My guest this week is Summer Bock, a trained herbalist certified in integrative nutrition through Columbia University. A raver in her early twenties, devastating allergies emerged that left her exhausted, hive-ridden, and only able to consume 30 foods without a reaction – an outlook that stumped the medical community. Leveraging her background in microbiology and fascination with gut health, Summer healed herself through research and formulation of various digestive bitters, which she now produces for her Guts & Glory Apothecary online. Summer Bock coined the phrase “Gut Rebuilding”, which is now cornerstone terminology in the integrative health conversation. She is the founder of the Fermentationist Certification Program.
In this episode, Summer and I discuss how parents can incorporate and use fermented foods to support their child’s mental, physical and gut health. Summer provides parents with important facts and practical tips on how they can implement healthy fermented foods into their children’s diets. To learn more about fermented foods and Summer Bock click here.
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What Are Fermented Foods?
- Fermenting food is a process of preservation
- The process of fermentation happens through the digestion and breakdown by microbes
- Natural organic acids are secreted which leads to a sour flavor
- These acids create a stable pH preventing any foodborne pathogens from growing and allowing the food to be kept for longer periods of time
- Examples of fermented foods: kefir, sauerkraut, kimchi
Bacteria That Supports Our Health
- The microbial cells and human cells can communicate creating the gut-brain access
- We may experience sugar cravings when our bacteria levels are off or we have higher “bad bacteria” present
- With more “good bacteria” we tend to crave healthier fibrous foods
Introducing Fermented Foods Into Your Family’s Diet
- Children learn by example
- Instead of talking about introducing this new food start having it in the house and eating it yourself
- Your child’s curiosity can easily be the best introduction
- A few ideas:
- Use sauerkraut brine as part of your salad dressing
- Add a little brine to into your vegetables after cooking them to help children begin to acquire the taste
- Add kefir into a milkshake
Where to learn more about Summer Bock…
Episode Intro … 00:00:30
Summer’s Story … 00:03:06
What Are Fermented Foods … 00:09:28
Bacteria That Supports Our Health … 00:14:41
Introducing Fermented Foods Into Your Family’s Diet … 00:24:21
Episode Wrap Up … 00:42:07
Dr. Nicole Beurkens:
Hi everyone, welcome to the show. I am Dr. Nicole and today, and on today’s episode, we’re talking about the impact that fermented foods can have on your child’s mental and physical health. We cover a lot of topics on this show related to gut health because it’s so foundational for addressing the mental health and developmental challenges many of your kids are facing. Fermented foods have become really popular in recent years. You can find products like kombucha, kimchi, pickled vegetables everywhere, from grocery stores to restaurant menus. These can be very supportive for gut health and health in general. But there are also some important things to be aware of when you are using these kinds of foods. It can be a challenge to get kids to incorporate these foods into their diet, especially if they’re not used to these kinds of flavors. So, to help us sort through all of this, I’ve invited my good friend and colleague Summer Bock on the show today. Summer is my go-to person for questions related to fermented foods specifically and gut health more generally, and I always really enjoy the conversations that she and I have together. So let me tell you a little bit about Summer.
Summer is an herbalist and fermentationist who guides people to experience a deeper level of healing. A skilled herbalist trained at the New Mexico College of Natural Healing with a background in microbiology, she is certified by the Institute of Integrative Nutrition and Columbia University. Summer teaches the concept of “cleansing and rebuilding: rinse and repeat.” Her clients learn how to do this in the Probiotic Power Cleanse and the Gut Rebuilding Program. Wellness practitioners can further their education and become better practitioners in her Fermentationist Certification Program and she also has a Showcase Club where members can get access to experts who review their case studies so they can get better results with their clients. She lives in Chattanooga, TN where she spends her free time mountain biking in the Appalachian mountains. Summer, welcome to the show!
Thank you for having me, I’m so excited because as you know, we’ve sat down and had some meals together and had a chance to chat, and I always walk away from our conversations thinking about those topics literally for years afterward.
Dr. Nicole Beurkens:
We do have great conversations and are both really passionate about gut health as foundational for mental health as well as physical health, and I know you really share my interest and passion for getting to these issues in kids, which is something that not a lot of people are talking about. So I’d love to start out by having you just share a little bit of your story or your journey about how you got interested in gut health and fermented foods in the first place.
