How Fermented Foods Help Digestion!

by lydia on April 11, 2013

Today, I’m bringing you a guest post by the lovely Brenda Baran, a nutritional therapist and friend of mine. She and I graduated from NTA together and roomed together during our weekend workshops. This is one smart girl! Brenda is just as passionate about fermented foods as I am, and is teaching local workshops in her area. Today she shares just how fermented foods help aid the entire process of digestion.

If you are looking for foods that help digestion then you might be interested in fermented foods. Fermented foods not only help digestion by being a potent source of probiotics, friendly microbes, but they also help digestion at every step of the way.

Digestion north to south

Digestion is a north to south process:

The Brain

In order to digest properly you need to be in the right state of mind. There are two autonomic nervous systems, the parasympathetic (rest mode), and the sympathetic (fight or flight mode). Digestion is prioritized when you are in the parasympathetic rest mode, “rest and digest”. Think of it this way, the body of a deer running away from a tiger is not going to focus its energy on digestion. So if you tend to be stressed or tend to eat rushed and on the go, chances are that you are putting a burden on your digestion. If you are not in the right state of mind, things may not get triggered that should get triggered. Some of these include the release and production of saliva, acid, and enzymes which are all necessary to thoroughly digest your food.

Even if your body does not trigger the production and release of saliva, acid, and enzymes because you are in “fight or flight” mode, fermented foods can help. Their bitter taste stimulates the production and release of saliva, they aid in stomach acidity, and they are teaming with enzymes!

The Mouth

Do you not chew your food enough? Some people take a bite, chew three times, and then gulp, they swallow their food. This puts a burden on the stomach, giving it more work to do! Chewing your food thoroughly allows for the enzyme, salivary amylase, in your saliva to start the chemical digestion process before your food reaches your stomach by breaking down starches.

Are you a gulper? I suggest you chew your food more thoroughly, but fermented foods can help digestion even if you don’t have the time to chew until your solids turn to liquids. As mentioned above the bitter taste of a fermented food leads to the production and release of saliva!

The Stomach

Some people suffer from bloating or the feeling that their food is just sitting in their stomach and not going anywhere!  This may be due to hypochlorhydria, low stomach acid. Many things can lead to low stomach acid some include stress, and the over consumption of sugar, carbohydrates, or alcohol. When stomach acid is low food tends to sit in the stomach for longer than it should. The sitting food starts to ferment, putrefy, and become rancid in your stomach leading to the production of gas, bloating, and abdominal pain.

Fermented foods can help digestion at this point yet again! As mentioned above, fermented foods aid in stomach acidity. If made properly, they reach a pH of 4 which is acidic. Also, as stated before, fermented foods are teaming with enzymes which help break down harder to digest foods like fats and proteins.

The Small Intestine

As digestion works north to south the burden travels north to south. If you have issues with the above, not being relaxed, not chewing your food thoroughly or not having enough stomach acid, then you will put a burden on your small intestine. The small intestine has to do more work than it normally would to try to break down undigested foods. Eventually this burden can lead to issues with the intestinal lining. The lining can suffer and become more permeable than it should. Undigested food particles can then start to pass through and lead to a mired of issues including food sensitivities, this is called leaky gut.

Fermented foods can help with the integrity of the small intestine as the nutrients in fermented foods are more bio-available, or more easily absorbed. The microbes in fermented foods help partially digest the food for you by breaking it down. For example vitamin C in cabbage is encased in cellulose, the microbes in sauerkraut (fermented cabbage) break down cellulose making vitamin C 20x more available for absorption.

The Large Intestine and Colon

Most of your gut microbes live in you large intestine. If you have an imbalance in your gut organisms due to the over consumption of sugars, refined carbohydrates, alcohol or the use of some pharmaceutical drugs like antibiotics, fermented foods can help! Fermented foods help rebalance your gut ecology as they are loaded with probiotics, beneficial microbes.

So how can fermented foods help digestion?

Fermented foods can help digestion at every step of the way! As long as you are using safe and effective fermenting techniques to make your foods then they will most likely provide the benefits mentioned above.


Brenda Baran Brenda Baran, B.A. Chemistry, Nutritional Therapy Practitioner, is certified by the Nutritional Therapy Association. Brenda blogs on her website, You can also find her on Facebook. Brenda’s passion is helping others lead a clean, natural, preventative, and healing lifestyle. She is especially interested in a whole food, nutrient dense diet that reflects the way our ancestors ate, sort of like the Paleo Diet, but with a Weston A. Price twist. Brenda is available for phone consults, video consults or in person visits. She provides individualized plans depending on assessed findings, primary health concerns and individual goals. Brenda also runs various workshops in the southeast Michigan area. She will soon be offering online courses. Contact Brenda today to get started and to see what she can provide for you!




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Stomach Help April 28, 2013 at 1:43 am

A healthy stomach is vital for a smooth functioning body. Many illnesses and diseases can be traced to the improper working of this organ. Therefore, one must take particular care of the stomach and take the smallest of stomach issues seriously. The best kind of stomach help is to take in healthy foods that have not been exposed to a lot of processing or chemical treatment. Foods that are high in preservatives or artificial coloring can create general stomach issues. Organically grown foods are not only tastier and healthier, but are easier to digest because they contain natural fibre that aids in digestion.

Colonic Irrigation October 28, 2013 at 2:51 pm

This is really good illustration of what happen to food we eat.

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