Experts and wellness seekers swear by the likes of kimchi and sauerkraut for giving their guts a dose of TLC. Kombucha is a staple in fit-girl fridges (and on most Women’s Health desks) while we all froth over bone broth.
But, in the case of these gut-boosting faves, you can have too much of a good thing. Nutritionist Stephanie Wearne, founder of Body Good Food and Head of Nutrition for 28 by Sam Wood, explains why we shouldn’t overload on 'em and how much to aim for daily. We’ll cheers a kombucha to that.
Why bother: “Kimchi, along with things like sauerkraut, is a fermented vegetable – they give really beneficial bacteria that helps to line our GI tracts. That can be good for immunity and digestion, plus it has links to your mental health because it helps with production of your neurotransmitters and hormones. The ecosystem of bacteria in your gut can also determine your risk of diseases.”
How much: “Think about your current gut health status. If you mainly consume processed foods, start small with fermented foods. Bacteria in our stomach feed off the sugar [in fermented foods], but if you’re also having a lot of processed food and sugars, it’ll feed off that [too]. That produces more and more gas. Hello, bloating and stomach pain.
If your gut health isn’t in tip-top shape, I would start with just a small teaspoon of kimchi (or another fermented veg) with just one meal a day. Build your way up – when you’re constantly enjoying a whole food, fibre-rich diet, then you can probably enjoy one or two tablespoons with two meals a day.”
Why bother: “This isn’t fermented; it’s more for healing the gut. If you’ve had any distress to your gut lining – food intolerances, antibiotics, even stress – then bone broth is really great for healing that. It’s really high in collagen and gelatin and that, along with the minerals it provides, is perfect for repairing cells around the gut lining.”
How much: “I generally recommend one cup per day, but if you then want to add it into recipes like curry or stir fry, there’d be no harm in doing that as well.”
Why bother: “Kefir is a fermented milk product, like a drinking-style yoghurt. Yoghurt does have some beneficial bacteria, but because kefir’s fermented even further, it has more yeast and bacteria available to you.”
How much: “Again with kefir, start small and build your way up – you might begin by adding a couple of tablespoons to your muesli, granola or porridge, and then eventually bring it up to half a cup a day.”
Why bother: “You get added benefits from this fermented drink because it’s made from tea, so it’s generally also really high in antioxidants and polyphenols.”
How much: “Again it depends on your gut health status. If you don’t generally have a balanced diet, start with just 30ml of kombucha a day, like a little shot glass. Then slowly build your way up until you feel like you’re not getting any unpleasant symptoms. At that point, you could have up to half or one cup per day. A good tip? Drink kombucha 20-30 minutes before a meal – it’ll stimulate your stomach acid, which helps to digest food.”
Oh, and a few last things…
“Do your research. So many things can affect a fermentation process and the bacteria that end up in a final product, so ask a professional for the best brands, and also look at the labels to make sure there are no additives or artificial flavours. Take kombucha – there’ll be a small amount of natural sugar for the fermentation process, but a lot of brands also add sugar, so that’s something to steer clear of.
All these products definitely do help with your gut health, but none of them are as concentrated or as potent as a probiotic supplement. They’re great to include in your daily diet but if you’re really looking to do some proper gut repair and healing, then a probiotic is definitely the way to go.”