Well, forme, I was super-sick and I didn’t realize exactly how sick I was until I did a cleanse. I was studying herbal medicine, it was more of an elimination diet. About day five into the elimination diet, I felt like a wool blanket had been taken out of my brain. When I looked around, everything was crystal clear, I didn’t feel anxiety for the first time in my life, but I didn’t know that because when you are a fish in water, you don’t know. You’re in it. You can’t tell what it’s like. So when I had this experience, it became a huge catalyst for change, because I realized, oh my gosh, I’m not okay and this is how normal people function and this is why I’m kind of stuck on the couch sometimes, I would deal with hives, I get hives on my neck, I’d sometimes end up in the emergency room, they’d give me epinephrine. I’ve been through some crazy stuff with allergies and my immune system and when it got to the point where my allergies were so bad that the whites of my eyes would swell higher than the iris. It’s the most disgusting, scary thing. It’s creepy.
I remember going to my doctor one day, dealing with all these issues, I was definitely overweight at the time because I was just uncomfortable and bloated and my digestion wasn’t working, I was mostly constipated for the most part, and I’m trying to think of what else — I had, oh, severe panic attacks. Severe. I mean it was mild for a while, and it grew to the point where I would wake up in the middle of the night with my heart racing. I counted my heart rate one night at 188 BPM. From a dead sleep, wake up. I learned that it was physiological, even though I felt like I was dying, I learned that if I set the timer for 40 minutes, that in 40 minutes, the panic attack would be gone. And over time, I actually learned how to deal with it and I’d be in the middle of a panic attack, I’d be like no you’re not dying, it’s almost dying, but you have to sit there and feel the certain level of adrenaline and try to maintain your mindset through that. There was just so many things that I was dealing with and my food restriction list got really high over time as well because I was developing panic attacks and reactions as well as hives and other sorts of allergic — runny nose, watery eyes kind of reactions to food as well.
My list was literally 20 or 30 foods that I knew I could eat without having a reaction. I was a mess. I was a serious mess and I remember going to the doctor. This was a few years after I did the cleanse and my doctor looked at me, trained as a health coach at this point, trained as an herbalist, and she looked at me and she goes, “Summer, what are you doing here?” I’m like, “What do you mean?” I mean look at me. I had sores around my nose and my mouth, my face was swollen, I was itchy and I didn’t’ feel good.
I was emotionally kind of mentally a wreck because I was just trying to keep it together in between these panic attacks. And she goes, “Summer, you know more about this than I do.” And even though I was a mess, yes, I learned a lot, I knew a lot, I was working with her patients and helping people, getting great results. She was sending all her patients to me and she looks at me and goes literally, “You know more about this than I do. Here’s what’s going to happen. I am going to write you a prescription, I don’t think it’s going to do anything, anyway and you’re not going to fill it, so really, what are you doing here?” And I was like, “Great! I’m at the train and the train just left the station.”
I felt like there wasn’t any more help to be had in this one way. She was my last resort because she was my physician, my medical doctor and I had tried all these other kinds of practitioners and I just felt like she can’t help me, if none of these other people can help me, I don’t know what to do. And this was before you could go to the internet and google ‘gut health’. We’re talking before — If you googled probiotics back then, you’d get one hit from one or two companies that had been doing it for a long time. It just wasn’t the thing, it wasn’t popular yet. But I did, shortly after reading Donna Gates’ book, ‘The Body Ecology Diet’ and I was really like, “Okay, maybe it is all in my gut.”
So I had been taking herbs for all different symptoms that I mentioned, like literally all different herbal combinations and supplements for everything, and I decided to just stop doing all of that and just focus on my gut. I met a naturopathic physician who recommended probiotics for me, stared taking those and I noticed a pretty big difference. Very quickly, I had taken antibiotics all throughout my childhood. I’d gotten strep throat usually a minimum of twice a year and so I had definitely done some damage with the amount of antibiotics I had taken. So when I took the probiotics, I asked myself, because I’m trained as an herbalist — you’re kind of a purist when you’re an herbalist. You learn a lot about how people did things 500 years ago, 1000 years ago, because this is all people used to rely on for medicine. That’s what they had, that’s all they had.
So I said, what’s the whole food version of probiotics? Because I know my ancestors weren’t taking these little pills that were made in a laboratory, and that’s where I came across fermented foods and I got obsessed. Of course, I went overboard and I started fermenting everything and actually ended up starting a sauerkraut company, which I have since sold to my business partner. It was really a fascinating journey, and what was interesting is that I did notice a massive difference in my health using fermented foods, and then I actually did go a little bit overboard there because I was fermenting everything that went into my body for a period of time, and for about six months or so, it went really great, and then some of my allergy symptoms came back, and some of the panic attack stuff came back and some of these other things that I had been gradually getting rid of started coming back and I was able to figure out some things, and we’ll talk about that in a little while, about some of the issues that can come with fermented foods if done the wrong way.
