Fun With Fermentation: Cultivating Friendly Bacteria for Healing Our Guts Naturally

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Fermented foods such as sauerkraut, kimchi, and kombucha contain probiotics and other bacterial cultures that work to re-colonize the intestinal lining with friendly microbes

“The natural healing force within each one of us is the greatest force in getting well. Our food should be our medicine. Our medicine should be our food.”  ~ Hippocrates

Over 2,000 years ago, Hippocrates, known as the ‘Father of Western Medicine,’ laid the foundation for nutritional medicine when he affirmed its key role in both wellness and disease. Today, the role of healing foods is widely acknowledged as fundamental in both preventing and even treating disease. To professional nutritionists, the therapeutic use of whole foods is an art. It is power. It is knowledge.

Modern research by medical and naturopathic doctors such as Joel Fuhrman, Mark Hyman, Josh Axe, and others is being published regularly to ensure that the most current information is being transmitted to the public. Dr. Michael Murray, ND, co-author of The Encyclopedia of Healing Foods and The Encyclopedia of Natural Medicine, recommends:

Seven key principles for an optimal healthy diet

1) Eat a rainbow assortment of fruits and vegetables;
2) Reduce your exposure to pesticides;
3) Eat to regulate your blood sugar;
4) Do not overconsume meat and other animal foods;
5) Eat the right types of fats;
6) Keep your salt intake low and potassium intake high;
7) Drink significant amounts of water each day.

Nutritional Approach to Digestive Disorders

Digestive disorders are common issues that not only cause discomfort, but can lead to a multitude of health concerns. As practitioners using holistic nutrition strategies, we believe that symptoms such as gas, bloating, heartburn, diarrhea, constipation, abdominal pain, and nausea may be wreaking havoc in the gut, yet the effects are systemic and can affect the whole body. For example, irritable bowel syndrome is a functional disorder of digestion that arises from the interplay of digestive secretions, bacterial flora, and dietary factors. Holistic nutrition works to turn the clock backward with a mindset based on prevention. We look for a nutritional approach when it comes to alleviating digestive problems.

Useful Strategies

  • increasing consumption of fresh water with lemon squeezed in;
  • consuming a teaspoon of unpasteurized, organic, apple cider vinegar in water before meals to aid digestion;
  • avoiding red meat and dairy which create mucus and clog up digestive organs;
  • combining foods properly so that digestive juices are optimized (i.e. do not combine protein and carbohydrates at the same meal);
  • consuming probiotic-rich foods and supplements to increase the population of healthy bacteria in the intestines.

In order for change to occur, holistic nutritionists take an approach known as the 4Rs:

  1. REMOVE (poor food, allergens, and pathogens);
  2. REPLACE (balancing the pH of the stomach through hydrochloric acid, bile, digestive enzymes, fibre, and water);
  3. RE-INOCULATE (the introduction of nutritional and supplemental probiotics to re-colonize the intestinal lining with friendly bacteria);
  4. REPAIR (the introduction of specific supplements that are used based on biochemical individuality. Biochemical individuality is a term coined by David Rowland, one of the foremost experts in holistic nutrition, and is indicative of the unique biochemistry and physiological differences of each of us.)

When looking at the stages of a digestive healing protocol, re-inoculation stands apart. Re-colonizing the intestinal lining is an integral part of digestive healing. The 100 trillion microorganisms that are commonly present in and on our bodies comprise our normal floral or microbiota. Normal flora do not harm us; in some cases they help us by preventing the overgrowth of harmful microorganisms and by producing vitamins.

Nutritionally, there are numerous foods that can support a healthy gut. For example, fermented foods such as sauerkraut, kimchi, and kombucha contain probiotics and other bacterial cultures to recolonize the intestinal lining. Raw cultured dairy such as kefir also contains natural probiotics to promote a healthy gut lining.


This is a snapshot of various elements relating to digestive healing. The hope is that this article will serve to encourage you to explore the wonders of a natural and nutritional approach to health and wellness. We live in challenging, stressful, but exciting times. Taking control of your health is empowering. It is exhilarating. Knowledge is power. We are honoured to join you in your continued journey.

The Institute of Holistic Nutrition has four campuses:

• Head office in Toronto, located at 18 Wynford Dr., Suite #514, North York, (416) 386-0940;
• In Mississauga, 55 City Centre Drive, Suite 701, (905) 615-9090;
• In Ottawa, Emerald Plaza, 1547 Merivale Rd. Suite 430, Nepean, (613) 680-9330;
• In Vancouver, 604 West Broadway, Suite 300, (604) 558-4000.

For information on their upcoming Open Houses, and to get more information visit their website at:


Homemade sauerkraut needs a minimum of five days to properly ferment

Garlic Sauerkraut

Nutritionally, there are numerous foods that can support a healthy gut. For example, fermented foods such as sauerkraut, kimchi, and kombucha contain probiotics and other bacterial cultures to recolonize the intestinal lining. Raw cultured dairy such as kefir also contains natural probiotics to promote a healthy gut lining.


  • 1 head of cabbage, finely shredded
  • ½ cup organic unpasteurized apple cider vinegar
  • Juice from one lemon
  • 2 Tbsp sea salt
  • 5 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1½ cups water

Mix all ingredients together in a bowl. Transfer to either mason jars or another airtight glass container. Let sit in a cool area, removed from sunlight for a minimum of five days depending on taste preferences.

