I meet people all the time who either tell me that they’re having problems with their gut/digestion and/or who exhibit phenotypic signs to that effect. Typically, if I get to talking with these people and they indicate that they’re looking for noncomplicated ways to make their digestive troubles go away, I recommend that they try eating traditionally fermented vegetables!
I let them know that that is something I believe could help them out, not just because I personally feel I’ve benefitted from including fermented veggies in my dietary repertoire, but also because I think it’s a sensible/logical way of going about treating a number of gut issues. I don’t make it sound like i’s a strategy that’s backed by a lot of hard-hitting scientific data (it isn’t, which may be explained by the fact that not many studies have looked into it) or that it’s a panacea (which it certianly isn’t, although one friend of mine actually told me that his mild-moderate gut issues almost completely went away after just a few servings of fermented veggies), but that if it’s done right, it may potentially have a signficant, positive impact.
Why all this fuss about fermented vegetables?
My regular encounters with people who have trouble with their digestive health reflect the fact that irritable bowel syndrome and other related conditions are extremely common in this day and age. Nutritionists and doctors hear gut-related complaints from patients all the time, not to mention all those people who are suffering in silence, in some instances having given up on the conventional medical apparatus.
To an evolution-oriented nutritionist such as myself, it’s not really surprising that so many guts are acting up these days. It’s simply what one would expect, given that we’re constantly exposing our internals to evolutionarily novel stimuli, such as in the form of broad-spectrum antimicrobial drugs, junk food, and whey protein shakes. Not to mention the fact that we’ve altered the way we give birth and feed our children and have distanced ourselves from the microbially rich natural environment in which we evolved.
By itself, a crock of fermented vegetables certainly won’t make all of these concerns go away; however, it may help alleviate the perilious situation we find ourselves in. Actually, I’d go as far as to say that traditionally fermented vegetables collectively represent one of the most powerful medicines that the modern man and woman have at their disposal, potentially capable of curbing the many microbiome-related diseases that run rampant in modern societies.
This helps explain why I’ve devoted so much time to and keep returning to and drawing attention to fermented vegetables. Not only have I talked about the therapeutic potential of sauerkraut, kimchi, and the like in many of the articles I’ve put up here on the site, but not so long ago, I crafted and spearheaded the first-ever clinical study on fermented vegetables and irritable bowel syndrome and published a comprehensive eBook entitled Heal Your Gut With Fermented Vegetables.
To people who’ve long been involved in the evolutionary health community, in which fermented foods have received a lot of attention, it may seem redundant to keep bringing up fermented vegetables, What’s important to remember though is that fermented vegetables aren’t on the radar of the average Joe or Jane. They’re more likely to buy some acidophilus milk at their local grocery store or a jar of probiotics at a health food store if they experience gut problems than to make and eat fermented vegetables, which is reflected by the fact that most of the people I’ve met who’ve told me they are less than happy with the workings of their gastrointestinal system hadn’t considered eating fermented veggies before I suggested it to them.
Another reason why I think it’s worth revisting this subject is that I’m of the belief that a lot of people who have already brought fermented vegetables into their diet have done so in a less than optimal manner. Many take in what I consider to be excessive amounts and therefore risk doing more harm than good to their gut.
The double-edged nature of fermented foods
There’s delicateness to the application of this type of nutritional therapy. As is the case for everything else that we subject our bodies to, the nature, quantity, duration, and frequency of the exposure matters… a lot. Too much of a good thing can certainly be a bad thing. When it comes to fermented vegetables, I’ve personally found this to be the case.
Furthermore, not everyone is going to benefit equally from the same exposure. I very much question the sensibility of across the board recommendations to consume a lot of fermented foods. Actually, I think people who don’t have any significant problems with their gut microbiota would be wise to limit their intake of ‘probiotic foods’, as I’m convinced that a high intake of probiotics is likely to adversely affect gut microbiota stability and composition. I primarily recommend fermented vegetables in the context of microbiome restoration.
Fermented vegetables as microbial medicine: A summary of what you need to know
So as to summarize my views on the utilization of fermented vegetables in the context of microbiome restoration, I recently created the infographic below. If you want more info, I suggest that you check out my eBook on fermented veggies, in which you’ll find more detailed information about everything that’s mentioned in the picture.