Dr. Nicole Beurkens:
Such a powerful story and I find for so many of us, it was either our own health challenges or challenges with our children or another family member, that kind of leads us into the path that we take for healing ourselves, our kids, and then what we do professionally. So I love you sharing that and I think it’s so interesting, what you said, you started on the probiotics and you were like, well, what’s the origin of that. As you said, our ancestors didn’t take these capsules, so how did that start? So I’d love to delve more into fermented foods and just have you even share with people — there may be listeners who don’t even really know what we’re talking about when we use the term fermented food. Let’s talk about what they are and some examples of them.
Sure. Fermented foods are — essentially, it’s a form of food preservation. That’s how it started. Before we had refrigeration, our ancestors had to figure out ways to preserve food to allow it to last over the winter, over times of famine so that they could manage to get the nutrients that they needed when food was scarce. So sauerkraut is a very popular example, kimchi. Sauerkraut is basically cabbage and salt, and you pack it down in a crock and it naturally starts to ferment. Someone figured this out, somehow. And what’s happening is the fermentation process is actually done by microbes. Whether it’s bacteria or yeast, depending on the kind of ferment, these microbes start to digest and breakdown the sugars in whatever the food is, and then they secrete acids. Natural organic acids.
In the case of sauerkraut, they are secreting lactic acid, that’s what makes that sour flavor, that taste, a lot of us think of it as vinegar because some store-bought versions are made with vinegar, but a traditional sauerkraut is fermented with this lactic acid, it’s created by the bacteria as they’re digesting it and it creates this stable pH, somewhere around 3.5-4, which is acidic. And that stable pH acid prevents any foodborne pathogens from growing. So literally, it becomes this extremely stable environment where it’s not going to go bad, it lasts for many, many months in this condition, sometimes longer, depending on what kind of storage facility it’s in. A lot of times people will use root cellars or things like that that are in lower temperatures — these things would last for years in there. This allowed people to not only survive and get vitamin C and some of these necessary nutrients over the winter, but it also inoculated their bodies with these bacteria.
There are many kinds of lactobacillus that are in these ferments that we’re going to talk about today, and these lactobacillus goes in and actually does something. It affects your microbiome and these ferments are all over the world in all different cultures. Other popular ones are like kefir, dairy kefir, we see that in the stores today. It’s not the same thing as what was traditionally made. So when you’re getting dairy kefir in the store, that’s more like yogurt, it’s kind of like an industrial process, they take milk, they add a powdered starter culture and they let it ferment for a certain amount of hours and then they package it up and bottle it and send it to all the stores.
The traditional kefir is very powerful. There are tons of studies done on it, on the health benefits, even anti-tumor properties and some really powerful antibiotic properties, even when used on the skin. And you make traditional keeper with these little grains. They look like gelatinous cauliflower florets and you plop them into some milk, ideally raw milk and that’s how it was traditionally done, and what it does is it ferments it perfectly. It creates these natural organic acids, lactic acid and that sourness prevents any other microorganisms from being able to grow, to take hold — they can’t. Because that’s the really cool thing about a lot of the microbes that live within is, they can stand, they can withstand this acidic environment, but most food borne pathogens can not.
So this allowed people who were dependent on animal milk as a way to survive to be able to selectively ferment it. Instead of souring it and maybe it goes good and maybe it goes bad, they could every time monitor this and make sure that it was like — this is going to sour properly, it’s going to last for quite a long time. I’ve done experiments with kefir grains, I’ve seen kefir last for months outside of the fridge. We’re talking about milk being able to — I mean it would be very sour if you drink it after many months, but it tastes fine, it smells fine, and it’s that stable. I think it’s industrialization, we started heating up foods and canning things and getting rid of this process, then we started refrigerating things, so we didn’t need to ferment them, so we gradually grew out of this trend of fermenting, especially in more modernized, civilized societies and I think the ramifications have been rather large for our microbiomes.
Dr. Nicole Beurkens:
Well, it’s so interesting because most people think about — you’re talking about bacteria and food and people, at least in our culture, your mind goes to a bad place, right? That’s a terrible thing! Bacteria and food, it makes it go back, it spoils it — we get sick from it, but what you’re explaining is so important of how that can actually be a preserving technique and create the right balance there, so it doesn’t go bad, and then by eating it, we’re actually doing something good for our own health and our own gut. So I want to have you talk more about that. So we eat these fermented products then, they’ve got this good bacteria in them. What are the ways that those can support our health?
