Ferment Your Vegetables: Easy, Super Healthy and Inexpensive!

Your digestive tract is probably the most underappreciated system of your body, often ignored until its screams of discontent become loud enough to grab your attention. By the time your gut reaches this degree of disgruntlement, the problems have usually been developing for months — or years — and are challenging to resolve. Instead of waiting for obvious signs of a problem, why not perform some regular "gut maintenance” that will lessen your chances of developing a problem in the first place?
Your body's gut is much more than a food processing tube — it houses about 85 percent of your immune system. This is in large part due to the 100 trillion bacteria that live there, both good and bad that can stimulate secretory to nourish your immune response. When your body's GI tract is not working well, a wide range of health problems can appear, including allergies and autoimmune diseases. If your body suffers from any major illness, you simply will NOT be able to fully recuperate without healing and sealing your body's gut.
Balancing the menagerie of microorganisms that occupy your body's GI tract is a key part of maintaining your immune health, which will be the focus of this article. Your stomach is where digestion really gets rolling, with the introduction of more enzymes and a whole lot of acid. Fortunately, your stomach is uniquely designed for this process, as it is SO acidic. Its lining must actually regenerate at a feverish pace — just to keep up with the continuous digestion of itself! You require a brand new stomach lining every few days.  

Unhappy Gut Bacteria May Makes Your body Fat and Your mind Depressive:
Gut Bacteria Guide the Working of our Mind!
When you consume junk foods, certain bacteria flourish and produce endotoxins, which your immune system detects and, interpreting these endotoxins as an attack, responds with inflammation. Your body changes its metabolism to redirect energy for "battle.” The result is overproduction of insulin, increased fat storage, dampening of your appetite control signals, and eventually obesity.
The best way to reverse this inflammation and restore a healthy metabolism is by eliminating excess sugar and processed food, and adding more friendly, beneficial bacteria from naturally fermented foods. 
Read this: Changing gut bacteria through diet affects brain function, UCLA study shows:
"Time and time again, we hear from patients that they never felt depressed or anxious until they started experiencing problems with their gut. Our study shows that the gut–brain connection is a two-way street." 
Scientists have been working on a really obvious question - how the gut microbes could talk to the brain. A big nerve known as the vagus nerve, which runs all the way from the brain to the abdomen, was a prime suspect. And when researchers in Ireland cut the vagus nerve in mice, they no longer saw the to changes in the gut.
"The vagus nerve is the highway of communication between what's going on in the gut and what's going on in the brain," says John Cryan of the University College Cork in Ireland. Gut microbes may also communicate with the brain in other ways, scientists say, by modulating the immune system or by producing their own versions of neurotransmitters. Continue reading here.
More about the vagus nerve and total health, check out Raw, Vegetarian, Vegan?
Cultured Vegetables Are the Ultimate Superfood
One of the leading experts in the optimization of intestinal flora is Dr. Natasha Campbell-McBride, who developed the GAPS nutritional protocol (Gut and Psychology Syndrome/Gut and Physiology Syndrome). For decades, Dr. McBride has successfully treated adults and children with severe illnesses, including autism, epilepsy, mood disorders, arthritis, multiple sclerosis, celiac disease and many more, with her GAPS protocol.
A key component of the GAPS program is the daily consumption of fermented foods. Fermented foods are potent chelators (detoxifiers) and contain much higher levels of probiotics than probiotic supplements, making them ideal for optimizing your gut flora. In addition to helping break down and eliminate heavy metals and other toxins from your body, beneficial gut bacteria perform a number of surprising functions, including:
  • Mineral absorption, and producing nutrients such as B vitamins and vitamin K2 (vitamin K2 and vitamin D are necessary for integrating calcium into your bones and keeping it out of your arteries, thereby reducing your risk for coronary artery disease and stroke)Preventing acne  
  • Preventing obesity and diabetes, and regulating dietary fat absorption
  • Lowering your risk for cancer
  • Improving your mood and mental health
  • Preventing acne
Introducing Cultured Vegetables into Your Life Style 
If you aren’t accustomed to these foods, you may have to work them into your diet gradually. Many folks really enjoy the taste of fermented vegetables, which really have a pleasantly salty-tart flavor. According to nutritional consultant Caroline Barringer, WORTH LISTENING TO THE INTERVIEW OR TO READ THE INTERVIEW TRANSCRIPT, just one quarter to one half cup of fermented veggies, eaten with one to three meals per day, can have a dramatically beneficial impact on your health.
If you’ve never eaten fermented foods, too large a portion may provoke a healing crisis, which occurs when the probiotics kill off pathogens in your gut. When these pathogens die, they release potent toxins. If you are new to fermented foods, you should introduce them gradually, beginning with as little as one teaspoon of sauerkraut with a meal. Observe your reactions for a couple of days before proceeding with another small portion, and increase your dose gradually, as tolerated. Realize that many food preferences develop very early in life, so the sooner you can introduce fermented vegetables to your child, the better. Traces of the flavors of the foods mothers eat are perceptible in their breast milk and amniotic fluid. Babies whose mothers eat things like garlic or broccoli while pregnant tend to be more likely to enjoy these foods later in life. 
Making Cultured Veggies at Home: Equipment Checklist
Culturing your own vegetables is not difficult, but as with anything, having the right tools makes the job much easier and more fun. One of the key ingredients though is the starter culture. You can use the following kitchen tools to make your own fermented vegetables:
  1. Food Processor, not necessary, however handy: You’ll be cutting up large quantities of raw vegetables, which is very labor intensive without a food processor. Make sure yours has a shredding disc, as a typical S-blade will result in too fine a chop, which makes for a pulpier, mushier end product.
