Can Bacteria Boost Your Immune System, Aid Digestion & Neutralize Toxins?

Why am I so obsessed with fermented foods? Well I love, love, love the tangy flavour, but more importantly they are just so damn good for you. They are simply loaded with what we call probiotics, otherwise known as microflora, or beneficial gut flora. “Probiotic” comes from the Greek word meaning “for life”, which of course it contrary to “antibiotic”, a term you may be more familiar with. In a nutshell, probiotics such as lactobacilli, and bifidobacteria are organisms, which contribute to a positive intestinal microbial balance.

What does your gut flora do?

  • Form an integral part of the immune system
  • Make the intestinal wall very acidic to deter pathogenic organisms
  • Neutralize toxic substances in the digestive tract
  • Chelate heavy metals and other poisons so they may be carried out of the body
  • Suppress hyperplasia processes in the gut which is the basis of cancer formation
  • Provides a source of energy and nourishment to the cells lining our digestive tracts
  • Promote the synthesis of vitamins K, B5, B6, B12, biotin and short chain fatty acids
  • Play an active role in digestion and absorption of nutrients
  • Act on fibre so it may fulfill all it’s functions in the body
  • Protect the intestinal lining from increased permeability (leaky gut)
  • Help in the digestion of lactose, the sugar found in dairy products
  • Form up to 60% of fecal matter so promoting healthy bowel motility


We have been consuming probiotics for thousands of years through the form of traditionally fermented foods. These include sauerkraut, kombucha, olives, cheese, yoghurt, kefir, kimchi, pickled vegetables of all kinds… find a traditional culture and you will also find a fermented food. In Japan it’s miso, soy sauce and pickles, in France it’s wine, cheese, ham, sausage (yes they too can be preserved through fermentation), in Korea it’s kimchi, in colder countries it’s sauerkraut, and cucumbers.

We are not born with these goodies though, before birth out gastrointestinal tracts are sterile. During delivery however, a newborn baby is inoculated with microorganisms from the mother. Within a week, the most useful of these organisms are firmly established. Breast-feeding encourages the growth of bifidobacteria, and breast milk itself contains billions of lactobacilli and bifidobacteria.

Life such as it is though, throws us challenges that can affect our happy population of gut bacteria. Do any of these ring any alarm bells for you?

What can damage gut flora?

  • Most drugs when prescribed for long periods of time
  • Antibiotics eg. Penicillin, -cyclines, -mycins, antifungal antibiotics
  • Painkillers which prescribed for long periods of time eg. Aspirin, ibupropfen
  • Steroid drugs eg. Prednisolone, Hydrocortisone, Dexamethasone
  • Contraceptive pills
  • Sleeping pills
  • Heart burn pills
  • Neuroleptic/antipsychotic drugs (used to prevent psychotic episodes)
  • Cholinolytic drugs (preventing the action of acetylcholine)
  • Cytotoxic drugs – (used to treat cancer)
  • A diet of convenience rather than nutrition
  • Sugary foods and processed carbohydrates
  • A diet high in fibre from grains especially bran and breakfast cereals
  • Bottle feeding when a baby
  • Prolonged fasting or starvation
  • Overeating
  • Diseases such as typhoid, cholera, dysentery, salmonella and some viral infections
  • Stress, particularly chronic stress
  • Physical exertion
  • Old age
  • Alcoholism
  • Pollution, toxins, radiation
  • Extreme climates


Many chronic illnesses such as diabetes, autoimmune disease, endocrine disease, obesity and neurological conditions are accompanied by serious defects in gut flora, and this is one of the many avenues that a holistic nutritionist will assess. For many, the daily addition of fermented foods into their diet boosts nutrition and general health immeasurably. For others, so much damage has been done that opportunistic bad guys such as yeasts and parasites have taken over, and a specially designed protocol is needed to help them get back on track.

In my home right now we have homemade sauerkraut, kombucha, fermented cauliflower, and water kefir. In fact, you can learn how to make all of these in my Fearless Fermentation classes! We are also regular users of Apple Cider Vinegar and Coconut Aminos. Which fermented foods can you commit to becoming a daily addition to your diet? Go on, try something new. I double dare you! In the comments, let me know it’s going to be, ok?




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