So the bacteria, the good bacteria that go in there and hang out in your body, they’re communicating with your immune system. So they actually communicate with your immune cells and say hey, we’re the good guys, we’re supposed to be here. And in a healthy microbiome, you have — the lining of the intestines has some of these good microbes and they’re kind of covering it, they’re protecting that layer from bad organisms from coming in and latching on and being able to have access to your immune cells, access to this constant food source. I call it prime waterfront real estate in your stomach. If you are a bacteria, if you can live on the human intestinal walls, you can get whatever you want, because the craziest thing, there is this whole genre of microbiology called ‘microbial endocrinology’ and what this refers to is the signaling, the communication between microbial cells and human cells. When we talk about this gut-brain access, they can actually communicate what they want to eat to our nervous system, to our brain and we’re like little robots, we’re like, “Oh! Let’s get some ice-cream!” They want ice-cream.
What we’ve learned is that these good bacteria actually crave healthy fibres. They crave healthy foods and a lot of the pathogenic bacteria or the pathogenic yeasts like candida that are latching on to the intestinal walls, they crave sugars. You will see this in people when their microbiome is in balance. Their cravings are very much connected to the kinds of microbes that are off. So I think this is really important to understand and one of the cool things about eating fermented foods is you’re actually continuing to keep dosing your body with these natural probiotics, but you’re also adding in this lactic acid that I talked about, these organic acids and they act as fertilizer for the microbiome and they also help to act as a natural antimicrobial. So it’s kind of natural — this is such a weird comparison, but hand sanitizer. You know? But you eat it and it sanitizes the bad guys but doesn’t affect the good guys. So it really can do this crowding out, as we call it, process. Then you have all these other kinds of organic acids and bacteriocins and vitamins that are increased through the fermentation process because human digestive tracts are weak, when we predigest our food using fermentation, we actually increase the amount that we absorb through that food.
Dr. Nicole Beurkens:
So these are really powerful foods because they not only put more of the good microbes, the good bacteria that we need to keep our gut and our body functioning well and our brain functioning well, but they also help crowd out and help inoculate us against the bad guys that are in there. I mean you really think about it, there are not too many foods that you can eat that do that. This is really a special category of food.
I think that’s what I am obsessed. It’s because I think this is just such a really powerful, unique genre of food. It’s very, very cool and these microbes do so many more things than we know. We know they create short-chain fatty acids within the colon, where they — most of them live in a certain portion of the colon. It’s kind of our little fermentation chamber. That’s where they digest the wastes, so all the fiber that our body can’t digest, all the waste product, once it goes to the small intestine, it ends up in the large intestine, and those bacteria digest all those fibers even further and they create short-chain fatty acids, they create vitamin D there, also vitamin K. Then those short-chain fatty acids feed other organisms and it becomes this whole ecosystem that’s feeding — they’re feeding each other.
These are just some of the things we know, but I guarantee you, over the next decade, we’re going to continue to discover new things that the microbiome does for us and we’re going to start to discover some of the nuanced interactions and the relationships between those microbes, because that’s where we don’t totally understand. When we take probiotic pills, we’ve selected a few certain types of bacteria and said, “Let’s study these.” They may have found those in human samples of poop, so they said, these must be the important ones. So they found those, they study them — and then these huge companies are spending billions of dollars doing studies on a certain kind of patented bacteria or patented probiotic that they’re going to make a massive amount of money on. So we’re a little skewed. So the probiotic supplements that we have are representative of what we have seen come through human poop, what we’ve been able to modify genetically so they can be patented by these companies, and then they can sell them as their own microorganism, they can sell them to some of these probiotic companies. So what we end up with is a skewed version of what probiotics should go in our body. These are not necessarily the main probiotics that we should be focusing on. This is where I get into my herbalist purist, I’m like okay, well how did humans do it 500 years ago, what were they doing 1000 years ago?
Because there are definitely things that we’ve learned to make ourselves better in terms of science and how to survive traumatic injuries and do some crazy stuff, but when we look at lifespans, there are some situations that are very interesting. They’re decreasing in the United States. And we look at some of the countries where they have long lifespans and they have fermented foods as part of their daily diets. It’s very common in these places. So I think it’s something we’re looking at and I think it’s a really interesting thing to think about. Maybe it’s a really natural way for us to get these microorganisms in. Maybe this is the way that evolution has grown accustomed to this within our bodies.
