By Dr. Sheena Wu, ND

The method of fermentation has been around for thousands of years, while it has been used for food preservation and adding depths of flavour to our cooking, it also provides a good boost of good bacteria, the probiotics, that help us maintain a healthy gut microbiome.

We have more than 100 trillion bacteria and microorganisms in our digestive tract, which together make up our gut microbiome (the overall microbial community in the gut).  Researchers have discovered that keeping a diverse and healthy microbiome can improve gut health, digestion, absorption, immunity, inflammation reduction, mental health, skin concerns and more.  Consuming probiotic foods from as early as childhood helps the immune system to better tolerate and cooperate with a diverse beneficial microbiome, building a healthy gut for later years to come.

Besides providing probiotics, fermented foods are also nutritionally beneficial.  With fermented foods being all the rage right now, many have already incorporated them into their diet.  To ensure a diverse gut microbiome, it’s always a good idea to broaden the range of sources.

Here are some popular fermented foods that can be found in grocery stores –

  • Kefir & Yogurt – perhaps one of the most common fermented products, in addition to probiotics, they are also excellent sources of vitamin B12, protein, calcium, enzymes, and more
    • Coconut or other plant kefir can be a great alternative for those who do not consume dairy
  • Sauerkraut – made from fermented cabbage whose fibre can act as a prebiotic – food that feeds our gut microflora – making it a great combination of both prebiotic and probiotic
  • Miso & Natto – fermented soybeans rooted in Japan, also contain protein, fibre, and other micronutrients
  • Kimchi – a traditional Korean fermented cabbage, is also a great combination of prebiotic and probiotic as the cabbage is a great source of fibre
  • Tempeh – fermented soybeans originated from Indonesia, it contains both probiotics and prebiotics, is a great source of plant-based protein, and is one of the few non-fortified plant-based foods that contain vitamin B12 and is a complete source of protein – it has all nine essential amino acids


Important Note –

  • Not all fermented foods contain probiotics, such as vinegar and cheese
  • Read the food labels – with demand on the rise, some store-bought options are pickled with vinegar brine instead of being fermented, thus do not contain the beneficial probiotics
    • Look for “naturally fermented”, “live culture”, “Source of probiotics”
  • You can have too much – while probiotics provide great health benefits if consumed too much, too quickly, digestive issues may ensue – abdominal discomfort/pain, gas and bloating, diarrhea
    • Start slowly and experiment with different types of fermented foods to find what works best for you
  • When fermenting at home, ensure proper sterilization of equipment, containers, and procedures to prevent contamination


If you would like to learn more about naturopathic diet plans and fermented foods, schedule an appointment with one of our Naturopathic Doctors.