How To Ferment Foods For Your Kids
Now stop… If you’re thinking,“there’s no way my kids will eat fermented food” or “that will take too much time” or “what the heck? I wanted simplicity! This sounds advanced” keep reading.
I’m here to walk you through why introducing ferments is worth your energy and how to get your kids to eat fermented food.
First, here's why this is important...
We've let our microbiome health slide into oblivion.
It's maybe getting a bit better now that there's more research but in general, most of us pay absolutely no attention to this critical part of our bodies. And that oversight is taking a toll on our collective health.
Evidence is mounting that our microbiome is the driver of our health in so many ways so I want every parent to know how to support that microbiome in their kids.
If you are thinking right now, “well, my child doesn't get bloated, or have IBS, and isn't constipated... they must have good digestion” please stick with me my friend, and let's go deeper.
Digestive Health Extends Far Beyond Digestion.
Is your child...
Tired all the time?
Struggling with skin issues?
Having period cramps? Acne? ADHD? Insomnia? Anxiety? Headaches? Chronic pain?
Yup…. digestive… partly.
Here are a few things about the digestive tract that I hope bring it right up to the front and center of your attention.
- Anywhere from 70 to 85% of your immune system resides in the gut (depending on what source you rely on for your statistics).
- Some of the hormones that regulate mood are created in your gut.
- The surface of the gut is as big as a tennis court.
- There are more cells in the gut than there are in the entire human body.
- There is more genetic material in the gut than there is in the entire body
- Gut bacteria partly control how genes are expressed.
- The gut has its own brain for goodness sake. Yes! There are brain cells in your gut - more than in your spinal cord.
- The gut and brain are in constant conversation.
- When we can reduce inflammation in gut we also reduce it in the brain.
Intestine… it’s time to stand up and be noticed!
A Brief Look At The System We're Talking About.
The digestive tract is actually considered to be “outside” of the body. Imagine it as a long tube. Food goes in, waste comes out.
The mucosal barrier of the intestine is the interface between the outside world and the inside of the body. After the digestive workers have done the job of extracting nutrients from your food, those nutrients are granted passage through the mucosal membrane and into the “inside” of the body, where they travel around through the blood.
It's no surprise then, that as a "borderland" the digestive system is teeming with immune cells; patrols ready to keep intruders from invading the body.
There are about 2kg of bacteria living in the gut. Among them are 500 known species of pathogenic bacteria and also a plethora of beneficial bacteria, viruses and fungi.
All these little microbes live together and keep each other in check in a remarkable symbiotic relationship.
Microbes are truly miraculous and we absolutely depend on them for our health.
Here's some of what those microbes are doing. They:
- digest food,
- manufacture vitamins,
- extract minerals,
- create hormones,
- absorb and neutralize toxins and heavy metals.
- communicate with the gut wall and the rest of the body.
- communicate and direct the immune cells in the blood
Every week it seems, we learn more about how hard working and helpful these little bugs are.
Microbiome Under Attack!
When the beneficial microbes are weakened, opportunistic microbes are allowed to proliferate which opens the door to a cascade of potential damage and disfunction.
Here’s part of what happens when the opportunistic microbes take control of the ecosystem:
- The little hairs that cover the intestinal lining which are responsible for digestion and absorption (called microvilli) start to deteriorate
- The mucosal lining itself becomes damaged
- The immune system patrols lining the gut can become hypersensitive and trigger inflammation
- The gut lining can become irritated and inflamed
- Food that should be digested by beneficial bacteria is instead digested by pathogenic bacteria. This releases chemicals that pass through the compromised gut lining and into the blood where they can wreak havoc.
Essentially what happens is the gut, which should be the heart of nourishment, becomes a source of toxicity (and remember, we need the beneficial bacteria to clear toxins as well… so this becomes a classic case of "the perfect storm" - increased stress coupled with decreased ability to handle that stress. The double whammy that erodes resilience).
Why Is This Such A Problem?
Here are just some of the things that cause digestive stress on a daily basis:
- cigarette smoke (including second hand),
- stress hormones,
- chlorinated water,
- contraceptive pills,
- soft drinks,
- heavy metal exposure,
- artificial sweeteners
- additives like carrageenan,
- certain food compounds like gluten and lectin,
- Tylenol, Naproxen, steroids…
Given all the forces that erode the microbiome, unless you are already paying close attention to your digestive health you likely have a damaged gut.
You can be eating the best foods money can buy, but you likely have a damaged gut unless you are taking steps to actively support it.
So Back To The Power of Fermented Food...
Learning to make (or source) kefir, yogurt, sour pickles, lactofermented sauerkraut, kombucha, water kefir, kimchi and fermented condiments is time well spent, as these are some of the best foods to nourish and support the beneficial bacteria living down there.
It’s not hard, there’s just a learning curve. A short one.
Lacto-fermenting is a time-honoured culinary skill that used to be passed on from mothers and grandmothers, but we’ve totally dropped the ball on this one. I have seen the health benefits that occur when we bring this tradition back into our lives and assure you it is well worth your precious time and energy.
You might start with this simple fermented ketchup recipe, or the fermented hummus recipe in my book (hummus has a lemony taste anyhow! Fermenting it gives you the same zing. I bet your child won't notice).
But Will The Kids Eat It?
If you're wondering how the heck you're going to get fermented foods into your kids, I've got a strategy sheet for you... it covers some simple, kid-friendly ways to incorporate fermented foods, along with how to source good quality if you're not yet ready to make them yourself.