(BPT) - No matter what season or time of year, we all know the importance of a healthy immune system and the central role it plays in overall well-being. While sleep, healthy eating and a balanced lifestyle are all essential for a healthy immune system, clinical studies show fermented supplements are an effective approach to supporting good gut and immune health.
"Your immune system is an important factor in maintaining health at any age," says registered dietitian Keri Gans. "Fermentation is getting a lot of attention for its ability to support the gut and the immune system."
Gans answers top questions about fermentation and how it helps support the digestive system and immune health:
What is fermentation?
Fermented foods support gut health, an important part of the immune system. Fermentation happens when organic material (usually from plants) is broken down by microorganisms like yeast and bacteria. Many of those microorganisms are part of the microbiome in the gut.
One fermented food is sauerkraut, a well-recognized food that has been around for centuries. Sauerkraut is cabbage that has been fermented with probiotic bacteria such as lactobacillus. While the cabbage is being fermented, the bacteria produce metabolites that affect the texture, taste and nutritional qualities of the food. These non-living metabolites are postbiotics, which are an essential part of the fermentation process.
Probiotic vs. postbiotic
Many people have heard of probiotics supporting digestive health. Probiotics are live microorganisms that can be present in foods like yogurt. However, when focusing on fermented products, the benefits also come from postbiotics. Postbiotics are non-living metabolites and compounds produced by microorganisms like yeast or bacteria during a fermentation process. Instead of adding live bacteria to your gut, you are adding their metabolites. Postbiotics in turn support the good bacteria already in your gut.
How do you get the postbiotics in fermentation?
Incorporate fermented foods into your diet like kombucha, kefir, sauerkraut, miso and sourdough bread. If you don't like the taste of fermented foods, don't have regular access to them, and perhaps don't want to eat a lot of them, fermented supplements are an easy option to get the benefits of postbiotics to support your gut health and immune system. Postbiotics don’t have bacteria that need to be kept alive, so they don’t need refrigeration, which means you can take it “on the go.”
When researching fermented supplements, look for EpiCor, a first-of-its-kind fermentate ingredient that taps the natural power of fermentation to deliver immune and gut health benefits in your vitamin and supplement products. EpiCor fermentate is a whole food ingredient, meaning nothing is extracted or purified; it is like a multivitamin for your immune system. Additionally, clinical studies indicate EpiCor fermentate may help support nasal health year around.
Why eat fermented foods and supplements?
It’s important that people understand that you should support your immune system every day. Fermented foods and supplements support immune health and gut health. These foods and supplements support the gut microbiome, the complex system of microorganisms that make up a healthy environment in your digestive tract.
"It's critical to take care of your health every day. That starts with supporting your immune system," says Gans. "Fermented foods and supplements help you do just that."