Sauerkraut and the flu…

It is that time of year, and even more so this year that we are bombarded with messages about getting a flu vaccination. I don’t know about you but when all of this fear is shoved down my throat, I tend to retreat and question everything. It is also a time that I dig deep into my “bag of tricks” and pull out the age-old wisdom. So could sauerkraut really help with flu prevention?

Well first of all, it is important to remember that 70% of our body’s immune system is found in our gut (our digestive system or intestines). The immune system is what protects us from illness and disease. Our guts are comprised largely of probiotics, or good bacteria – 100 trillion to be exact, or three pounds worth. So wouldn’t it make sense that if our good bacteria are low then our immune system will be at risk? YES!

Raw sauerkraut, non-pasteurized and produced through fermentation, is teaming with good bacteria. Good bacteria are present on all vegetables. These good bacteria in turn feed off of the starches and sugars in the vegetables while “bathing” in brine created through salt leeching water from the vegetables. In turn, the good bacteria proliferate and create lactic acid which gives sauerkraut its sour taste and acts as a preservative. “Lactic acid bacteria that carry out the fermentation are the world’s best killers of other bacteria,” says Breidt, who works at a lab at North Carolina State University, Raleigh, where scientists have been studying fermented and other pickled foods since the 1930s. So not only do you get the good bacteria in the sauerkraut but you get lactic acid that kills harmful bacteria and aids in
digestion. It is important for our food to be well digested because otherwise it can ferment in our stomach allowing for bad bacteria to proliferate – yuck.
In November of 2005, a study was published showing that sauerkraut, kimchi specifically, showed positive effects in “curing” bird flu. In the study, kimchi was fed to 13 chickens infected with bird flu. Just one week later, 11 of the birds showed signs of recovery from the virus.

“The feed (kimchi) has been shown to help improve the fight against bird flu or other types of flu viruses,” said Professor Kang Sa-ouk, who led the research at Seoul National University. Kang’s team claims that lactobacillus, the lactic acid bacteria created during the fermenting process, is the active ingredient that could combat bird flu.

Whether it sounds too outlandish or not, there are several other health benefits from eating raw sauerkraut that I will go over in newsletters to come. Until then, sauerkraut is loaded with vitamin C, another immune booster to combat flu or any other illness.

So what else do we do to stave off the flu and protect our good bacteria? Remember SASS: Sweets, Antibiotics, Spirits and Stress. You should cut back on all of these tremendously as they greatly diminish our body’s supply of good bacteria. When our good bacteria reserves are low we are more susceptible to illness. Consume more fermented foods such as unsweetened yogurt and kefir, chutneys, kombucha, vegetables of any sort, kvass, miso in soups, etc. And always have some fun!


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