In a Pickle? How Fermented Foods Helped me out of Mine.
Not feeling well? Can’t find your way out?
Look around, there is an extraordinary amount of research out there linking chronic disease, psychological disorders, digestive disorders (and beyond), to poor gut health. Whatever pickle you are in, it likely has an association to your gut health. In it’s simplest form, fermented foods improve your gut health. Eating some fermented veggies at every meal is a great way to help you find your way back to wellness.
So, I’m gonna get as science-y as I get, here. Feel free to drop down to the super duper easy recipe if you already know why fermented foods are full of amazing healing goodness. For everyone else, here goes.
Our gut is home to approximately 10 TRILLION Microorganisms, often referred to as the gut flora. Among other things, the gut flora promotes normal gastrointestinal function, provides protection from infection, regulates metabolism and comprises more than 70% of our immune system. Dysregulated (imbalanced) gut flora has been linked to diseases ranging from diabetes and depression to rheumatoid arthritis and inflammatory bowel disease (and everything in between).
Our modern lifestyle wreaks havoc on the gut flora; antibiotics, refined carbohydrates, sugar, processed foods, dietary toxins (like wheat and unhealthy oils), and stress are all contributors to gut dysbiosis.
I don’t have any digestive symptoms. My gut is fine.
Not. So. Fast. It doesn’t actually work that way. Because the gut is considered the second brain and is also where 70% of the immune system is housed, a gut imbalance can (surprisingly) present as a variety of things including:
– Generalized fatigue
– Autoimmune conditions affecting the thyroid
– Rheumatiod arthritis
– Autism spectrum disorder
– And more…
Where do I start?
Well, knowing is half the battle (G.I. Joe was filled with wisdom). The easiest and single most effective thing you can do is start eating fermented foods.
Dr. Natasha Campbell-McBride who developed the GAPS diet to treat her son’s Autism says:
“Every traditional culture, when you look at their traditional diet, they ferment their foods. They fermented everything…Quite a large percent of all the foods that people consume on a daily basis were fermented. And with every mouthful of these fermented foods you consume trillions of beneficial bacteria…”
Not only do fermented foods give you a large amount of beneficial bacteria, they give you a wide variety of them. In fact when tested, one serving of fermented vegetables was equal to an entire bottle of a high potency probiotic supplement. I am a huge believer that food is medicine and this is a case in point. Because of this, acquiring probiotic organisms from food is the preferred method for the body.
When I learned of the benefits of fermented food, I had been on extensive (whoo boy!) courses of oral and intramuscular antibiotics to treat Lyme Disease. This information found me when I was in bad shape, worn out, sick. Before that, I was taking oral probiotics when I had energy. I had been advised to do that, but wasn’t very consistent. I started buying fermented cucumber pickles. But, at $8 per jar at Whole Foods I couldn’t really justify each member of my family eating one at each meal (that would be like, a whole jar a day!). Then, I learned how simple and cost effective it was to prepare your own fermented food and haven’t looked back. Added bonus, you know EXACTLY what goes inside each jar. I firmly believe that incorporating fermented food into my diet was one of the keys to my path to wellness.
I always recommend people to try ferments. They are really so easy. My recommendation is most often met with a bit of trepidation (you too?). Something that once was a common practice seems so foreign and strange. I promise you, it’s not (really)! Easy peasy!
Psst…FYI nothing works for everyone. Fermented foods are no different. It is critical to listen to your own body and recognize how it communicates with you. Start slowly, even just with one tiny bite per day and tune into yourself and note any changes. Some people have difficulty processing histamines and fermented foods and other foods (like leftovers) high in histamine (or produce histamine inside you) would antagonize the body. Suzy Cohen has a lengthy article outlining this in detail.
Without any further adieu, below you will find the SIMPLEST recipe known to man for a food that is worth it’s weight in gold. Hail to the re-emergence of fermented food!
FERMENTED CUCUMBER PICKLES
4 Cups of water
2-3 Tablespoons* of natural sea salt (avoid using processed table salt)
3-4 Fresh cucumbers
4-5 Sprigs of fresh dill
5-6 Cloves of garlic, chopped
1 Tablespoon of pickling spice (clove, fennel, ginger, bay leaves, cardamom pods)
1. Dissolve the salt into the water. Set aside.
2. Chop your cucumbers into desired size. Place in jar.
3. Add dill sprigs, garlic and pickling spices.
4. Pour salt water brine over the ingredients until fully submerged in water.
5. Cover with parchment or waxed paper between lid and jar.
6. Let sit on counter for 2-7 days, opening daily to release pressure.
7. Refrigerate when veggies reach desired sour taste. Enjoy!
*NOTE: I adjusted the salt content in the recipe graphic from the original as it was intended to be 6 teaspoons but accidentally said tablespoons. If you made it with too much salt, you can soak your pickles in plain water for a little while and the salty taste will dissipate.