Healing The Digestive Tract with Fermented Foods
Did you know that a healthy adult digestive tract contains two pounds of beneficial bacteria? It may sound strange, but these microorganisms are essential to our health. After all, the digestive system has a very important job. Every day, it’s responsible for breaking down food into a form that nourishes our bodies.
But a healthy digestive tract does much more than assimilate nutrients. You might be surprised to learn that two-thirds of the immune system is located in the gut. The digestive tract is also closely linked with the health of the liver and nervous system. That’s why when we heal the gut, benefits radiate to the rest of our body.
How Fermented Foods Heal
Fermented foods like Kimchi contain high levels of healthy gut bacteria, also called probiotics. This is one reason why eating a diet rich in fermented foods does wonders for your overall health. It can prevent and correct gut imbalances such as Candida overgrowth and leaky gut syndrome–chronic conditions which are becoming more prevalent in modern societies.
By keeping the gut flora healthy and strong, we also aid our immune system in fighting off unwanted pathogens. When our digestive tract is full of beneficial bacteria, the landscape becomes uninhabitable for microorganisms that cause illness or discomfort.
Fermented cabbage, the main ingredient in Kimchi, is also high in flavanoids, which boost the liver’s ability to detoxify the body. A deficiency in liver function is linked to all kinds of symptoms: skin problems like eczema and acne, headaches, fatigue, allergies, and auto-immune disorders. Liver health alone is a huge part of our well-being, so anything we can do to support its function will greatly enhance our overall health.
What an amazing list of health benefits! Are you ready incorporate fermented foods into your diet? Below is a recipe for Kimchi, a spicy Korean dish that consists of cabbage and other vegetables. Because it’s fermented to include those gut-friendly probiotics, Kimchi is the perfect recipe for digestive health.
How to Make Kimchi
-1 large ceramic crock or stainless steel pot
-1 plate that fits snugly inside the crock
-1 gallon jug filled with water (used as a weight)
-1 cloth to cover the crock, such as a pillowcase.
Ingredients (we recommend organic):
-1 head of Napa cabbage (if unavailable, may substitute regular cabbage)
-2-3 garlic cloves
-1 tsp. fresh ginger root
-2-3 green onions
-1 daikon radish
-3-4 Tbsp. non-iodized sea salt
-Dried chili flakes to taste
1) Wash cabbage and chop into one-inch pieces. Set aside in a large bowl.
2) Wash and finely dice the garlic, ginger, radish, and green onions. Add to cabbage and stir to evenly distribute ingredients.
3) Massage salt into the cabbage mixture evenly with your hands. Take the time to really work in the salt, as this will draw water out of the cabbage and create the brine needed for fermentation.
4) For a spicier Kimchi, add dried chili flakes to taste and stir to distribute evenly. (Don’t overdo it–you can always add more chili flakes after fermentation process is over.)
5) Fill the crock with the cabbage mixture one inch at a time, pressing the mixture firmly down with your palms or fists to limit air pockets.
6) Once all of the cabbage is pressed firmly down into the crock, place the plate inside the crock so that it rests on the cabbage. Place the full gallon jug of water on top of the plate as a weight that will help keep pressure on the cabbage and remove air bubbles. Cover the whole thing with the cloth to keep out dust and flies.
7) Keep in a warm place overnight and check on it the next day. Remove the jug and plate to ensure that the cabbage is fully submerged in brine. If not, you’ll need to make some more salt water yourself. Add one teaspoon of salt for every cup of water and stir until dissolved; then pour it on top of the cabbage. Make just enough brine to submerge the cabbage, and then replace the plate, jug, and cloth.
8) Check on the cabbage daily. If any cabbage bits are not submerged, use a spoon to push them back down and cover the crock again.
9) Your Kimchi will be ready to eat in 5-14 days, depending on the room temperature and strength of kimchi that you prefer. Begin tasting it after 5 days to see how it develops. Finished Kimchi will taste sour, but the veggies will still be crisp and crunchy.
10) Once it’s ready, store in an airtight glass jar in the refrigerator. Because fermentation is a natural way to preserve foods, it will keep for many months.
11) For maximum health benefits, eat about ¼ cup of Kimchi every day. It can be used as a side dish or added as a condiment to foods such as potatoes or sandwiches. Just be sure not to heat the Kimchi, as this will destroy some of its beneficial probiotics.
12) Enjoy your delicious and healthy Kimchi!
Written By: Sarah Baldwin