Fermented foods are probably the number one recommendation when it comes to improving gut health, with probiotics being a close second.
From Sauerkraut to Kombucha, fermented foods now overcrowd the shelves of many health food shops and have even started to show up in many supermarkets as well.
You might even make your own!
So the chances are, if you have any interests in gut health, you’ve probably started consuming some form of fermented foods in the hope to reap the promised benefits.
The truth is: although many people do experience great benefits from fermented foods, it’s not the case for everybody.
If you’ve been following us for a while, you will know that I am a firm believer in the fact that we are all UNIQUE. In other words, something that works for someone might not work for you… you must start listening to your own body!
People with gut health issues should be especially cautious, which is somewhat ironic, given that fermented foods are recommended to improve gut health.
Here are a few reasons why fermented foods might do more harm than good in susceptible people:
1- IMBALANCE OF GOOD VS BAD BACTERIA.
If your gut is in a really bad shape, with a serious imbalance of good and bad bacteria (called dysbiosis), fermented foods can quite literally start ‘a war’ in your gut and make you feel absolutely terrible. This is because some of the bad bacteria are being pushed out (that’s a good thing), which can create a lot of toxins in the process.
Gen’s Tip: If you have gut health issues like bloating, wind, reflux or diarrhoea, be very cautious with fermented foods at first, starting with very small amounts (I’m talking 1 tsp or less of sauerkraut) and increasing very slowly depending on your tolerance.
2- HISTAMINE INTOLERANCE
It can wreak havoc in your body, causing all sorts of symptoms, from digestive issues, to rashes and heart palpitations.
And guess what is very high in histamine? Fermented foods!
3- FODMAPs AND FOOD SENSITIVITY
Fermented foods like sauerkraut can be high in FODMAPs, which can cause bloating and other digestive issues in some people (especially if you have SIBO).
You can learn everything you need to know about FODMAPs in our Happy Gut At-Home Program.
Dairy-based fermented foods like yoghurt and kefir can be a problem for people who are dairy intolerant, especially if you are reacting to the casein (the protein in milk).
As a side note, if you’re lactose intolerant (reacting to the sugar in milk), then 24-hour home-made yoghurt or kefir can be a great way to enjoy dairy, as most of the lactose is consumed in the fermentation process.
4- YEAST SENSITIVITY
Kombucha and water kefir (that’s not the same as milk kefir) are very high in yeasts, which can be a problem for people who react to yeasts.
This is a controversial subject. Some say that fermented foods ‘feed’ candida and should be avoided if you have a yeast overgrowth.
However, this has not been demonstrated as far as I know and there are research studies showing that fermented foods can be beneficial to ward off candida.
Another controversial subject. Because it is caused by too many bacteria in the small intestine, some say that adding more will make the issue worse. However, in my experience, this is not always the case. Some people with SIBO do seem to benefit from fermented foods, while some don’t. It might be that the real issue is one of the other reasons mentioned above, especially histamine intolerance, which is very common with SIBO (about 50% of people with SIBO have histamine intolerance)
I AM NOT AGAINST FERMENTED FOODS!!!
I want to make it clear that I don’t have anything against fermented foods.
However, I do get frustrated when I hear practitioners saying that everybody should consume fermented foods to improve gut health. This is simply not true.
You must learn to listen to your own beautiful, unique body. We teach you how in our Happy Gut At-Home Program.
TAKE HOME MESSAGE
If you eat fermented foods and you feel great, then by all means keep doing it.
However, don’t consume tons of fermented foods simply because you’ve heard of the benefits.
If deep down you can tell that you’re not experiencing any benefits, and if anything, feel worse for it, than it’s time to start listening to your body.
I’m very big on that.
Your body is your best friend, it will tell you what you need to know if you just start paying attention.
Fear not, if fermented foods don’t suit your body right now, it doesn’t mean you’ll never be able to consume them. Some people do better with probiotics at first, so that could be a good place to start.
Get our free SIBO/IBS QuickStart Guide to learn:
- 3 simple, yet powerful tips to a reducing your SIBO/IBS Symptoms and having a happier gut
- 6 easy to follow, delicious, SIBO/IBS friendly recipes
- Our #1 Stress-Busting tip that everybody should know (includes demo video)
- A unique exercise to RELEASE a muscle that is often tight and contributes to gut health issues in many people