Examples of Traditional Fermented Foods that Boost Digestive Health

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Filed Under: Fermented Foods, Probiotics, Digestive Health
Last Reviewed 02/06/2014

Examples of Traditional Fermented Foods that Boost Digestive Health

Learn about the probiotic benefits of traditional fermented foods

If you have digestive problems, it will be almost impossible to permanently eliminate them unless you improve the balance between the beneficial bacteria and disease-causing bacteria that exist naturally in your digestive system. One of the most effective ways to do this is by eating foods that are high in beneficial bacteria called probiotics—specifically traditional fermented foods.

Traditional fermented foods are bursting with beneficial lactic acid bacteria, which are the friendly organisms responsible for the fermentation process in the first place. Lactic acid bacteria are what naturally make milk products go sour and vegetables ferment.

Sour milk products have been part of our ancestors' diets ever since the collecting of milk from animals began. Lactic acid–fermented foods have also been dietary staples for thousands of years. Early writings show that Chinese workers ate acid-fermented vegetables while building the Great Wall of China. The Japanese have routinely served a small serving of pickled vegetable with their meals. Centuries ago, the Koreans developed kimchi by acid-fermenting cabbage and other vegetables.

In fact, lactic acid-fermented cabbage has been revered as one of the most beneficial healing agents since early humans.

Before Christ, the Greeks wrote about the health benefits of fermented cabbage. The Romans used sauerkraut to treat and prevent intestinal infections. Captain Cook used sauerkraut and lime juice to prevent scurvy on his three-year journey around the world. Throughout Europe, Russia, and the Balkans, sauerkraut and other lactic acid-fermented foods (kefir, yogurt, buttermilk, kapusta, kvass, borscht, etc.) have become entrenched in the diet after centuries of use. Many African cultures still routinely use lactic acid-fermentation as a way of preserving gruels made from corn and sorghum. Even the people of India use a food paste made from the juice of sauerkraut. (Discover a great recipe for homemade sauerkraut.)

The Disappearance of Traditional Fermented Foods

In the last 100 years, most traditional fermented foods have practically been eliminated from our diet. In this country, about the only fermented food we continue to eat with any regularity is pickles made from fermented cucumbers. But commercial pickles are made using vinegar instead of just salt and water—and then they are pasteurized, which kills all the lactic acid bacteria. This process, in effect, renders the product nearly useless when it comes to improving health. This fact should be fairly evident when you consider the 35 million people in this country alone who suffer from irritable bowel syndrome, and the millions more who suffer from ulcers, indigestion, recurring vaginal infections, chronic constipation or diarrhea, and dozens of other related health problems.

More Dr. Williams Advice on Digestive Health and Traditional Fermented Foods

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