Comments: typically sauerkraut takes 20 days to become fully fermented. The bacterial cultures begin to take form after three days. In my private practice as a holistic nutritionist, I recommend that my clients not consume their homemade sauerkraut before a minimum of five days because, when working with each client’s taste preferences, I find that compliance is key. So the client needs to like the taste of the sauerkraut. Therefore, the five days allows for an influx of bacteria, while taking into account the taste factor.

Even for myself, I personally sometimes find it difficult to consume sauerkraut that has been fermenting for longer periods of time. However, I would feel comfortable with recommending a 20-day minimum for proper fermentation.

Fermented Kombucha’s enzyme-rich properties are wonderfully restorative to the digestive system


(Recipe by Dr. Joel Villeneuve, ND)

Kombucha (pronounced kom-BOO-cha) is a modern power food which has its origins in China where it was originally made from Chinese tea. This tea was prepared and left to ferment for 30 days, during which time a type of magic happened. Essential nutrients, including active enzymes, probiotics, amino acids, antioxidants, and polyphenols appeared as a result of the fermentation process.

Today, kombucha is made in the same way, starting with a mother substance called a ‘scoby’ which is then left to ferment for 30 days. Kombucha’s popularity arises from the fact that it is a wonderfully restorative beverage that supports the digestive system due to its enzyme-rich nature, and it also boosts immunity and hormonal health. To take a shot at making your own, here is a recipe:


  • 16 cups water, filtered
  • 8 tea bags or 2 Tbsp of loose tea
  • 1 cup sugar, organic (I know, not to worry, as most of this is used up during the fermentation process), raw honey or even stevia
  • 2 cups kombucha tea, plain (from your last batch or store-bought)
  • 1 scoby disc per fermentation jar or make your own:

Infusions of choice:

  • 1 – 2 cups fruit, chopped;
  • 2 – 3 cups fruit juice, unsweetened;
  • 1 – 2 Tbsp flavoured tea (like Earl Grey);
  • ¼ cup honey, raw;
  • 2 – 4 Tbsp fresh herbs or spices (ginger works well)

To Prepare

  1.  Make the tea: Bring the 16 cups water to a boil in a large stockpot on high heat. Remove from heat and add in the 8 tea bags and sugar. Stir until the sugar dissolves. Let tea steep for 15 minutes and then discard the tea bags. Let cool, which takes about an hour. (You can place the pot in an ice bath to speed up the process.)
  2.  Ferment the tea: Once the tea is cooled, pour it into the fermenting jar(s)* and add the 2 cups of pre-made kombucha tea (this makes the liquid acidic, which helps to prevent unfriendly bacterial growth), along with scoby disc(s). Cover jar with a tea towel and an elastic band. Keep the jar(s) at room temperature, away from direct sunlight, for 7 to 10 days to allow the fermentation process to take place. After 7 days, taste the kombucha daily, and when it reaches the right balance of sweetness and tartness to your liking, you are ready to move to the next step. Some people enjoy a stronger flavour by fermenting for up to 30 days. (Note – the warmer the environment, the less time it takes for it to ferment.) (*Glass mason jars are recommended for fermenting.)
  3.  Prep the next batch: Pour out two cups of kombucha as the starter for your next batch, if desired. Use the scoby disc right away or store it in a ready-made kombucha in a glass container for use later.
  4.  Add the flavour infusions: Add your infusions of choice*, and let the mixture stand at room temperature for an additional one to two days and then strain. You can also add your infusions just before serving. (*If you are not using any infusions, you can skip this step.)
  5.  Bottling: Pour the kombucha into smaller glass serving jars of your choice using a baking funnel. For maximum carbonation or bubbles, let the sealed bottles stand at room temperature for an additional one to three days. For the quick version, place in the refrigerator for 24 hours and then consume. Kombucha lasts for about one month in the refrigerator.

Not Fermented – But Still Healing to the Gut

While not fermented foods per se, sprouted hemp and chia seeds do contain protein to help repair the digestive tract. Personally, I, love Joy McCarthy’s Chia Pudding! Simple, delicious, nutritious. (Recipe by Joy McCarthy CNP, RNCP, Copyright: Joyous Health)

Berry Chia Pudding


  • 1 banana
  • 2½ cups fresh or frozen berries
  • 1 cup coconut milk or almond milk
  • ¾ cup chia seeds
  • 1 tsp pure vanilla extract

In a food processor, combine banana, berries, coconut milk, chia seeds and vanilla. Process until completely combined. Transfer to a bowl, cover and refrigerate overnight. Divide among bowls and top with chopped berries for garnish if you’d like.

Sylva Sheridan, CNP, is a graduate of the Institute of Holistic Nutrition, the Industry Leader in Training Nutrition Professionals. He is currently employed by IHN as the Administrative Coordinator, Program Advisor, & Student Clinic Coordinator of the Ottawa Campus. As a Certified Nutritional Practitioner, he hopes to build a practice specializing in pediatric respiratory management. For questions about IHN, or to gain further information regarding the content of this article, contact him at (613) 680-9330 or email:

Write a Comment

view all comments