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Probiotics and Fermented Foods

I just finished one of our favorite probiotic green smoothies.  I figured it was time to write an article about probiotics.  So I did! This is not that article.

At this point, if you are on this site, I am sure you know that probiotics are good for you.  My first shot at this post was to explain all the reasons why they are amazing, but it occurred to me when I was proofreading it that probiotics are pretty common knowledge.  So instead of a long winded explanation, I will give you the sparks notes.  

  • They helps us digest and absorbs fibre rich carbs
  • They control the growth of bad bacteria (candida)
  • They boost our immune system, better yet they pretty much are our immune system
  • The are integral, I mean integral to brain health
  • They produce serotonin; the natural feel good drug in the body
  • They produce and modulate GABA
  • They keep us regular

While this is all very interesting stuff, I am more interested in the actionable information.  The main intention of this article isn’t to teach you why they are good, or to convince you they are.  It is to give you some ideas on how to get more probiotics in your life without spending a fortune on supplements.

Fermented Foods

Fermented foods are by far the best source of natural probiotics.  Fermented foods have been an important part of our diet for thousands of years, however in the last several generations they have become increasingly rare. While our grandparents likely had some form of fermented food on a regular basis, a large part of the population under 40 may have never had any food that is truly fermented.

When a food ferments, it goes through a process of lactofermentation.  This is a process in which good bacteria feed on the sugar and starch in the food. This process preserves the food, and creates beneficial enzymes, B-vitamins, and various strains of probiotics.

The process of fermentation has been shown to preserve nutrients in foods as well as break the food down into more digestible forms. If you combine this with the fact that fermented foods are also incredibly high sources of probiotics, it is easy to see why fermented foods can improve health.

While a probiotic supplement is great, and in some cases mandatory, they just can’t stand up against fermented foods as far as bio-availability goes.  A good quality probiotic will be enteric coated, this means it will actually survive the journey through the upper digestive system (stomach and small intestine) and with luck implant its precious cargo of probiotics where they belong, in the large intestine.  Fermented foods on the other hand don’t need a special coating, with very little degradation of the bacterial cultures they make it to the large intestine.

Fermented foods actually increase in vitamin content.  Yup, they increase the amount of available vitamins.  Eating raw cabbage is great, eating cooked cabbage is pretty alright too, but fermented cabbage is better than both in regards to nutrient content.

Where to Get Them

Easy.  Make them yourself!  That is by far the best thing about fermented foods.  They are incredibly easy to make, super cheap, and a great way to preserve veggies.  Check out some of our recipes.  There is a book called The Art of Fermentation by Sandor Kartz. It contains recipes for many fermented foods.

It is possible to buy fermented foods, but the price is extremely high, so I recommend just making your own.

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Dr. Jess Reynolds
TCMD, R.Ac, RMT, C.HT, C.HN

Dr. Jess Reynolds is a true jack of all trades, he is a TCMD primarily (Traditional Chinese Medicine Doctor) an acupuncturist, herbalist, hypnotherapist, nutritionist, researcher, professor and inspirational speaker. With foundations laid in Chinese medicine Jess takes modern western science and research and merges both eastern and western worlds of medicine. He delivers a refreshingly unique perspective on health, that is both rooted in eastern medicine and driven by western medicine. His approach is holistic and understandable.

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