Before refrigeration was invented lacto-fermentation was the method used to preserve food. Humans reaped the benefits of this method by eating these foods and hosting the good bacteria. Lactic acid is a natural preservative that inhibits putrefying bacteria. Lactobacilli reside on the surface of vegetables and fruits and will convert the sugars and starches in these foods into lactic acid. Eating these naturally preserved foods aids the human digestive system in many ways. First and foremost, we are able to maintain large populations of beneficial bacteria in our gut simply by eating cultured foods. Most people who do this, will not require a probiotic supplement.
Beneficial Bacteria Live Symbiotically With Us
These bacteria form the mucosal layer of the human digestive tract. Most of the bacteria reside in the colon, but they do live in all the other parts of the digestive tract, although in lower numbers. There are literally trillions of cells of bacteria, fungi and yeast living in a balanced harmonic state in a healthy individual. There are actually more gut microflora in our intestines than there are cells in our bodies. That’s a lot! And they are very important to our health.
Gut Bacteria Have a Big Job
1- Beneficial bacteria provide enzymes which aid in digestion. Fermented foods are rich in enzymes that assist us in assimilating our food. As we age, the number of enzymes decrease, contributing to poor absorption of nutrients. Eating cultured foods rich in enzymes will contribute to longevity and are part of any anti-aging program.
2- Beneficial bacteria provide a protective barrier along the entire length of the digestive tract much like a thick layer of turf protecting top soil.
3- Beneficial bacteria provide antibiotic and antiviral substances for protection. Lactic acid bacteria enhance GI and systemic immunity in humans by:
- Increasing B cells which recognize foreign substance.
- Increasing phagocytic activity which works to destroy foreign matter.
- Increasing IgA, IgG, IgM and Secretory IgA which boast antibody activity.
- Increasing gamma interferon which supports white blood cells to fight infections and disease.
4- Lactic acid bacteria produce SCFA (short chain fatty acids) such as butyric acid and proprionic acid. Importantly, these organic acids lower the ph in the GI tract, making it more acidic which reduces the growth of pathogenic bacteria.
5- Beneficial bacteria nourish the enterocytes (cells of the lining the digestive tract) and are the primary source of energy for these cells. It is estimated that the gut cells receive 60-70% of their energy from bacterial activity.
6- Beneficial bacteria manufacture vitamins thus increasing vitamin content of the cultured foods.
7- Fermenting food increases the flavor. There’s a reason we like sauerkraut, yogurt, kefir, cultured cream and aged cheeses. It tastes good!
8- Fermenting food is inexpensive and it’s fun. There’s nothing fancy required for this hobby. And many of the foods required to make these recipes are very cheap.
9- Fermented foods restore the proper balance of bacteria in the gut. If you suffer from lactose intolerance, gluten intolerance, constipation, irritable bowel syndrome, yeast infections, allergies, or asthma, you may benefit from eating cultured foods. All of these conditions have been linked to an imbalance in the microbiome in the gut.
It is best to get the beneficial bacteria from foods because there will be a variety of different strains. The more diverse the strains, the better for balancing the gut bacteria colonies.
Join me in my 28 Day Probiotic Food Challenge starting Monday January 9, 2012.
I’m trying to incorporate more cultured and fermented foods in my diet. Each week I’ll introduce another fermented food with recipes, videos, and compelling facts and tips that will motivate and astonish you!