Why going organic won’t save your health


fermented foodDon’t get me wrong… I’m all for organic. I’m all for eating food that is as clean and real as you can possibly get. Join a CSA, grow a garden, do whatever you can to get good quality, clean, organic food.

But if there is only one thing you are willing or able to do to improve your diet and your health, going organic is not it.

I think the number one thing we should all be doing is adding a variety of fermented food to our family diet every day.

NOW WAIT…  If you’re thinking…“there’s no way my kids will eat that” or “that will take too much time” or “what the heck? I wanted simplicity!”  It’s not as hard as you think and I’m here to walk you through it.


I’ve talked about fermented food before in my blogs, but I felt the need to expand. The more I learn about the microbiome in the gut the more astounded I am at how we have let it slide into oblivion. We pay absolutely no attention to this critical part of our bodies! And it’s taken a toll on our collective health.

Evidence is mounting that our microbiome is the driver of our health Click To Tweet

If you are thinking right now, “well, I don’t get bloated, I don’t have IBS, I don’t have constipation, I must have good digestion”… CONTINUE READING!

Digestive health goes way beyond the typical feelings we associate with digestion. Are you tired? Depressed? Have skin issues? Have hormone imbalance? ADHD? Insomnia? Anxiety? Mental illness? Headaches? Chronic pain? Yup…. digestive….partly.

Here are a few things about your digestive tract that might bring it from the back of your mind right up front and centre.

  • Anywhere from 70 to 85% of your immune system resides in the gut (depending on what source you rely on for your statistics).
  • The surface of the gut is as big as a tennis court and is covered in bacteria.
  • There are more cells in the gut than there are in the entire human body.
  • There is more genetic material in the gut than there is in the entire body and this genetic material actually partly controls how genes are expressed.
  • The gut has its own brain for goodness sake. Yes! There are brain cells in your gut. It’s called the Enteric Nervous System and it is a major pathway of communication between your internal and external bodies.

Intestine… it’s time to stand up and be noticed!

Let’s back up a bit. The digestive tract is actually considered to be “outside” of the body. Imagine it as a long tube. Food goes in, waste comes out. The mucosal barrier of the intestine is the interface between the outside world and the inside of the body. After the digestive workers have done the job of extracting nutrients from your food, those nutrients are granted passage through the mucosal membrane and into the “inside” of the body, where they travel around through the blood.

There are 2kg of bacteria living in the gut. Among them are 500 known species of pathogenic bacteria and also a plethora of beneficial bacteria. This relatively unknown landscape is only now being “mapped” by scientists. All these little guys live together and keep each other in check.

Bacteria are truly miraculous and we absolutely depend on them for our health. They digest food, manufacture vitamins, extract minerals, create hormones, absorb and neutralize toxins and heavy metals. They communicate with the gut wall and the rest of the body and do a whole host of other important things.

When the beneficial bacteria are not supported, pathogenic bacteria are allowed to proliferate and a cascade of damage ensues.  Here’s part of what happens:

  • Food can not be fully digested or absorbed (which results in malnourishment),
  • The microvilli start to deteriorate (these are the little hairs that cover the intestinal lining which are responsible for digestion and absorption.  This is also where your digestive enzymes live)
  • The mucosal lining becomes damaged
  • Food is digested by pathogenic bacteria instead of beneficial bacteria, which releases toxins that pass through the compromised gut lining and into the blood where they are free to roam and wreak havoc.

The Result? The gut, which should be the heart of nourishment, becomes a source of pathogens (and remember? We need the beneficial bacteria to clear pathogens… so double whammy).

Unless you are already paying very close attention to your digestive health, you have a damaged gut. Click To Tweet

You have a damaged gut, I have a damaged gut. You can be eating the best foods money can buy, but you likely have a damaged gut unless you are taking steps to support it. Why? Because here are just some of the things that cause damage on a daily basis:

  • cigarette smoke (including second hand),
  • stress hormones,
  • chlorinated water,
  • contraceptive pills,
  • soft drinks,
  • heavy metal exposure,
  • antibiotics,
  • pollution,
  • sugar,
  • additives like carageenan,
  • certain food compounds like gluten and lectin,
  • Tylenol, Naproxen, steroids…

The list of things that work against gut health is long and full of things that are inescapable.

So, back to the fermented food. Learning to make (or source) kefir, yogurt, sour pickles, lactofermented sauerkraut, kombucha, water kefir, kimchi and fermented fermented food at homecondiments is time well spent, as these are the best foods to nourish and support the beneficial bacteria living down there. If you do that, the rest of the digestive health story seems to fall into place.

Sound like a formidable task? Well, I’m on it.  I’m an official fermentation addict. My counter is cluttered with jars and bowls and I’ll keep you posted about my lactofermenting successes and failures as things progress. It’s not hard, there’s just a learning curve. Lacto-fermenting is a time honored culinary skill that used to be passed on from mothers and grandmothers, but we’ve totally dropped the ball on this one. And I have seen the health benefits that occur when we bring it back into our lives.  

