Risks and Benefits of Fermented Foods Consumption

By Raluca Schachter

Contributing Writer for Wake Up World

It is wise, beneficial and important to incorporate healthy foods in our diet, which our ancestors used in their traditional, local diets, keeping them healthy and long living. However, the way we do this in our modern times can sometimes go awry. The clinical reality of our crummy, inefficient digestion – destroyed by processed foods and medication – raised awareness in the natural health world, and an explosion of gut healing foods and supplements made their way in the diets of health conscious people.

So far, so good. Fermented vegetables are believed to be one of such healthy, gut healing foods, loaded with beneficial bacteria, enzymes and also very tasty! Kombucha lovers will swear on the beneficial effect of this frizzy, energizing drink! (although, I have to admit, when I first drank it, I could clearly feel the alcohol in it, which softened my knees instead of “energizing” them…)

Before I go into details and scientific data, I mention that  I believe fermented foods do have their place and can be consumed in moderation by many people, who don’t experience too many health issues.  But I couldn’t advice anyone to load on fermented foods on a daily basis. Here is why:

Aldehydes in Fermented Foods

Aldehydes  are a type of organic chemical compound that are produced by some fermenting organisms. The human body possesses enzymes that convert it to a less-harmful substance and therefore is protected from small exposures. However, acetaldehyde at toxic levels can make its way into the brain from sources such as alcohol consumption,  Candida  (yeast) overgrowth, as well as breathing air contaminated with acetaldehyde from cigarette and other smoke, smog, vehicle and factory exhaust, synthetic fragrances and many commercially manufactured materials.

In foods, aldehydes are  produced mainly by the action of yeasts, molds and fungi.    Aldehydes are not lethal toxins but they definitely affect the body and damage one’s health.  Often  levels are high in fermented foods such as kombucha tea, some pickles, wine and beer.

On hair mineral tests, the results of eating aldehydes will often be translated into an imbalanced sodium/potassium ratio. Acetaldehyde  alters red blood cell structure.  They  decrease the ability of the protein tubulin to assemble into microtubules (long, thin, tube-like structures that serve several functions in the brain cell). Without the microtubules, the dendrites atrophy and die. This can be seen in  chronic alcoholism and Alzheimer’s disease.  Acetaldehyde induces a  deficiency of vitamin B1, the “nerve vitamin”,  critical to brain and nerve function. Addictive,  opiate-like biochemicals are formed in the brain  when acetaldehyde combines with the key neurotransmitters, dopamine and serotonin.

People with chemical sensitivities to aldehydes may also be sensitive to seemingly unrelated substances like sulfites (preservatives) from wines and foods, and the smell of chlorine from pools and bleach.

The under appreciated essential trace mineral  molybdenum  is also involved with acetaldehyde metabolism. A molybdenum deficiency not only affects this process but also other enzymes in the body that require molybdenum as a cofactor.

Aldehydes are very similar to heavy metals — we all have them in our bodies, due to modern high polluted environments we are living in. It is wise to try to minimize exposure through at least our consumption.

The least aldehydes are produced in foods such as miso, some good quality saurkraut,  some cheese, yogurt and kefir.  These appear to be safe, when eaten in moderation.

A study published in the Journal of Agriculture and Food Chemistry stated that  turmeric  had protective and antioxidant properties in cucumber pickle products (not fermented products!) by inhibiting the formation of oxidative  aldehydes. So it might be worth looking more into the effects of such herbs added to fermented foods and their protective role.

Candida Overgrowth and Fermented Foods

Fermented foods are high in lactic acid. Lactic acid results from anaerobic metabolism, the same metabolic process which allows yeast to promulgate. Pathogenic yeast thrive in an anaerobic environment.  Some of the most important things people with  candidiasis  should eliminate are sugars and most foods that break down quickly into sugars and fermented foods.

Another important exposure route to toxic acetaldehyde levels is through its production by the opportunistic yeast,  Candida albicans.  Candida produces acetaldehyde in the GI tract by sugar fermentation.  The typical American diet along with drug and antibiotic therapies, hypochlorhydria (low stomach acid), chronic stress, environmental toxins, etc. have altered gut integrity and immunity and predisposed millions of people to yeast overgrowth or the “Candida Syndrome.”  A person with this condition who also drinks alcohol or loads up on fermented foods, not only produces acetaldehyde from the foods, but also delivers more sugar for yeast production of acetaldehyde, doubling the dose!  Acetaldehyde produced in the gut can eventually reach more parts of the body, flooding the system and increasing the risk for damage.

Benefits of Fermented Foods

Despite the above mentioned risks, properly prepared fermented foods are natural and  healthy  sources of beneficial probiotics and enzymes for your body, as well as other intact vitamins and minerals.  The proliferation of lactobacili in fermented vegetables enhances their digestibility and increases vitamin levels.

Fermentation of vegetables is an ancient traditional practice which can be found throughout the world. Tiberius always carried a barrel of sauerkraut with him during his long voyages to the Middle East because the Romans knew that the lactic acid in contained protected them from intestinal infections. So did Captain Cook, protecting his entire crew from scurvy, due to the sauerkraut’s high vitamin C content.

Being aware on both risks and benefits of fermented vegetables, the following question arises : will the aldehyde problem offset any benefits these foods produce? In my opinion, it all comes down again to one’smetabolic individuality  and health concerns. One fermented veggie just doesn’t fit all!





Fallon, Sally. Nourishing Traditions


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About the author:

Raluca Schachter is a dedicated Clinical Nutritionist / Natural Health Practitioner a.k.a “The Health Detective”. Raluca was able to naturally reverse chronic health conditions she was struggling with most of her life, and now uses her knowledge to help as many people as possible do the same. Her health programs and diet plans offer a very unique and comprehensive approach to health, where individual nutritional and biochemical requirements are firstly met using specific nutrients and foods that each metabolism thrives on. Raluca offers her services to international clientele and her practice is fully online based. You can connect with Raluca at www.metabolicenergy.net and https://www.facebook.com/raluca.schachter.metabolicenergy

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