Fermenting Vegetables: How To

People have been fermenting foods for thousands of years, it is what they did before the invention of refrigerators! Fermenting vegetables is not only a good way to store them for longer, it also makes them tastier and has many health benefits:

1) Fermented vegetables are more nutritious, their minerals are easier for the body to get hold of. What’s more; the bacteria produced during the process of fermentation produces B vitamins.

2) Fermented vegetables are easier to digest because the bacteria produced during the process makes enzymes that help with digestion.

3) Fermented vegetables act as a probiotic and can be used instead of commercial probiotics which can be quite costly.

Fermenting vegetables means that you can have nutritious summer vegetables available to you in winter, so it is a way of eating your favourite local organic veg all year round. You can ferment any vegetable, fermented cabbage is a health food often eaten in Germany, you may know it better as Sauerkraut. I find that carrots and onions are delicious fermented. I have tried many vegetables and can’t think of one that was unpleasant in its fermented form.

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Waste no time and get fermenting straight away:

1) Cut/shred your vegetables into small pieces

2) Place in a bowl and squeeze their juices out using a meat hammer or the bottom of a jar – whatever you can find (!) There is special fermenting equipment available, but a basic glass jar works fine in my experience.

3) Add quite a bit of natural salt to keep pathogenic bacteria out. People generally say 3 tablespoons of salt per 5 pounds of veg works. If you do not want to use salt, be sure to use celery juice.

4) Pack the vegetables tightly into a jar so that the juices are on top. To do this, you will need to use a tool to push the vegetables to them bottom. Any vegetables outside of the juice will quickly turn into mould which it is not a good idea to eat! If you do find a bit of vegetable has escaped, you can just remove this from the jar at the end. It is a good idea to weigh the vegetables down so that they do not float to the top. I used stones to do this and it worked fine. Once this is done properly, there should be enough juice to cover the vegetables. If you find there is not enough, or would like more probiotic juice, you can blend celery and add the juice as a brine. There must be a bit of air ontop of the juice and you must seal the jar tightly.

Store your jars of fermenting vegetables in a cool dark place. It is best not to store them in a cold place as it will take them longer to ferment. The same is true of an overly warm place where they will ferment too quickly.

Wait for three to four weeks before trying your vegetables. They will be tangy and work well in salads or soups. Have a bit with each meal so that they work as a probiotic.

Once you have opened a jar of fermented vegetables, you will need to keep it in the fridge. Make sure remaining vegetables are covered with the brine when you put them in the fridge.

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Non Starchy Vegetables

Asparagus, French artichoke

beetroot, broccoli, brussel sprouts

cabbage, cauliflower, carrots, celery, courgette, cucumber

garlic, green beans, green peas

kale

lettuce

marrow, mushroom (avoid if doing an anti-Candida diet)

onion

parsley, peppers (all colours), pumpkin

runner beans

squash, spinach

tomatoes, turnips

watercress

Legumes are difficult to digest because they contain phytic acid, lectins, enzyme inhibitors and starches as well as other anti-nutrients such as these.

The following beans are non-starchy: Dried white (navy) or haricot beans, lima beans (fresh or dried), string beans, lentils, split peas. Soak dried beans for at least 12 hours before rinsing to remove harmful lectins and starches before cooking. Do not eat these if you have diarrhoea or other digestive problems. Do not buy ready cooked beans as they are not normally pre-cooked. White (navy) beans can be used for cooking where the are nut or wheat intolerances. When you are ready to introduce legumes to your diet again, do use a fermented form: soak for 12 hours minimum, cover with water (and whey if you are tolerant) and leave to ferment at room temperature for 4-5 days. Rinse before cooking.

Fish Stock

Fish stock is made with a whole fish or bones, fins and heads. Cook with the meat, but then separate for other meals.

It will take one to one and a half hours to make:

Put bones, fins, heads and skin into a pan with a lot of water

Add 10 peppercorns

Bring to the boil, reduce heat and leave to simmer for 1 hour- 90 minutes

Add natural salt

Once cooked remove all bones and meat, sieve to remove smaller bones and peppercorns.

