It’s hard to keep up with all the research being done about the extreme benefits of fermented foods. Until recently, the general public was largely unaware of this ‘new food group’ however, every single traditional culture in the world has a long history of including fermented foods as part of their diets in order to sustain themselves. Unfortunately, our consumption of dead, refined and chemically-laden foods has replaced many of the life-giving foods our ancestors have known about for millennia.
Known to enhance digestion and provide nutrients that cannot be obtained anywhere else, fermented foods are teeming with millions of beneficial bacteria that can be game-changers for your health. Once you’ve consumed them and they make their way downward, finding a home along the lining of your intestinal tract to do their specialized work, these small-but-mighty bacteria act on and consume the food you’ve eaten, creating brand new compounds known as small-molecule metabolites. These substances are basically by-products of digestion but they can only be produced by our bacteria.
Here’s a great example. Flaxseed oil contains powerful phytonutrients known as lignans. When these lignans are exposed to gut bacteria, they are broken down into two very important byproducts: enterodiol and enterolactone. Both of these small-molecule metabolites play a significant role in reducing tumor growth in estrogen-sensitive cancers including breast and prostate cancer. But without sufficient gut bacteria, the cancer benefits of flaxseed oil would not be present. And that would be a tragedy!
So, existing in the ‘metabolic gap,’ between the food you eat and the bacteria living along your digestive tract, are incredible compounds that have been shown to confer tremendous health benefits to the host (you and me). Our bodies contain ten times more bacteria than human cells so it only seems appropriate that we would make a concerted effort to care for them well.
Returning to a diet rich in fermented foods – kefir, kimchi, kvass, miso, apple cider vinegar, and natto just to name a few, will most certainly result in improved health. You don’t need much – maybe just a tablespoon or two with your meals – in order to benefit from the action of your gut bacteria on the healthy food you eat!