Lacto-Fermentation Foods & Health-By Dr Harold Gunatillake


Fermented Foods are a hot topic, today
Let’s talk about it.
We wonder why our mothers always kept a bottle of onion pickle and lime pickle(lunu-dehi) on the dining table, and we used to nickname them, as ‘rice pullers’What are Lacto-fermented foods, also called lactic acid fermentation foods?

Lacto does not refer here to milk, but refers to lactic acid, produced by lacto-bacillus bacteria. These bacilli are present in yogurt, cheese and the skin of most veggies and fruits among others.

It is starches and sugars in your veggies and fruits that is converted into lactic acid by friendly bacteria -lactobacilli during fermentation Fermentation was used in the ancient times to preserve food, and making alcohol, Cheese, salami and more.

Fermentation is a common practice which was performed from thousands of years ago. fermentation was generally performed to produce alcohol and wine. this fermentation process was then modified and now it is being used for the making of several cultured beneficial products for our wellbeing and health.

Our ancestors knew that pickled supplementary foods aids digestion, but today we know how they help digestive processes and wellbeing.6
The microorganisms that live in our guts are more important than many of us think.
They need to be focussed & cared for daily, for better health and wellbeing, by understanding more about the fermented foods, sometimes called probiotics.
This discussion is all about such food and awareness of their presence in our gut,playing a great role in our health, and newly understanding their diversity to manage ‘antibiotic resistance’ threatening all human- kin

Fermentation of any food promotes the growth of beneficial bacteria, known as probiotics. They support the microbes in your gut to boost the immune system and these bugs supports approximately 60 to 80 % of our immune system.
In short if not for our gut microbes we wouldn’t be living today.
Probiotics are live microbial feed supplements, which benefit the host by improving intestinal microbial balance
There are many other beneficial functions of our gut friends and shall discuss as we go on.
They assist in digestion of the food, heart health and communicate with the brain to keep our body and soul in harmony. The communication between the gut and the brain is though wires-mainly the vagus nerve. The gut is referred to as our second brain.

Lactic acid fermentation (Lacto-fermentation)

It is a natural process through which micro-organisms like yeast and bacteria convert sugars into alcohol and lactic acid when preserved in a tightly closed container. This process of fermentation occurs in an anaerobic environment, and hence in the preparation of these foods like Sauerkraut and Kimchi from cabbage gratings, you need to pack them tight in the jar and keep the lid tightly closed for fermentation and lactic acid formation. The beneficial bacteria that are spontaneously grown in the preserved fermented food are called ‘Probiotics’.Sauerkraut and kimchi are fermented foods rich in beneficial probiotics that provide a wide range of health benefits.

Sauerkraut is fermented cabbage. If you buy sauerkraut at the store, purchase the unpasteurized variety. Pasteurization destroys beneficial bacteria.When you make your own fermented foods how long should you keep them to ferment. This depends on various factors such as hot weather, cold weather salt and so on. Generally, you keep with the lid tight for a few weeks.To make sauerkraut, salt is used as a preservative in vegetable lacto- fermentation,working alongside the good bacteria present on the food being preserved.

Obese people

We are coming to understand that obese people lack a bacterium called Akkermansia muciniphila in their gut.
When these bacteria were given to obese people, they lost weight. So, it has been observed that these bacteria are less abundant in the guts of people who are obese or have type 2 diabetes.
Yogurt is a well-known food source of probiotics, having beneficial bacteria that promote health.
Certain strain of bacteria in yogurt have B-D-galactosidease, an enzyme that helps break down lactose in dairy products into the sugar glucose and galactose. Lack of this enzyme causes lactose malabsorption.
People who eat fresh yogurt containing live and active cultures digest lactose better than those who eat pasteurized yogurt. Yogurt is also rich in minerals like magnesium, phosphorous, potassium, and calcium, which are important for building and maintaining healthy bones Probiotics in kimchi inhibit the growth of H pylori. Which causes stomach ulcers They
may also help prevent cancer, obesity, inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), dermatitis, food allergies, and obesity. Probiotics in kimchi produce valuable B vitamins, riboflavin and folic acid. These foods contain vitamins that boost immunity and help ward off infection.
Kimchi a staple in Korean cuisine, is a famous traditional side dish of salted and
fermented vegetables, made with cut cabbage, radish and scallions and a seasoned
paste of red pepper, garlic, ginger, sugar and fish sauce, salted shrimps and so on….

