Written by John Immel,
There are many different types of ferments, including alcoholic beverages, pickles and other fermented foods like sauerkraut and yogurt. Bread is a ferment made with yeast. Yogurt is a ferment made from dairy. In Germany, beer was considered liquid bread. It provided much needed calories in the winter, and made water safe to drink.
Digestive SupportFor many people fermentation and probiotics are the key to easier digestion and getting complete nutrition. During the fermentation process, microorganisms actually pre-digest the food. Predigestion makes foods easier and simpler to digest for humans. It also makes the nutrients in the foods more bioavailable and, so, results in a high nutrient absorption rate. Bread, tofu, and miso are examples of ferments that make nutrients and calories bioavailable and easier to digest. Beans and wheat are difficult to digest. Tofu, beer, and sourdough bread, on the other hand, are much easier to digest. The bacteria in ferments also make vitamins for us including B12, making ferments an important supplement for vegetarians.
Live culture ferments act as a probiotic, encouraging a healthy microbiome in the gut. This microbiome supports healthy digestion, and the absorption of vitamins, minerals and other nutrients. Examples of live culture ferments include yogurt, pickles, and kimchi. Check the label on the jar of pickles to ensure that the culture is still live. Takra, which is fat free yogurt mixed with water, is an Ayurvedic probiotic used in IBS.
Note:For a probiotic to work correctly, the beneficial flora should be fed with plants and vegetables that are high in inulin, a polysaccharide. Inulin supports balance in the gut microbiome and helps stimulate the growth of beneficial bacteria in the body. Examples of natural sources of inulin are burdock root, dandelion root, jerusalem artichokes, and root veggies like parsnips, and sweet potatoes.
Making Ferments at HomeDo you want to know how to make a pickle? Ferments are easy to make at home! To make your own fermented veggies all you need is an airtight jar, a little salt and your choice of vegetables. Add your vegetables (chopped or whole) to your jar and cover with water. Add a little salt and your favorite seasonings. If you want crunchy pickles, add grape leaves or any astringent herb. After a couple of days (or longer, depending on the size of your vegetables) you'll notice some bubbles in your jar as the bacteria begins to act on the vegetables. When you open your jar the smell should be strong but pleasant. You can then taste your ferment and decide if you want to leave it longer, for a more tangy taste. And there you have it, your first pickle! Alcoholic beverages are a bit more complicated because you have to ferment them anaerobically, by preventing oxygen from entering the ferment.
Ferments in AyurvedaAyurveda uses many ferments but only medicinally, not as a food source (fresh yogurt is an exception). Ayurvedic herbal wines (arishtas and drakhshas) are more potent because the alcohol is stimulating.
Ferments, such as kombucha, are often hailed as the saviour of the digestive system, however, Ayurveda generally frowns on their use. Overuse of ferments increases Pitta and spoils the quality of the blood. Predigested foods contain the metabolic waste products of bacteria (ie. bacteria poop). These waste products are generally acidic, sour and irritating. They require processing and burden the liver. They are fiery and hot in nature. For this reason, it's recommended that Pitta dominant individuals avoid ferments. Ferments like beer, wine, and bread are also sweet and earthy in nature.
ConclusionFermentation is an age old technique of food preservation and can be a helpful addition to the diet if there's sluggish, slow digestion. However it will not support all body-types due to it's sharp, strong nature and should be treated with caution. If you do work with fermented foods, homemade versions are easy to make and a great way to ensure you know exactly what you are consuming.
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SOURSour refers to anything fermented or acidic.
RAJASICRajasic foods stimulate desire or nervous energy. Red meat, high protein food, garlic and onions stimulate desire. Rajasic foods include chili peppers, coffee, and anything that stimulates movement.
FIREResembles fire (tejas) in quality - hot, sharp, penetrating, light, dry.
About the AuthorJohn Immel, the founder of Joyful Belly, teaches people how to have a healthy diet and lifestyle with Ayurveda. His approach to Ayurveda exudes a certain ease, which many find enjoyable and insightful. John also directs Joyful Belly's School of Ayurveda , which specializes in digestive tract pathology & Ayurvedic nutrition. John and his wife Natalie recently published Explore Your Hunger: A Guide to Hunger, Appetite & Food.
John's interest in Ayurveda and digestive tract pathology was inspired by a complex digestive disorder acquired from years of international travel, including his public service work in South Asia. John's commitment to the detailed study of digestive disorders reflects his zeal to get down to the roots of the problem. His hope and belief in the capacity of each & every client to improve their quality of life is nothing short of a personal passion. John's creativity in the kitchen and delight in cooking for others comes from his family oriented upbringing. In addition to his certification in Ayurveda, John holds a bachelor's degree in mathematics from Harvard University.
John enjoys sharing Ayurveda within the context of his Catholic roots, and finds Ayurveda gives him an opportunity to participate in the healing mission of the Church. Jesus expressed God's love by feeding and healing the sick. That kindness is the fundamental ministry of Ayurveda as well.
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It depends on the person. In Ayurveda we always ask - for whom, when and how much.