There's nothing worse than throwing away a week's worth of produce due to spoilage. Instead of letting your wholesome, natural foods – and money – go to waste, it's time to consider the art of fermentation! Preserving your foods doesn't only lengthen their shelf life – it also makes them even more nutritious. Last week, our special guest Wendy Jackson, vice president and chief operating officer at Perfect Pickler, Inc., talked to us about how fermentation helps support the growth of good bacteria and discourages the growth of bad bacteria in the gut, and how simple and powerful the process can truly be.
Finding the Proper Balance of Gut Bacteria
You know that your gut promotes proper digestion, but that's not its only responsibility. A healthy gut is the foundation of overall wellness. It strengthens the immune system, boosts metabolism and regulates brain chemistry. Therefore, it's important to grasp an understanding of good and bad bacteria existing in your gut. According to Jackson, a healthy balance in the gut should be about 85 percent good bacteria and 15 percent bad. When the balance is right, your immune and digestive system works properly.
Unfortunately, there are many harmful factors that kill good bacteria and force bad bacteria to take over. Those include:
- Consuming junk food/limited access to nutritious food.
- Improper chewing.
- Eating under stress.
- Poor food combination choices.
- Antibacterial products.
- Air and water pollution.
But prioritizing gut health for yourself doesn't only impact your wellbeing. Take this scenario into consideration: A man with abnormal gut flora can pass the bad bacteria to the female during intercourse. If a woman with an imbalanced gut becomes pregnant, she's going to pass on the harmful bacteria to the child during birth. During the breastfeeding process, the mother keeps transferring these toxins to the baby. As the child grows abnormal gut bacteria, issues surface and can get worse with each generation. Ear infections, chronic constipation and behavior issues are mild problems for the first generation, but each generation to follow may develop:
- GI tract issues.
- Learning disabilities.
- Higher spectrum autism.
- Neuorological problems.
- Anxiety and depression.
That's why it's so important for everyone to have good gut flora. As you've learned, there are uncontrollable factors that give bad bacteria the power to take over, such as air and water pollution, but making healthy lifestyle choices can counter these circumstances and get your gut back in balance. One of the most important choices you can make to regulate your gut is removing the junk food from your diet. Once you've eliminated the harmful foods from your diet, you can join the fermentation revolution!
How beneficial is fermentation?
The process of fermentation powers up produce, making it even more beneficial and nutritious than in its raw state. There are four key ingredients for fermenting your produce: Water, salt, temperature and the elimination of oxygen.
Beneficial bacteria already exist on the skin of vegetables. When we place the plants in a mixture of water and salt, control the temperature and create an air-tight seal, it draws the liquid out of them, which is full of complex carbohydrates. The beneficial bacteria thrive on these carbohydrates and the minerals from the salt.
Since the beneficial bacteria do not have a digestive system, they create enzymes to digest the carbohydrates and minerals from the brine. As long as the temperature ranges between 70 and 74 degrees – the best temperature for fermentation – the good bacteria will multiple at a rapid rate.
As the good bacteria multiple, the pH levels go down. Once the pH levels are below 4.7, spoilage organisms cannot survive – only the thriving ones will exist.
Now that you understand the fermentation process and its ability to multiply good bacteria, let's take a closer look at the benefits fermented foods provide:
- They produce complex vitamins such as vitamin K, Niacin, B6, folic acid, biotin and B12.
- They make existing vitamins more absorbable.
- They have a harmonizing effect on the stomach, strengthening the acidity of gastric juice.
- They produce antibiotic, antitumor and antifungal substances.
- They're great at helping with weight control.
- They produce an alkalizing effect on the body and regulate pH levels within the body.
As you continue to lead a long, fulfilling life, it's vital to fuel your gut with good bacteria. Removing processed foods, sugars and preservatives from your diet, as well as limiting your exposure to chemicals and antibacterial products is key. Eating a plant-based diet rich in fiber provides food for beneficial bacteria. But you can do much more. By fermenting and consuming at least 1/4 cup of your produce each day, you can rebuild the proper balance of gut flora and fuel overall wellbeing.
"Nothing has a more significant impact on your overall health than restoring your gut health," Jackson said. "It's foundational!"
If you're ready to start your journey with fermentation, check out the Perfect Pickler™ Mason Jar Kit.