The word "ferment" can sound a little yucky, but fermentation is an ancient form of food preservation using beneficial bacteria. Did you know that not all bacteria is bad? Some bacteria strains are so helpful that they're responsible for things like reduced body inflammation, reduced risk for degenerative and auto-immune disease, and even an improved mood! More nerdy info here if you'd like:
While we're familiar with common fermented like wine, beer, or sourdough bread, which use fermentation in the process of creating the beverage or bread, no beneficial bacteria remains in the final product. Komucha, on the other hand, is a fermented tea while contains an abundance of healthy probiotics. I brew my own and it's a fairly easy process to learn, but there are many commercially available kombuchas available at health food and regular grocery stores. If you need advice on how to find a good kombucha, ask away! The final product is a slightly sour bubbly drink, so I'd recommend trying one infused with a favorite flavor such as berry or peach. While over the counter probiotic pills are available, they're considered dietary supplements, which do not require FDA approval. Feel free to look into probiotic supplements, however, for this reason alone I generally suggesting getting your gut boosting probiotics from real food sources. Many probiotics also contain common bacteria strains that you may not need in abundance.
Here's your nerdy info on that:
You can also get good probiotics from yogurt and fermented veggies like kimchee, sauerkraut, and lacto-fermented pickles. Check your labels, as a lot of these are brine pickled and while yummy, they're not fermented and don't offer the same benefit. A lot of stores and farmers markets carry lacto-fermented veggies, and they're really well worth the investment! Yogurt is an easy one, but try to avoid high sugar yogurts that do about as much harm as good, as sugar is a pro-inflammatory food. Opt instead for plain yogurt and add your own toppings like fruit, nuts, seeds, healthy granola, unsweetened coconut, pure maple syrup and raw honey. It's pretty fun to put together new yogurt bowls, and the possibilities are endless. Why do we need all this additional bacteria? Well, we live in a more hygienic world than in years and centuries past, as well as having sometimes life saving antibiotics available for treatment of infection. The double edged sword that is antibiotics means that while we're eliminating an invading bacteria, we're destroying the beneficial bacteria as well. In an even bigger irony, sometimes antibiotic use can lead to more persistent bacterial infections such as the C-Diff and MRSA; C- Diff and Staff bacteria are common and live in your nose, gut, and other places at any given time, the beneficial bacteria keep their population under control, but when these super bugs get a "clean slate", they're able to thrive and flourish unchecked. And guess what the treatment for these infections are? If you guessed antibiotics, you'd be correct. The process is complicated, but broad-spectrum (kills everything, basically) antibiotics have been shown to increase the likelihood of autoimmune disease:
Basically, we need those healthy bacteria to stay happy, so try an add more into your diet!