fermented foods

Fermented Foods and Gut Health with Dr. Carolyn Griffin

In this episode of The Functional Medicine Radio Show, Dr. Carri’s special guest Dr. Carolyn Griffin explains the link between fermented foods and gut health.

Dr. Carolyn Griffin is a chiropractor and Certified Fermentationist.  She created My Cultured Life which is a learning source to teach people how to make fermented foods and beverages on their own.  This is where she shares what’s brewing in her kitchen and easy ways for you to do the same.  Fermented foods and beverages are the best way to get your daily dose of a variety of healthy probiotics.

Main Questions Asked about Fermented Foods:

  • What is fermentation?
  • Why is it making a comeback?
  • Why should we be eating fermented foods?
  • What’s the difference between probiotic supplements and fermented foods?
  • What are some examples of fermented food?
  • What’s the difference between making your own and buying it at the store?
  • How do you make your own kefir or kombucha?

Key Points made by Dr. Griffin about Fermented Foods:

  • Fermentation has been around for thousands of years and is only recently making a comeback. It’s a natural process of preserving food.
  • When food is exposed to bacteria and yeast, the microorganisms convert the sugars to lactic acid creating an acidic environment in which fools will not rot or spoil.
  • I think people are reaching for more information and realizing that they need to be their own health advocate. And, fermentation is a healthy way of getting probiotics into your system, which is going to help your gut heal.
  • We already know that 70% of your immune system is in your gut, so if you’re eating foods that are going to healthier for you, and you start to heal that, a lot of other conditions that people may be suffering with are going to resolve.
  • I’m not 100% against probiotic supplements. I just think there is a difference between them and fermented foods. Probiotics are live bacteria.  A lot of time in the process of isolating the bacteria to put them in a capsule, a lot die.
  • Because they’re live organisms, the best source is going to be from fermented foods that you create.
  • Sauerkraut for example is loaded with probiotics, bacteria, enzymes, vitamins, all kinds of things.
  • When you’re talking about a supplement, a lot can go wrong. You really need to learn to read labels.  So, there’s more of a question mark about a probiotic supplement versus a fermented food.
  • Research is now showing that the more diverse the bacteria that live in us, the better. We’re finding that people in third world countries don’t have the same health issues that we do; for example, there’s not a lot of auto-immune disease.
  • One of the reasons is the diversity. We, in Western civilization, tend to live in a very sterilized environment.  Dirt, dust and dander are our friends, but we tend to eliminate all of this, and it’s causing a lot of issues for us.
  • We take 50% of the medications on the market, yet we’re the 37th healthiest country, at least in the U.S. so we’re not very healthy; a lot of it has to do with our lifestyle and what we’re doing to our gut.
  • Kefir is one example of a fermented food. It’s a fermented milk product that has the consistency of drinkable yogurt.  It’s loaded with probiotics, 36-50 different strains compared to the 7-10 strains you might find in yogurt.
  • The main difference between yogurt and kefir, is where we know yogurt will feed the good bacteria that’s already in your gut, kefir will actually colonize the gut.
  • It’s 99% lactose-free, so people who are lactose intolerant can actually benefit from it.
  • Kombucha is another, it’s a fermented tea. What’s really cool about kombucha is that it contains a yeast that is antibiotic-resistant.  If you were in the hospital and given antibiotics you would be given a probiotic that contains this yeast found in kombucha.
  • And, of course, fermented foods like sauerkraut and other cultured foods that you make by creating a brine and/or immersing it in water.
  • Buying fermented food versus making it at home has the same issues as store bought probiotics – it’s manufactured in a plant, it travels to the store, it sits on the shelf, who knows how long it will sit, it’s going to lose some of its effectiveness.
  • Also, a lot of time store-bought kefir is flavoured because the plain is quite tart but you’re not in control of the sugar content – you could be getting more than you bargained for.
  • Kefir is easy to make at home; it’s the best way to start. You need kefir grains and cow’s milk or sheep’s milk or goat milk – it must have lactose, so it has to come from an animal.  You leave it on the countertop for 24 hours, and it will ferment; strain out the grains and you have fresh kefir that you can flavour however you want.
  • People with a lactose intolerance should be able to tolerate kefir; if, however, you have a casein sensitivity you might not be able to do milk kefir. You can use nut milk and get some of the benefits in that instance.
  • There are only two ways to hill kefir grains – heat and starvation – so you need a routine to continually re-feed the grains, e., change out the milk.
  • Kombucha is only slightly more complicated because of the bottling process. All you need is sweet black tea.  You can use other types of tea, but black tea is traditional.
  • You put black tea with sugar in a glass bottle, no metal, you put in a scoby (symbiotic colony of bacteria and yeast), and a little bit of starter fluid. Then let it sit for seven to 14 days.  You can now bottle it as it is, or you can flavour it; then refrigerate and enjoy.
  • It’s very cost-effective, I usually get about two gallons per batch that can last my family a week or two.
  • Another thing to note is, that depending on how long it ferments, it will have alcohol in it. How much alcohol really depends on how long it brews.  So, with young children or pregnant women you might want to err on the side of caution and avoid the kombucha and stick to kefir.  Use your discretion.
  • I think fermented vegetables are the best way to take your vegetables. It’s like killing two birds with one stone.
  • Sauerkraut is one of the best – two ingredients, cabbage and salt, and a little bit of elbow grease to massage the cabbage to the point where it makes its own brine. Let it sit for six days and you have an amazing food.
  • I also love fermenting garlic, turmeric and ginger; not only are they healthy in and of themselves but when you ferment them it’s 10x better the way I see it. You can add these things to food or salads.
  • One thing I want to say is, even though it’s fermentation, and fermented foods are one of the best things you can do if you have gut issues; you want to be very cautious about incorporating them right away because if you have SIBO you can actually cause a flare-up.
  • I’ve created a course called The Five R’s of Healing Leaky Gut – it talks about the exact ways and process of how to heal your gut if you do have any issues and fermentation is actually the last phase.

Resources Mentioned for Fermented Foods

Dr. Griffin’s website

Book – Reclaim Your Energy and Feel Normal Again

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