Reviewed by Irene Pauline Humpelstetter, CNP
The gut microbiome is perhaps the most influential determinant of our health. It is made up of trillions of microorganisms that work symbiotically with the body (1). The make-up of the microbiome can either promote disease (harmful bacteria) or contribute to both the body and mind reaching an optimal state of health (beneficial bacteria). When it comes to the microbiome, balance is key and the body thrives when there is a ratio of 85% of the good guys to 15% of the bad guys (2). When this ratio gets disrupted and the bad bacteria gets a chance to proliferate, disease and discomforts can arise. Thankfully, fermented foods and herbs have the power to shift the composition of the microbiome in a positive way.
Humans have a long-standing relationship with fermented foods- cultures all around the world have used fermented foods medicinally for thousands of years. The process of fermentation takes a starch and metabolically converts it to alcohol or acids, and in this process creates a class of beneficial bacteria called probiotics (4). When foods and herbs are fermented, the nutritional profile becomes amplified and the body is able to absorb the vitamins, minerals and medicine more efficiently. Examples of fermented foods rich in probiotics are sauerkraut, kimchi, tempeh, natto, yogurt and even tea such as pu-erh. In addition to these, any food can be fermented to increase the bioavailability of its nutrients. Consumption of fermented foods have far reaching health benefits to every organ system in the body and they play a large role in regulating detoxification systems, reducing toxic load and cleaning up pathogenic bacteria (4,5). A diet rich in the fermented foods and fermented herbs such as those found in Living Alchemy products is essential for a life of vitality. Let’s look at the key ways fermented food and herbs work to keep your body functioning optimally.
Digestion & Detox
The beneficial bacteria found in fermented foods have huge implications when it comes to keeping a clean, well-functioning body. First, these bacteria positively influence the liver- which is the organ responsible for taking toxins and making them safe to excrete (4). Second, they cause the muscles of the digestive system to contract (peristalsis). This promotes healthy bowel movements so that the toxins can leave the body, rather than be reabsorbed. These healthy microorganisms also produce vitamins and short chain fatty acids that are essential to detoxification pathways- ensuring a happy and healthy body! Milk Thistle Alive contains fermented milk thistle and dandelion- two herbs to support and optimize liver function!
The bacteria typical to fermented foods make up a good portion of the immune system. They protect the body from disease-causing bacteria by providing a barrier to entry. Meaning the bad bacteria have no place to bind to, and can’t colonize in the body. Almost all the good bacteria exhibit some sort of anti-bacterial, antiviral and anti-cancer properties and they act to keep the body safe. Good bacteria also stimulate the lymphatic system which is responsible for mobilizing debris from the immune system and other toxins that can cause problems if build up occurs. (1,5)
There is mounting evidence that the make-up of the microbiome can influence the cardiovascular system. One study looked at the relationship between arterial plaque, which contributes to cardiovascular disease. They found that several species of the bad bacteria common in the gut excrete chemicals that signal the body to produce more atrial plaque (3). Those with a healthier profile in the microbiome, who had other risk factors for cardiovascular disease showed reduced atrial plaque. A possible solution? Continue eating fermented foods to introduce beneficial strains and increase the number of good bacteria while simultaneously crowding out the bad bacteria(2)!
We are exposed to toxins and pathogenic bacteria every second of every day. Thankfully, the microbiome is evolving over the lifespan and with the right fermented foods and products, our bodies can be primed for health.
Sekirov, I., Russell, S. L., Caetano, M. & Finlay, B (2010). Gut Microbiota in Health and Disease. Review of Physiology, 90(3), 859-904. https://doi.org/10.1152/physrev.00045.2009
Bogiatzi, C., Gloor, G., Allen-Vercoe, E., Reid G., Wong, R., Et al (2018). Metabolic Products of the Intenstial Microbiome and Extremes of Atherosclerosis. Atherosclerosis, 273, 91-97. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.atherosclerosis.2018.04.015
Sanlier, N., Gokcen, BB., & Sezgin, AC (2019). Health Benefits of Fermented Foods. Critical Reviews in food science and nutrition, 50(3), 506-527. https://doi.org/10.1080/10408398.2017.1383355