Healing Your Gut

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Fermented Foods – full of nutrients and friendly bacteria

fermented foodsFermented Foods

 

What are Fermented Foods and why are they so full of nutrients and friendly bacteria?

What happens to food after we eat it? Do our bodies use all the nutrients? Or a more pertinent question, “Are our bodies able to digest and absorb all nutrients?”

The quality of our diet depends on the nutrient content and the bioavailability of the nutrients in the food we eat – the efficiency of absorption and utilisation or retention of these nutrients, can vary substantially.

Bioavailability of nutrients is determined by:

  • the physical state of the person – the ability to absorb nutrients relies on a healthy, functioning gut. Digestive disorders can hinder this process
  • the nutrient content of the food – with modern farming, transport and storing methods can limit nutrient content
  • food processing – processing can leach or kill nutrients in our food
  • interactions among components of the diet
  • the presence of anti-nutritional factors – chemicals, preservatives, additives, smoking, alcohol, caffeine etc


Fermented Foods and Digestion

Fermented foods (also known as cultured foods) are foods that have been combined with micro-organisms (bacteria). These foods have been in the diets of many cultures around the world for centuries. When our ancestors developed the various forms of cultured or fermented food and beverages, they had no idea of beneficial enzymes or bacteria, or of the enhanced vitamin content they were getting from these products. Their main concerns would have been the flavour and keeping-quality. Over time these foods rose to importance to them for their many health benefits.

Traditional Uses of Fermented Foods

It was not until 1910 that the famous Nobel prize-winning Russian Bacteriologist, Elie Metchnikoff, first considered the possible benefit to good health from fermented foods. Initially he noticed that Bulgarians had an average life-span of 87 years, exceptional for the early 1900s, and that four out of every thousand lived past 100 years of age. One of the significant differences in their lifestyle was the large consumption of fermented milks, using active Lactobacilli bacteria (Lactic Acid bacteria). Non-users were given the fermented milk, high in friendly bacteria, for chronic diarrhoea and certain forms of constipation.

Many other cultures know the importance of healthful fermented foods in their diet. In Japan, Miso, a traditional fermented soya bean food, is known to be a rich source of nutrients, especially B vitamins, lactobacilli bacteria and digestive enzymes contributing to intestinal health.

Ogi, another acid-fermented food that is traditional in Nigeria, is served to sick and convalescent people because it can be easily digested because of its content of vitamins and protein. Medicinal qualities have been attributed by tradition to the Pulque, the fermented juice of Agave, consumed in Mexico, and it is consumed for many ailments including gastrointestinal disorders.

Fermented foods contribute to efficient digestion in three ways by:

  • breaking down foods to make digestion and assimilation easier.
  • providing enzymes to aid digestion.
  • supplying and nourishing the correct intestinal bacteria.

 What all cultured foods have in common is an abundance of lactic acid bacteria, yeasts, and moulds that produce enzymes which break down and alter the original foods.

In effect, these organisms predigest the foods, breaking down the complex proteins, carbohydrates and fats to more easily a
ssimilable amino acids, fatty acids and simple sugars, just like in the Flora Ferm process used to make FermPlus, S.E.L.F and Steph Sintons Probiotic Foods. This leads to more efficient assimilation and utilisation of these nutrients and a reduced burden on the digestive tract – perfect for everyone. The action of the culture organisms makes the minerals in cultured foods more readily available to the body. The bacteria also produce B vitamins, providing a significant increase to the level of these vitamins in many cultured foods.

Enzymes

Perhaps even more important is the effect of the actual bacteria and enzymes in cultured foods. There are more than 150,000 different types of enzymes in the human body and all functions of the body require them including neutralising toxins and downgrading hormones in the liver, removing waste products from cells, storing surplus nutrients in the liver and muscles and building minerals into nerves, bones and blood. The proteins, fats and carbohydrates in the food we eat must be broken down into simpler units to enable the body to absorb and utilise it. This is achieved by the action of specific enzymes.

Cultured foods are very rich in enzymes that are produced by the culture organisms and take part in the processes of fermentation. This means that eating cultured foods assists in the digestion of other foods by building up the enzyme supply. The more good bacteria in the gut, the more easily the body can produce enzymes.

Recent Findings and Suggested Benefits of Fermented Foods

Two of the more common forms of bacteria: the Lactobacillus Acidophilus and Bifido Bacterium, have been the focus of much research, along with the Bulgaricus form, originally discovered by Metchnikoff, and more recently the Casei form showing more digestive benefits. Together the activity of all these bacteria appear to play an important role in balancing the intestinal flora of the digestive tract, effective detoxification and contributing to good health overall.

Written by Don Chisholm

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8 comments on “Fermented Foods – full of nutrients and friendly bacteria

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    May 13, 2013

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      May 15, 2013

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    May 10, 2013

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