Fermented foods – what are they and why are they good for us?


As we go about our daily life, our body is silently working to digest the food that we put into our bodies.  This is a naturally occurring process but as we get older, our ability to digest food with ease decreases as we produce less digestive juices and enzymes. This where fermented foods come in…

There are four important health benefits of traditional fermented foods that clearly explain why they are so crucial to optimal digestive health:

Benefit #1: Traditional fermented foods help balance the production of stomach acid. Fermented foods have the unique ability to ease digestive discomfort related to having either too much or too little stomach acid. When the production of hydrochloric acid by the stomach is low, fermented foods help increase the acidity of gastric juices. On the other hand, when the stomach produces too much acid, fermented foods help protect the stomach and intestinal lining.

Eating foods like sauerkraut, buttermilk, and pickled vegetables can help make up for the loss of digestive juices and enzymes caused by aging. The key is to eat a small portion of traditional fermented foods on a very regular basis. Once or twice daily with meals is best.

Benefit #2: Traditional fermented foods help the body produce acetylcholine. Acetylcholine is a neurotransmitter. In simple terms, it facilitates the transmission of nerve impulses. In practical terms, it helps increase the movement of the bowel, and can alleviate constipation problems. It also helps improve the release of digestive juices and enzymes from the stomach, the pancreas, and the gallbladder. So by helping your body produce acetylcholine, fermented foods act as potent digestive aids.

Benefit #3: Traditional fermented foods are beneficial for people with diabetes. In addition to improving pancreatic function, which is of great benefit to diabetics, the carbohydrates in lactic acid–fermented foods have been broken down or “pre-digested.” As a result, they do not place an extra burden on the pancreas, unlike ordinary carbohydrates.

Benefit #4: Traditional fermented foods produce numerous unknown compounds that destroy and inhibit the growth of pathogenic bacteria. Many pathogenic forms of bacteria are sensitive to acidic environments. This is true of both cholera and typhoid. In the early 1950s, during an epidemic of typhoid fever in Europe, reports emerged showing that fresh sauerkraut was an effective agent for killing the bacteria. More recently, German scientists were working with a strain of lactic acid bacteria found in sourdough bread, and discovered that it seemed to be more effective than other strains at killing microbes. In early lab results, it quickly eliminated the super-bugs currently resistant to most antibiotics.

So what are traditional fermented foods?

Yogurt – Yogurt has been used for centuries to cure bowel troubles and diarrhea. In addition, regular yogurt (not the low-fat kind) contains the hormone-like substance called prostaglandin E2, which can prevent ulcers. But the type of yogurt you eat makes a difference. To make sure you choose the right one:

  • Be sure the label says the product has “active cultures.” Some companies pasteurize the product after it’s been made, and this kills off the remaining beneficial bacteria, making it useless.
  • Look for products made from L.acidophilus bacteria cultures. They will have the greatest benefits. Most yogurts are now made using L.bulgricus or streptoccus thermophilus.
  • Avoid yogurts containing sugar (usually the yogurts with fruit are loaded with sugar).
  • Add your own fruit. Bananas give yogurt a sweet taste and counteract the sourness.

Cottage Cheese – The traditional fermented food cottage cheese is an excellent source of protein, calcium, and to a lesser degree, beneficial bacteria. Again, look for low salt products.

Non-Dairy Fermented Foods – If you have a bacteria imbalance in the bowels but can’t handle soured milk products, try some of these other traditional fermented foods:

  • Sauerkraut
  • Pickled cucumbers
  • Pickled garlic
  • Pickled beets
  • Pickled radish
  • Pickled corn relish
  • Korean kimchi
  • Natto
  • Miso
  • Tempeh
  • Soy sauce
  • Fermented tofu
  • Naturally fermented and unpasteurized beers


Information extracted from www.drdavidwilliams.com – a medical researcher, biochemist and chiropractor who has developed a reputation as one of the world’s leading authorities on natural healing.