Okay you are all WAY ahead of me on the gut health thing – you all seem to be making your own kombucha and kefir. My friend Clare makes her own kefir by fermenting coconut water, which sounds totally nuts and I will definitely be trying it as… soon… as .. I… can… be ……. a r s e d.
So this post is purely admin really, a mustering point for a more specific chat, advice and anecdotes about gut health and particularly about fermented foods, which are really good for your “micro biome”, which is a loony word for the billowing bacteria and fuck knows what else that hangs out in your insides. It all in theory broadly contributes towards digestion, which slows down as you get older – like bloody everything else – and maybe needs some help.
(This is also where the chewing your food a lot comes into play. I have started doing that and have found that if you chew your food 15 times or more it basically disappears in your mouth as you chew. Without even swallowing. Magic disappearing food! I must confess here that I am historically one of the world’s fastest eaters. I have in the past got hiccups from trying to swallow fully half a cheeseburger at once and it sort of gets stuck in my gullet and stretched my oesophagus and gives me hiccups. Fact. So I kind of like the chewing your food a lot thing because it feels like you’ve eaten 20% less than you actually have.)
Anyway – slow digestion means that stuff just kind of hangs about in an unwelcome way in your large or small intestine or WTF it’s called, a bit like a guy who turned up already drunk to your lunch party and now it’s 9pm and he won’t leave.
There are books upon books and pages and pages on the internet about how to improve your gut health but a key thing seems to be introducing fermented food into your diet.
The main ones are:
Which are all reasonably available if you have a poke about your local supermarket or health food shop. I eat live yoghurt every day and a miso soup made from paste probably once or twice a week. I get a delicious kimchee from a whole foods store down the road but it absolutely stinks to high heaven and Giles won’t eat it and slightly objects to it being in the fridge, which is fair enough really, so I eat that when he’s not here.
I have ordered from Ocado something called “baked milk” kefir, which is arriving so that I can make my own judgments on this very divisive topic.
The key thing to take from this is that a working gut, (of which refined sugar is the main enemy, I’d just like to point out), and a swift digestive system *ought* to in theory reduce bloating. But bloating, if you ask me, is a bit of a vague and not mega helpful term that could mean “water retention” or “I’m getting my period”.
It’s true that I don’t find I get what I used to term “bloating” very much any more, but I have made so many other changes to my diet – more fibre, fewer calories, way less red meat – that it could be a combination of all of those and not necessarily the fermented food. Still, it’s all pretty delicious.
Except the kefir. Probably.
This all seems quite easy to incorporate into my diet, except the kefir which just sounds a bit weird. A miso soup here and sourdough there could all make a little difference. As you said earlier in the week it’s all about little changes to make the difference.
To me, the yoghurt or milk or whatever it is kefir just tastes like watery natural yoghurt. I don’t know how it could be offensive. Although I guess lots of people don’t like natural yoghurt.
By the way, loving these posts. I quite genuinely think you changed my mindset a few days ago when you reframed “treats” as just things that won’t help you look/feel how you want to. Of course I knew that, but you put it in a more persuasive way.
Imagine, if you could find 250 pages of padding around that, you too could bring out a diet book (please don’t).
promise not to x
Liz B says
I’m on Symprove an amazing liquid probiotic which has given me amazing skin, no more spots or rosacea so now I am their customer for life
lots of people rave about Symprove!
Jenny Piccolo says
The raspberry Kefir from this brand is ok to drink. Not nasty at all. But before I discovered this I ordered a 21 day supply of goats Kefir… Oh my god. Imagine fizzy goats cheese as a drink Taken some getting used to so getting through it but I have more energy than I did before I started on it. Sure I’m not imagining this
Emily A says
If you do start drinking kefir, don’t do what I do and get a large bottle of the cheap stuff from the Polish section at Sainsbury’s and drink half of it at once out of excitement…oof the stomach pains…lasted 3 days. Start small!
I used to enjoy kimchee for my office lunch (in a baguette with ham and coleslaw… yum!) – but people in the office kept wondering whether there was a gas leak and it all got too embarrassing.
I prefer Kefir made with water – tastes a bit lemonade-y. Couldn’t get away with Kombucha.
