From curing digestive issues to fighting off colds, improving skin conditions and increasing energy levels, the range of health benefits associated with fermented foods is as varied as the products themselves.
Whether it’s apple cider vinegar (ACV), sauerkraut, pickles, kombucha, kefir or even yoghurt, research and anecdotal evidence have both established these products as superfoods. Sceptics, on the other hand, wonder just how much difference they really make. Is it really possible to get so many health benefits from one product?
While some claims may be outlandish, and more research really is needed, the reality is that fermented foods do have the potential to support our health in many different ways because of how they are made.
When something is fermented – such as the apple juice for ACV or the cabbage for sauerkraut – it produces millions of different healthy bacteria. These bacteria, often referred to as “microflora”, are essential for our body’s functioning.
In fact, the microflora in our gut is so vast and so powerful that it is often referred to as our “second brain”. It’s involved in everyday bodily functions such as the breakdown of food, absorption of nutrients and circulation, as well as ongoing changes such as the building of muscle or healing of wounds. It’s also been linked to our emotional states.
With so many aspects of our health linked to microflora, anything that affects it has the potential to impact on our health in many different ways. And because fermented products contain prebiotics and probiotics that support our microflora, they can be used to treat a variety of conditions or to maintain overall wellbeing.
But it’s worth pointing out that fermented foods and drinks don’t always lead to overnight transformations or even significant changes. These products are often most effective when they are gradually added to your diet, so that your body has time to adjust. As such, the changes or improvements can take months to be noticed by you. It actually varies depending on the person, because everyone’s microflora and biochemistry is unique and reacts to fermented foods differently.
So if you’re just starting to get into the fermented food movement, keeping these details in mind will help you find the right balance for your diet. And if you’re already a fan, understanding the impact these products have on your entire body will help you keep track of all the benefits they bring to you.