We often hear about how good fermented foods are for our gut health and overall wellness, specifically by influencing they have on our micro biome.  The micro biome has been getting a lot of attention lately because research has shown that the bacteria, flora and fauna that inhabits our gut can influence everything from our mood and brain chemistry to how we break down calories and in turn how we store/utilize those calories.

gut health

Essentially, what lives in your gut can determine to a large degree your success at weight loss in addition to your overall mood!  Pretty cool stuff!

Fermented foods like sauerkraut and kimchi have long been toted as “gut boosters”.  In my Masters of Nutrition and Human Performance class there was an interesting study that was brought to my attention – click here to check out the study entitled “Contrasting effects of fresh and fermented kimchi consumption on gut microbiota composition and gene expression related to metabolic syndrome in obese Korean women.”

This study looked at two groups of overweight Korean women, one of which received an 8-week intervention of daily fermented kimchi consumption, while the other consumed unfermented kimchi. At the end, there was a decrease of “bad” species and an increase of “good” species in both groups. However, it was more pronounced in the fermented group.

I found it very interesting that not only did gut microbiota improve, but several other health indicators improved as well, including many related to “Metabolic Syndrome”, essentially a term used to describe pre-diabetes and is present in most people that have diabetes.  Metabolic syndrome is a catch all term used to describe issues related to insulin and glucose control, or how your body stores, manages and breakdown calories.  Metabolic syndrome is bad.  In addition to improving Metabolic Syndrome their were changes in body weight, waist circumference, BMI, body fat, total cholesterol, and blood pressure.

 

Finally, the study showed that fermented kimchi seemed to be able alter the expression of certain genes related to metabolic and immunity pathways, among others.  That’s good!

 

Your ability to change your micro biome doesn’t stop there!  You can simply change it by adjusting the food you eat.  One study showed that switching from a plant based, low fat diet to a westernized high fat high processed carb diet showed a change in the gut micro biome in as little as 20 hours with it normalizing to a new profile with in 7 days!  Check out this article in Scientific American to read more.

And the study they reference here.

 

Ok…so while fermented foods might be toted as a wonder food, here’s my issue with it all – our micro biome is influenced by a plethora of factors ranging from how we were birthed (C-section vs. natural), our environment, what we eat, our age, history of antibiotics, etc.  The problem we have is – if I add in fermented foods WITH OUT changing my diet away from the SAD (Standard American Diet, yes…that’s the acronym.  And yes…it’s sad.) of high fat and high processed foods, does kimchi/fermented foods really help all that much?

 

I would argue it doesn’t.

I would argue you must change your diet to a higher plant based, lower fat diet in order to truly alter your micro biome for the better and thus change your mood, how your body utilizes and breaks down calories and grant you the ability to fly.

I made that last part up…about the flying…just to see if you were paying attention.

 

So if weight loss is your goal, you could try and choke down cups of kimchi and kraut…or just eat more veggies, less processed foods and a little bit less fat.

 

 

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Ben Dearman
Ben started his career in 2000 working as a student Athletic Trainer while attending Bloomsburg University. He graduated in 2004 with a B.S. in Exercise Science and a concentration in Athletic Training. After college Ben worked as an intern at Rutgers University under Shawn Windle before securing an Assistant Strength and Conditioning Coach at Bucknell University under Jerry Shreck.
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