  2. Juicer/Blender: My own experimentation has resulted in selecting celery juice as the basic brine for my cultured veggies, making a juicer or blender (just add extra water) necessary.
  3. Good Knives: Make sure you have a set of good quality, sharp knives for prepping your vegetables.
  4. Cutting Board: A large, sturdy cutting board is a must.
  5. Very Large Bowl: This bowl should be large enough to hold the entire batch of shredded veggies, so a large capacity stainless bowl is a necessity.
  6. Canning Jars: Basic wide-mouthed 32-ounce Mason jars are all that is necessary for both fermenting and storing the vegetables. These are inexpensive and easy to find at your local hardware store, grocery, or online. Make sure they are wide-mouthed, as you’ll need to get your hand or a tool down into the jar for tightly packing the veggies.
  7. Krautpounder: This solid wood tool that looks like a small baseball bat is very handy for tightly packing the shredded veggies into your jars and eliminating air pockets. You can use your own hands as alternative.
Making Cultured Veggies at Home in Six Easy Steps
The following are the basic steps to making wonderful cultured vegetables at home.
  1. Vegetable and Herb Selection: The first step is gathering up your veggies. Make sure they are all organic. Cabbage (red or green) should be the "backbone” of your blend, comprising about 80 percent. Choose dense, tightly packed heads. Five or six medium-sized cabbages will yield 10 to 14 quart jars of fermented vegetables. Remember to reserve some cabbage leaves for the jar tops (see Step 3). Add in hard root vegetables of your liking, such as carrots, golden beets, radishes and turnips. Peel your veggies as the skins can impart a bitter flavor. I also enjoy adding red bell pepper, Granny Smith apples, and even a hot pepper, like a habanero (make sure you wear gloves!). One pepper for the entire batch is plenty. Aromatics can be added in small quantities — a little goes a long way, as fermenting concentrates the pungent flavors. Tasty additions include peeled garlic, peeled ginger, and herbs such as basil, sage, rosemary, thyme, or oregano. Onions tend to overpower the mix, no matter how little are used. Finally, you can add sea vegetables or seaweed to increase the mineral, vitamin, and fiber content. You can add pieces of whole dulse, or use flakes. Wakame and sea palm do not have any kind of fishy flavor but need to be presoaked and diced into the desired size. Arame and hijaki DO have a fishy flavor. 
  2. Culture and Brine: One quart of celery juice is adequate for 10 to 14 quarts of fermented veggies. While you can do wild fermentation (allowing whatever is naturally on the vegetable to take hold), this method is more time consuming, and the end product is less certain. Inoculating the food with a starter culture speeds up the fermentation process. Add a small amount of natural, unprocessed salt, such as Himalayan salt or Sea Salt. Lightly salt them to taste or else weigh them and measure out 1.5 percent salt.
  3. Packing the Jars: Once you have your shredded veggies and brine mixture combined in your large bowl, "bruise” the vegetables to allow the cell walls to break down and release their juices. Capture the juice in the jar you’re going to ferment your vegetables in. Stuff as many veggies into the jar that will fit, use your hands or a krautpounder/masher. You want to stuff them in as tightly as possible, forcing out any air pockets that might ruin the batch. The brine should cover the vegetables. Top with a cabbage leaf, tucking it down the sides. Make sure the veggies are completely covered with brine and that the brine is all the way to the top of the jar, to eliminate trapped air. Put the lids on the jars loosely, as they will expand due to the gases produced in fermentation.
  4. Fermentation: Allow the jars to sit in a relatively warm place for several days, Ideal temperature range is 68-75 degrees Fahrenheit (20-24 degrees Celsius). You don’t want it too hot, as heat will kill the beneficial microbes. Don’t tuck them away in a dark closet and forget about them. The veggies are going to produce pressures, especially in the first couple of days. You want to relieve that pressure by opening the jar for a second now and then. During the summer, veggies are typically done in three or four days. In the winter, they may need seven days. The only way to tell when they’re done is to open up a jar and have a taste. Once you're happy with the flavor and consistency, move the jars into your refrigerator.
  5. Storage: The refrigerator will dramatically slow the progression of the fermentation. They will keep for many months in the fridge, continuing to mature very slowly over time. Be aware that the vegetables will tend to get increasingly sour as time goes on, but you could let the vegetables ferment for weeks and even months without worrying about them spoiling - after all, that’s what the fermentation process does: It preserves food without refrigeration.
  6. Enjoy! Always use a clean spoon to take out what you’re eating. Never eat out of the jar, as you will contaminate the entire batch with bacteria from your mouth. Make sure the remaining veggies are covered with the brine solution before replacing the lid.
  7. Trust the Process! The vegetables know what to do!
There are Many Varieties of Cultured Foods
Ideally, you'll want to include a variety of cultured foods and beverages in your diet, as each food will inoculate your gut with a variety of different microorganisms. Fermented foods you can easily make at home include:
- Cultured vegetables (including pureed baby foods)
- Chutneys Condiments, such as salsa and mayonnaise
- Cultured dairy, such as yoghurt, kefir, and sour cream
- Fish, such as mackerel and Swedish gravlax
In the interview above, Caroline discusses the process of fermenting your own vegetables in some detail, so for more information, please listen to the interview in its entirety. According to her, most people are very intimidated, if not downright frightened that the culturing process might lead to some horrific pathogenic infection... While understandable, this fear is undeserved. Clearly, educating yourself about the process will help alleviate concerns about eating fermented foods, which are very much "alive."
Caroline Barringer "If people could only grasp the important concept that it's NOT the microbe; rather, it is the terrain (immune system) we should be worried about!" 
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