About a decade ago I started to realise that microbiome disruption is a root cause of a plethora of diseases and health problems. This triggered me to start looking for ways to restore the human microbiome, which I discovered had recently been severely damaged by various human activities. We humans are very “good” at breaking down ecosystems. Unfortunately, we’re not as proficient at building them back up again. It’s very easy to destroy a healthy gut microbiota. It’s a lot more difficult to create one. This was particularly true prior to the time when the research on the human microbiome took off and fecal microbiota transplantation hadn’t yet been brought into clinical medical practice; however, it’s still very much a valid statement today.
On my journey into the land of the microbiome I eventually came across fermented vegetables, which I over time came to realise have some unique properties that separate them from other fermented foods and make them particularly interesting in the context of microbiome restoration. In the years that have passed since then, I’ve spent quite a bit of time reading and thinking about the pros and cons of using fermented vegetables in the treatment of gut dysbiosis and experimenting with different treatment protocols (I’ve come to realise that less is usually more when it comes to the dosage of fermented vegetables that is optimal with respects to microbiome restoration). Moreover, last year, I conducted the first-ever clinical research study on fermented vegetables and irritable bowel syndrome.
Very recently, I compiled much of this knowledge and experience into an eBook that I made available for sale here on Darwinian-Medicine.com. In today’s article, I thought I’d share a small segment from that eBook entitled The Therapeutic Potential of Fermented Vegetables. If you haven’t yet grabbed a copy of the full eBook, but feel like doing so after reading this piece, then you have that option at the bottom of the article.
Here’s the segment…
Fruits and vegetables are not just a source of vitamins, minerals, protein, and the like; they are also a source of bacteria. We’ve co-evolved alongside plant-associated microbial communities, which have contributed microbial diversity to the human microbiota. Over time, we’ve come to depend on a variety of different microbes to function correctly, some of which can be found on the surface of plants.
Fermented vegetables can help mend the now-troubled relationship between man and microbes by infusing friendly bacteria into the human gut. By utilizing the bacteria that are already present on the surfaces of vegetables, one can make delicious ferments that are not only packed with “good” bacteria, but also with a variety of phytochemicals and nutritional compounds. During the fermentation process, the bacteria break down the sugars found in the vegetables, which they utilize in their lactic acid-yielding metabolic processes.
Traditionally, fermentation was used to preserve food. Today, most of us have freezers and refrigerators and don’t harvest our own food; hence, we don’t have to ferment foods. That doesn’t mean we can’t benefit from doing it though.
If your gut is healthy, then you don’t necessarily have to make or eat fermented foods. If it’s not healthy, however, you should strongly consider doing so.
Most vegetables can be successfully fermented. In other words, it’s possible to make many different varieties of fermented vegetables. Not only that, but by tweaking around with variables such as fermentation time, salt content, and temperature, one can change the microbiota composition, nutritional profile, and taste of one’s ferments. This, in combination with the fact that fermented vegetables contain unique, diverse mixes of bacteria, is why you should strongly consider making and eating sauerkraut, kimchi, and the like.