Fermenting We Will Go…..

By Dr. Bera Dordoni, N.D.

“Did you bring your Tagamet® with you?” DeeAnn asked.

“Of course. I came to eat lunch, silly,” Janet responded. “What do you take so you can digest your food, Prilosec®?”

“No, I use Pepcid AC®. It seems to work better for me now.”

Laura kicked in her two cents: “Try Zantac®. My doctor put me on it last week.”

No kidding—the conversation started this way when I met my friends for lunch at a restaurant in Albuquerque last week. Three out of four of us automatically take a digestive aid in order to eat a meal without discomfort.

What’s wrong with this picture?

Keeping the “big bloat” at bay is so much cheaper and safer with proper food combining than with drugs. Consider the pepperoni pizza, for example. The digestive process immediately slows down or stops altogether due to the combination of proteins and carbohydrates, each of which requires a different type of enzymes for digestion. The acid and alkaline enzymes produced to handle the separate food groups actually neutralize each other. Result: digestive shutdown, bloat, heartburn.

Ever wonder what our ancestors did about these problems? They didn’t have pills or packaged foods, but that didn’t stop them from getting indigestion! So how did they cope?

They ate some kind of fermented food with every meal.

Fermented food?!

That’s right. Humans have been fermenting foods to improve holding and storage properties for thousands of years, long before refrigeration was even conceived. Along the way, almost every culture realized at one point or another that fermented foods also aid digestion. The ancient Greeks and Romans used vinegar to promote digestion and keep the liver and gallbladder healthy.

Even today, cultures all over the world include fermented foods with their meals to aid digestion. Central and Northern European countries use sauerkraut (fermented cabbage, which has a high vitamin C content) and pickles, dating back to ancient Egypt. Salty sweet-and-sour pickles are commonly used in Korean, Chinese, Indian and Japanese cuisines. Cider, beer, or a small glass of red wine might be found on the table in Mediterranean countries.

Why does it work?

As we age, our stomach’s hydrochloric acid production declines. Fermented food, such as sauerkraut, yogurt, or pickled vegetables like those found in kimchi, make up for that lost stomach-acid production by increasing our gastric-juice acidity.

Wait—it gets better! When we produce too much acid, fermented foods do just the opposite and help protect the stomach and intestinal lining! They’re a win-win addition to any meal.

How does it work?

The bacteria, molds, or yeasts used in the fermentation process “predigest” food being fermented by breaking down the carbohydrates, fats, and proteins into microflora, or lactobacilli, the friendly, life-giving bacteria that colonize in the intestines and work to keep unfriendly intestinal organisms—yeast, parasites, viruses, unfriendly bacteria–under control. Lactobacilli, a.k.a. lactic-acid bacteria, enhances digestion, increases vitamin levels, and produces enzymes as well as antibiotic and anti-carcinogenic substances.

You’ve probably heard these bacteria referred to in yogurt commercials as intestinal flora or probiotics. They’re actually ”live” foods that directly supply the digestive tract with the living cultures responsible for breaking down food and assimilating nutrients. Probiotics are bursting with lactic-acid bacteria.

As a matter of fact, lactic acid-fermented cabbage—raw sauerkraut— has been cited as one of the most beneficial healing agents in recorded history.

German scientists are working with strains of lactic-acid bacteria to eliminate “super-bugs” currently resistant to most antibiotics. Wouldn’t you rather eat a forkful or two of sauerkraut than take an antibiotic that can shut down your immune system and cause harmful bacteria to take over the body?

I sure would!

Most digestive problems are almost impossible to eliminate permanently unless you increase the amount of beneficial bacteria—probiotics—and reduce the disease-causing bacteria existing naturally in your digestive system. Easiest way to do that? Fermented foods!

And lacto-fermented foods are wonderful for diabetics. They not only improve pancreatic function, they relieve the pancreas of having to digest ordinary undigested carbohydrates.

So, what’s it going to be: A daily dose of fermented cabbage to keep your body vibrantly healthy? A delicious serving of raw homemade yogurt to soothe your tummy?

Count me in!

Hold on—don’t run to the store just yet!

Taking a bite or two of pickle or sauerkraut doesn’t mean you can go ahead and consume your favorite burger, pizza, or ice-cream sundae without worry of indigestion or heartburn. The pickles and sauerkraut you buy from your grocer are all pasteurized. Sadly, most traditional fermented foods have practically disappeared from the American diet over the past 100 years. Today, the only fermented food we eat with any regularity is pickles made from fermented cucumbers.

