Fermented Foods – How important are they?

Fermented Food – Dairy for beginners
Fermented food is a lost art, however, it is experiencing a resurgence in popularity among certain groups. One of the most important steps to good health is making sure we have healthy bacteria in our intestines.

Beneficial bacteria help food digest, produce nutrients and prevent harmful bacteria from wreaking havoc. We are host to about 100 trillion microorganisms, weighing between 3 to 5 lbs that live inside our digestive tract. When approximately 85% of the microorganisms in our gut are the friendly variety then we enjoy good overall health.

A probiotic is a live microbial feed supplement which beneficially affects the host animal by improving its intestinal microbial balance.‎


Our digestive tract is one long tube from start to finish. It protects us from potentially harmful materials from entering our tissues, organs and blood in the same way as our skin protects us. Food inside the digestive tract is not technically inside the body, since it is not inside the cells.  Food goes through an involved process of being broken down into elements that the blood and cells can use. Food and lifestyle affect the ratio of beneficial to harmful microorganisms. From the moment we are born we live in a symbiotic relationship with bacteria.

Fermented Food – Sauerkraut
In order to support a large population of friendly or pro-biotic bacteria in our digestive passage, we need to consume lacto-fermented foods. These include yogurt, fermented vegetables, fruit chutneys and non-vinegar pickles. These cultured foods are raw so they have abundant enzymes and their vitamins and minerals are easily digested and absorbed. Beneficial bacteria also produce essential nutrients such as vitamin B12 and Vitamin K.

Friendly bacteria stimulate antibody production in the blood and increase the strength of the immune system. They decrease allergic reactions from incompletely digested proteins, toxins and outside allergens. Good bacteria prevent harmful substances from entering the bloodstream and causing organ damage. A healthy system produces natural antibiotics, hydrogen peroxide and acid compounds that protect us against infection.

Having a large healthy bacterial population in the digestive tract does the following:

  • Strengthens the immune system
  • Eliminates hives, allergic rashes, acne and other skin conditions
  • Reduces the effects of seasonal allergies
  • Improves digestion and maintains healthy bowel movements
  • Reduces or eliminates a large range of symptoms including asthma, joint pain, ear and throat infections
  • Maintains healthy cholesterol levels
  • Breaks down and rebuilds hormones

Sugar feeds bad bacteria that consume good bacteria. Good bacteria take up space in the gut. This prevents organisms that are harmful to health from taking up residence. Fungi, parasites and bacteria that cause food poisoning have little chance when the gut is healthy.

Dysbiosis, a bacterial imbalance, is common in Western society thanks to diets high in sugar and meat, but low in pro-biotics. This imbalance encourages yeasts and putrefactive bacteria to flourish, instead of beneficial bacteria. In turn, toxins build up and damage the sensitive microvilli brush border that lines our intestinal wall. When this area is healthy we assimilate nutrients and toxins cannot pass through the gut wall into the bloodstream.

Some substances that kill off friendly bacteria are:

  • Sugar
  • Prescription antibiotics and medicines
  • Mercury from dental fillings
  • Poor diet containing processed foods
  • Herbicides and pesticides
  • Chlorine
  • Fluoride
  • Alcohol
  • Stress

The modern diet also causes inflammation of the gut and excessive intestinal permeability (leaky gut syndrome), leading to conditions such as Crohn’s disease, ulcerative colitis, and irritable bowel syndrome. Allergies, systemic candida, eczema, autoimmune disease, arthritis, and even mental illness have all been linked to dysbiosis.

The best way to insure a large population of beneficial organisms in the gut is to consume fermented foods. Most cultures use some type of fermentation to preserve their food. Every country has their specialty.

  • Sauerkraut from Europe
  • Yogurt from the Balkans
  • Kefir from Caucausus
  • Kim chee from Korea
  • Kvass from Russia
  • Kombucha from China
  • Miso from Japan

Miso – Fermented Soy Beans
Fermented foods are good for us because of all of the good bacteria (lactobacilli) that proliferate when they are fermented. Lactobacilli are found on the surface of all living things but they are especially prolific on the leaves and roots of plants growing in or near the ground. The byproduct of these lactobacilli is lactic acid that not only preserves vegetables and fruit perfectly, but also promotes the growth of healthy flora in the intestines. We can consume pro-biotics in capsule form but why not eat delicious fermented foods that our bodies were designed to have?

Any food today that is pickled used to be a fermented item before mass production. Once industrialization took place and fermentation started to happen on a grand scale, results varied so vinegar was used instead of letting the fermentation happen naturally. The product was then pasteurized killing all of the beneficial lactic-acid producing bacteria. Milk suffered the same fate. This is too bad since lactic acid not only preserves vegetables and fruit perfectly, but also promotes the growth of healthy flora in the intestines.

Walking exposes us to soil rich with good bacteria
Another good source of friendly bacteria is healthy soil. We are exposed to many species of friendly bacteria when we are outdoors, playing and working in relatively unpolluted areas. Gardening and hiking in the woods are two of the best ways of exposing ourselves to friendly bacteria on a regular basis. Make walking outside and eating pro-biotic fermented foods a part of your daily life.

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Fermented Food – Get Your Gut in Shape. . .

