• Kylie

Why Your Gut Loves Fermented Foods

Updated: Sep 30, 2019

Plus 5 tips to Fermenting


Those butterflies in your stomach are one indication how your GUT can affect your mood and behaviour. We need to be paying attention to how we feed our gut ‘biome’ if we want good health. The vital gut-brain connection is the latest, most powerful phenomenon identified since Flemming’s discovery of penicillin and it’s exciting to see how much this new knowledge can help you can take back control of your own health.

We can assume our brain chemicals are only related to the brain. However, roughly 90% of serotonin, your happiness neurotransmitter, is housed and stored in the gut. Who knew the gut was the home of ‘happy’! The gut has a lot to communicate to your brain. In fact, is referred to as your second brain. There are 100 million neurons lining your esophagus all the way through your digestive tract and out your anus. Why is our gut the only organ in our body that needs its own “brain”? Is it only important for digestion? No! It seems this second brain is to communicate with the trillions of micro organisms that are living in our gut. These organisms that make up our gut ‘microbiome’ are living in a symbiotic relationship with us. We need to look after them because they are looking after us.

90% of the signals travel from the gut to the brain and the brain is interpreting the signals as emotions - are you hungry or satisfied? have you just eaten something that is causing inflammation? Is there a threat from a pathogen? or are you just plain stressed? All of these are registered and communicated from your gut. You really need to trust your gut.

70 to 80 percent of our immune system also is managed in our intestinal tract. When the organisms in our digestive system are out of balance, our immune health is affected. Fermented foods offer us the microbes we need to enhance and balance immunity, leading to an improvement in a multitude of immune conditions – such as allergies and autoimmune conditions.


Changes in the gut microbiome from stress, antibiotics, high sugar intake, or high toxic load from food and environment has been shown to negatively impact the brain. Your gut also creates the essential trophic factors for your brain to be able to adapt, change and grow. We need good gut health in order to think calmly and treat the disease in our bodies.

The ratio of good to ‘bad’ bacteria can be thrown out of whack and this is called dysbiosis. Artificial sweeteners and junk food leads to an overgrowth of harmful bacteria; the ones that cause disease and inflammation in the body. Stress and environmental toxins have also been linked with dysbiosis. But let us just have a closer look at the effect of antibiotics.

Did you know that taking one course of antibiotics increases your chances of depression by 25% and that 2-5 courses increases chances by 50%! The antibiotics are indiscriminately killing off the good and bad bacteria, leading to a possible dysbiosis. I look back at our own experience with one of my children. As a toddler, we were advised to have him on a low dose of antibiotics for 12 months until he could outgrow his urinary tract reflux. Knowing what science tells us now and looking at the huge problems he suffered in his digestive tract for many years after this, we would have sought a better solution. He ended up with severely compacted bowels and other concerns that I now believe were related to his dysbiosis.

Certainly antibiotics have their place. And if you must take antibiotics, probiotics should be used next. There is no use having probiotics at the same time as the course of antibiotics. The antibiotics will be killed by the probiotic and the antibiotics will attack the probiotic. They will cancel each other out. But topping up with probiotics afterwards is essential. The probiotic bacteria need to be in high concentrations and from a variety of species. A good probiotic might have 10 strains and huge numbers. Sauerkraut is a food source of probiotics. It has upwards of 700 different probiotics species and can be made with 3 ingredients on your counter.

From minor ailments to chronic disease, they can be traced back to an irritated and inflamed gut. Science has finally caught up to what Hippocrates wrote nearly 2500 years ago, “All disease begins in the gut.” Indeed, the latest research can affirm that the vast majority of modern health problems and diseases find their beginning in the gut.

Researchers are discovering that a healthy balance of bacteria in the gut can help manage obesity and boost our metabolism. Studies show that people who are overweight have a poorer diversity of gut bacteria. Fermented foods, from sauerkraut to miso, can help us improve our bacterial balance in the digestive tract.


Eating carefully prepared fermented foods is the way mankind has been eating for thousands of years. With the aid of refrigeration, we have lost the art fermenting and have stopped passing the important knowledge down to the next generation. But it means we have also lost the health benefits associated with it.

PRObiotics are bacteria with proven health benefits. They feed on fermented foods and unlock the health promoting nutrients in the PREbiotics (the plant fibre) = B vitamins, powerful antioxidants, healthy acids, reduced anti nutrients.

