Finished raw milk kefir, ready for the fridge.
You may or may not have heard all the fuss about fermented foods. And you may or may not have starting fermenting at your house. But either way, it's something which you may want to follow.
Why? Because unlike many of the health fads, fermenting is…well, not a fad. It's been around from the beginning of time, not just to break down waste into compost, but to break down FOOD into more absorbable, nutritious, and tasty eats. In every culture, you have mums intentionally fermenting foods and feeding it to young and old alike. Some may not call it fermenting, or may not know a thing about lactic acid or good bacteria, but they are doing it none-the-less: kimchi, sauerkraut, kefir, salami, pickles, kombucha, yogurt, cheese, wine, tamari, miso, tempeh, natto, sourdough.
So you probably HAVE heard of probiotics. Good bacteria, normally found in the gut of every living mammal, which keep the immune system healthy but not over-reacting, stabilize mood, keep us regular, create vitamins like folate and B12, speak to the brain in many chemical ways to keep us thinking clearly, and detoxify a lot of nasty stuff, including some of the pesticides and chemicals and heavy metals we eat (oops). This is not an exhaustive list. There's a TON of research done on these good little microbes. Like, upwards of 29,000 studies come up on PubMed just by searching “lactobacillus.”
We know that:
- We have more bacteria in our guts than cells in our bodies (10 to 1, in fact).
- Our first bacteria comes from our mother at birth and is necessary to the development of our immune system after birth (Yay, Mom!).
- Unless we were born by C-section, then our bacteria may come from mom, or probably from bacteria in the hospital (um, ok).
- In which case, we are at greater risk for developing asthma, allergies, and gastroenteritis (oh dear!).
- But, we continue to get doses of the healthy bacteria at each feeding of breastmilk (yay for Mom again, and yay for the back-up plan!).
You can buy probiotics in many different combinations of strains, quantities, and delivery methods. Which I have done regularly for over a decade, and I'm grateful for the availability of these specific strains (because sometimes, it's good to troubleshoot with specifics). But, I've found the most help over the years by the foods that are packed with good bacteria, so I'm cranking up my ferments. Raw milk kefir is an every-week staple here, but this week I'm excited to try a watermelon juice, a Daikon radish ferment, and a Jun variety of kombucha.
I'm following a fermenting expert I'm lucky enough to know as a friend: Jane Casey of Jane Casey's Kitchen. She's amazing, fun, and has an amazing true story of twin sons who were profoundly autistic, but now aren't. At all. Because of ferments.
I'm learning a ton (like: using ingestable essential oils to promote fermentation…wha??). Best tip of the week: use folded fresh grape leaves to keep the veggies all submerged (this is like the main rule of fermenting veggies: keep them under the brine so they don't mold). I will keep you posted, because we have a special project coming for these classes, live and local.
Do you ferment? What's on your counter now?
And for those who want to geek out with me, here are a few interesting studies on the benefits of probiotics which I stumbled across on PubMed. Not that the other 29,000 aren't interesting too…
This study links good gut bacteria (L. Reuteri in this case), with immune regulation and folate metabolism. So all you MTHFR people (I'm one too) can go crazy about that. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/27353144
This study notes the protective effect of friendly bacteria against bladder infections in pre-and-post-menopausal women (different strains are more effective for pre- or post- menopausal). http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/27092529
Probiotics in critically ill children: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/27081478
This study showed that stressed mice had changes to their gut microflora, specifically reduced L. Reuteri. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25028050