Here is a list of 11 probiotic foods that are super healthy.

*Yogurt. Yogurt is one of the best sources of probiotics, which are friendly bacteria that can improve your health. Probiotic Yogurt is high in many important nutrients, including calcium, potassium, phosphorus, riboflavin and vitamin B12*Kefir. Kefir is a fermented milk and shown to improve the digestion of lactose in lactose intolerance
*Sauerkraut. Is produced by fermenting cabbage into lactic acid and bacteria. It
contains Lutein and Zeaxanthin antioxidants promoting eye health.
The antioxidant content in sauerkraut may also have promising effects on cancer prevention.
*Tempeh- produced from cooked whole soybeans and fermented. It is a traditional Indonesian soy product
*Kimchi-made from cabbage and other veggies like radishes. Reduces cholesterol and reduces insulin resistance, blood pressure and body weight
*Miso produced by fermenting soya bean with salt and koji. It stimulates digestion and energise the body
*Kombucha. – is fermented black or green tea that is fizzy, tart and flavourful. It helps liver toxicity due to exposure to chemicals. Also has anti-cancer properties
*Pickles- Sour salty pickled cucumber might help weight loss, diabetes and even cancer prevention. Sri Lankans love pickled onions as a ‘rice puller’.
Lifestyles and diet seem to affect the diversity of the human gut microbiome.
Probiotics are ‘live microorganisms which when administered in adequate amounts confer a health benefit on the host’. In other words, these friendly bacteria work hard to improve your health. They have strength in numbers – you need to consume a large enough dose of probiotics in order to see their benefits.
Regular consumption of probiotics might help mitigate the rise of antibiotic resistance. A recent review of multiple studies showed that infants and children who consumed probiotics to reduce the appearance and duration of acute respiratory and digestive tract infections have a lower risk of being prescribed antibiotics.
You will observe that Lactobacilli and Bifido-bacteria are two gut microbes that are involved in the process of fermented foods, we call probiotics.
Probiotics can impact our gut microbiota indirectly as well, for example by influencing our immune system which in turn influences our gut microbiota.
Though there are only a few probiotics we are aware of, probiotics can grow, metabolize and interact with our friendly gut bacteria. They are live microorganisms formed in fermented foods that provide health benefits

You may have heard the word prebiotic. They are foods for our friendly gut microbes. They are used by the beneficial gut microbes impacting the gut environment, with an overall health benefit. Fermented foods act as medicine

Let’s talk about prebiotics

Prebiotics generally helps to grow the probiotic bacteria in our gut to improve better health. Prebiotics are like fertilizers to make gut bacteria grow and be healthy, like adding fuel to your vehicle. Prebiotics are mainly found in our dietary fibre including
all fruits and veggies, oats and so on.
Prebiotics have been shown to increase levels of beneficial bacteria, playing a role in the promotion of our health.
Inulin is a soluble fibre found in onions, garlic, and some veggies. A new study, led by Dr. Nathalie Delzenne from UC Louvain in Brussels (Belgium), has found that regular consumption of vegetables rich in inulin-type fructans improve food behaviour and are well tolerated overall, through changes in the gut microbiota.

Fibre is a key overlooked nutrient in the diets of many. Some dietary fibres cannot be digested by the human gut and the microbes participates in breaking down for our benefit.

Fibre acts as a prebiotic to the beneficial gut microbes, and most prebiotics are in the form of dietary soluble fibre.
Beyond promoting regular bowel movements, and working as prebiotics to gut microbes, adequate fibre consumption improves blood levels of lipids and glucose, while keeping us fuller for longer.
Hope you enjoyed this 9-minute video.
The bottom line is- please consume foods with plenty of fibre which feeds the beneficial gut bacteria and make it a habit to eat some form of lacto fermented probiotics, for general wellbeing, health including prevention of cancer.


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