Unfortunately in America, the term fermentation has long been exclusively associated with alcoholic drinks and spirits. However, in no way do they hold a monopoly on fermentation---or its varied health benefits. In truth, there are different forms of fermentation, and even more ways of implementing fermentation into your daily cuisine. Outside of America, in places which deal less often with the kind of cancers regarded as rampant and common in ours, diners experience at least one fermented dish a day. In America, by contrast, most formerly-fermented foods are now preserved by way of vinegar---or worse, by artificial preservatives:
"Cultures around the world have been eating fermented foods for years, from Sauerkraut in Germany to Kimchi in Korea and everywhere in between. Studies have even shown the link between probiotic rich foods and overall health. Sadly, with the advances in technology and food preparation, these time-honored traditional foods have been largely lost in our society."
To those like Sally Fallon and others intent on reviving these "time-honored traditional foods," Americans are slowly turning to homemade or health-store options. Fermentation is ideal for those dealing with malabsorption; what is a less commonly recognized fact is that while someone can eat all of the healthy foods in the world, it will do him little good who has an intolerance caused by issues like "leaky gut," "Irritable Bowel Syndrome," or any kind of intestinal permeation problem. Not only does the fermentation process more easily break down your food, it also enhances its quality. When fermented, any vitamins and nutritional quality is boosted:
"Fermented foods are foods that have been through a process of lacto-fermentation in which natural bacteria feed on the sugar and starch in the food creating lactic acid. This process preserves the food, and creates beneficial enzymes, b-vitamins, Omega-3 fatty acids, and various strains of probiotics.
Natural fermentation of foods has also been shown to preserve nutrients in food and break the food down to a more digestible form. This, along with the bevy of probiotics created during the fermentation process, could explain the link between consumption of fermented foods and improved digestion."
One form of fermentation involves lacto-fermentation, which predates the more modern canning system and dates back to Colonial times. The system uses whey from homemade yogurt or kefir, or even a substantial-enough amount of salt, to preserve vegetables or fruit. The magic of fermentation rests in its scientific breakup of food elements, making the nutritional quality soluble to intestines in the poorest condition. In addition, fermented foods infuse enzymes and probiotics virtually non-existent in today's processed, highly refined foods. Give fermented foods a try; maybe a friend can lend a scoby for kombucha, or you can try your hand at homemade crockpot yogurt (recipe available here). Health can begin with the simplest decision; believe me, it only progresses from there!