Dietary Info

What are fermented drinks?

What are fermented drinks?

Our fermented drinks are made by using an old-age preservation technique; fermentation. Fermentation is the scientific explanation for how the microbes living within foods alter to produce further bacteria and yeasts. In simple terms, fermentation is a metabolic process that converts sugar to acids, gases and alcohol. Fermentation prevents food from going rotten and was used before refrigeration.

What is fermentation?

The process of fermentation is happening around us in the natural world every day. We are surrounded by yeasts, bacteria and fungi. In fact, according to the Microbe Census, there are over 2,000 different types of bacteria in the air we breathe daily [1]. We are a giant living colony of microbes inside and outside our bodies. Since the industrial revolution, as a species, we have turned our back on the natural world where we have evolved for over 200,000 years. Humans have always needed to eat and drink, and for all that time it had to come from the natural world. Wind forward to now, and most of our enormous human population chooses to eat food that has been mass-produced in a factory. Sadly, this choice has been forced upon us because many of the ancient cooking styles have been lost over the years; the information simply hasn’t been passed on. Also, the industrial revolution has created convenience, jobs and people becoming time-poor because of financial pressures. We have turned our back on natural living but the good news is, we can do something about it. The Industrial Revolution has also created science, and science is amazing in that it can share research and help us to understand how we can live the best our species has ever been able to, and eating fermented foods is one of those ways. Science is telling us that we are surrounded by microbes – good and bad, and science is also telling us about the amazing microbes that live inside the human body and how powerful they are at influencing our health. The harmful microbes have always been kept under control by the naturally occurring microbes in the air, in nature and our foods, but our lifestyles have removed many of these important microbes from our existence, leaving us open to illness and disease, therefore we should be finding ways of helping our microbiome to grow. Eating fermented foods is one of that way, and our fermented foods (drinks) are full of friendly bacteria and yeasts, we’ve even got the science to prove it. Fermented foods should be considered an important part of your diet because the microbes within them help to colonise your body and build up a defence against harmful bacteria. Fermentation can happen in the presence of oxygen and without oxygen, making ATP without oxygen. ATP (Adenosine Tri-Phosphate) is the energy used by an organism in its daily operations. It consists of an adenosine molecule and three inorganic phosphates. After a simple reaction breaking down ATP to ADP, the energy released from the breaking of a molecular bond is the energy we use to keep ourselves alive. [2]

Did you know fermentation is the process used to make alcohol?

The creation of alcohol has been around for over 5000 years. The earliest chemically confirmed barley beer to date was discovered at Godin Tepe in the central Zagros Mountains of Iran, where fragments of a jug, from between 5400 and 5000 years ago were found to be coated with beer stone, a by-product of the brewing process.[3] Wine has been around for even longer. The oldest fermented beverage known is a 9,000-year-old rice and honey wine identified on pottery shards from the village of Jiahu in central China. According to biomolecular archaeologist Patrick McGovern of the University of Pennsylvania Museum of Anthropology and Archaeology, the wine likely got most of its sugars from the Chinese hawthorn fruit and wild grapes, the seeds of which have also been found at the site. [4] This naturally occurring process has led to birds and animals being reported as drunk when they eat the fruits from trees and vines, caused by wild yeasts in the air. When we begin to understand how fermentation exists around us naturally, we start to recognise the need for consuming fermenting foods in our everyday living; it seems that every other animal and mammal on the planet is enjoying this wonderful gift from God, so why shouldn’t we?

So, if beer and wine are made as a process of fermenting, are they good for us?

Hell yeah, they are! But, there is a “But” – everything in moderation. Unfortunately, our glutenous addiction to sugar and alcohol has meant that alcohol has been getting a bad rap over the recent years, but considering our ancestors have been drinking it for over 9000 years I’d say there were a lot more health benefits to drinking alcohol than we understand. An article in the Daily Mail [5] uncovered some science released in America about how drinking beer can help reduce heart disease and improve brain health. I do not doubt that drinking beer in small consumptions can do this but everything in moderation. The other issue with commercially produced beer and wine, is the additives, manufactured yeasts and the large quantity of sugar used to create the alcohol, so therefore if you abuse alcohol and “drink to get drunk” frequently, then you are at an increase of severely damaging your health. Too much sugar and alcohol in your diet we know leads to obesity, liver damage, intestinal permeability also known as Leaky Gut Syndrome, mental health problems, cancer and many more. Therefore, if you treat alcohol as your friend and retain a healthy lifestyle, drinking alcohol in moderate amounts can improve your health.

