Yes, it is highly probable that fermented foods help us to lose weight because they support your gut bacteria who produce acids, known to help weight regulation.
How Fermented Foods came about
Back in olden times, people made wine (fermented grapes) and beer (fermented grain) as water was too dirty to drink if they were away from their boiled water facility at home. It was a way of hydrating. Alcohol does not go off.
Fermented foods are mainly vegetables and dairy produce (cheese, yoghurt, milk) but can also include beans, fruits, herbs or seeds (sprouted). They already have beneficial bacteria on them naturally from their time in the soil and you put them through a process in your home or food factory, that promotes the growth of other bacteria. By eating them, you are adding additional healthy bacteria to your gut.
These bacteria are Lactic-Acid producing , Acetic-Acid producing , bacilli or other bacteria, yeasts, or fungi.
You might notice that some food companies are now adding a probiotic to the fermented food, you will see the bacteria name on the packaging (Genus, Species and Strain number) eg. Lactobacillus Acidophilus MN5 in addition to the milk and the other bacteria mentioned.
The wider the variety of bacteria on the food, the better. Laboratories have genetically sequenced these bacteria and the current commercial race is to identify which species and strains are the best ones to take to treat diagnosed conditions in adults and children. (AEProBio and ISAPP).
The most popular fermented foods include Kefir milk, Live yoghurts, cheeses, sour cream, Kombucha, Sauerkraut, Kimchi (Korean dish) fermented Cucumbers, Carrots and MISO, Natto and Tempeh. I do not recommend fermented meats like salami and pepperoni to my clients as they are not good for colon health.
However if you see these products on a shelf away from a fridge, they may be just pickled not fermented as they will have been pasteurised (heated to kill bacteria).
Read the labels. It can be really tricky to figure out which products are healthy and worth the money they are charging.
First Tip: ‘live’ and fermented foods will need to be in the fridge when you buy them.
What is Fermenting?
Fermenting is micro-organisms converting carbohydrates in foods and beverages into alcohol and acids. The alcohol and acids preserve the food and give it a tart flavour.
How do Fermented Foods help to keep out Gut happy and healthy?
- The bacteria pre-digest the food making it easier for us to fully digest it and allowing us to extract more nutrients from the food. All fermented foods are rich in B Vitamins. Start with very small amounts of fermented food per day and build up overtime. For people with diagnosed gut conditions, that may be as small as half a teaspoon to start. In my clinical experience, most overweight people tend to have gut issues such as bloating, wind, constipation/diarrhoea.
- The bacteria antagonise bad bacteria and protect us, bolstering our defence. ‘Live cultures’ are the most valuable – found in waters, milks, yogurts, vegetables but not baked foods such as breads as the heat kills the yeasts/bacteria. However some sourdoughs where there is a good range of bacteria used and time is allowed for fermentation to take place, are a healthy choice as the bacteria breaks down the phytates in wheat. Phytates, naturally present in grains, can reduce the absorption of minerals like iron.
- The bacteria stimulate immune cells in the gut, keeping them alert and flourishing as they rise to the challenge of protecting us.
- The bacteria modify the pH of our gut by producing acids e.g. Dipicolenic acid in Miso binds heavy metals and removes them from the body (anecdotal reports no scientific proof) and Lactic acid reduces cholesterol levels (scientific evidence)
Second Tip: Baking & Roasting Foods destroy the bacteria.
Gut Dysbiosis (imbalance) is linked to Overweight and Obesity
Our parents and grandparents were raised on fermented foods and whole foods. For example, my mother (aged 76yrs at time of publish) drank unpasteurised milk from her farm, they slaughtered their own pigs, hens & turkeys, grew their own vegetables (mainly cabbages), made broth soups from bones and baked their own breads. Sugary foods/drinks were restricted to Christmas. Lifestyles and food habits have dramatically changed in my time on this planet coinciding with the rise in the incidence of some lifestyle diseases.
The incidence of Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD) in Ireland has increased by 90% in the last 10 years and seemingly Ireland has the highest rate of IBD in the world1! The biggest increase is in children, for example, 120 new cases were diagnosed in Crumlin hospital in 18 months in 2012/13. Also, your gut bacteria may be linked with your desire of certain foods – this area is being researched in the search for a solution to Obesity.
A scientific area under research is the link between gut bacteria and obesity. Keeping your gut bacteria in healthy proportions may help to solve your weight issue.
Third Tip: Investigate your local supermarkets & health stores for fermented foods – always visit the fridge – you are looking for sauerkraut, kefir, live natural yoghurt, any cheese and any of the soy bean products, miso, tempeh products. Start with small amounts.
Likely Causes of Gut Dysbiosis
Overuse of antibiotics. High sugar, low fibre diets. Decrease of intake in fresh plant food (fruits and vegetables). Excess body weight. Chronic stress from our lifestyles. Vitamin D deficiency. C-section child delivery as a child receives its first colony of bacteria when it travels through its mother’s birthing canal and is coated in her bacteria when born.
Healing the gut takes time and patience with the diet requiring ’clean-up’ and then prebiotic foods, fermented foods and probiotic supplements being introduced over an extended period.2 In the process, whilst cleaning up your diet, you lose weight and feel much healthier. If you need help I offer an 8 week weight-loss programme which includes healthy eating for the gut. Check it out at www.justweight.ie.
- ‘Rapid rise in incidence of paediatric inflammatory bowel disease’ ‘The Archives of Disease in Childhood’. www.olchc.ie/About-Us/News/90-increase-in-cases-of-childhood-inflammatory-bowel-disease-in-ten-years
- Parvex S et al (2006)Probiotics and their fermented food products are beneficial for health. Journal of Applied Microbiology Volume 100, Issue 6, pages 1171–1185, June 2006
- Shen et al. 2013 The gut microbiota, obesity and insulin resistance.Molecular Aspects of Medicine, Vol 34,Issue 1:p39-58