Eating Fermenting 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.