The nutrients in fermented foods are also more bioavailable meaning that the nutrients are more readily absorbed. Since the nutrients are pre-digested by (good) bacteria during the fermentation process, they are more easily taken up by our bodies. Fermentation kicks off the digestive process by releasing nutrients and breaking them down, so by the time we actually eat fermented foods, digestion is much easier. When digestion is easy, our bodies are able to absorb nutrients more readily.

Many grains, beans, nuts and seeds contain phytic acid, which interferes with our ability to absorb nutrients. Fermentation helps get rid of these anti-nutrients, which makes it easier for our bodies to access those vitamins and minerals. Soaking grains and activating nuts by soaking them neutralises phytic acids and are precursors to fermentation. These nuts and grains are now more nutrient dense than before.

Here is a List of some of the common Fermented Foods:

Sauerkraut, fermented cabbage from Germany

Tempeh, fermented soybeans from Indonesia

Kefir, fermented milk from former Soviet Union

Kombucha, fermented tea from China

Miso, fermented rice, barley or soybeans, fermented soybeans From Japan

Kimchi, fermented cabbage or radish from Korea

Sourdough, fermentation as the raising agent in bread, ancient Egypt

Tamari, fermented soy sauce without flour (gluten free)

Apple Cider Vinegar, fermented vinegar. Great to have in water before a meal (capful) in a shot glass or tea helps the digestive enzyme production. So does raw vegetables and that’s why a salad with dressing is a great start to a meal.

Nutritional Yeast Flakes, fermentation of beneficial yeasts. It is also widely regarded as a good source of B vitamins, including vitamin B12, another nutrient typically only found in animal foods. Perhaps best of all, nutritional yeast has a nutty, cheese-like flavor that can be used as a cheese substitute in recipes.

So let me leave you with this challenge. Try one of the fermented foods listed above this week. Or for an extra challenge, try making sauerkraut on your bench at home. You will be surprised how easy it is and how much zing it will add to your salads.

Recipe for Sauerkraut:

You need -

Half cabbage shredded

4 tsp sea salt (not iodized)

600ml glass jar

Directions -

In a large bowl massage in the salt and leave for 30 mins to 1 hour. Then massage vigorously to break down the leaves. Liquid, called brine, will develop. Take a handful of cabbage and squeeze over the bowl. The liquid should be collected in the bowl and you should cram the squeezed cabbage into the base of the jar. Pour reserved liquid on top. Place a stone or weight on top to keep veg submerged. You can also use an unsliced cabbage leaf, cut to the diameter of the jar, to push down any floaters. Screw lid on.

Leave sauerkraut to stand on the counter out of direct sun or in a cupboard for 3-14 days depending on how the taste is developing in the temperature. Be aware the the brine leaks out for the first week, so it is handy to have the jar on a tray to collect this. Test regularly for flavour. When you like how the flavour has developed, then store the sealed jar in the fridge. It will keep for a few months.

You can experiment with adding other flavour elements eg. 1 tsp mustard seeds, 1 tsp coriander seeds toasted, 1 tsp chilli flakes, garlic, 1 chopped onion. Enjoy!


1. Use unrefined sea salt at right amounts

too little and bad bacteria thrive, too much and good guys die off. 2.0-2.5% salt per cabbage is best. Bacteria that could be harmful to us can’t tolerate much salt, but there are healthy bacteria that can. Using too little salt can leave you open to moulds and bacteria. Using too much salt can inhibit the growth of the good bacteria and shifts the chemistry to salt-cured instead of fermented.

2. Cover your sauerkraut (or leave in darkness)

light destroys lactic acid bacteria. you’ll want to place your jar of sauerkraut in a dish in order to prevent this brine making a mess on your counter.

3. Keep the bottle closed for the first 5 days

It is an anaerobic process. Let it happen without opening the bottle which can open up the environment up to yeasts that thrive on oxygen. Leave unopened during the first 5 days of fermenting - After this, the fermentation environment is safer to open and taste test. Tasting is important.

4. Keep it at a comfortable room temperature

Temperature is important. If it is very hot weather the fermentation process will become faster. Colder, and you will need to allow the fermentation to take longer. Once again, tasting is essential. 18-22 degrees C is best.

5. Reuse the juice for your next batch

It’s full of the beneficial bacteria.


*In the 18th century, explorers like Captain Cook used sauerkraut to prevent scurvy during long sea voyages, bringing as much as 25,000 pounds of the Vitamin-C rich ferment along on voyages.

*Because cabbage requires only three months of growing time, one acre of cabbage will yield more edible vegetables than any other plant! That's good for your pocket and good for the planet!

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