Fermented Foods and “Good Guys” vs. “Bad Bugs”

Two baby's bottles

Back in the game today,

I wanted to talk a little about fermented foods.  No, i do not mean the bottled beer, sauerkraut, and cheese that line the shelves in supermarkets.  I mean traditional food preservation techniques that have been around for thousands of years.  Almost all traditional cultures did this as a way of preserving food.  All you really need is vegetables or milk, water, and salt.  There are probably an unlimited number of ways to do this.  Some of the most common ferments around the world include sauerkraut, raw milk kefir (favorite), yogurt, salsa, miso, kimchi, and kombucha.  There are several benefits to eating fermented foods.  I’m sure you have heard the hype around “probiotics” and terms like “friendly bacteria.”  A lot of people seem to forget that we have always lived among bacteria.  They are in the dirt, they are on your skin, they are in the air.  You cannot avoid bacteria.  I don’t care how many bottles of “hand sanitizer” you use, it’s not going to rid you of bacteria.  People need to stop seeing them as the enemy.  Throughout history, our digestive tracts have been lined with this “friendly bacteria.”  People don’t like to think about this but it’s just how our bodies operate.  It’s a symbiotic relationship.  So what happens when you add the modern interventions of antibiotics, bottle feeding children, birth control pills, Tylenol, alcohol, medications, greasy fast food, and Starbucks into the mix?  You end up damaging this inner terrain.  Most of your immune system is in your digestive tract.  So what happens in a lot of cases is that the “bad bacteria” overpopulate because we wipe out the good with our lifestyle.  Some people in my generation were primarily bottle fed.  What they don’t say is that “bottle-feeding” does not implant the friendly bacteria into the childs digestive tract the same way that mother’s milk does.  So all of these cascading effects cause problems which ends up with an overgrowth of “bad bugs” in the system that are not supposed to be there.  So what options do we have?  There are 3 main things we can do to clean up our inner environment.

1. We need to clean up the diet.  Bugs thrive on sugar and processed foods.  Sugar has been shown to inhibit immune function for hours.  Eat a diet primarily based on whole foods that is low in sugar and drink plenty of good water.  Of course exercise, sleep, sunlight and fresh air are all important as well.

2. We need to start replacing the “good bacteria” that we have lost over the years or never had to begin with.  This is where fermented foods come in.  Fermented foods are carefully crafted to contain millions of these organisms.  This is only true of “living” ferments that you make at home.  Bottled sauerkraut, pasteurized yogurt, bottled beer, anything that has been heat-treated or pasteurized to make it shelf-stable is a DEAD food.  There are no living organisms in there.  So create a few of these and include them with some meals here and there to start replacing the good guys.

3.  If you are still having problems after cleaning up the diet and adding fermented foods there are certain foods/herbs you can use to help wipe out the bad guys.  These foods off the top of my head would include raw garlic, coconut oil, fresh herbs such as cinnamon, thyme, oregano, pau’d arco tea.  There are some others if you have a really bad problem but they are very strong and, in my opinion, usually not necessary.

These are the main ideas behind eating fermented foods.  People have been doing it for a VERY long time.  We are the first society that does not eat these types of foods.  We are also the society that has the most people who are run-down, fatigued, immune-suppressed, and digestively disturbed.  Let’s get our systems straightened out and back in fighting shape eh?  Let me know if you guys want a post on recipes for some of these.  I know it can be a little daunting the first time around.