Fomenting Fermentation: An Ode To Following Your Gut

kimchilFermentation.hmmm. The word makes your mouth pucker, doesnt it? And I suppose that if you imbibe something that has been fermented long enough, itll make your brain pucker, too. I guess Ive always associated the word fermentation with other equally unpalatable, puckery words like pickled, sour, pungent, and soused - it all sounds, you know, spoiled.

But then again Id always thought all bacteria were bad guys. The notion of good bacteria always seemed like an oxymoron to me. Turns out the only moron in the room was yours truly.

Antibiotics work to kill bacteria that cause infections, but they can also kill off the bacterial flora - yep, the good guys we all need to be healthy. They can increase your chances of contracting an intestinal infection called Clostridium difficile, which can produce a toxin that causes diarrhea.

Proponents of probiotics hail them as the heroes of the bacterial world, ascribing to them the credit for undoing the damage done by antibiotics. Probiotics, they claim, stave off diarrhea and fortify the gut against other bacterial infections. Among the wider scientific and medical community, the jury is still out regarding their effectiveness.

Kimchi Comme a

A staple of most Korean diets, kimchi is a fermented red cabbage or radish dish made with garlic, salt, vinegar, chile peppers, and other spices. Its high-fiber, low-fat, and fabulous. Kimchi is loaded with vitamins A, B, and C and it loads your intestine with good lactobacilli. Enjoy it with dumplings, spring rolls, stews - anything. Everything tastes better with kimchi.

Sauerkraut is the German version of fermented cabbage. My initial thought: Whod eat a word that ugly unless you knew it was good for you? Turns out that, like kimchi, fermented sauerkraut is actually easy for you to make, and it makes digestion easier for you, too. Caraway seeds, salt [Pink Himalayan or unrefined sea salt], and shredded cabbage - no vinegar needed - and youre there. Of course, Im not talking about the processed stuff you can buy in most grocery stores. That stuff isnt fermented and has absolutely no nutritional or socially redeeming value; its just sauer.

No Way? Yes Whey!

Whey is a dairy-based protein. Lacto-fermentation happens when the sugars and starches in veggies and fruits are converted to lactic acid by those good bacteria. Strained from milk, kefir [a fermented milk drink derived from cows, goats, and sheep], yogurt, or buttermilk, whey is teeming with good bacteria. Look for recipes using whey with or without salt. For fermentation newbies, whey is way cool - easy to use, that is. But if youre lactose intolerant - no whey! Okay?

Kombucha! Gesundheit!

Purported to cure the common cold and prevent cancer, kombucha originated in China and migrated to Russia. What is this magic elixir? Tea! Sweetened black tea,

fermented by symbiotic culture of bacteria and yeast. The Chinese have known for 2000 years what many westerners are discovering - that kombucha detoxes livers, preserves knee cartilage, aids in digestion, and improves quality of life in general.

No Gut, No Glory

Your intestinal system is a 20 to 30-foot pathway to the good life - provided you keep it healthy. Clean it out, feed it well, and build it up with the microbes and other flora it needs to make you the strongest, healthiest, most vibrant person you can be.

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