Fermented foods are for everyone, not just for unwell people

Recently, in the health industry, there has been a medicine movement where the understanding of health conditions and illnesses is being directed back to the function of the gut. Hippocrates said, “that all disease begins in the gut,” and it is now through science and research that we are discovering the truth behind this saying. In this article, I have written about how fermentation occurs naturally around us every day, as we have evolved through the process of microbes, fermentation, bacteria and yeasts. It makes sense that inside our body the natural occurrences of life on the outside of the world are happening on the inside too. This statement can be backed up by science; fermentation happens in our muscles when there is not enough oxygen in the muscles, therefore the muscles produce energy without the presence of oxygen and use sugar instead. This process of fermentation is called glycolysis [6]. The process of converting sugar into acids results in what we know as lactic acid buildup. In healthy people, fermentation happens all the time in the lower intestine in the presence of complex carbohydrates [7], but for those who suffer from poor gut health, it is likely some carbohydrates are fermenting in the upper gut which leads to an array of symptoms, discomforts and disease. [8] The stomach and small intestine should be free of microbes and bacteria being left to take care of digestion, but poor diet choices including too much sugar and gluten are causing the digestion of food to become problematic for many people. Over time, humans have turned their backs on the natural world which has led to a lower existence of certain bacteria living within our lower intestine, as a result, these bacteria are unable to colonise and their lower levels mean that people are more likely to suffer with conditions related to poor gut health. [9]

How can fermented foods help me if I am unwell?

If you are unwell with any condition or illness, then you should be thinking about what is going on in your gut microbiome and your digestive system. This new way of thinking about our health is revolutionary and is championed by functional doctors all over the world. The gut health phenomena are helping us all to understand the importance of looking after our gut health, and the gut microbiome falls into that category. Now, that we know fermentation happens within us and all around us it helps us to understand the importance of bacteria and yeasts. Everything in life is about balance, in China, they call it Ying Yang. You have to have the light and the dark, the good with the bad so to speak and in the human body having balance is called homeostasis. Homeostasis is the internal control of body functions and if there is an imbalance in homeostasis then disease sets in. An example of this is diabetes, diabetes is an imbalance of the endocrine system and it has difficulty in producing insulin. Insulin is needed to regulate blood sugar levels so without it the sugars in the blood stay high and this can be life-threatening. We are learning through science that diabetes is related to too much sugar in the diet and a damaged gut. Therefore, we need to focus on two things to combat diabetes:1) reduce all sugars and gluten to minimum and sourcing carbohydrates only from vegetables and some fruits, and increase higher protein foods and important saturated fats in the diet.2) increase the levels of friendly bacteria in the gut microbiome to help establish balance within the microbiome.

Reducing sugars is about making better food choices and combating your addition to sugar. Increasing the levels of friendly bacteria hasn’t really been explored until more recently but you can ingest friendly bacteria and yeasts directly through the consumption of fermented foods. Some of the bacteria found in fermented foods have been proven to survive the process of digestion to reach the lower intestine and begin to colonise. This is fantastic news because certain bacteria such as the Lactobacillus Acidophilus are very important for our general health including IBS, yeast infections, weight loss and more. [10] Lactobacillus is the bacteria found in our water kefir juice, in fact, 97,000,000 of them in only 1ml!

Lactobacillus isn’t the only bacteria that’s good for us, there are plenty more and science is discovering new gut microbes all the time. Different strains of yeasts have proven health benefits too such as Brewer’s Yeast. Brewer’s Yeast is found in our Fermented Ginger Ale and can help with diarrhoea, IBS, lactose intolerance and more [11] Brewer’s Yeast is also a source of potassium, chromium, magnesium and B vitamins 1-7.

As you can see fermented foods will help you get better by helping to colonise and increase the number of important bacteria and yeasts, and if you are healthy, then it’s always important to think about your microbiome and ensure that there is a constant balance, which is why you should include as many different varieties of fermented foods you can.

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