Keep meat for other meals, it is very important to eat this fish meat.

Keep the stock in the fridge for up to 7 days or freeze. These are good to drink throughout the day.

You can blend the stock with well cooked vegetables – steaming is a tasty way to cook them.

Meat Stock

For meat stock you will need meat on the bone, a whole chicken, giblets from chicken, goose or duck, whole pigeon or pheasant. Use bones and joints as they are the parts which will provide the substances that heal as opposed to the actual meat muscle. Large tubular bones should be cut so you can use the bone marrow inside once cooked.

NB: For people with MS, it is important to limit saturated fat consumption to a maximum of 15g a day. For a guide on how much saturated fat different meats contain, click here.

Lamb, Beef or Game Stock:

Trim the fat off before cooking.

Cook bones, joints and meat in a lot of water with natural salt (unprocessed) and a tsp of crushed black peppercorns.

Bring this to the boil, cover and simmer on a low heat for two and a half to three and a half hours.

A slow cooker will allow you to do this overnight.

The stock will be more nourishing if you cook the meat for longer.

Remove the bone marrow from tubular bones while still warm. You can do this by banging the bone on a wooden chopping board. Both the bone marrow and the gelatinous tissue around the bones will provide your gut and immune system with some of the best healing remedies it needs. Eat these with every meal.

Chicken Stock:

Use a whole (or half) chicken, put in a lot of water, add salt and bring to the boil.

Leave to simmer for 90 minutes – 2 hours.

Remove chicken and sieve the stock. Your stock is ready. You can eat the meat with vegetables, separately to reduce your intake of saturated fat. Click here for a guide to how much saturated fat there is in chicken and other meat.

Keep the stock in the fridge for up to 7 days or freeze. These are good to drink throughout the day.

You can blend the stock with well cooked vegetables – steaming is a tasty way to cook them.

Constipation

Constipation is always a sign of deficient intestinal flora. Normal gut flora is very involved in normal stool formation and elimination. Healthy evacuation should take place once or twice a day. If this is not the case, action must be taken to restore normal digestion. It is a symptom that many MS patients suffer from.

The Persian physician Ibn Sina Avicenna wrote about the importance of regular enemas in the 11th Century as part of treatment for serious health conditions. They are highly advocated for the treatment of conditions such as autoimmune disease and cancer. This rings true to me, having done several liver flushes involving enemas and colonic irrigations; as a result of the latter and diet changes, constipation is no longer a problem for me.

Persistent constipation is dangerous and it is important to resolve this problem. It leads to all sorts of digestive disorders including bowel cancer and poisons the whole body because of the toxins which remain in it. Many specialists recommend enemas daily, before bed followed by a warm bath with Epsom salt, seaweed powder, cider vinegar, bicarbonate of soda or sea salt. Rubbing cold pressed olive oil into the abdominal area after the bath is said to be a good idea also to relieve constipation, the skin will absorb it well enough. Enemas are an immediate solution but the way to fix constipation long-term is through diet and probiotics.

Laxatives are not recommended for people with digestive problems, even if they are herbal. Following the MS diet will relieve constipation, but it is also important to deal with the cause: gut dysbiosis. If you are constipated, drinking more water throughout the day and eating more vegetables will definitely help.

Stomach Acid

The stomach normally produces hydrochloric acid which lowers the pH to 3 or less, so that when the stomach walls activate pepsin (an enzyme which digests protein) it is able to do its job properly. This means that when there is not enough acid in the stomach proteins are not digested properly, the most troublesome of these being gluten and casein which are only part-digested because of the low-level of acid and cross the blood barrier in the form of casomorphines and gliadomorphines to reach the brain, blocking normal brain activity and development as a result.

