Sauerkraut is one of those foods that is distinctive in its appeal; You either love it, or you hate it. There is no room for grey when it comes to that tangy, salty condiment you’re gobbing onto your hot dog by the spoonful as your friend stares a you in disgust. While its won the hearts of many for centuries, some people just cant get use to the taste. Why is this?
Some would say that its an acquired taste that is irresistible to those who grew up eating it (a staple on many a grandma’s kitchen table). This would imply that for those unfortunate folk who were cruelly deprived of grandmas kraut as children have no hope of ever developing the palate that might actually enjoy the taste. I bet you a footlong schnitzel with a mountain of ‘sauer’ that that’s a load of kraut!
I am living proof that this is not case. I was one of those unfortunate folk who was only introduced to sauerkraut early in my adult life. After landing myself a position at my dream job as a Herbal Consultant at a local superfood store that was REVERED for its hand-made sauerkraut and other traditional ferments, I knew I couldn’t avoid it any longer. After all, it was now my job to sell this stuff to my customers and tell them just how amazing it was! As a die-hard pickle fan I figured I was cut for the chase. But much to my dismay, that was not the case. I could barely swallow my first bite of lacto-fermented sauerkraut! My co-workers enjoyed a good chuckle at my expense whenever they would get me to try the newest and best flavour. But after leaning about all the amazing health benefits it had to offer, I was determined to keep trying.
So I bought a jar of our finest fermented sauerkraut, brought it home and forced myself to down forkful everyday after I got home from work. After just a few days of this, it started getting easier. It went from god-awful to not-so-bad. And within 2 weeks I had bought another jar, took it home an DEVOURED it! I must have eaten 3/4 of that jar, in complete and total bliss before I realized what I had just done. The rest is history!
Ever since then I have been a raving fan of all things fermented! So what exactly happened? Was it all in my head?
Well, partially yes. But not the way you’re probably thinking.
Some of you may have heard of something called the gut-brain-axis or Enteric nervous system. Its one of several neurological pathways in the body, whose main function is to allow communication to occur between the gut and the brain via the vagus nerve. It is responsible for sending the signals that regulate the physiological functions of the GI tract including: motor control, secretions, blood flow and even immune and endocrine functioning (https://gut.bmj.com/content/47/suppl_4/iv15 )
What’s even more fascinating? This communication line is bi-directional, meaning that signals can be sent from the brain to the gut (motor control, secretions, etc.) but also from the gut to the brain (think cravings, appetite, and neurotransmitter production). Ever heard of the gut being referred to as the “second brain”? This is why! The gut actually sends signals to the brain according to the influence of the existing microbial inhabitants. These microorganisms living in our guts can influence an expanding line up of physiological and psychological functions, most notably (in this case) the production and regulation of certain neurotransmitters like GABA, dopamine and serotonin. It does this by signalling the Limbic system and hypothalamus via the Vagus Nerve. (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4367209/).
It would make sense then why the type of bacteria and thus the health of a persons microbiome would effect their mood, cravings, and even impulsive behaviour! Its a self-preservation mechanism that these bacteria would want their human host to eat specific types of food that fuel them best so they can continue to thrive and multiply. The problem is when you have an imbalance of the wrong types of bacteria in your gut, you’re not going to crave things like sauerkraut for lacto-fermented pickles because those foods actually inhibit pathogenic bacterial growth. (That’s a really good thing!)
My story is a perfect example of how someone’s microbiome can change over time simply by changing their diet and introducing probiotics. I began to love and even CRAVE the taste of lacto-fermented sauerkraut (and still do!) as my microbiome shifted to favour these friendly probiotics I was eating daily.
Even if you’re a hesitant newbie to the world of fermented foods, there is hope! You CAN train your taste buds to enjoy the taste of these gut-loving foods and improve the health of your microbiome. I recommend using caution at first and only introducing fermented/probiotic rich foods slowly and one at time to avoid a reaction. If you experience any kind of reaction or think you may need guidance with introducing probiotic foods into your diet, I strongly recommend you talk with your local Naturopathic Doctor or Holistic Nutritionist. I also offer guidance with this transition for my Health Coaching clients alongside their medical care providers to help support their healing journey. To learn more about how to introduce fermented foods and heal your microbiome click here for a complete list of my Health Coaching servicesor to schedule free ‘Discovery Session‘ with me.
Holistic Health Coach