Did you know that eating fermented foods can enhance the diversity of the gut microbiome, which reduces inflammation and improves immune response?
If you did not know this, it’s okay. New research is only beginning to unlock the exciting connections between diet, gut microbiome, and body response. A research paper published by Stanford Medicine this July was one of the first formal efforts to delve into the powerful effects of fermented foods on gut health, in particular.
So What Exactly Is Fermentation?
Humans have been fermenting foods for thousands of years. Fermentation is a metabolic process that utilizes live microbes such as bacteria or yeast to create a chemical reaction. In the absence of oxygen, these microorganisms will break down carbohydrates such as sugars and starches into different compounds altogether. This is how simple yeast can turn barley malt into carbonated, alcoholic beer, or how grapes become wine. Fermentation is a natural, nutritious preservation process. You can easily ferment foods yourself, find them on many restaurant menus, or purchase them at a local grocery store!
Why Do Fermented Foods Help The Gut?
Millions of microbes live in your gut, intestines and colon. Known as the gut microbiota, this system of bacteria helps digest food as well as plays a role in your overall health, immune response, metabolism and even mental health. While each person’s unique gut composition is influenced by genetic makeup, your lifestyle can also impact the quality of your gut microbiome. Factors such as your daily levels of exercise and diet can greatly impact the diversity and functionality of gut microbiota.
The live microorganisms found in fermented foods are a source of probiotics, which have innumerable health benefits. These natural probiotics aid the immune system, and in doing so, boost the body’s response to pathogens. Plus, the enzymes and lactic acid created in the fermentation process helps better absorb nutrients such as Vitamin B and C. The full extent of the benefits of fermented foods are only beginning to be realized.
6 Fermented Foods For Better Gut Health
1. Plain Yogurt – Plain yogurt is low calorie, low sugar, and teaming with beneficial probiotics. Add fresh fruit, oatmeal, or granola to make the perfect gut-boosting breakfast.
2. Kombucha – Kombucha is a popular fermented tea beverage. It is carbonated, with a bitter, fruity taste. A single bottle can have as little as 50 calories and millions of good bacteria. Keep in mind that there are many different brands on the market including options without added sugar.
3. Tempeh – Tempeh is made from fermented soybeans, pressed together. Similar to tofu, it is a great meat substitute to be cooked, fried, or baked. It is also a source of antioxidants, probiotics, and is high in protein.
4. Kefir – Kefir is a tangy, yogurt-like beverage made of fermented kefir grains. It is proven to reduce inflammation, strengthen bones, and even reduce symptoms of lactose-intolerance in some people.
5. Kimchi – Kimchi is a Korean dish made of fermented cabbage or similar vegetables like radishes. It can be eaten alone or used as a topping on sandwiches, salads, pasta, etc. You can find it in most grocery stores. Studies have found that it may improve insulin resistance and lower cholesterol.
6. Sauerkraut – Another form of fermented cabbage, sauerkraut is plentiful in fiber, Vitamin C, and antioxidants. It’s also low calorie, and can be put on/in just about anything.
Within recent years, the gastrointestinal microbiome has become an increasingly popular area of scientific study due to its close link to human health and wellbeing. Not only does a person’s gut microbiome help with the digestion of food, but it also plays an important role in supporting the body’s immune system. Future research will no doubt provide additional insight about ways we can improve and support our body’s gut health.
For more information about improving your gut health or other digestive conditions, reach out to Gastroenterology Health Partners (GHP) today. Our clinicians have a passion for seeking out and refining new treatments and advanced solutions for those suffering from disorders of the digestive system. Each of our physicians offers expert specialization, evaluating and treating the entire spectrum of digestive conditions. To learn more about the treatment options available to you, schedule an appointment at one of our locations throughout Louisville, Lexington, and Southern Indiana.