Stomach acidity is responsible for regulating the ability of the liver and pancreas to deal with the arrival of food. This is because it is important that the duodenum has a pH lower than 2 before food reaches it in order for its walls to produce the hormones secretin and cholecystokinin. These hormones are absorbed into the blood and taken to the liver, pancreas and stomach as well as other organs. Secretin stops the stomach producing juice which stimulates the production of bile in the liver so that the intestinal lining knows food is on its way. The latter then produces mucus to protect itself and stimulates the production of alkalising bicarbonate in the pancreas in order to neutralise the acid in the food coming from the stomach, preparing it for the digestive enzymes on their way from the pancreas. This alkaline pH is necessary for pancreatic enzymes to digest carbohydrates, fats and proteins. The second hormone, cholecystokinin is the one which commands the production of these digestive enzymes. When it is not made by the duodenum walls (because not enough acid is sent from the stomach with the food) the pancreas will not produce the digestive enzymes needed for that food.

Cholecystokinin also gets the stomach to stop working so that the gallbladder empties its bile into the duodenum so that fat can be digested, inducing the pancreas to release juices and start digesting the food. Without the hormones secretin and cholecystokinin, digestion cannot take place. When stomach acid is low, this is what happens. Food is thus maldigisted and mal-absorbed leading to nutritional deficiencies. Particles of mal-digested food such as casomorphins and gliadomorphins are absorbed through the leaky gut wall causing trouble in the brain. Others provoke allergies and autoimmune reactions damaging the weak immune system even more.

Carbohydrates which are not digested properly become food for abnormal gut flora click here to read about the havoc that these go on to cause. Undigested food is left to rot in the digestive tract, poisoning the entire body further. The body does its best to seal these toxins and prevent them from poisoning us further, by combining them with cholesterol and storing them as stones in our liver and kidneys.

Antacids are prescribed for indigestion; further reducing the stomach’s ability to produce acid and aggravating the situation even more. Dr Natasha Campbell suggests supplementing stomach acid with Betaine HC1 with added Pepsin before each meal. This is not to be taken with probiotic powder as the latter will be destroyed; it is better to take the probiotic first thing in the morning and with or after food as acid will be at its lowest. These are only to be taken until the gut starts healing.

I think I will try the natural alternative to Betaine: sauerkraut and sauerkraut juice before food to prepare the stomach for food. Meat stock is also recommended to do this.

Probiotics: types to look for, what they do and how to make them yourself

It is well-known that probiotics are very effective in the treatment of many digestive disorders. They can really help people with IBS, Crohn’s Disease and Ulcerative Colitis to name a few; when used in conjunction with a diet to heal the gut.

Probiotics are also helpful to people with allergies, who would also benefit from healing a leaky gut. Auto-immune conditions like MS often start off with digestive problems such as the ones mentioned above, and would be greatly helped by taking probiotics and following a diet to heal a leaky gut.

A good probiotic is one containing many different species of beneficial bacteria, as many as possible really; to resemble the ones the human gut should have. As different types of these good bacteria have different strengths and weaknesses, it is important to have a mixture to get the most out of them. Also aim for a mixture of strains from different groups rather than just one. Dr Campbell suggests a combination such as lactobacilli, bifidobacteria and soil bacteria rather than strains of lactobacilli alone. Look for a high concentration of bacteria per gram – so a minimum of 8 billion bacterial cells for every gram. Strength and bacterial composition of probiotics should be tested for by their manufacturer and results should be published. Let’s have a look at the different bacteria and what they do for us:

Lactobacilli produce lactic acid. They are found in many areas of the body but mostly in the stomach and intestines (of a healthy person) and help with the renewal process of cells in the gut, in this way they keep the gut lining healthy and stop it from leaking. They are the main protectors of the areas in which they are found.

Bifidobacteria found in big numbers in the human bowel, lower intestines, genital area and vagina. These are the most numerous bacteria in the gut of healthy babies. They provide nourishment for the body by synthesising amino acids, proteins, many B vitamins as well as aiding the body to absorb iron and vitamin D. They also engage the immune system to protect the gut from pathogens.

