Eating Fermented Foods to Boost Immunity


Our digestive system is made up of a hundred trillion bacteria. In fact, we are more bacteria than we are human! These bacteria essentially modulate our immune system and in order to keep our immune system strong, we need to keep our digestion strong.

The beneficial flora which make up our strong digestive system have many roles:

Protecting the integrity of the intestinal lining

Aiding in absorption of vitamins and minerals

Producing anti carcinogenic substances

Producing anti viral and anti fungal substances.

Manufacturing vitamins and enzymes

Detoxifying heavy metals

Unfortunately, due to environmental factors such as poor diet, environmental toxins, overuse of antibiotics or improper preparation of foods, many of us have created imbalances in our systems and suffer from maladies such as allergies, chemical sensitivities, chronic inflammation, yeast infections,  autoimmune diseases.

In order to regain our health, we must look to our guts.

While taking probiotics can be helpful in  re- establishing our  beneficial gut bacteria, it is a good idea to rotate probiotics so that you are getting a wide range of different bacteria.

An easy way to populate your gut with these organisms is to eat fermented foods. Fermented foods are created when the starch or carbohydrates in basic foods are broken down and changed by microorganisms into smaller, more digestible components.

Lacto fermentation is an age old method of preserving foods.

Each culture has it’s own signature fermented food.

Some examples of fermented foods include sauerkraut, kimchi, pickles, yogurt, kefir, kvass.

Fermentation serves several roles:

To preserve: The nutrients are preserved and you prevent the spoilage of perishable raw materials.

To enhance flavor: Fermentation brings about unique and tangy flavors- think cheese, wine, sauerkraut.

To salvage foods that would otherwise be wasted through an easy and inexpensive process.

Fermented foods also bring with them a host of additional benefits:

Easier Digestion: The presence of digestive enzymes break down and predigest the foods.

Increased nutrient availability :Fermentation  increases the bioavailability of beneficial nutrients- amino acids, minerals, vitamins B and C, and it has the ability to enhance the production of certain vitamins, particularly the B vitamins and Vitamin K2.

Curb Sugar Cravings: Adding sour  fermented foods to the diet can help curb those cravings for sugar.

It is easy to add fermented foods to the diet. Start slowly, adding approximately 1 teaspoon to 1 tablespoon of ferments as a condiment with your meals. Use varieties of sauerkraut to top fried eggs, stir into grains, use in salads, sandwiches and wraps or add a bit to a bowl of soup.

Eat small amounts of yogurt or drink small amounts of dairy kefir, water kefir or kombucha.

As with all things, moderation is always key. These foods are medicine and we should not go with the mentality that “more is better”.  Know that by adding small amounts of these foods into your diet, you are enhancing the beneficial bacteria in your gut.

It is also important to eat prebiotic foods which act as food for the probiotics in our system. Prebiotics are basically indigestible fibers that keep your probiotic bacteria thriving. Some prebiotic foods include Jerusalem artichoke, dandelion greens, garlic, onion, asparagus and banana.

By limiting processed foods and adding prebiotic and probiotic rich foods to your diet you will be on your way to better digestive health!

Annmarie Cantrell, MEd is a wellness educator and chef specializing in connecting people with their intuitions so that they can fully nourish themselves and heal.  She also has a small sauerkraut business and loves spreading the wonders of fermented foods.


Feed your gut!

Do you like sauerkraut?

Traditional sauerkraut made the traditional way with just cabbage and salt and no heat processing?

This method of preserving , known as lacto-fermentation provides enormous benefits! The process involves breaking down the cellulose of the vegetables (the salt helps to do that) so that beneficial bacteria can proliferate in the end product. The end product is teeming with beneficial probiotic bacteria, digestive enzymes and the vitamins present in the vegetables become more bio- available through the fermentation process.

With the development of refrigeration and pasteurization, our culture has lost this traditional method of preserving, and yet it is so easy!

Thankfully, it is making a comeback, as people are now understanding the importance of feeding our good bacteria for increased immunity.

Adding fermented foods to the diet is a great way to allow these protective critters to proliferate. The functions of our gut bacteria are so vast:

They produce enzymes that help us break down our food, they neutralize toxins in our system, the chelate (or carry out ) heavy metals, they are anti viral, anti biotic and anti fungal- really powerful, no??

Things that disrupt our gut bacteria include : processed foods, sugars, genetically engineered foods, stress, illness, antibiotic use.

Having fermented foods as part of your daily regimen is one way to ensure the health of these bacteria!

If you are not used to eating fermented foods, you will want to start slowly! And, honestly, they are meant to be eaten as condiments, not as side dishes!

Try some today and see how you like them!



5 pounds head cabbage, red or green or a combination of both
2-3 Tablespoons salt
Optional additions: Caraway seeds, juniper berries, any spice that you like
You may also add other vegetables like carrot, daikon, radish, beet, or apple (although this would not be a traditional kraut).
Either chop vegetables by hand or put through grater option of the food processor.
The more finely the vegetables are chopped, the more surface area present for the bacteria to infiltrate.
The vegetables will also ferment more quickly when chopped more thinly.
Place vegetables in a large bowl.
Sprinkle salt over and begin to massage salt into the vegetables.
You can either use your hand or a pounder to do this.
As you pound, you are breaking up the cell wall and allowing the liquid to be released.
This liquid will serve as your brine.
Pack vegetables into a clean jar and push them down so that there are no air bubbles.
Let vegetables sit on the counter (out of direct sunlight) for anywhere from 5 days to 3 weeks- taste it as time goes on and see how you like it!!

When it suits your taste, transfer to the refrigerator.
Consume within 8-10 months.

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