Most people are surprised to discover just how much the digestive tract impacts overall health. But in fact, it's usually the first place I start when clients come to me with just about any complaint.
Because so much of the immune system depends on the healthy bacteria in the gut, healing the digestive tract can resolve other problems, too. And one easy way to boost the health of your gut is by increasing your intake of fermented foods.
Fermented foods are probiotic powerhouses. They boost the healthy bacteria ratio in your digestive tract, which helps treat diseases like irritable bowel syndrome and leaky gut syndrome. They also boost your immune system and can actually promote happiness—they've even been found to help fight depression.
Ingredients are typically mixed with a salt-based starter and left to steep in their natural sugars and carbs in a controlled environment. In as little as a day, those sugars and carbs are converted into food for healthy probiotic bacteria.
The easiest way to dive into fermentation? Try out a home fermentation or culture starter kit. Here are a few easy options to get you started.
Made up of a range of live, active bacteria, this vegan yogurt can be made from non-dairy milks such as almond, coconut, rice, or hemp milk. It's a great way to kick-start your digestion for the day—just add a handful of berries and pumpkin seeds to the smooth, creamy yogurt to make a complete breakfast!
Kefir, a fermented milk beverage, offers a remarkable number of benefits, from helping the body digest lactose to supporting detoxification.
If you're dairy-free, you can get all the benefits of kefir from a water-based kefir. This starter kit creates a carbonated lacto-fermented beverage from sugar water, fruit juice, or coconut water. You can flavor this water kefir several different ways. Make it into lemonade simply by adding lemon juice, or a fizzy soda by adding any combination of fruits, or even mix it with herbal tea for a carbonated iced tea.
Desem bread is best described as the Danish version of organic whole-wheat sourdough—with a probiotic punch. Enjoy it with a smear of almond butter and raw honey, or spread with avocado and sprinkle with hemp seeds.
Though cheese is cultured, not fermented, this dairy product offers similar benefits to its fermented cousins. I don’t always support cheese in the diet because the conventional variety is often over-processed, full of hormones, and has an inflammatory effect. But creamy, delicious homemade cheese made with high quality ingredients is one indulgence I can never give up.
In addition, recent studies have linked cheese consumption with improved digestion and lowered cholesterol. Even more reason to get culturing today!
Photo credit: Paul Delmont