.
Fermented foods are a big ticket item in the health movement as of late, and certainly with good reason. Fermented foods contain what we health foodies love to love, probiotics. Probiotics are little microorganisms that make home in our gut and by doing so they provide the perfect environment for the natural flora and fauna to proliferate and influence our great health. Probiotics, by taking up shop in our guts, prevent harmful bacteria from moving in. Probiotics, in essence, are like the concerned neighborhood watch of our intestinal community. They put a stop to crime!
These probiotics in our intestines have actually been linked to the stability of our immune system as well as having a great influence on our behavior, yes I said it, our behavior. There was a fantastic segment in a recent Radiolab podcast titled “Gut Feelings” (you can listen to it here if you are interested) that discussed how giving probiotics to a population of rats and then putting them under stress showed them that the rats had a huge reduction in stress hormones. This measurement spawns a whole slew of possibilities that by introducing these yummy little microbes into our body they may actually play a role in how stressed out we feel or even that we might be able to affect other problematic mood behaviors by upping the anti on our internal bugs! Brilliant.
The world of fermented foods is really rich and I highly recommend you begin exploring all the many ways in which you might enjoy them. You will certainly benefit from an increase and stabilization of your immune system, your digestion will love you, you can reduce the possibility of thrush, rashes, yeast infections, and now perhaps a bad mood. Experiment for yourselves and see how introducing these foods into your diet on a regular basis might enhance how you feel. Write it down, take a look and see what you find.
If you are so bold and want to ferment your own vegetables, make your own yogurt, slice your own salami, or even brew your own beer, I highly recommend a book called
The Art of Fermentation by fermentation guru Sandor Katz. It is a great guide to help the adventuresome dive into the fun world of microbes, bacteria and the bubbly. Have fun with your food and try something new and while you are exploring the ways to optimize your health, go for the good bugs!
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