Hippocrates alluded to the gut as the source of all our ills, and Katherine Belisle, a health practitioner in Whitehorse, couldn’t agree more. Working in the relatively new field of functional nutrition she has been doggedly working to introduce the benefits of eating fermented foods to an increasingly willing audience. Functional nutrition differs from a more traditional dietetic approach of looking just at the components of food in that it studies how the gut interacts with food.
While she cautions that severe medical conditions might make it risky to experiment, most people can very safely start to introduce healthy flora into their gut through sauerkraut, kimchi, kombucha and kefir.
If any of these sound interesting (and they are all delicious), try out the Fermented Foodies Club. “Fermentation is getting much more popular,” Belisle tells me, “at my first farmers’ market workshop three years ago I got a few people stopping by to say ‘ew.’ This year I had people the entire time; I didn’t get a break!” She feels the time is ripe for a regular social where people can share their knowledge, questions, and cultures – metaphorically and literally, and has begun facilitating events on the last Friday of every month at Farmer Robert’s tea room from 5 – 6 pm. Check our her website for more information at www.katherinebelisle.com, and why not try a couple simple tips: chew your food, and think about how delicious it is. I really can’t think of an easier pill to swallow.
Common perception: I am intolerant to [insert food here].
Alternative: It’s not the food.
People with digestive health issues often turn to elimination diets, cutting out different food items, and find short-term results then symptoms return. Belisle explains that removing whatever is the main irritant can lead to temporary improvement, but that another food item will take its place if the root cause of inflammation is not addressed. She warns that elimination diets in their extreme can lead to nutrient deficiencies.
Common perception: Once I recolonise my gut I’ll be fine.
Alternative: Our gut flora is largely transient, so get used to eating ferments!
Belisle explains that contrary to the idea that eating ferments or taking probiotics can kickstart a healthy flora that would then proliferate and stabilise on its own, we finish establishing our resident flora by the time we are two. “After that everything is transient and seldom lasts more than two weeks,” she tells me. The response? Make ferments part of your diet, not a once-in-awhile medical intervention.
Getting started with fermenting
– Use around 2% salt by weight of shredded or chopped vegetables, or 2 Tbs per 5 kg.
– Start simple, ie: cabbage and salt, then start to mix veggies and add spices.
– Keep veggies submerged beneath the brine and covering the crock or jar. Ideally air can get out, but not in.
– Ferment at room temperature to ensure activity, then store cool once you like the taste.