Fermentation is the term used by biologists to describe anaerobic metabolism - the production of energy from nutrients (typically carbohydrates) without oxygen. This is the main pathway for many microorganisms to create the energy that powers them.
As they go about their business, they start to digest the food around them, and create many useful byproducts that transform their environment so that they can continue to grow, reproduce, and keep out any unwanted foes.This predigestion makes the end product easier on our bodies to break down and absorb, and our little friends even leave nutrients that weren’t in the original product. The art of fermentation is the cultivation of these microorganisms to transform food into something healthier, less perishable, and more delicious than what we started with.
Much like our symbiotic relationship with the billions of microorganisms in and on our bodies, we at CultureBox strive to look at how we can work with our tiny friends to make our lives healthier, more sustainable, and a little more delicious.
Fermented Foods and Community
Many of us consume common foods and drinks without realizing they are fermented products. Bread, cheese, beer, and wine are all made possible by the cultures we as humans selected and evolved alongside, over many thousands of years of trial and error.
These processes were ancient rituals, passed down along generations and vital for our survival year to year before commercial refrigeration was a reality. These were the basis of our food cultures, reflecting the climate, agriculture, and social landscapes of our areas.
Before vast supply lines could move thousands of tons of produce and agricultural product halfway across the world in a couple of days, we were forced to look at what was available around us and make do with what we could find. This closely ties into minimal food waste – wherever we could find a surplus in the community, we made sure it was not wasted.
Many of the benefits of fermented foods comes from the metabolic activity of the microorganisms involved. They predigest larger molecules that our bodies have trouble breaking down (like lactose). They produce waste products like nutritious peptides, anti-microbial and anti-fungal compounds, antioxidants, and anti-inflammatories.
Once they are consumed, they add diversity and vigor to your gut biome, which in turn helps you produce vitamin B and K and fight infections. Your gut even has its own “brain” called the enteric nerve system (ENS) that can have profound effects on mood and emotion.
As more research is done on the ENS’ relationship to the brain, the more doctors are realizing the effect that gastro-intestinal problems have on anxiety and depression. Your gut bacteria are the regulators and guardians of this delicate system, so the more you can do for them, the more you can do for your own mood and health.