Worldwide fermented foods such as Kefir and Kimchi are gaining in popularity not least because of their ‘functional’ health benefits.
There are several research studies looking into the benefits that fermented foods have on our gut bacteria with some astonishing results.
Milk kefir, originating from the Caucasus Mountains and traditionally consumed throughout Easter Europe, is rich in probiotic bacteria that play a role in our digestive health.
Kefir is made by fermentation with a wide variety of yeasts and bacteria any of which are probiotics that are capable of populating the gut resulting in benefits including improving digestion of the milk sugar lactose, reducing pathogenic bacteria in the gut and improving the body’s ability to produce energy from carbohydrates.
In recent studies Kefir has been shown to improve constipation by increasing transit time, increased stool frequency and consistency and enabling people to reduce or completely stop using laxatives.
At the moment it is not clear how probiotics increase intestinal transit if it is possible that the beneficial bacteria may lower the pH of the colon thereby enhancing ‘peristalsis’ – the muscular contractions that move food through the digestive tract.
Kimchi, Korean fermented vegetables, have been shown to not only reduce the gut bacteria that is linked with obesity but also to change the expression of genes related to metabolic syndrome – the medical term for a combination of diabetes, high blood pressure and obesity.
Scientific research is showing that by improving your gut bacteria may well have a beneficial effect on these conditions.
A new study revealed that 8 weeks of daily fermented kimchi resulted in changes to the ratio of gut bacteria related to weight loss. It also changed the gene expression – the process by which information from a gene is used to make gene products that can affect our health – related to the development of weight gain and heart health.
Where can I get fermented foods?
It is very easy to make milk and water kefir. The grains are available to buy online and there are lots of blogs and YouTube films on how to make them.
I make both kinds of kefir and they happily bubble away in the corner or my kitchen providing me with a non-stop supply of beneficial bacteria!
Raw Kimchi and sauerkraut (fermented cabbage) are available locally from Applegarth Farm Shop in Grayshott: http://www.applegarthfarm.co.uk and it is worth looking online for mail order suppliers.
You can read more about both kefir and kimchi and the studies mentioned at: http://www.timeforwellness.org