I read this book Pachinko set in Korea and one of the characters opened a kimchee stall. It sounded really exotic to me but now I’m thinking it’s just because I’m a bumpkin. You’re all kimchee-ing like good-uns. Sourdough I can do. Several older women I know have developed and it’s quite painful and limiting diet-wise, and so I think this is really quite important to start thinking about. One small change at a time until it becomes habitual.
Diverticulitis! Was the key missing word there. Wasn’t trying to keep you all guessing.
Having listened to The Archers for years (I know) I can’t face buying Kefir as one of the characters has been banging on about it and she’s very annoying. Symprove sounds interesting though!
Agreeing with the stomach pain warning if you’re starting kefir. Had exactly the same experience… days of pain. As great as all these fermented foods are, tread carefully if you have a sensitive stomach. The pains, sounds and smells (sorry) I experienced from even a gradual introduction… husband was not impressed
Sorry for the TMI but wanted to warn any other sensitive ones out there
Sarah Robson says
Well! Possibly boringly, cos I can bang on for Britain & can give a good Memorial Lecture as my children call it, but I’m a gut health convert having slipped off with 3 friends to Grayshott (‘the medical’) Spa last November for a week. Before I went I had low energy, was a bit overweight, had heartburn, slept badly. So, I went on the regime – delicious food with a good variety of filling foods – but no grains, no bulky pulses, no alcohol (!), no caffeine, minimal fruit, no sugar, no dairy, little raw anything (blanched salads if you will!) digestive bitters and a couple of mouthfuls – or not as one of my friends just couldn’t – of homemade sauerkraut before every meal, drinking loads of water but not before, during or straight after food. Slooooooow chewing – as you said – oh and starting your day with some magical elixir of bacteria called Symprove and also knocking back capsules of probiotics throughout the day. During the week long regime, you have all manner of pummelling including stomach massages, liver compresses, facials as well as lots of exercise if you want or just a bit of a lie down. And talks. I thought I would be bored but took to being institutionalised like a duck to water, wandering around, face scrubbed in my waffle gown & slippers. I’m going to go again this year as I found it so helpful just to ‘re-set’ things. I had a great laugh, a good rest, have brought home some good habits, delicious recipes oh and I lost 11.7lbs. Sorry if I went on a bit….
Sarah you’re in the right place if you fancy nattering on! Thanks! Symprove is starting to sound really like a winner
Sarah Robson says
Aw thanks Esther cos probs running out of friends!! Symprove is good. I’ve carried on with it and even took it on hols. I obvs don’t do all the things like when I was on ‘the regime (sadly no people hanging around my house waiting to give me ‘a treatment’ (!)) and obvs do a lot of other stuff like drink wine and eat chocolate, & bread etc etc but it all made me feel soooo much better that there’s got to be something in it. It’s all about ‘resting the gut & repopulating one’s biome’. (Have you deleted me yet?) I think the key is just to remember why it all helps and if one can just do the odd thing without being too much of a crashing bore (!) or being that tedious picky guest who can’t have this and can’t have that (grrrr) it’s just fine. Kefir is great – I even found myself buying a kefir kit….. but haven’t opened it yet…. funny that. I drink a lot of kombucha too. Promise that’s all … for now!
I am so tempted to jump on the Symprove wagon like a lunatic sheep, but slightly nervous it’s going to turn out to be like Soylent Green.
Sarah Robson says
Have a look at the website Cindy. After nearly 4 months its definitely working for me.
As Laura mentions above, a character in The Archers (dum di dum) makes Kefir where it’s been talked about ad nauseam. When we lived in Hong Kong we used to drink Yakult which came in tiny didd bottles which is a Japanese probiotic dairy product made by fermenting a mixture of skimmed milk with a special strain of bacterium Lactobacillus casei Shirota….. (sorry zzzz); they probably sell it here in the UK. It actually tasted delicious.
…Meant to add I’d heard good things about Sauerkraut too.
Elaine H says
I am the saddo that believes fermenting is the way forward – I have been making my own cows milk kefir for a couple of years now and my own sauerkraut for @ 8 months – avoiding grains sugar etc for @4 years. It all started with attempts at controlling the crazy lady menopause growling at people and became a lifestyle. I hit a size 10 a year ago after a lifetime of 12-14 and occasionally 16 fluctuation and now at 53 I finally feel good in my physical skin (though it is a tad baggy in places).
