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Supporting Our Gut & Sauerkraut!

Updated: Jul 21, 2023

We are a living beings. We are covered in trillions of bacteria which live on our skin as well as any areas of our body which are open to the outside world, such as our gut. Our gut is a hollow pipe running from the mouth to anus and outside of our body (our skin turns inwards).

We have a symbiotic relationship with the bacteria that protect us - we give them a nice home and they keep our gut clean, ‘friendly’ and in balance. Our small intestine is 20ft in length, coiled up before we get to our large intestine which removes waste. Bacteria

occupy the full length of our GI tract and our skin. Our total bacteria is thought to weigh around 1.5kg!

We need fibre and water so that waste can be excreted regularly. Without a healthy stool each day the food we eat can sit in the colon and go rancid or become sticky; this can create an environment which supports detrimental bacteria and cab lead to dis-ease. I like the analogy of a compost heap or a drain pipe… but Hippocrates, 2500 years ago, is famously quoted to have said ‘all dis-ease begins in the gut’. And what wisdom!

And it is perhaps easy to see that this unease of the body-mind that Hippocrates noticed is now especially relevant when we live in a world that is full of fake food, anti-bacterial and clinical and away from nature and her natural microbiomes.

In recent years we have questioned and lost our ability to trust that our body will protect and heal us. Our body and immune system is clever and intelligent! It is just that many of us are not in symbiosis anymore. The Genome Project was supposed to uncover disease yet it actually discovered a world of epigenetics, finding that bacteria have the power to switch our genes on and off! We really need to be looking after our environment and improving our gut and digestive system is one way we can take our power back.

We support our good bacteria through probiotic foods and make the environment less hospitable to detrimental bacteria by keeping our body clean and working as it should.

Fermented foods contain beneficial bacterias called probiotics (often ending in - illi). Fermented dairy includes kefir and natural yogurt; because they are partially digested they are often better tolerated than processed dairy. But, there are a range of vegetables, grains and teas that can be fermented too. One inexpensive and easy fermented food to make is Sauerkraut.

Sauerkraut is fermented cabbage. Just add salt! It happens in a process called lactic acid fermentation. L. mesenteroides, L. plantarum and L. brevis are bacteria that tolerate salty conditions. They produce Co2 making an anaerobic environment (without oxygen) by breaking down sugars to produce lactic acid and acetic acid (vinegar). The acidic environment (low pH), allows beneficial bacteria to grow and acts as a natural preservative.

How To Make Sauerkraut

Buy a jar with a tight clip lid such as a Kilner jar, as the bacteria will produce gas and you can burp it easily each day.

It is important to sterilise your jars. The key to a good ferment is cleanliness.You can read how to do that here:

You will need a cabbage (you can use any cabbage). Ideally chose an organic and can simply use the leaves. If you are using non-organic give the leaves a good wash.

Keep two whole leaves for the end process.

Cut the cabbage into half. Remove the stalk and then chop each half finely.

You will add 2g of Himalayan or sea salt per 100g cabbage - and if necessary, create a 2% brine mixture. The salt level is important as it stops bad bacteria growing.

Literally weigh the salt and mix into the cabbage by kneading and massaging until a brine is produced (the salt begins to pull the water from the leaves and why it produces a brine).

Keep going for a few minutes until the cabbage has reduced in size and forms a liquid.

Pack the sauerkraut mixture into a sterilised jar. Press down firmly to remove any air, use a sterilised wooden stick if necessary.

If you like you can get creative and add some other bits to taste at this point. I added a chopped tsp each of turmeric, ginger, garlic and a sprinkle of onion seeds.

There should be enough liquid from the massaging to rise up and cover the vegetables. If this doesn’t happen, top up with brine until all the veg is submerged. You don’t want any cabbage above the brine as it will go mouldy. You can then cut a big leaf to fit in to the top keeping everything submerged. You can use the stalk too, if necessary.

Once packed, leave it in a warm and darkened area of the kitchen. You can place a tea towel over the jar to keep it dark, or place in a cupboard - but don’t forget to burp it each day or it could explode. 18C is a good temperature for a ferment.

Fermentation can happen in a few days if it is warm, it depends on the environment. Leave it for around a week. You will see the air bubbles form which is the bacteria doing their work. If your ferment tastes sour, fresh and tangy then this is good. If it tastes sugars all the sugars has not yet fully fermented and leave a little longer. The longer it sits and ferments, the tangier it will become. If it goes vinegar-like you are losing some of the beneficial bacteria but it is still ok. You can have a taste the ferment every day and see when it tastes best to you.

Once it is ready you can keep it in the fridge. Keep the jar clean and only use clean utensils during the time and it should keep for a few weeks to months!

Top Tips!

If you don’t have scales and you want a simple solution: use 1 quartz sized mason jar to 1 head of organic cabbage. 1 dessertspoon of sea salt. 1 tablespoon of salt to four cups of water if you need to make a brine.

You shouldn’t use metallic utensils or bowls while doing this process, as some metals can react with acid. Glass and wooden cookware is best. Use filtered water or bottled water rather than tap water.

Use Sea salt or Himalayan Crystal Pink Salt, the latter contains 70 minerals and forms an ionic solution. Avoid refined table salt as it contains iodine which can interrupt a ferment.

Fermented foods really are great for supporting our digestive health but research to see if it is suitable for you. Fermented foods can be high in MSG and histamine and might not be appropriate. Best to avoid pregnancy and toddlers unless you are experienced and already eat fermented foods regularly in your diet but this blog is just for information purposes so seek advice. Remember moderation is best. The key is eating a small amount of fermented food each day. If you are new to fermented foods then start with one teaspoon and work up. The good bacteria will clean out the bad bacteria. You want to the process to be gentle and slow - otherwise it can be like bringing too many friends to a party and you might feel the a little worse for wear, with gas, nausea or lose stools. Increase a range of fermented foods and do it slowly and your gut will thank you for it and settle back into balance over time.

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