One of the things that helped me understand health and nutrition was my understanding of fermentation. It started when I began to brew beer, but really expanded when I understood that our bodies rely on fermentation from GOOD bacteria (probiotics) for proper food digestion and health.
Fermentation is the way bacteria breaks down and digests food. When it comes to lacto fermentation we are referring to good friendly bacteria, also known as probiotics from the lactobacillus strains such as:
- Lactobacillus Acidophilus
- Lactobacillus Plantarum
- Lactobacillus Casei
- Lactbacillus Rhamnosus
- Lactobacillus Brevis
- Lactobacillus Salivarius
See, I used to think that eating was simply a matter of putting food in your mouth, chewing it until safe to gulp down and allow your stomach to take care of the rest…
It turns out, however, that once food goes past your stomach it ends up in your small intestines where bacteria ferments it. That means it finishes the job of breaking down food until the nutrients are small enough to be absorbed by the body.
Lacto fermented vegetables like pickles or cabbage (sauerkraut) are simply foods that go through this fermentation process before entering the body and this is key to understanding the benefits of lacto fermented foods.
The thing that stands out in lacto fermented foods is the creation of lactic acid during fermentation which gives these foods a nice tangy, sour flavor and mouthfeel.
Lacto Fermentation Benefits
The body is very similar to plants in the sense that the health you see on the outside is a direct reflection of the health inside. In plants, a good farmer doesn’t cover up the browning of leaves and holes in the leaves by adding pesticides and chemicals. They check to see that the roots are healthy and surrounded by good healthy bacteria, or probiotics. The good bacteria keeps the bad bacteria and pests from eating the plant!
The body is no different. Your gut flora… the good bacteria… the probiotics in your body are YOUR immune system! They keep bad bacteria and other things from eating you inside out!
As a home brewer and avid beer drinker, I was used to eating your typical brewpub foods such as pizza, hot wings, burgers… all with bacon, because bacon makes everything better!
Well, I used to think so…
… but now I understand why there are so many people trying so hard to get others to understand the term “Live Foods”.
From brewing beer I know that heating or boiling (pasteurizing) kills bacteria, both good and bad…
Never did I imagine that eating nothing but “dead food” eventually diminishes the population of good bacteria in your body and gives rise to bad bacteria in your body.
Although there are different methods to lacto fermentation, the most basic way of lacto fermenting food is simply adding salt water to the vegetables of your choice.
Good, unprocessed sea salt such as Celtic Sea Salt is filled with minerals which are essential for fermentation. Minerals + Water + Temperature get bacteria to “wake up” and release enzymes, which is what breaks down your food… in this case vegetables.
Now, if you think about it, our body is ~70% water. It is filled with minerals. It is no coincidence that THE BEST temperature to lacto ferment foods just happens to be the same as body temperature around 98 °F (37 °C).
In other words, your body is the perfect fermentation vessel!
This is why I don’t think lacto fermentation is simply a way to preserve food or a way to sour up food. It’s a way to ensure the population of good friendly gut bacteria in your body stays high and is not overtaken by bad bacteria.
I wish I could tell you more about the benefits of lacto fermented foods, but apparently that would get me in trouble so all I can say is that eating these types of foods and transitioning to a raw food diet has been the best decision I’ve made for my health.