How and in what form can fermented foods help us achieve the right balance?
Stuck on your tuffet? Is there really a right fermented whey? Here’s a riddle to start your day… What do natural food traditionalists and ‘pump you up’ body builders have in common with Little Miss Muffet (remember the childhood rhyme about the little lady eating her curds and ____ while sitting on the tuffet)? Besides the obvious – see infographic below — the answer is, yes, whey! But, just as we all have certain nutritional needs for our bodies and our lifestyles sometimes we make choices that throw our bodies out of whack resulting in uncomfortable digestive issues leaving us in search of today’s topic:
Decidedly, experts such as Dr. David Williams concur that if suffering from digestive issues then eating fermented foods high in lactic acid should provide relief. They work by helping balance our body’s stomach acid production, both if there is not enough or even too much. In addition, Dr. Williams touts fermented foods’ benefit of raised levels of acetylcholine, a neurotransmitter that sends a message to the bowel that it’s time to go… Need another reason? Apparently, these food types can fight disease. There was a study from the 1950’s that demonstrated that eating sauerkraut was effective at helping end a typhoid fever outbreak in Europe. Read more of these fascinating facts in Dr. Williams article referenced above.
The lactic acid bacteria world is somewhat complex. These microorganisms specific job is to produce lactic acid as an end product of fermenting carbs. As an aside, since the carbs are broken down or predigested, this results in less of a burden for the pancreas and helpful to those inflicted with diabetes. (Another useful fact from Dr. Williams – see above article reference). Some convert primarily into lactic acid and some change into a combination of lactic acid, carbon dioxide, acetic acid and ethyl alcohol. For today’s discussion we’re focusing on the bacterial strain L. acidiophilius from the soured milk products category involving ‘active cultures’ (and should actually say so according to Dr. Williams) we should be looking for when purchasing yogurt, and L. plantarum, another strain that increases acidic levels and is more associated with vegetable fermentation. If you want to learn a whole lot more about lactic acid bacteria check out these two articles Text Book of Bacteria and Bacterial Fermentation.
You can see from the infographic that the best digestive health fermented foods fall in several categories. The first one highlighted is dairy. There’s non-sugar added yogurt, low salt cottage cheese and two you might not be as familiar with — whey and kefir. The latter is actually yeast and bacteria in the form of rice clumps that when added to milk and are left to their own devices for 24 hours will ferment the sugars into the creamy product you end up drinking. Learn about Kefir here.
The dairy product whey is a little more complicated. In liquid form it’s the tart golden liquid the ancient Greeks referred to as “healing water” that’s left over after straining milk. Apparently, purists prefer to make their own using plain whole milk yogurt. They feel buying it in powdered form denatures it and leaves it unhealthy. Learn more about liquid whey . Under no circumstances should you use that argument with anyone who does body building. In protein powder form, whey is the ultimate sought after product and a whole industry has been built around it – just google it if you disagree. Whey protein digests fast, delivering amino acids to muscles and produces that pumped up look people in this industry crave. Learn about whey’s denaturing process here.
If the thought or the restriction of soured milk fermented foods is making your stomach churn, there are lots of choices in the non-dairy category too. Besides the old standby, sauerkraut, pickled cucumbers, beets, radishes, and onions also work well. You can also ferment tofu or some soybean based dishes from Japan – Natto and Miso, or Indonesia – Tempeh. Thanks Wikipedia!
Dr. Williams also recommends lactic acid yeast wafers to help when your body overly flushes out new organisms making things leave too fast.
Hopefully, whatever fermented food choice you make will help you restore some natural balance back to your body.
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