Why Ferments Help

A great deal of pain is caused by inflammation, which is an immune response.  The immune system is backwards from every other organ system.  Under stress, everything else slows down; the immune system goes into overdrive.  An overburdened immune system goes bonkers even without appropriate (bad germs) reasons, causing inflammation-based, autoimmune disorders like arthritis.

Something like eighty percent of the immune system is NOT in the blood, like I always was taught.  (White blood cells.)  It’s in the bacteria and yeast that live on the lining of the gut.  This lining includes all the tissue on the insides of the sinuses, mouth, throat, stomach, and small and large intestines.  That’s a LOT of square feet and it is all covered with microscopic critters.

Americans eat a mostly pasteurized, pesticide and herbicide laden diet that is seriously deficient in the dozens and dozens of species of healthy bacteria and yeasts (pro-biotics) that God intended should live in the gut and do that 80% of immune work for us.  Consequently, we have both an overburdened 20% causing everything from allergies and arthritis to diabetes and heart disease, but also a gut biome crowded with species that are NOT healthy.

A prime bad actor is Candida albicans, the chief cause of diaper rash and vaginal infections.  C. albicans flourishes whenever the stronger, healthy pro-biotics are diet deficient and/or wiped out by antibiotics.   It does nothing for the immune system, but does, on its own, produce toxins that cause fatigue, depression, bloating, and a host of other problems.

Because fermenting is such a fine method for preserving produce, in the old country, our ancestors ate a lot of pro-biotic rich foods, like sauerkraut, kimchi, and pickled this, that and the other.   And God is so cool, He arranged for it that fermenting also makes food taste better and … believe it or not … have MORE nutrients!  For example, when you ferment cabbage, it CREATES Vitamin C.  How cool is that?!   This is why ships carried huge barrels of it on long voyages.  It didn’t spoil and it did prevent scurvy.

When pasteurization of produce via boiling bath and pressure cooker canning* was invented, the naturally fermented foods slowly became extinct.  The sterile, canned varieties are just so much easier to store, ship, and market.  Food manufacturers tried to replicate the look and taste of the live foods that immigrants were accustomed to, for example by adding food dyes and vinegar to pickles.  But the bottom line is that pasteurizing food kills all the pro-biotics.  Add in antibiotics and rampant removal of healthy appendixes (where gut bacteria and yeasts are kept out of the way of scouring diarrhea) and you’ve got the American diet plus a long, long list of American chronic illnesses.

We get our starter package of gut pro-biotics from our mothers.  But over the generations of depleted eating, we have become less and less gut-healthy and more and more prone to the chronic illnesses that a sick gut produces.  Two years ago, I was researching diet and autism for my daughter whose eldest is autistic.  I stumbled across the phrase, “Heal your gut. Heal your allergies.”  Since allergies are pretty much everything** that is wrong with my poor old body, I was immediately intrigued.  I’d never EVER heard of anything that could heal allergies, only make it easier to live with them.  So I read everything I could find on-line and bought and borrowed books and DVDs.

Two years ago, right around Thanksgiving, I began a new diet regimen I call “Three Ks A Day.”  We have a sign on the fridge :).  The three Ks are Kefir, Kombucha, and Kraut.  Kraut is my generic name for any fermented produce.  My goal has been to eat at least one serving of each per day.  Today, I am in FAR less pain than when I started and I have regained both many of the foods I had lost to allergies and also the ability to leave the house occasionally!

Before ferments, I was completely home-bound.  For an entire decade, I literally left my carefully controlled, air and water filtered environment five times and only for emergencies, like a rotted tooth.  Today, I am going out once every other week with my husband for our Big Grocery Shopping excursion and we just this month decided I am doing well enough that, on the alternate weeks, we could try having a date excursion.  Last Friday, we went to the Science Center on the morning of a school day, so it wasn’t packed with bigger kids, just SAHM moms with little ones and a few home schooled kids.  The weather was so nice, we also went miniature golfing.  The Science Center has an 18-hole course we really enjoyed.

I’m proof positive that “Heal your gut. Heal your allergies.” really works!  And, good thing for me and my kidneys, since I am now limited to no more than 4 acetaminophen in 24 hours and that’s not much.  But my pain level is so much lower than it was, I often get by with 1 or 2, sometimes 3, and almost never 4.

*The reason botulism is such a concern with canned foods is that it tolerates higher heat than the pro-biotics. But in fermented foods, Clostridium botulinum never has a chance.  The pro-biotics are way more potent than C. botulinum, so any that are present get killed off.  A guy from the USDA said that home fermenting is the safest method of food preservation for home use.  If anything goes wrong, you can see and smell it.  I’ve been doing it for two years and had only two batches go bad early on while I was learning.  They got moldy, which was immediately apparent so I threw them out.

**My kidney disease is the result of taking OTC pain meds daily for decades. The pain was caused by allergic reactions, so kidney disease is a related outcome.

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One response to “Why Ferments Help

  1. chrissythehyphenated

    FYI: A Facebook friend is suffering from terrible pain in her feet and her doctor has not helped, so he doesn’t want to hear about it any more. I posted, “Shot in the dark here, but have you tried essential oils, Epsom salt soaks, and/or ferments? I don’t have what you have, but have gotten enormous help from these three with other kinds of chronic pain.” She asked for more information, which resulted in muy paragraphs. I figured it would be more useful to more people and less cluttering of Facebook to post the long versions here and the URLs at Facebook.

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