In Amsterdam (where I’m at) we have a great organic shop who sells great Kefir yoghurts with all favours. They are so good to eat and I mix them with bananas and nuts. So good for the guts and good to eat.
Do wine and beer count as fermented? 🤔
Love this series of posts, after yesterday’s fibre post I looked (for the first time ever) at the fibre content of the food I track on My Fitness Pal. Oh my god, I can’t believe how little there is! It’s simply never occurred to me before, despite meticulously tracking calories, macros, vitamins on many diets (ugh nearing 40 and 2 kids, it’s a never ending battle on all fronts). Looking forward to future posts and what a treat to have a 3rd in as many days!
On a side note Esther, I love this blog. Discovered it a couple of months ago and have subsequently ransacked reciperifle and downloaded bad cook and bad mother. Not a stalker, honest, but definitely a big fan of your work 👍.
Louise! I love my stalkerfans, they are the best. But seriously welcome and thanks. Stick around!
On a side note I am slightly regretful to have introduced to you yet another food ting to worry about…
Ahhh not to worry. I’m currently under investigation for possible coeliac disease/lactose intolerance/ibs/stress-induced stuff so if there’s anything I should be paying attention to it’s gut health and fibre, not faffing about with macros!
I read this whilst eating an iced ring donut from Greggs. Fuuuuuuuucccckk!
First time I tried kefir I was not a fan of the taste but I blend it in my Nutribullet with half a banana and a handful of blueberries and actually like the taste. Have found I eat MUCH less during the day. JUST kefir for breakfast, can last til lunch no problem with no snacking, normal dinner and that’s it! Which considering my normal appetite is a miracle! Think it really regulates blood sugar which was a massive problem for me. I have a repeat order from Chuckling Goat and their customer service is fab!
Chuckling Goat LOL
Liz B says
This is interesting! Might have to try it, if I could get away with this sort of breakfast and eat nothing until lunch I might lose a few pounds!
You should see how much I used to eat!! 😃
So I saw Liz Earle at Wimbledon Bookfest last year. She was promoting her new Good Gut Guide book and talked about all the things you mention above as well as as healthy gut flora now linked to preventing all kinds of illness and mental health problems. Interesting! She was talking about making your own Keffir which seems a bit full on and a lot of bother. So I have tried a few different ready made ones. The baked one you mention above is nice but that brand doesn’t really agree with me. I think the Daylesford one is the nicest (on Ocado) and I think seems to have the best effect. I also had some mild stomach ache the first few times I tried it so go easy! Good old Liz also recommended a good probiotics obvs. My Mum has Chrons disease, Liz said she spoke to a woman on her podcast who all but cured it with the blessed Keffir. So I quickly spent £40 odd quid on a signed book for Mum and scuttled off to the nearest Keffir establishment x
I know I need to embrace fermented food but I hate cabbage and yoghurt so I’m somewhat at a disadvantage. Anyone any ideas?
YES! Kombucha. Very difficult taste to describe, but it starts life as sweet green tea and is left to ferment. Leave it to ferment for as long as you want to control taste and carbonation. I have a glass every morning and then eat breakfast after school run.
All these things being advocated – sauerkraut, kombucha, keffir, kimchi are all exxxxppppensive items! I know theres no price on looking after yourself yadda yadda but holy hell. I have a frock habit to feed (children come lower down. After ankle boots possibly.) Long term commitment does require a bit of a DIY approach I fear.
Emily A says
If you have a Sainsbury’s near you with a Polish speciality aisle they usually have a large bottle for less than £2…
Audrey there is SO much DIY info out there on all of this, I think if you can be bothered it’s worth it
I swear by raw, unpasteurised sauerkraut, eat it daily, never ill, travel to countries with pretty questionable food hygiene standards stand eat street food with zero ill effects! While I don’t think Miso soup and Sourdough have any probiotics present in the finished product due to the temps they’re heated to, the latter has been shown to be much more easily digestible than highly processed breads and some coeliacs have even found they are able to successfully introduce it to their diets.
Thanks Louise – you can buy something like this called RAW from Ocado
Or from your nearest Polish shop; large and unnerving white plastic tubs in the chiller cabinet. I love sauerkraut but have not yet dared to try the ‘real’ one yet – this post might just tip me over the edge (beware sudden hole in ozone over mid-Glos).
