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Nourishing Traditions notes how ethnic cuisines often had at least one fermented food at every meal.
Authors of Nourishing Traditions, Sally Fallon and Mary Enig, PhD, tell readers that it is likely that all traditional societies ate the beneficial bacteria of fermented foods nearly every day, if not with every meal. What likely started as a food preservation technique may have shaped the needs of today’s pregnant mom.
Fallon and Enig write, “A partial list of lacto-fermented vegetables from around the world is sufficient to prove the universality of the practice.” Benefits of fermented foods include enhanced levels of vitamins, production of helpful enzymes, anticarcinogenic properties, and natural antibiotic actions.
Ancient and wise cultures fermented their vegetables as a form of “pre-digestion” that also improved the foods’ nutrition. Hay writes, “To predigest raw foods and actually improve their nutritional profile, lacto fermenting or fermenting in brine is an important part of many traditional diets.”
Fermented vegetables may be far superior even to raw organic vegetables.
Along with higher vitamin levels, helpful enzymes, and anticarcinogenic properties, Fallon and Enig list fermented vegetables as containing beneficial organisms and antibiotic substances. They explain the little-known importance of having good bacteria in the digestive system—and how foods with good bacteria cannot be found in anyone’s kitchen today. This is, in fact, why probiotics and yogurts have recently been popularized in health food grocers.
A major problem with so many foods today, both raw and cooked, is that bad bacteria thrive in unsanitary conditions. The pregnant mom who wants to be a store house of beneficial bacteria for her baby will eat in a manner that builds a beneficial environment.
First, she will make sure that the farm where her food comes from is not an unsanitary commercial factory, but rather a place of sanitation and natural harmony.
Second, she will eat foods that promote good bacteria (probiotic dairy and fermented vegetables) while avoiding foods that feed unhealthy bacteria (like refined flour and sugar).
Third, she will use caution when it comes to taking antibiotics. It is well-known that antibiotics destroy all forms of bacteria, both good and bad. The problem, says Chek, is that the only bacteria that can survive that destruction are the bad bacteria who have been preparing for that attack. Not only should she avoid antibiotics while pregnant, but should explore the least destructive solutions at any time. If antibiotics are truly warranted, mom should re-colonize her digestive tract with good bacteria.
There is a battle of good versus evil going on in the gut at every moment. Probably the best defense against bad microorganisms is to consume plenty of good microorganisms.
Unfortunately, modern pregnant women have additional bacterial challenges that did not exist in ancient cultures. The first challenge is that one dose of antibiotics kills both good and bad bacteria in the gut. The second challenge for today’s pregnant women is the lack of fermented foods in modern diets. Without regular doses of beneficial bacteria, the flora cannot repopulate properly. Fallon and Enig say that the main byproduct in fermented foods “promotes the growth of healthy flora through the intestine.” There are a growing number of progressive health practitioners like Dr. Yusem who teach the importance of fermented foods.
The following story demonstrates the lasting nature, and incredible nutrition, of fermented vegetables. Nourishing Traditions reprints it from Claude Aubert’s Les Aliments Fermentés Traditionnels:
“Sauerkraut owes its reputation in part to the famous navigators of past centuries. For his second round-the-world voyage, Captain Cook loaded 60 barrels of sauerkraut onto his ship. After 27 months at sea, 15 days before returning to England, he opened the last barrel and offered some sauerkraut to some Portuguese noblemen who had come on board…they carried off the rest of the barrel to give some to their friends. This last barrel was perfectly preserved after 27 months, in spite of changes in climate and the incessant rocking of the ship. The sauerkraut had also preserved sufficient quantities of vitamin C to protect the entire crew from scurvy. Not one case occurred during the long voyage even though this disease usually decimated crews on voyages of this length.”
Fallon and Enig discuss the proliferation of new viruses and illness that mystify today’s scientists and doctors who seem unable to understand how they have risen. To this, Fallon and Enig raise the question, “Could it be that in abandoning the ancient practice of lacto-fermentation and in our insistence on a diet in which everything has been pasteurized, we have compromised the health of our intestinal flora and made ourselves vulnerable to legions of pathogenic microorganisms?”
Probiotics could turn out to be an expectant mother’s best friend,” says Dr. Mercola. For the pregnant moms who make sure their bodies are host to friendly bacteria, Mercola lists a few problems likely to be prevented: premature labor, bacterial vaginosis, and food and skin allergies in babies.
Basically, any vegetable (common ones are cabbage and carrot) can be shredded and placed into water with sea salt and a few tablespoons of cultured whey. (Sea salt, without whey, can be enough to allow the good bacteria to take hold, though whey can insure consistent success.) High quality liquid whey can be obtained by searching for local farms on RealMilk.com and RawMilkFacts.com.
After about three days, Fallon and Enig recommend transferring to cold storage where it can be eaten immediately. However, higher levels of nutrition and flavor arise with time; six months is one recommendation for sauerkraut. In fact, Fallon and Enig write, “The sign of successful lacto-fermentation is that the vegetables and fruits remained preserved over several weeks or month of cold storage.”
The farms that sell why are likely to also be the best places to simply sell you fermented vegetables directly, saving you the work. It’s not impossible to find fermented vegetables at the grocer, either. However, you must make sure that it is raw, or the purpose of securing “live & active cultures” will be defeated. (Many sauerkrauts are actually pasteurized.) Also, avoid purchasing those store-bought varieties that have vinegar listed in the ingredients. These are not really fermented, but just shelf-life-extended. Using vinegar as the “fermentation” agent does not allow the good bacteria to proliferate.
You can also visit HealingCrow.com/ferfun/ferfun.html and discover how “Fermenting is Fun.”
Fit For Birth
James Goodlatte is a Holistic Health Coach, corrective exercise practitioner, speaker, author, and professional educator. His passion is to heal families by inspiring the use of natural methods and by building a global team of fitness & health professionals to reduce infertility, avoid mechanized childbirth, and reduce chronic disease in our infants.