Fermented food is the perfect partner for getting your gut in shape and healing your body. Along the way, doing so might turn your life around to one of physical strength, great health, happiness, and joy. There may be no easier or more cost-effective way to get your daily dose of beneficial vitamins, minerals, enzymes, and probiotics than with fermented foods like lactic acid fermented vegetables. They actually taste delicious and are so much cheaper than costly supplements.

The variety of pickled vegetables that can be made is endless; from traditional dill pickles, sauerkraut and kimchi to pickled radishes, beets, carrots, okra, parsnips, corn, celery, squash, garlic, peppers, brussel sprouts, pumpkin, apples, beans, etc. Add to that your choices of an endless variety of spices, and as you can see, the sky is the limit.

Does the chart below remind you of your own chronic auto-immune illness? Now is a good time to rethink the food you habitually shop for, cook and eat. Maybe it’s time to do things differently.

Lacto-fermentation. Not a sexy word. And not a very sexy process.

Lacto-fermentation, or lactic acid fermentation, is a process where vegetables are submerged in water with salt over a period of time stimulating bacteria to produce lactic acid that preserves the vegetables and converts them into probiotics. There are many health benefits of fermented foods. Making fermented foods is incredibly easy. After the cleaning and chopping, the only thing you need to do is not forget to check in, give ‘em a taste and put them in the fridge when they’re done.

Nutrition is more easily available and digestible in lacto-fermented foods

Health benefits of lacto-fermented foods:

  1. Contain lacto-bacillus (Acidophilus)
  2. Promote good intestinal bacteria populations
  3. Contain living, dense enzymes
  4. Easier on digestion system
  5. Used by many people in healing and overcoming serious illness
  6. Fermented vegetables do not cause flatulence like raw, unfermented vegetables
  7. Strengthens acidity of stomach
  8. Prevents Constipation
  9. Stimulates Peristaltic movement intestines
  10. Re-establishes healthy intestinal flora after antibiotics
  11. Improves blood circulation
  12. Helps cleanse the blood
  13. Supports natural resistance against infections
  14. Strengthens body’s immune system
  15. Rids body of parasites
  16. Lowers sugar in blood and urine
  17. Controls craving for sweets

Fermented foods you are most likely to be familiar with:

  • Sauerkraut
  • Pickles
  • Fish Sauce
  • Kimchi
  • Vinegar
  • Yogurt
  • Bean Curd
  • Beer
  • Salami & Pepperoni
  • Cheeses
  • Breads
  • Kefir

If you purchase the above at your local grocery store – the value is less to your health. The commercial makers of fermented food pasteurize today. For the sake of mass consumption and shelf, longevity pasteurization is the norm and it kills all beneficial flora. The result for us is poor health. We buy it, chew it, swallow it and give our digestive system unnecessary abuse. Not intentional of course but, in this case, the cost is great – our health suffers. We must take it from here and learn maybe for the first time the ancient art of preserving food through fermentation.

A shelf full of summer vegetables will provide you with meals full of protective probiotics for the next winter. You can expect these results once you begin including fermented food into your daily meal plan.

Friendly bacteria are fundamental to good health:

  1. Protect the integrity of the intestinal lining.
  2. Maintain immunity, since around half of the body’s immune cells are in the intestines.
  3. Manufacture B vitamins (useful for vegans).
  4. Manufacture essential fatty acids.
  5. Extract calcium from dairy products.
  6. Aid absorption of vitamins and minerals.
  7. Produce enzymes to break down foods.
  8. Produce butyric acid, required for building colon cells.
  9. Produce anti-tumour substances.
  10. Produce antiviral substances.
  11. Produce anti-fungal substances.
  12. Prevent candida overgrowth.
  13. Destroy e coli, shigella, and salmonella by making the intestinal tract more acidic and by releasing substances such as lactic acid, hydrogen peroxide, and selective antibiotics.
  14. Neutralize endotoxins produced in the body.
  15. Neutralize potentially carcinogenic nitrites in the digestive tract.
  16. Aid peristalsis (the movement of the gut muscles for stool elimination) to prevent constipation.
  17. Get rid of excess cholesterol by breaking down bile.
  18. Regulate cytokines so as to reduce inflammation.
  19. Produce anti-cancer isothiocyanates, such as sulfurophane and indol-3-carbinol from foods.

I’ll leave you with this because you’ve got some research in front of you if you don’t use fermented foods right now. Fermented foods expert Sally Fallon asks in Nourishing Traditions, with the proliferation of all these new mysterious viruses, intestinal parasites, and chronic health problems, despite ubiquitous sanitation,

“Could it be that by abandoning the ancient practice of lacto-fermentation, and insisting 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 microorganisims?”

It makes sense to me. I wish you a grand adventure adding fermented foods to your daily meal plan and all the fun of discovering for yourself that you can get well, feel better and not be dependent on pharmaceuticals and doctor visits.

Interesting web sites to visit:

Are Happy Gut Bacteria Key to Weight Loss?

Why this Single Organ Powerfully Dictates Whether You’re Healthy or Sick

The Amazing Healing Properties of Fermented Foods

Fermented Foods Are Our Friends

Fermented Salsa

Sauerkraut Wonder Food

Pickled Vegetable Basics

YouTube Videos

Raw Sauerkraut: A Fermented Probiotic Superfood

How To Make Fermented Veggies

Making Sauerkraut

Lacto Fermented Sauerkraut


PickleMeister from Simply Natural

Thank you for your interest in the article Fermented Food – Get Your Gut in Shape. . .

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