LOL Sophie when I was eating a lot of raw sauerkraut (I slightly overdosed and now can’t face it) I didn’t notice much of an increase in gas…
Hate to be the hippy here but if you make your own it is all super cheapish (my current income is v small) sauerkraut is the cost of a white cabbage and milk kefir is a pint of organic whole milk – every other day. And then you know exactly what is in it.
Can you recommend a miso paste?
Hi Rosie! I like Clearspring White Miso Instant soup paste xxx
I know we have moved on from fibre but this does have yoghurt in it too… Porridge bread – it is very easy to make, keeps for a couple of days and really delicious. Maybe I am late to this one? Mariella Frostrup had a recipe on her twitter last week.
Bought some kimchi yesterday to join the club but they say you eat with your eyes – it doesn’t taste too bad, but it looks terrible.
Ros it looks like something that got caught in a drain
Liz B says
Am interested in recommendations for kombucha brands…Been so impressed with Symprove I am now on a fermented food bender. Have tried Boochi, Leftfield (didn’t like), Clever Kombucha and have just ordered a case of Jarr Kombucha. Can’t say I have found any of them absolutely delicious but the Leftfield ones were the only ones I really didn’t like. They are supposed to taste like beer and I am not much of a beer drinker. Next up kefir!!
Anna S says
Try Wild Fizz! And LA Brewery (based in Suffolk, despite the name). They are my faves.
I’m currently trying out Love Kombucha which comes in original flavour (really nice) and other fruity flavours. It’s not gassy like some others.
So I studied Russian at Uni and lived there for a year when I was 20/21. Russians have been making and consuming kefir for forever. But I’d never heard of it until I arrived. In an oral class we were talking about the differences between British and Russian products . We asked our teacher what this kefir stuff was and how exactly it was different to yogurt. And she told us that kefir was very similar to yogurt but different because it contained alcohol. Mind blown.
So for a long time I thought it was something like baileys.
Vegan now and I highly recommend the coconut milk kefir called Rhythm (although with a name like that I can’t be seen consuming it in public). Tastes pretty nice too
I have tried the milk kefir and it’s not that bad just makes me gag a bit in the morning (but so does normal yoghurt) so maybe just a dairy thing! Recently tried the Rhubarb Water kefir from London Fermentary and it was delicious. Definitely want to try some of their other flavours and they do other items in the range, their fermented pepper sauce thing sounded interesting. Thanks for all these posts, very useful. One thing I haven’t quite got my head around is how often and how much gut stuff do you need to be eating/drinking to make a difference?! I suppose anything is better than nothing and I need to give it a proper go myself to actually find out!
Hi Izzy! I don’t think there’s a set amount really – I think the important thing is to try a few fermented things out and find one you genuinely quite like and incorporate it into your routine.
I work in an independent health food shop and drink kefir, take a daily probiotic tablet, eat goji berries and flax seeds, and also kefir yogurt with chai seeds and cranberries. I drink an oil that is full of all the omegas, so great for the skin, hair and general health. I have noticed a big difference since I introduced all these things and wouldn’t omit them from my daily routine now. Everything starts with good gut health, it’s vital for immunity and mental well being.
I’m really interested in this. I found a lump in my stomach this week and am undergoing ‘investigations’. Obviously I’ve convinced myself that it’s sometging terrible but if it isn’t I’m jumping straight on the gut health train!
Kefir making is so easy- one of the few households things I do (silly hours job). It’s a bit fizzy feta yoghurt by itself – can see why it’s not more popular 🤣 But in a smoothie with some banana and berries even Sceptical Husband is happy with it. I do genuinely believe it’s a Good Thing; I don’t get the 11am munchies now and generally have the eat anything cast iron stomach that I had in my twenties back again. I just bought some kefir grains off a 5 star rated ebayer, it’s all worked well for me since.
Coming to this very late so probably no one will see this reply, but you can get little pots of mixed kefir and quark in Ocado which are LUSH. Tastes just like Greek yog, really filling, low cal, low carb and lots of protein. They are really good, although they sound a bit weird.
Liz B says
Oooh what’s the brand name please?
Elizabeth I have seen it xx
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