Saccharomyces boulardii was discovered by H.Boulard who saw that in China diarrhoea was treated with an extract from lychee. It is also now seen as useful in the treatment of Candida.

Escherichia coli/ E.coli are found in the lower parts of the intestines and bowel when they are found elsewhere there is a problem with the ecology of the gut. These bacteria have numerous roles including the digestion of lactose, the production of vitamins and amino acids, working against pathogenic microbes and insuring their presence is the best way to defend the body against pathogenic bacteria of the same family, as Alfred Nissle discovered in 1917 when investigating why some soldiers did not get typhoid fever during World War One when so many did.

 Enterococcus faecium/ Streptococcus faecalis produce hydrogen peroxide in the bowel to lower the pH in order to control pathogens. They also ferment carbohydrates and break down proteins. Like Saccharomyces boulardii they are useful in treating diarrhoea.

Bacillus subtilis/ soil bacteria was found to protect from dysentery and typhoid. It is resistant to most antibiotics, stomach acid as well as temperature changes. It also has strong immune-stimulating properties and is very helpful for allergies and autoimmune disorders. These microbes do not remain in the gut, they pass through it and do work on their way. Because we no longer drink dirty water containing soil we are in need of these bacteria, they probably keep the gut clean, as they are used elsewhere to break down rotting matter. According to Dr Campbell, probiotics using this bacteria are the most effective ones available.

When you start taking a probiotic of good strength, you will have symptoms caused by the toxins released from pathogenic bacteria as they are destroyed. These will be characteristic of your illness and are temporary. That is why it is sensible to start slowly, until the symptoms are felt, that dose will be correct for you, do not increase further once you get there. The dosage should be taken for at least six months, so that normal gut flora can re-establish itself. It is important to cut out processed carbohydrates and sugar at this time so that your intestinal flora can be repaired, otherwise you will continue to feed the pathogenic bacteria. Once you have taken the probiotic for six months, you can reduce it to a maintenance level and take at this dose for a few years. You need to reduce the dosage slowly, just as you increased it. It is important to keep taking a maintenance dose because we do not get the bacteria we used to through water and food now that we live in a ‘civilised’ society. It is probably necessary to keep taking the probiotic indefinitely if you have MS or another GAPS (Gut and Psychology Syndrome) condition. Most probiotic supplements do not settle on the gut wall, that is why we must continue to take them. Birth is the only real chance in life we have to populate our gut with healthy intestinal flora. Once this chance has passed, probiotics are the only option.

General guidelines suggest adults should take 15-20 billion bacterial cells of probiotic daily. The figures are much lower for children – consult a qualified practitioner for help with doses for children and babies. The stomach acidity of GAPS people is usually low and so cannot destroy the good bacteria taken, as some people worry it might. It is sensible not to take any risks though, and to take your probiotic powder with food, when stomach acid is attached to particles of food. Even bacteria which does not survive the stomach acid will be helpful to you because even when dead their cell walls contain substances which stimulate an immune response. They also remove toxins from the body by absorbing them. It is best to get a powder, as capsules are difficult to digest for those with digestive disorders, and often just pass through the system and become a burden for the liver like other supplements. Even people without severe digestive problems will benefit from supplementing their diet with probiotics.

The good news is that we can make our own probiotic relatively cheaply (cheaper than commercially available ones anyway!). For thousands of years people have been eating fermented foods to provide the body with probiotic bacteria. The process of fermenting food not only makes it very tasty; it also makes it more nutritious whilst also acting as a way to preserve it. This is what people did before refrigerators were invented.

Fermented foods are a natural probiotic you can make cheaply at home, and are also a good way to store vegetables for a long period of time. Click here for how to ferment foods and get started with your home-made probiotic today! Dr Natasha Campbell recommends using home-made probiotics as your maintainance dose of probiotic once your therapeutic dosage time of at least six months has come to an end.