Dr. Nicole Beurkens:
I think it’s so true that we’re just at — we’re really in the just beginning stages of understanding the microbiome, and not just the gut microbiome, but all of the biomes that exist on us and around us, and understanding that gut-brain connection, what we know now, it is so small compared to what we’re going to continue to discover, but I think that your point is an important one about what we can fit in a capsule vs. what we can get from things like fermented foods and you know, I’ll say that to patients a lot, it’s like well, encapsulated probiotics, probiotic supplements can be helpful, but one of the big things that we know is really important for a healthy gut microbiome is diversity in those microorganisms, and the reality is we can’t get much diversity in a probiotic supplement. You can get a few strains, maybe up to 10 or about that, but you don’t get a lot of diversity there, whereas with something like fermented foods, what you’re saying is really there’s this sort of huge array of the naturally occurring bacteria and other microorganisms, so we really can diversify better with the food, right?
That’s true, water kefir and sauerkraut and kimchi have anywhere from 15 to about 25 different kinds of probiotics in them. So it kind of depends on how you make it, but the diversity is pretty high naturally, but I think what I’m also very encouraged by is that they’re diverse but they’re also stable. They’ve created a stable environment. Many people who have taken or eaten fermented foods for the first time, they may notice they get a little gas, a little discomfort. They’re having an effect on your microbiome and they’re starting to say, “Hey, no, no. We actually belong here!” And they’re producing that lactic acid and it’s causing these other organisms to not be able to live, they go in their survival mode, they start trying to replicate quicker, there are all sorts of reactions that happen between bacteria when they’re fighting for space. Those reactions that happen aren’t always comfortable for us.
So what I think is fascinating is that we put all these probiotics in a pill, we don’t even know if these are the right amounts for them to be living in a balanced ecosystem, but we do know with the sauerkraut or with kefir or kimchi that they’re stable. They created that balanced, stable ecosystem. So when we ingest that, we’re not going to experience the same kind of imbalance that can be created by probiotics, and I’ve seen with my clients where they’re taking probiotics on a regular basis and they feel a little bit better, but they feel like they’re always kind of battling something. I also think you’ve got all the prebiotics from the fibers that are inside these sauerkraut and even in kefir, even in dairy, you have prebiotics, and then you have the lactic acid which acts as the fertilizer. So it’s the whole food form of probiotics. You just can’t get that in a pill. They put potato starch in those probiotics for prebiotics, and it’s like, is potato starch really the kind of prebiotic we want to be eating? I don’t!
Dr. Nicole Beurkens:
Right. So important. So the health of the gut microbiome is so critical for not only our physical health, but for our brain function and especially most of our listeners are parents of children who have various types of mental health issues, behavioral challenges, neurodevelopmental kinds of things, and so gut health is so important, and I think fermented foods are something that can be such a powerful component of a treatment plan and it’s something that I talk about with families often. So I’d like to have us talk about some practical starting points, even for families. For parents who are listening who are like, “Okay, this makes sense, I understand how these fermented foods can benefit my child, but how should I go about getting them into my child’s diet? The reality is 99% of kids coming into my clinic at least, fermented foods are not a part of what they’re eating on a regular basis or even what their family is familiar with. So how can parents get started with this?
So, first of all, I will just say that it’s really important to remember how children learn. Children learn by modeling the behavior of the adults. Plain and simple. That’s how you teach anything. So you actually can teach this without even saying a word. You can literally not say a word. You just get some fermented foods in your fridge and you start eating them without telling them what you’re doing. You just eat them. Kids will get curious, and I’ve seen this happen with many of my clients, and I’ll say this often, just do your thing and when they ask, it means they are now receptive. And you say, “Hey, you should try this, it’s really good for you!” For some children, there is a wall and they will never go over that wall from that point forward, until they’re 25. And then they’re 25, and they’re like oh, my mom knew everything, I should have listened to her when I was younger.
But for now, the way you do it is by building curiosity and let them ask — and then the other thing that I would do is remember to start small, and that you actually don’t need to bring in a massive amount of fermented foods — shouldn’t be useful. I think this is something where I made my own personal mistake here. Went crazy, tried to ferment everything and the truth, when you look at many cultures that are fermenting, they’re using these ferments as condiments. They are little side dishes or they’re incorporated in a sauce, it’s just a part of the bigger meal. So one thing that you can do as a parent is use sauerkraut brine as part of your salad dressing. If you make any kind of homemade salad dressings, put a teaspoon of the brine in there. They may not even notice.
