If you are the kind of person that has trouble eating dairy products, it is still possible for you to get all of the value of eating dairy without any of the issues. Most of the time when people are lactose intolerant, the problem lies in their inability to process the sugar in milk, which is lactose. If you don’t process it, then it is up to microbes that are in your intestines to do the work, which they happily do, creating gasses that cause you pain, creating chemicals that cause your stool to be loose, etc. It’s much better to have that sugar digested before you eat it. Turns out that if you pre-digest it; if you turn the milk into yogurt, kefir, or cheese before you eat it, all of the sugar is gone, all of the problems are gone.
There are some people that have the same digestive issue with some plants. Cucumbers have a lot of carbohydrate in them. When you eat a cucumber you can taste a hint of sweetness, and some people get gassy when they eat them. It is a big enough problem that they have bred a type of cucumber called ‘burpless’. For some people the vegetable they can’t eat is cabbage, and the issue is the same, the food causes gas. The solution is similar to the milk solution, turn the cucumber into pickle or turn the cabbage into sauerkraut. Fermenting foods is like pre-digesting them.
A ruminant is an animal that when it eats it’s food it stores it in a first stomach where it is reacted on by bacteria, then regurgitated and chewed a second time, swallowed then into a second stomach where it begins its final passage through the rest of the animal’s digestive tract. This is a description, a basic one, of the digestive system of most grass-eating animals–cattle, deer, goats. I find it fascinating that a cow can eat something like grass that we cannot eat, because they have evolved to take advantage of the bacteria found on grass that will decompose it while it is in the animal. The cow’s bacteria actually makes the grasses edible, changing the cellulose that makes the grass stand erect into energy sources and nutrients not even found in grass. If we ate grass it would come out the other end pretty much the way it went in our mouths.
Of course, we have evolved to take advantage of our own bacteria. A human eating his or her natural diet would never have anything like ‘heartburn’ or ‘acid reflux’, because these things are caused by our stomach and intestinal bacteria being disrupted by the things we eat these days. When we eat dead foods, foods laced with artificial ingredients, foods containing ‘preservatives’ that inhibit bacteria growth on the shelf, we do harm to our natural allies with respect to food. Nature expects us to eat bacteria when we eat food, it expects that some of the bacteria on our vegetables will be replenishing some of the same bacteria that exists in our gut to digest or meal. When we eat things that are poisonous to the bacteria on our foods instead, then we end up with unexpected and less than optimal results.
When we eat natural foods we enhance the ability of our good bacteria to do their work. We increase their numbers, even if we are eating fresh raw foods, there are colonies of good bacteria living on the food, and when we eat them they do not die. They take up residence inside us, joining the ranks of those already there. When we eat fermented foods there is the same effect multiplied by 1000.
When we ferment food it is like we have created a rumen that we can set on a countertop. If you put cabbage in salt water, the beneficial bacteria that reside there are not killed by it. The other bacteria, the ones that make your cabbage turn brown, turn into goo eventually, they cannot live in salty water, and therefore don’t compete for the carbohydrates in the cabbage. The bacteria that survive the briny bath consume the carbohydrates and starches in the cabbage, and they make vitamins. In cabbage they make vitamin C. Did you know that this is how vitamin C is made industrially? They ferment it into existence in a fermenter. These bacteria make an incredible amount of beneficial products, and they breed to the point that when we eat raw fermented foods we get billions of probiotic bacteria.
When you take a probiotic you will get a dose of a strain of bacteria. It may or may not actually be alive, who knows. When you eat a plate full of home made, fresh, fermented sauerkraut, your plate is alive with trillions of bacteria, of countless variety, and all of the vitamins and nutrients that they have created by fermenting your cabbage. You will not suffer any of the reactions that you normally would to the cabbage. Your intestinal health will be instantly transformed into something inhospitable to damaging microbes that may be setting up colonies there. Every benefit you have ever heard of from eating probiotic supplements is multiplied by one thousand when you eat raw fermented foods.
It is possible for you to eat things you could not normally eat, if you only pre-digest them. Pre-digesting them turns out to be as easy as dissolving salt in water and submerging them for a week. The list of hardware you need is short–a non-reactive vessel to hold the food in, and a cover to keep bugs out but that will let gasses of fermentation out. Go buy yourself a rumen, also known as a mason jar.