Digestive Health Benefits of Traditional Fermented Foods

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

Digestive Health Benefits of Traditional Fermented Foods

Learn about the many ways traditional fermented foods help digestion

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.

As we age, our production of the digestive juices and enzymes required for proper digestion begin to decrease. Eating foods like sauerkraut, buttermilk, and pickled vegetables can help make up for this loss. 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.

The concept of using naturally occurring "bugs" to eliminate harmful bacteria is an idea that seems to be finally catching on in the scientific community, although it's still baffling to me why conventional medicine hasn't been able to fully grasp or accept this concept. Obviously, the pharmaceutical companies stand to make a lot more money selling antibiotics and other medications than recommending a daily dose of fermented cabbage.

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

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