Summer (Gut) Lovin’

Coach Aryan
August 27, 2021
Athlete Photo

Summer’s almost here. Time to fire up the old lacto-fermentation crock! As much emphasis as we put on what takes place at the gym, today’s article will give you a little bit on the importance and benefits of taking care of your gut. My favorite method is to add probiotics, or beneficial bacteria, in the form of fermented foods. The two I use are sauerkraut and kombucha - both of which I make myself at home for dirt cheap. So skip the Dr. Oz labeled pills and powders for now, ‘cause you to can get started making your own probiotics in no time!

Benefits of Fermented Foods

Fermented foods are a good source of probiotics. The walls of your intestines (from top to bottom) are lined with approximately 100 trillion microorganisms. This outnumbers the cells in your body 10 to 1 – technically making you more bacteria than human! These microorganisms exist synergistically to help us break down food, fight off harm pathogens, and produce key vitamins and nutrients that keep us healthy. Poor diet, stress, and antibiotics can weaken beneficial bacteria and wreck havoc on your immune system as well as overall health.

DISCLAIMER: I am not making any miracle health claims that by adding fermented foods one can reverse any and all aliments. I’ve noticed that I feel much better when adding them regularly in my diet – typically around 3-5x/week. Regardless, the impact of adding living foods to your diet may vary from person to person. In fact, many with prior digestive issues have noted symptoms initially worsening as problematic bacteria and yeast die off. For most, there shouldn’t be any prolonged negative side effects, but if any conditions persists more than a week, getting checked out by a doctor might not be a bad idea.

Why Store bought might not be the best option

Fermented foods have grown in popularity as consumers looked for cheap, easy solutions to maximizing health without a prescription. That said, it’s hard to decipher which products are actually helpful and which are just hippy snake oil. Unfortunately the supplement industry remains largely unregulated, meaning that the health claims made on your probiotic’s label might not match up to what’s actually inside the bottle.The same goes for grocery store fermented drinks and foods. The FDA recommends kombucha and other cultured foods be pasteurized (high temperature cooked) prior to sale. This is done primarily to kill pathogens and bad bacteria. Unfortunately this also kills most, if not all, of the good bacteria as well, removing many of the stated health benefits of the product. So instead of overpaying for a bottle that might not even have any actual gut healing benefits… why not try making it yourself?

Getting started at home

Getting started is always the hard part. The good news is you don’t need much to get started and once you’re set up, all the magic happens just about automatically. There are already so many great free resources available on fermenting anything, and everything. So instead of simply paraphrasing one, I thought I’d share what supplies I use and link to my favorite references and guides. I will add a few additional resources below for anyone interested. NOTE: these are not affiliate or referral links.

For kombucha, I have:

I would highly recommend just getting a starter pack from The “Brew Now” package (currently about $50) includes everything but your jar. Follow Hannah’s blogs for tea and sugar recommendations, as well as flavoring options once it’s ready. I’ve made apple and ginger kombucha, which was excellent!

As for sauerkraut, here is what I have:

Both sites above include a ton of great info, products, and free ebooks to help you get started. Regardless, it’s going to take a little trial and error in the beginning. Make sure your cultures have a warm, dark place to ferment in your house. I’ve got mine on a bookshelf covered by a few old (but clean) t-shirts.As for recommended dosage, this really depends on the person. I try to drink about 6-8 oz of kombucha 3x/week and throw a serving of sauerkraut on top of my breakfast when I have it. I’ve also linked to a couple of solid resources on probiotics and gut health if you want more specifics.

REMINDER: Make sure you introduce this stuff slowly when first starting out. As I mentioned previously, adding probiotics for those with an unbalanced gut microbiome could be dicey in the beginning – gas, bloating, diarrhea, etc... This should clear up as your problematic bacteria die off. Regardless, if you aren’t seeing any improvement after a week, you should seek out a good GI doc for some testing.

For many, the concept of eating partially broken down (try not to read rotten) or cultured foods can feel like a challenge you’ve seen on Fear Factor. I will admit it is an acquired taste, but the benefits are well worth it. Do something good for yourself and give it a try. Your gut (and your wallet) will thank you!

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