Fermentation and Yoga

Dr. Avi Nov 

What is Fermentation?

Fermentation is a process in which microorganisms like yeast and bacteria convert carbs into alcohol or acids. Ancient cultures used fermentation mainly for food preservation. It was necessary to develop Fermentation for the keeping perishable agricultural produce.  

The ancient Fermentation process has evolved during the years beyond food preservation into a tool for creating desirable tastes, nutritional benefits (see below), and functional attributes in food products. It is amazing to notice that fermented food still makes up a significant portion of the diet in the Far East.  

Which fermented foods should we eat?

The most known examples of fermented foods and drinks are: Yogurt, Cheese, Tempeh, Miso, Kimchi, Dosa, Pickles, Sauerkraut, Amazaki, Vinegar, Kefir, and Kombucha. It is relatively easy to prepare at home, and requires minimal investment and equipment. Most of the fermented foods are Raw Plant-Based.  

My recommendation is to prepare most of the Raw Plant-Based fermented food at home, and buy some of them such as miso and vinegar. I advise to eat Raw Plant-Based fermented foods every day as they promote the growth of beneficial bacteria such as Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium (that constitute probiotics). In the next paragraph, I will explain the benefits of probiotics. 

Why is fermented food good for us?

Scientists have begun to realize that probiotics are essential for our physical health. Fermented food are good for us because of the great amount of probiotics that are in them. Probiotics have been revealed to improve immune system as well as digestive function, heart health and more. 

Clinical trials in recent years involving thousands of people have demonstrated that probiotics are beneficial to health. There is a wide consensus that probiotics are effective in conditions related to the digestive d immune system. Building on this evidence, many medical and scientific organizations highly recommend the use of probiotics.  

Can fermented food prevent and cure diseases?

It is likely that fermented food can prevent and cure a lot of diseases. In this short article, I will give just two examples that were researched in recent years.    

Several studies have analyzed the effectiveness of probiotics in the prevention of colon cancer. The SYNCAN study, for instance, found that a symbiotic preparation can lower the expression of colorectal biomarkers. Another example is research that claims that fermented food can assist in the prevention and treatment of obesity and type 1 and type 2 diabetes

What is the influence of probiotics on the mind?

Science is now exploring the connection between the various bacteria and the brain, as well as the central nervous system. Research demonstrates that the gut and brain are highly connected, a partnership called the gut-brain axis.  It is asserted that bacteria communicate with the brain by releasing specific chemicals into the gut that transmits specific information. 

The gut is sometimes called a "second brain" and that is because it produces many of the same neurotransmitters as the brain does, like serotonin, dopamine, and gamma-aminobutyric acid, all of which play a key role in regulating mental condition. Some research has found that fermented food may help boost mood and cognitive function and lower stress and anxiety. A study reported in the journal Gastroenterology in 2013 found that women who ate yogurt with a mix of probiotics, twice a day for four weeks, were calmer when exposed to images of angry and frightened faces compared with a control group. 

Why combine fermented food with Yoga?

I recommend eating fermented food on a daily basis due to the resulting health benefits discussed above and also for the contribution to a better yoga practice. There are two main reasons for this. First, fermented food is an essential part of a Raw Food diet, and as I explained in another article (Raw Food and Yoga), such diet makes your yoga practice easier and more enjoyable.  

The second reason why I recommend eating fermented food every day, is due to the bacteria-mind connection effect discussed earlier. To put it in simple words, eating fermented food makes your guts happy, and this is transmitted to your brain which then leads to calmness and peacefulness. This is ultimately what yoga offers. Thus, the combination will lead to higher levels of serenity and tranquility. 

I would like to conclude with a quote by Sandor Ellix Katz: “we have become increasingly isolated from the natural world, lacking awareness of and conscious interaction with animals, plants, fungi, and bacteria in our midst. Rather than continuing to distance ourselves from interaction with the larger web of life, we must reclaim these relationships. Fermentation is a tangible way of cultivating this consciousness and these relationships. As evolutionary beings, we recognize in bacteria not only our cellular origins and mutualistic partners, but our best hope for biological pathways into the future” (The Art of Fermentation: An In-Depth Exploration of Essential Concepts and Processes from Around the World, page 14). 

If you want to learn more on how to make your own fermented food and combine it with Yoga, you are welcome to join us in one of our yoga retreats. See here the list of upcoming retreats.