Fermented foods have become very popular in recent years although they have been around for millenia!

Fermented foods increase the amount of beneficial gut bacteria so can help with digestion, but are also considered to offer anti-inflammatory, antioxidants and immune system benefits.

Fermentation is a method of preserving foods and involves the breakdown of carbohydrates such as starches and sugar by bacteria and yeast.  This process produces beneficial bacteria and enzymes that can help support gut health and digestion.  Fermented foods have a distinctive taste – slightly sour and umami in flavour.

Good examples include well fermented yogurt, kefir (both dairy and water), fermented soya in the form of tempeh or miso, sauerkraut, kimchi, kombucha and apple cider vinegar.

Many cheeses have also been through a fermentation process such as aged cheddar, gruyere, gouda, parmesan and brie to name a few.  So you have plenty to choose from!

You can add kefir and yogurt to smoothies and use apple cider vinegar in salad dressings.  Tempeh can be used instead of tofu in stir fries and miso can be stirred into soups and sauces.

Some individuals can be sensitive to a chemical called histamine that the body produces as an immune response.  For those people, fermented foods may cause some reactions such as headache, digestive upsets, blocked nose and skin problems.  It is unlikely that the reaction will be long term – the histamine reaction will calm down as your body produces enzymes to break it down.

If you do experience any of these symptoms after eating fermented foods stop them and concentrate instead on increasing the fibre in your diet.  Fibre is a great way of feeding your beneficial bacteria.  Good sources include:

  • Pears, apples, guavas, plums, gooseberries, oranges and other citrus fruits are all good sources of pectin (a type of fibre).
  • Other good sources of fibre include flax and chia seeds, avocados, beans, lentils and peas, berries and whole forms of grains eg brown basmati rice, pearl barley.
  • You can also add lentils or beans to soups and stews.

You can try fermented foods again but in a very small portion – eg a teaspoon of apple cider vinegar or sauerkraut and see how your body reacts.

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