One of my absolute favorite things about summer is all the fresh produce, and fermenting the extra vegetables for later. I love visiting the farmer’s market in my town and the little local farms who set up stands along the country road to buy blueberries, tomatoes, and green veggies. It reminds me of my childhood back in New Zealand. There is NOTHING like fresh produce in the summer.
My young friend, Mercy, who takes great care of little Zuzu when I travel has grown a huge veggie garden this year. I heard she had some yummy nasturtiums, arugula flowers, and one of my fav herbs, sorrel. I bet her salads are very tasty!
Kudos to Mercy!
I know a lot of you have your own vegetable gardens in the summer. I also know that many of you can your veggies to have over the winter. What I’d like to suggest is that you start fermenting some of your vegetables. Eating fermented vegetables is one of the best things you can do for your health.
Your Gut Health and the Link to Disease
Hippocrates, as you may know, is considered the father of medicine. He is most famous for saying, “Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food.” But did you also know that he suggested all disease begins in the gut? This was over 2,000 years ago! Science is only now starting to realize he was right.
Did you know 80% of your immune system is located in your gut? If your gut isn’t healthy, you aren’t healthy – period. Also, when your gut is unhealthy, the lining becomes compromised, and you develop what’s called “leaky gut.” According to many studies, undesirable bacteria end products called endotoxins can then leak through your gut lining into your bloodstream. Your immune system then recognizes these endotoxins as foreign invaders and attacks them via chronic inflammation.
If you’ve been part of my community for some time, you know I’ve talked about the fact that chronic inflammation is the root cause of most diseases. A growing body of research is also now suggesting that changes in your gastrointestinal tract may affect the brain through two-way communication known as the gut-brain axis. Scientists already found that Parkinson’s disease may, in fact, start in the gut. Data also now indicates that the health of your gut microbiome – that means all the bacteria that live there – can be linked to everything from mental health conditions to motor neurone disease.
So Hippocrates was right all along. If you want to prevent and reverse chronic diseases like cancer, you’ve got to ensure your gut is healthy. And eating a diet rich in probiotic foods (probiotics are the good bacteria, and your gut needs plenty of them) is one of the best ways to do that!
How Your Gut Becomes Unhealthy
Most of us are born with healthy starter microbiomes given to us from our mothers. As infants, we put plenty of things into our mouth, all of them laden with bacteria, and our microbiome becomes stronger and stronger.
So what happens? Why do many of us as adults develop unhealthy and even leaky guts? Well, there are a few different things that negatively impact the health of our gut’s microbiome:
A diet of processed foods that is high in sugars and trans fats is one of the number one killers of the healthy bacteria in your gut.
At one time or another, most of us have been put on a course or two of antibiotics to help with an infection. Many of us have to take antibiotics before undergoing dental surgery. Obviously, antibiotics not only kill bad bacteria but also good bacteria. But not many people bother to repopulate their guts with probiotics after they’ve completed their course of antibiotics.
A study from Oregon State University called Stress and Stability: Applying the Anna Karenina Principle to Animal Microbiomes, found that when someone is under stress, their gut microbiome becomes discombobulated and becomes erratic.
Excessive use of vitamin supplementation can also cause havoc with your gut. If you are having gut issues stop your supplements for a week and see how you feel. Your gut may need a break.
So as you can see, there are many things that can disrupt the health of your gut. Your gut is your second brain. To ensure you always have a healthy gut microbiome, it’s important to eat plenty of probiotic foods, and fermented vegetables are the best and most delicious ways!
Why Ferment Vegetables?
Our ancestors most likely didn’t understand how beneficial fermenting their food was. They simply came up with the technique as a way of preserving food past its “fresh” life. No refrigeration meant food spoiled quickly.
Sadly, modern conveniences of refrigeration and global shipping of year-round harvested crops have caused the process of fermentation to fall by the wayside.
So we’ve already established that fermenting foods is great for your overall health. But there are some other reasons to start fermenting your summer veggies:
It’s Really Simple and Fun
Honestly, the “hardest” part of fermenting vegetables is washing and slicing, dicing up your veggies in preparation. After that, you mix a few ingredients and let nature take its course. Fermentation can take anywhere from 3 days to 6 months, and only a little simple maintenance is needed during this time to ensure everything stays clean. And, if you like science, it’s also a really fun to learn and experiment.
You Save Money
Fermenting Vegetables in and of itself a cheap process as no special equipment or electricity is needed. As a bonus, you also save money on medical bills or expensive probiotic supplements.
How to Get Started
We fermenters have our own different things that we do, but there are the basics that you need to learn, and those basics are easy to do. Here is a great website dedicated to the tradition of fermenting foods. They have a great write-up about how to get started with fermenting.
Dave and I have been fermenting vegetables for years, and I know firsthand how amazing it has been for our health. I strongly encourage you to try it!