FERMENTED BEVERAGES: DRINK TO YOUR HEALTH!
Both fermented foods and drinks have many health benefits. Dr Chan from ‘Dr Chan’s Feeling Good Ferments’ believes strongly in fermented tonics improving ones health. Here she explains how ferments work and just how they heal the body.
Humans have been fermenting for almost as long as we’ve existed as a species. I often wonder how and when the initial act of human induced fermenting occurred, when we realised it was a way to preserve food, keep healthy through microbial interaction and boost the nutritional content of what we consume. Fermentation mimics life itself, where microbe and human interact, living symbiotically, in a beneficial co-creating cycle. This powerful process is ubiquitous and used by cultures the world over for its simple, creative techniques and diverse healing properties.
Whatever the source, we as humans have been fascinated by these microorganisms- bacteria, yeasts, viruses & fungi- for both their healing power and ability to cause disease when imbalanced. It wasn’t that long ago that we thought of them as ‘miasmas’ and the idea of washing ones hands before surgical procedures was considered absurd. Since the Human Microbiome Project came into fruition due to a combination of modern technology and microbiological advancement, we are learning even more about how essential microbes are and how vast their role truly is in our survival. We are living in the Age of the Microbe!
I believe that we’ve moved from being the Great Unwashed to the Great Over-Washed, and now is the time to find the balance between these two damaging extremes. It’s time to come back to the middle. We’ve over sanitised, over sterilised and have over done the antibiotics, and we’re paying for it, physically and mentally. More and more evidence shows that our battle against these micro- bugs has been poorly handled, and as a species we need to find a better way to co-exist with these tiny enemies, who are really our friends!
The studies are complex and varied, but some are more startling than others. My interest lies in microbial influence on our mood and behaviour, as well as how it affects our physical health. It is a well established fact that microbial cells outnumber ours, within our body, by 10 to 1. Bacteria produce most of our body’s serotonin, a mood regulating neurotransmitter that affects our happiness in a huge way. Different bacteria have been shown to cause specific cravings for junk food and sugar, and faecal transplant studies in mice and later humans have shown that obesity and some chronic bowel diseases can be greatly improved by moving microbes from a healthy gut into a diseased one.
Besides this, the cultural and communal importance of fermentation is age old and close to my heart. I love that there are places where they are still fermenting the traditional way, in an unbroken line of generational food arts. I love that these techniques that were lost in some modern societies are experiencing a huge resurgence. I love that it brings people (and microbes) together in creative and connected ways. In this time of environmental toxins, chemicals in our water, processed food and harmful sugars, we need more than ever to balance ourselves and our guts. It has been significantly shown in many studies that gut health is central to our systemic health.
Fermented drinks, in their myriad forms, have been made and consumed for 10,000 years, often a staple part of ancient diets. According to fermentation expert Sally Fallon, “Throughout the world, these lactic-acid-containing drinks have been valued for medicinal qualities including the ability to relieve intestinal problems and constipation, promote lactation, strengthen the sick and promote overall well-being and stamina. Above all, these drinks were considered superior to plain water in their ability to relieve thirst during physical labor. Both soft drinks and alcoholic beverages—and even plain water—are poor substitutes for these health-promoting beverages. Taken with meals they promote thorough and easy digestion of food; taken after physical labor they give a lift by replacing lost mineral ions in a way that renews rather than depletes the body’s reserves.”
This is why I make living probiotic drinks and plan to produce other probiotic and synbiotic products- to re-introduce people to the variety of fermented foods available, and foment that ferment love in the world! Along with Bouza, Sima, Milk Kefir, Ginger Beer, Kombucha, Kvass, Smreka and Sweet Potato Fly, to name a few, Tibicos is a fermented beverage teeming with beneficial bacteria and yeasts which have been working together for hundreds of years.
Each type of drink has different characteristics and benefits, and all have a place in our diets. Probiotics (‘for life’) are packed with gut healing microorganisms which work with prebiotics (foods that feed the resident microbes in our large intestine) to ensure a healthy balance. It is important to remember that although all ferments require sugars to work, most end products have very low glucose content as it has all been consumed in the process.
We chose to produce Tibicos, as it is a great all round probiotic beverage with many health-giving and -promoting effects. It also appeals to a wide range of palates, and contains mostly lactic acid organisms which are best studied in relation to gut health.
Tibicos originates from Mexico, where it was found in vats used to make fermented prickly pear juice. It was then used to make Tepache, a pineapple based effervescent, slightly alcoholic drink used to prevent heart attacks and strokes (as well as being delicious!). This Symbiotic Culture of Bacteria and Yeasts (SCOBY) consists of a very diverse microbial population, in a lipid and protein matrix. The resultant beverage contains organic acids, antioxidants, enzymes, nourishing minerals such as phosphorus, magnesium and calcium, amino acids and vitamins B, C and K.
A two day ferment, Tibicos infuses the gut with lactobacillus and the lactic acid needed to sustain them. Secondary fermentation is also important in increasing the nutritional content of fermented beverages. Fermentation has been shown to release nutrients from fruits, vegetables and herbs that are usually left undigested in their raw form, allowing us to unlock the full potential of our food.
Tibicos are detoxifying, anti-inflammatory, support our internal ecosystem and thereby reduce digestive symptoms (e.g. bloating, indigestion, excessive gas, heartburn, diarrhoea), relieve skin problems (e.g. psoriasis, eczema), stabilise moods, improve immune health and increase energy levels. Some of our customers have described relief of arthritic pain, clearer skin, weight loss, more stable moods, relief of cold symptoms and headaches, as well as an uplifting effect, cutting out the need for caffeine.
There are so many fermented drinks out there for you to choose from, and everyone has different tastes and preferences (most likely because different bodies require different healing!). So get out there, try them all, and make your own at home! Not only will you and your loved ones have gut health for life, you will also have the beautiful experience of getting more intimate with these tiny life forms that keep us going as a species.
Get Cultured and Get Healthy!
Love, Light and Wisdom
Dr. Miin Chan (MBBS, BMedSc)
Doctor Chan’s Feeling Good Ferments
Home of Feeling Good Tibicos