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In todays world of fast food and high sugar/ refined carbohydrate intake, our friendly gut bacteria is out of balance to the not so friendly gut bacteria, so instead of 85% good to 15% bad, we are living with the ratio reversed and are battling so many digestive problems from birth on. Here is some great information from Kathryn Alexanders book : Dietry healing and Detoxification.

Different groups of Enzymes are responsible for our digestion and help break down our food for absorption.  Three different parts of the digestive tract have different pH levels ~ the stomach – acid, the small intestine -alkaline, the large intestine – acid.  The digestibility of foods is increased when they have been fermented, such as Kefir, yoghurt, lacto-fermented vegetables and fish, chutneys and relishes. Indigestible starches and proteins are broken down by bacterial or yeast enzymes and our own digestive enzyme bank is supplemented.

* Fermented foods : Convert insoluble starches to sugars

Starts the digestion of proteins

Provides additional enzyme support for digestion

Converts sugars to sugar acids

De-activates Enzyme inhibitors such as Phytic Acid and Tannins

Many cultures around the world use natural fermentation to preserve fruits and vegetables such as Chutneys, pickled veggies and fermented apple cider, orangina, and the famous Beet Kvass.  As we colonise our gastro-intestinal tract with friendly bacteria we cut down the pathogenic and parasitic bacteria which can cause havoc with our health.  When grains are slow fermented (sour dough), and no yeast has been used, the process neutralizes phytates – which are enzyme inhibitors and nutrient blockers, allowing us to absorb larger amounts of vitamins and minerals from nuts, grains and seeds.  Gluten and other difficult to digest proteins are partially broken down into simpler compounds which then become more readily available for absorption. By using Kefir, whey or yoghurt to naturally ferment grains, helps break down complex starches and tannins too.

In Europe the principle lacto-fermented food is Sauerkraut. In ancient Roman texts the sauerkraut was a prized food, not just for taste but for its medicinal properties. In Russia and Poland pickled green tomatoes, peppers and lettuce is very popular. Japan, China and Korea make pickled turnip,eggplant and cucumber and Korea is well known for Kimchi, so although these cultures consume cooked food, they know that by adding fermented condiments helps their own enzyme cache and helps to digest food and colonise their intestinal flora with beneficial bacteria.

In the Western culture we only tend to eat one form of fermented food – yoghurt, but there is an abundance of creations of foods that may be used using lacto-fermentation.  And not only do they improve our health but they whack a punch in flavour too.

Happy Fermenting! Happy Bugs!