But commercial pickles are made with distilled vinegar instead of just sea salt and water, and then they’re pasteurized.

“What’s wrong with pasteurization?” you ask. “It kills the organisms that spoil food.”

True. But is also kills off all the lactic-acid bacteria… the good stuff that’s there to protect you.

Fermentation rocks!

Out of all the preservation and preparation techniques, fermentation is the only type that does not destroy some nutrients, creates more, and enhances others. Fermentation preserves biotin, thiamin, riboflavin, folic acid, many B vitamins, omega-3 fatty acids, and many detoxifying agents, and it creates enzymes, vital not only for digestion, but for all chemical reactions in the body, and the proliferation of the protective probiotic organisms that help protect and build the immune system.

‘Pro’ means in favor of and ‘anti’ means against. Therefore, a ‘probiotic’ provides you with favorable bacteria to protect your body, and an ‘antibiotic’ is taken to kill bad bacteria that has invaded the body.

Unfortunately, ‘anti’-biotics are not discerning: they kill all bacteria, good and bad. At the end of a run of antibiotics, your body is left with no ability to fight new foreign invaders unless you replace the wiped-out friendly bacteria with some new ‘probiotic’ bacteria.

Every course of antibiotics tends to wipe out the beneficial bacteria and that gives a window of opportunity for the pathogens to proliferate, to grow uncontrolled, and to occupy new niches in your gut. The beneficial flora recovers, but different species of it take between two weeks to two months to recover in the gut and that’s a window of opportunity for various pathogens to overgrow.

~ Dr. Natasha Campbell-McBride, Russian neurologist.

Could it be that by abandoning the ancient practice of lacto-fermentation, and insisting on a diet in which everything has been pasteurized, we have compromised the health of our intestinal flora and made ourselves vulnerable to legions of pathogenic microorganisms?

Culture does not begin at the opera house; it begins in the kitchen.

~ Sally Fallon, fermented-foods expert

Be Aware of Die-Off

Before you start consuming cultured or fermented foods, be forewarned: if you have a lot of internal pathogenic growth, you will have a healing crisis—also known as a die-off— when the good guys come in and start crowding out those bad gut bugs.

You might be tempted to run to the doctor for a pill to ‘suppress’ that reaction, but don’t—welcome it, because it’s evidence that the good guys are killing the bad guys. Just take it slowly so you don’t feel bloated and miserable. You might even have skin breakouts, as the toxins are released through every avenue possible. Don’t worry—it’s all good. It’s all part of the cleansing and healing process.

Fermented Food Prescription

Start with a quarter-cup serving with at least two meals a day. Have a little more if you don’t feel discomfort, a little less if you do. Use only raw fermented foods.

How can you get healthful, raw fermented foods? Make your own, of course! My favorite is sauerkraut, a simple-to-make recipe: If you have a food processor, it will do all the work for you.

1 cabbage
1 quart purified water
1 tbsp. sea salt
1 quart jar with lid

Grind cabbage in food processor or cut into very small strips. Add sea salt to purified water to create brine. Cover cabbage with brine. Place a top on the jar and leave it out on your kitchen counter to ferment.

If the weather is warm, it will probably take only three days to fully ferment. In colder weather it might take a week or more.

Since I get bored with the flavor of cabbage alone, I often add caraway seeds, dill seeds and dill weed, or juniper berries (a great kidney cleanser) to my sauerkraut.

You want to learn more? Read Sandor Katz’ Wild Fermentation (Chelsea Green Publishing, 2003). Say good-bye to antacids and hello to fermenting!

Gallup Journey Editor Heather Haveman has a fermented salsa recipe to share here with the Gallup Journey readers.

See ya later. For some reason after all this fermenting talk I’ve got to go have some kimchi now!

Fermenting we will go, fermenting we will go, hi-ho-the-derrio, fermenting we will go!





Dr. Bera Dordoni, N.D., lovingly referred to as the “Wellness Whisperer,” is author of the highly acclaimed book “I Have a Choice?!”, nutritional counselor, and a naturopathic doctor who has over two decades of experience counseling clients with ailments ranging from allergies to cancer to numerous life-threatening dis-eases. She incorporates the laws of attraction to help her clients accomplish their health goals and now holds workshops, wellness retreats and natural health classes in the Ramah area. To request a consultation or learn more, visit www.bastis.org or call 505-783-9001.