So stay tuned also for my adventures in fermenting….

Want to see a 5 minute video about the microbiome?  Check it out here.

Want to join my support group on Facebook?  Click here


  • Alicia

    Reply Reply March 15, 2013

    Great post Jess 🙂 I’ve tried Kefir once but thought it was so sour and weird to just drink. What are some ways to use it where it’s more palatable?? In smoothies? Would love some suggestions!!
    Alicia 🙂

  • Jess

    Reply Reply March 16, 2013

    Plain kefir is an acquired taste, for sure. Over time you do get used to it, though. You only need a little (like 1/4 cup or so) to get a serious dose of goodness. So you can start gradually – with a tblsp a day, say – and build up the taste for it. It blends up really well in a smoothie too. I add some berries (usually frozen) and some greens, sometimes some maca for a little energy boost, maybe some honey. It also works well as a Popsicle (basically just a frozen smoothie!). You can bake with it too, though some of the bacteria benefits don’t survive. You can sub it in any time a recipe calls for yogurt. Sometimes I soak flour in kefir and then add eggs and baking soda in the morning for pancakes. The kefir makes the flour more digestible. Lots of ways to use it!

  • Alicia

    Reply Reply March 16, 2013

    Thanks Jess!! Those are awesome tips – we’ll give it a try!

  • Leila

    Reply Reply March 16, 2013

    Hey, I don’t like the “carbonated” part of kefir, but we’ve recently discovered kefir that is not. Big breakthrough for me! Jess do you know if this limits the health benefits at all? Happy fermenting. Leila

  • Jess

    Reply Reply March 18, 2013

    Leila – there are 2 kinds of kefir on the market. One is made using traditional kefir grains and the other is using a powdered culture. Both have health benefits but the grains offer a wider variety of bacteria and a higher bacteria count. The only company I know of that uses the grains is Liberte (though if anyone knows otherwise, please pipe up!). Their traditional kefir is very carbonated tasting. Liberte has recently come out with a “flat” version of their kefir. It does have a lower bacteria count and less variety but it is still good. I think Liberte probably uses a double fermentation to get the effervescence(the only way I can get that tingly taste at home is by double fermenting)but it’s possible that they are using the powdered-type culture for their flat version. It doesn’t detail that on their website. It does indicate that the “flat” has about half the potency of the fizzy version.

  • Carolyn

    Reply Reply March 23, 2013

    Hi Jess,
    This is awesome news and i love this blog entry! We have been making our own yogurt at home and I love it but didn’t know we could also make kefir. I LOVE the Liberte kefir and prefer the effervescent one. We have an incubator-like yogurt maker that we plug in, would your instructions be the same? How do I double ferment or do I have to wait until you post about that?!
    Glad to read everything you are writing about, keep it coming!
    Thanks:) Carolyn

  • Jess

    Reply Reply March 27, 2013

    Carolyn… making kefir is even easier than making yogurt. You’ll want to find some kefir grains. You can find a link on my website page about how to make yogurt (in the fermented foods section) for that. Kefir grains ferment milk at room temperature so all you have to do is put the grains in the milk, cover loosely and keep it on the counter for about 18 hours. Then strain your grains out and it’s done. I’m planning a video on that soon! You can use kefir grains to ferment coconut milk too for a dairy free option.

  • Sarah S.

    Reply Reply March 31, 2013

    Can you use kefir grains to ferment almond milk?

  • Jess

    Reply Reply March 31, 2013

    oh… forgot to answer about the double fermenting. With kefir, this is done after the initial 18 or so hours of fermenting. Take out the grains, cover the kefir and let it sit out at room temperature for another 24 or so hours. The longer it sits, the more carbonated it becomes. To be honest, I generally just do a single ferment with milk kefir, but I did experiment with double fermenting water kefir. The second ferment is the time to experiment with flavoring it with fruit and making it “fizz”.

  • Jess

    Reply Reply March 31, 2013

    Sarah…. I’ve never tried using almond milk. But I have tried coconut milk. The thing to keep in mind about using “alternate” milks is that they don’t thicken up as much as cow’s milk does… at least that’s true of coconut milk so I’d assume you’d see that with almond too. It might still look “milky” but if you taste it it will have that tang of a ferment. That’s how you’ll know if it worked. Give it a shot and let me know how it turns out!

  • Sarah

    Reply Reply November 7, 2013

    Jess – great post. I am all for fermented foods but haven’t attempted to make them myself. Where do you get kefir grains?

    • Jess

      Reply Reply November 8, 2013

      I order all my cultures from Cultures For Health. Unfortunately they are in the US and charge a lot for shipping, so I try to order a bunch at a time. I haven’t yet found a distributor in Canada. Anyone out there know of one? Please let us know!

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