Tips For Introducing Fermented Foods

by Laura McKnight

If you’re looking at introducing fermented foods, then I’m sure you’ve already realised the importance of good gut health. We want lots more good bugs than bad bugs in our bellies because our gut health affects everything from immunity to mental health, and is a big player in the levels of inflammation in the body – and the key to reducing endometriosis pain and IBS symptoms is to reduce inflammation.

So, here are a few tips that I learned (sometimes the hard way!) when I was introducing fermented foods into my diet:

Start slow. Like, snail pace slow.

This is probably the MOST important tip I can give you. If you’re adding new fermented foods into your diet, start small. Like, teeny-tiny, eensy-weensy kinda small. This stuff is powerful and the bad bugs don’t leave quietly, they go out kicking and screaming and causing as much havoc as they can on the way out.

Using sauerkraut as an example, start with maybe a quarter of a teaspoon of just the juice for a day or two, and see how you go. You may find you have to go even smaller than that, just listen to your body. Once you’re feeling ok with that amount, then ease up to half a teaspoon for the next few days. Keep slowly increasing every few days until you’re ok with a teaspoon of the juice and cabbage together, then a tablespoon per day.

It doesn’t matter if it takes a few weeks, just monitor your symptoms and ease back if you notice any reactions. I can tell you from experience that die-off symptoms are not fun if you go too fast!

Use good quality products. 

While the cheap supermarket sauerkraut may seem like a good idea for your bank account, you’re not going to get the benefits unless you’re using good quality products. Ideally organic or homemade if possible, but at the very least make sure there are no preservatives or weird ingredients, and that the cultures are live. Making your own fermented foods is pretty easy, but there are also lots of great brands out there now, even at the supermarket, so it’s getting easier and easier to access the good stuff.

Listen to your body and look out for die-off symptoms. 

Die-off is when the good bacteria start to kill the bad bacteria, and the bad ones act like toxins on their way out of your body. It can be hard to decide if you’re experiencing die-off symptoms or a real reaction, so please listen to your body and use your own judgement here. If you start to get too uncomfortable, stop completely for a few days and give your body a rest. Everyone is different, but my die-off symptoms included a stitch-type pain in my side, bloating, digestive discomfort, and brain fog.

Some tips on reducing die-off symptoms include drinking plenty of water to help flush the toxins out, having epsom salt baths or foot baths to help with detox, getting plenty of sleep, and easing way back if you notice any uncomfortable symptoms.

Experiment with different types and brands.

Different fermented foods provide different benefits and different types of good cultures, so it’s great to include a wide variety in your diet. Different brands will also vary, so keep trying until you find one you like. You may find that you can tolerate one brand or type, but not so much with another, and that’s ok!

I personally like kombucha, sauerkraut (all different veggie ones, not just cabbage), and coconut yoghurt. However so far haven’t got into kefir and I don’t love spicy stuff so I’m not a fan of kimchi. I also like homemade sour cream, although that’s not something I have very often as I try to avoid dairy.


What fermented foods have you tried? Any tips to add?


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