It depends on what kind of thing you are doing, but just a little bit in there, or a teaspoon of brine after something has cooked — adding that in and mixing it into whatever vegetables or whatever else to add a little bit of flavor, a little bit of salt, but not enough for them to feel or taste that sourness. Add just enough, and you’re getting a little bit of probiotics in there and you’re starting to develop the acquired taste, because there is a learning curve in terms of an acquired taste. The other thing that I would say too, like with kefir, with water kefir, milk kefir, you can add a teaspoon… Listen, if your kid will eat a milkshake you can make a milkshake and put kefir in the milkshake. Whatever it is, be creative.
Kombucha isn’t one of my favorite ones. This is the first time I think I’m bringing it up during this conversation, actually, but I do think that kombucha is a good gateway ferment as we call it because some people will find that it allows that acquired taste to develop, and then once they drink kombucha or maybe water kefir, another similar kind of gateway ferment, it tastes good, you can make water kefir sodas, you can make these kind of bubbly fizzy drinks for kids, that they’re excited about — they think it’s pop and that can start to change the flavor, because what’s happening is that gut-brain access. Even if somebody doesn’t like the flavor at first, if they get benefit from it, their taste buds will change to match, and I watched this. This is why I decided to start my sauerkraut company. Because I had people coming over to my house, I lived with roommates in college and a certain number of people would come over and they would try the sauerkraut and they didn’t like it. Most people liked it, but a certain percentage didn’t like it. They’d take a bite and they’d be like, “That’s disgusting.” But the weirdest thing is every single one of those people, a week later, would come back and buy a jar of kraut from me. And they would say, “You know what, I know I didn’t like this, but I have not stopped thinking about it since I ate it.” And so I realized this is a very addictive food. So in your household, I also recommend reminding yourself that you’re in charge of nutrition. You’re the leader of health and nutrition in your household as a parent. So make and establish a family cultural value or cultural rule that you can’t say you don’t like something unless you tried it. And start to create this rule that everybody has to take at least one bite. You don’t have to finish it. You don’t have to finish it at all, but you have to take one bite. If you can start to establish that rule, it will help develop their acquired taste and it will give their body the information because our body is a computer. It will make decisions and change those tastebuds to tell them that it likes it later.
Dr. Nicole Beurkens:
Yeah, great strategies. And I also find that for some kids, including them in the process of making some ferments can be really helpful too. Like I started, with some kids who are totally opposed to it and have really picky pallets but they sort of have a science-y mind or they like experiments or they like just doing hands on projects, I’ll just teach parents and kids a simple way to make — like you were talking about little jarred ferments on the counter in their kitchen, some vegetables that they may like or have in their garden or whatever and just teach them a very simple way with salt and water to do that — and getting the kids involved in that, I find helps ease the way too. They get more comfortable with it, they see what it is, they get used to the smells of it, and then because they’ve had a hand in making these, are more likely to try it. So that’s another thing that I have found for families who like to do projects like that, it can be really helpful.
I would also remind people to not have your own mental block that your kid will hate it. I have 100s of pictures of children eating sauerkraut and kimchi and babies just sitting there putting in the spiciest kimchi you’ve ever eaten into their mouths and no eyes watering, nothing. So you have to remember that a lot of children actually are naturally inclined to enjoy these foods. So you have to kind of get your own self out of the way and let it be a part of the family.
Dr. Nicole Beurkens:
And I think that’s going back to what you said about parents modeling is so important. You can not turn your nose up and say I don’t need that, I don’t like that, but then tell your kid, “You need to eat this.” This needs to be a family affair. If you are going to tell your kid of whatever age that eating these things is important for their body, for their brain, then you need to model that and you need to be willing to take a bite and try it and incorporate it too.
Dr. Nicole Beurkens:
So I want to touch on some cautions for people because I see this in clinical practice, you’ve touched on a few things related to histamines and sort of your own mistakes early on with overdoing it and some of the areas where I see this now are teenagers and young adults who come in and they’re just drinking kombucha all the time because as you said, it tastes good, they like it, it’s kind of like a soda pop, but there can be some concerns about that, so talk about just some caveats or some things for parents to be aware of.
