Rachael Finch

Gut problems? Fermented solution.

A fresh batch of Kombucha.

A fresh batch of Kombucha.

A living SKOBY.

A living SKOBY.

You can create fermented vegetables using any mix of herbs and spices.

You can create fermented vegetables using any mix of herbs and spices.

My spicy thyme carrots.

My spicy thyme carrots.

The fermenting options are endless.

A selection of vegetables to ferment.

Caught this beauty running on Gillian's balcony.

Caught this beauty running on Gillian’s balcony.

There are about 100 trillion bacteria in or around your body right now. That living bacteria actually outnumbers the human cell count in the body and the role they play on overall health is incredibly powerful. I’ve been reading a lot about good gut health lately so I decided to take a fermenting class to learn more! I had the most amazing experience with Gillian and her daughter Sarah at Cultured Artisans in Sydney who gave me more than a few recipes. I was truly inspired at how fermenting can transform a life and lead to complete lifestyle shifts like organic farming and compost systems at home. I’m happy to say that my fermenting journey has begun and I can’t wait to teach Violet more when she’s older.

I asked Gillian to break down the world of fermenting for me –

What is fermenting?
In its simplest form fermenting is the process of gathering the bugs that we are after. Consuming fermenting foods and drinks provides a way for us to get more good bugs into our gut.
A more complex definition would be that fermenting is the process of creating the appropriate environment for the existing microbial life to deliver the desired outcome, such as a delicious sauerkraut from a cabbage or a powerhouse of 57 different beneficial bacteria and yeasts from milk in milk kefir!

What are all the benefits?

  • it delivers a diversity of good bugs to the gut and addresess imbalances in the gut flora
  • it improves the immune system and digestion
  • it detoxes the body
  • it supports mental health

What is so important about gut flora?
Our gut flora do jobs that we can’t do ourselves so we need them present and active so we can be healthy. They are an integral part of the interface from the outside world to our inner world and thus to our health. Out gut affects everything from our mood to our weight to the foods we are craving. A healthy gut means a healthier and happier you!

What are the different types of fermenting?
There are vegetable ferments that extract the liquid from the vegetable after adding salt. This would be the sauerkrauts, curtido’s and kimchi’s where you add salt and leave it to stand, massage or pound the cabbage to release the liquid in the cells to create a brine to ferment it in.
Then there are the hard and soft vegetables that you add a brine to, so it can ferment under the brine. Then there are fermented drinks that use a culture or SCOBY (Symbiotic Colony of Bacteria and Yeasts), to ferment drinks like sweetened tea, dairy, sweetened water as well as nut milks and coconut water.
There are other ferments that ferment grains which render them more acceptable to digest in our gut as well as the tonics that support detoxing and build up our immune system.

As a beginner where should I start?
The three pillars that I teach are kombucha, cultured vegetables and kefir; all of which are good starting points individually and together create a powerful combination in supporting good health.

Kombucha is great to start with as it’s a great detox, is full of digestive enzymes and is a wonderful energy booster. It has a nice fermenting rhythm too for a ferment beginner.
Cultured vegetables are as easy as adding salt to cabbage and massaging to create sauerkraut, or pouring a brine over vegetables and leaving them to ferment in a jar. Ok, well there is a bit more to it than that but not much!
Milk kefir is a simple dairy ferment that takes 24-48 hours to ferment on the kitchen bench in a jar. As long as people are not casein intolerant then they can generally start with this kefir. Even those with a lactose intolerance can generally tolerate it as the lactose is converted to lactace during fermentation. Milk kefir can then easily be consumed plain or added to smoothies.

It’s just a matter of starting with one and gradually adding in others that you’ve made or bought. Diversity is key.

Do I need to eat and drink everything fermented to get the benefits?
Good bacteria can be consumed in supplements as probiotics but when consumed as fermented foods and drinks there is far greater diversity of beneficial bacteria and yeasts. However you don’t want to eat only fermented foods, as with everything else, you can get too much of a good thing! It’s the quality rather than quantity of fermented products that produces all the benefits. You will find the right balance for you, and this will change with time as your body’s tolerance changes.

In other areas of my study, diversity builds resilience, so it makes sense to me for this to be the same in our gut with the diversity of gut flora to build resilience in our immune system. I think our bodies are amazing and constantly striving for wellness. We need to provide the resources and environment for this to occur.

Some fermented products control sugar cravings, I love that! How exactly does that happen?
In simple terms, they rebalance the gut flora. Any form of craving coming from our second brain in the gut starts as an imbalance of the good and bad (pathogenic) bacteria. So, when talking about sugar cravings there is an abundance of bad bacteria that ensure their survival by sending messages to the brain for more of the type of food that will ensure their survival…..sugar and sugar laden foods or drinks.

Fermented foods introduce a broad range of bacteria that crowd out the existing bacteria to address the imbalance. They also activate taste buds to receive tart flavours that our western, overly processed diet of food like substances doesn’t do!

If you’d like to learn more about fermenting you can explore Cultured Artisans hereA huge thank you to Gillian and her daughter Sarah for the beautiful experience!

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