Intestinal health in autoimmune disorders such as Chronic Fatigue Syndrome and Fibromyalgia go hand in hand. Often before diagnosis of the autoimmune disease, digestive issues begin to crop up and cause havoc. One of the most powerful tools we have for healing and strengthening the functions of the intestines are fermented foods.
Benefits of Fermented Foods
- Promote growth of health bacteria in the intestines.
- Aids and improves digestion and elimination.
- Enhances absorption and assimilation of nutrients.
- The active cultures have stimulating effects on cellular immunity.
- Boasts anti-cancer and antibiotic properties.
- Regulates communication between the immune system, nervous system and brain.
- Help control inflammation throughout the body.
- Increase antibodies.
- Detoxify heavy metals from the body.
- Synthesize vitamin K and important B vitamins.
- Improves mood and alleviates symptoms of depression and anxiety.
The most popular understanding of the role of fermented foods is the benefit to proper digestion and elimination. Probiotics in fermented foods build up the good bacteria in the gut so food is more easily broken down in the small intestine and nutrients can be absorbed faster. Being the most energy intensive system in the body, this allows the body to finish digesting quickly and provide more energy for the body.
Once the food is digested, fermented foods are equally effective as fiber to help with chronic constipation and/or diarrhea. The two combined can significantly assist with improving the mobility of the gut as well as detoxifying heavy metals from the body.
We, as a culture, are becoming more aware of the effects of inflammation on all diseases, especially autoimmune disease. A weak immune system and minor infections are two of the common causes of chronic inflammation.
The probiotics in fermented foods help the body to create anti-inflammatory omega-3 fatty acids, B complex vitamins, vitamin K, digestive enzymes, and immune system-enhancing beta glucans. Working symbiotically with the body, fermented foods create an internal environment that eliminates and prevents inflammation.
Improve Your Mood
One of the more recent discoveries on the benefits of fermented foods within the body is the ability to improve your mood. Science is learning that through the production of B complex vitamins and neurochemicals like serotonin in the gut, there is improved emotional functioning in people suffering from CFS/ME.
Probiotics that support the growth of microbes within the gut, both synthesize and respond to neurochemicals integral in mood elevation. Some of the ones that have been identified are:
It is important to note that 90% of the serotonin used by the brain is produced in the gut. This creates a significant connection between how we feel and what we eat. That old saying “You are what you eat” takes on new mean with this knowledge.
These neurochemicals have been the focus of the medical system in their efforts to treat depression and anxiety. By eating fermented foods everyday, your body can naturally make them to improve your mood without the side effects of drug treatment.
Types of Fermented Foods
Many of the commercially made fermented foods are lacking the beneficial live probiotics that make them a superfood. They are destroyed through pasteurization and radiation. If you can’t find living fermented foods, the best way to start getting more living food into your daily routine is to make your own. Some common types that are easy to make at home are sauerkraut, sourdough bread, yogurt, water and milk kefir, and kombucha.
A major benefit to making your own fermented foods is the bacteria gathered from our environment customizes the probiotics they make for us. It is an ideal symbiosis and explains why people have been using fermented foods for years to improve and sustain their well-being.
You only need 1-2 tablespoons of active probiotic fermented foods a day if you are using them regularly, although you can have more. If you are new to them, start out slowly with 1-3 teaspoons per day. As you notice the benefits you can gradually increase them to recommended amount. Be careful, it can be hard to stop eating them once you start. They are so yummy.
While autoimmune disease is a complicated beast, through a holistic approach, we can begin to improve the quality of life of those suffering with it. A key to that is to begin consuming foods that support the proper functioning of the body. We often hear the superfoods buzz word for healing. At the top of that list, should be fermented foods. They support the body on many levels and provide the foundation for a health diet by reducing inflammation, promoting a strong immune system and improving our digestive health.
What is your favorite fermented food? We would love to hear from you in the comments below.