So with kombucha, I call kobucha the trifecta of addiction because it has a little bit of alcohol in it and it has sugar and tea. So it has caffeine. The sugar is not all the way fermented out, that’s just one thing we say and if you look at what’s in the store, sometimes the labels say two grams of sugar. You have to look at the serving size, that’s usually only the unflavored one and that’s not usually what most people are drinking. They’re usually drinking the fruit-sweetened ones that have a lot more sugar in them. It can be very addictive. I do believe kombucha is very addictive. We look at people, they start drinking a little bit, people are sometimes drinking 2-4 16 oz bottles per day. That is actually more common than I realized. I have worked with people who have come to me with severe health issues and they’re just feeling bloated, feeling overweight, feeling funky, feeling a little bit mentally cloudy, all these things, and I find out they’re literally drinking 4 jars of kombucha a day, and I’m like — I don’t care what you’re doing, the first thing, the first step is to get down to one at the max, but even that is considered a lot. When you look historically at the amount of sugar that was available to people back when — I mean kombucha has been around for 5000 years, I think and back in the day, you just didn’t have access to sugar. You wouldn’t be able to make that amount and sustain that amount of kombucha. Kombucha lasts a long time. I perceive that probably people were drinking 2-4 oz at a time with a meal, that’s it. A very small amount, it was more like a digestif. It helped them and it was in the midst of a very salty and heavy — there were very little sweets in the diet back then. So to have that sweetness, it was something that helped balance out their digestion. It was probably a great remedy. I can see why it became a miracle remedy at the time, given their overall food intake. When we look at our food intake today and it’s more of the same. When we talk about probiotic content of kombucha, the probiotic content varies in kombucha. So there is only about 30% of kombucha mothers that have lactobacillus. Most kombucha out there doesn’t even have any lactobacillus in it, which is one of the premier probiotics we know of. The store-bought kombucha is usually filled with bacillus coagulans, and it’s almost always a patented form of this from this giant probiotic company. So it’s a highly-studied bacteria, you can see all the studies about it, but this bacterium is owned by a company, this bacillus coagulans, and they add it in there so they can call it probiotic, that’s how they can put probiotic on a label and say this is a probiotic beverage. Without that, there are some people who question the probiotic nature of kombucha. It’s likely that there are some protective probiotic yeasts in Kombucha, but again, for somebody who is struggling with candida, you don’t want any kind of yeasts coming in.
Their body is going to create more of the same, the yeasts that are already overgrowing will actually react to those, and sometimes they will feed them and allow them grow even more. If you think about the microbial endocrinology that I’ve talked about — these microorganisms are constantly excreting chemicals and those chemicals are like text messages in between our cells and other organisms’ cells. And so they’re text messaging each other, “Hey, party!” You know? “More yeasts! Party time!” And they’re like, “Oh, party!” Then the little bit of alcohol is just enough to kind of set things up, that little bit of sugar in there, it’s enough to put things over the edge. So kombucha is one I would recommend just in small quantities, don’t go crazy with it, and it’s not my premier recommendation for probiotics. I would much rather have people eat dairy kefir, water kefir, sauerkraut, kimchi — those are by far my favorites. And the things that I worry about and the issues that I struggled with really were histamine issues.
Overall, for me it’s an immune system disorder, some struggles with my immune system and what I’ve noticed is that when people have. Prevalence towards skin rashes, eczema, allergies, headaches, runny nose, runny eyes, kind of that overall allergy type person — if they get too much fermented food in, it can actually exacerbate that because the fermented foods usually contain higher levels of histamines, naturally-occurring histamines and bacteria produce histamines, certain kinds of bacteria, and also certain kinds of bacteria convert — there is a component in food called histidine. They convert histidine into histamine even in the body. You can even ingest certain kinds of bacteria and they will create histamine in your gut and increase your histamine levels just from hanging out, living in your gut. So there is a lot of complexity going on there, it’s kind of hard to trace the roots of histamine issues for people. It’s a very convoluted, little-known part of our whole functional health world that we’re barely starting to understand it, but this is something to look out for. So if your kid is starting to see eczema pop up, or itchiness or they’re getting headaches, migraines or they’re getting irritable — what we call historages, I am glad I finally figured out what’s causing my — I thought I was just angry sometimes. No, it was just too much histamine. I’m sure you deal with this a lot in your practice.
Dr. Nicole Beurkens:
Yeah, so if you can figure out that histamine might play a part, then my child knew he needs to have the minimal amount of fermented as possible. Be okay with it, don’t buy into the media that’s saying oh, you can’t have a healthy microbiome without probiotics. You can’t have a healthy microbiome without fermented foods. You can have a healthy microbiome with the right foods. It doesn’t have to be a lot of fermented foods, if you’re getting the right kinds of fibers, a balanced diet, very good, healthy, clean foods, you’re feeding the good bacteria because they’re everywhere. Don’t feel like you have to be constantly dozing your kid with these ferments. Even for some people, a teaspoon of sauerkraut brine or a teaspoon of water kefir every other day is enough. And some people can only do a couple of drops at first. That’s fine. You don’t have to rush this process, especially if you are seeing symptoms associated with it, and then gas and bloating is a normal part. Usually, that passes within a week, if that doesn’t go away after a week of introducing a food, you might need to switch to a different one that works better for the body.
Dr. Nicole Beurkens:
Great things to be aware of and I think it just goes back to, especially when we are talking about children who are not just miniature adults, they have different systems and just are more sensitive in gereenal. Start with small amounts and go slowly and watch and observe. And once in a while I’ll get a kid whose parents will introduce fermented food and they just love it and they go nuts with it and it’s like whoa, whoa, whoa! Let’s back off, let’s do it slowly because you do want to watch to see if they’re having any kind of reaction to it and some people just can’t tolerate very much. But I think that’s so important because people think oh, this is a healthy thing! More is better. And more is not always better and what is healthy or health-supportive for one person is not necessarily the same for another, so that principle of just start low and go slow with it, I think it’s important.
Absolutely. It’s very important, and I mean it was fascinating to me to learn this the hard way, quite honestly, but I mean what’s really cool is when you get it right, you actually do improve the mood. That’s really fascinating, it’s like the gut-emotion connection is huge because the amount of serotonin that is created in the gut and the serotonin receptors in the gut, and they’re doing things like peristalsis.
Those serotonin receptors in the gut aren’t at all there to make you happy. They’re there to actually do functions within the gut, but then there are bacteria that produce things like GABA and GABA is so important for mental health and keeping us out of anxiety. And then all of these things, I talked about histamines, when histamines are triggered, the body uses adrenaline as the antidote to histamine. So when you go to the dentist and they give you shots nowadays, they use epinephrine as a carrier for the anesthetic because the epinephrine shrinks blood vessels and it allows the anesthesia to stay in the tissues longer, and it keeps blood supply low so that the dentist doesn’t end up with a whole bunch of blood, so they started using epinephrine. So epinephrine tightens and it changes the tissues in this one way, but histamine has the exact opposite effect. It blows it up, brings lots of fluid, it increases blood supply, all these white blood cells go there. It’s just crazy. So the epinephrine is this antidote, and so for kids who are struggling with histamine issues, you will see that they go through this rollercoaster of emotions as their body is doing histamine, adrenaline, histamine — their rollercoaster is a double-whammy because when their histamine is lowering, their adrenaline is high. When their histamine is high — it’s this cross, and they’re just crazy, they feel crazy, they feel awful.
Dr. Nicole Beurkens:
Right, and so being aware of that and monitoring response to things is just so important and a big caveat with this whole area, so I’m glad that you mentioned it. So many —
Can I say one more thing about that, which I think is actually — I just realized, so because there are histamines in food doesn’t mean take them out if histamines are in food. It means find the other areas where you are bringing in high histamine foods and do a slash. If chocolate is a part of their diet or they’re eating a lot of avocado or some of these other cured meats, find their food. A lot of histamine kids are craving histamine foods. Find those foods and get them out, and then you’ll have room for the ferment.
Dr. Nicole Beurkens:
Great, great tip. So important. And so many things that we could talk about with this, but we have to wrap up here, but I want to make sure that people know where they can go online to find out more about you, your work and the resources that you have available.
Absolutely, gutrebuilding.com has all kinds of tutorials and classes. I also have a YouTube channel @fermentationist as well as on Instagram, and @fermentationist is my handle everywhere. You can just find all kinds of things. I just want to say I think it’s really easy to learn how to make ferments, and I loved your suggestion of getting kids in the kitchen helping you out, and I just found that if you’re doing that piece, it will make a huge difference, and I truly believe that every single person should make ferments at least once because we are so used to this germ-free, sanitized environment and the first time I made sauerkraut, I was terrified to eat it. I was sweating, I was like “What if I don’t wake up in the morning?” I was legitimately scared, and then I got over the fear, I did eat it, I woke up the next morning, I got more and more accustomed to the process, and then I would make a new kind of ferment. And every single time I made a new ferment, I would go through the same fear. And I learned that this is just a barrier fear that we’ve been taught. It’s programming. And once you learn how to bust through that by practicing to make it, actually eating your ferment, it changes your relationship with bacteria. It changes your mindset and I can tell you about it now and it’s different than actually experiencing it, but it will change you and help you understand that we actually have a symbiotic relationship with these organisms and we don’t need to have this “Kill all microbes” kind of fear or just — we don’t need to have that as our goal.
Dr. Nicole Beurkens:
I love it. I love it. As always, such a great conversation. So many words of wisdom and pearls that parents can take and start to implement, so Summer, thank you so much for being with us today.
My pleasure, thanks for having me..
Dr. Nicole Beurkens:
And thanks to all of you for listening, we will see you next time on The Better Behavior Show!