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  • Madeline Topf

What I learned by eating fermented foods for a month

For the last month, I've tried to eat four servings of fermented foods per day. Here's how it went.

Week 1

bristol stool average : 3

I stocked up on yogurt and kimchi this week. These were my main go-tos throughout the process. I really like kimchi as a sour addition to any meal. Yogurt is ok.

I typically had yogurt for breakfast, kimchi with lunch, and then more yogurt for a snack before or after dinner. I also thought I'd start taking probiotics. I would advise not to do this method, 1. because it's bad science because I added an additional variable, and 2. you will be very very bloated.

This week I was very very bloated. It made it hard to want to keep up the experiment. I also generally don't like to keep eating the same foods all the time, which is something I probably should have realized before starting.

I decided I'd switch to just doing one or two servings per day, as it was way more than I'd normally do.

Week 2

bristol stool average : 4

This week, I felt pretty good! It was getting warmer and brighter outside and I was feeling... happy? I enjoyed picking up kombucha from store this week whenever I got groceries. It was a nice way to reward myself for going to the store. Kombucha is also very easy to drink many servings of, so I easily hit the two servings/day obligation. I also drank kefir this week, which I really liked because it makes smoothies taste really good.

I also got my COVID vaccine this week!!!!!!

I had very mild to no symptoms the first few days after the J&J vaccine. I wondered if the fermented food intake was making me strong and resilient and super-powered? Does having a strong immune system make you more or less likely to have symptoms though? Write in!

Week 3

bristol stool average : 6

This week hit an unexpected rough patch, as all experiments do... I had a mild episode of what I think was food poisoning. My bristol stool s

I have no idea if it had anything to do with the fermented foods. I looked back at all I ate the past few days and came up with like five things it could have been. If I have food items in my fridge that have been in there for a long time, I always assume they're okay.

Week 4

bristol stool average : 4

I'm doing it!!! I felt pretty good, my bristol stool chart was really in the prime range! I was eating either kimchi, a mild sauerkraut I found that is refrigerated, or yogurt each day. I would still pick up kombucha from the store when I went shopping.

I think the biggest struggle I have and will have with keeping up with this is that I can't really see or feel any changes in my immune system day-to-day. I generally have a good stool scale measurement. But there is no way to know if my "immune" "system" is functioning properly, or improving, unless I become sick and somehow cure myself with kefir. In this way, trusting the science is somewhat on faith. I have to believe our research in that I am doing something good by eating these foods. I may never really notice or experience the benefits to my health, especially because I'm not eating the amounts we showed do confer benefits.

Overall thoughts

Fermented food is fucking expensive. Anything aside from yogurt really costs a lot, especially if I was going to do the number of servings (4-6) I originally set out to do. Because of my poor compliance, it was manageable, but if this became some sort of diet recommendation, it would be very inaccessible.

I also didn't really like how I felt I needed to eat something for the project. LOL. It became more of a chore than a decision to enjoy something. In my opinion, health is broad and not attained by simply eating a specific ingredient. Health can be the joy of sharing non-fermented meals with friends, or eating a granola bar to have energy for a run on the first mid-50s Wisconsin day of the spring.

All that being said, I felt my stomach was more settled after eating fermented food. I also felt a general sense of well-being, that I was "taking care of my body." My bristol stool measures were excellent. I think I will keep up an intake of fermented foods. Importantly, this project was fun! It's really fun to try new foods. There really is a wide diversity of fermented foods if you know where to look (Whole Foods). Now, due to growing popularity, there are plenty of resources to brew your own kombucha or make your own yogurt. It was fun to apply my own research to my life. I realized that usually there are many more steps between research I conduct and a final, relatable application.

In many ways, this project countered some struggles I've felt with covid isolation. It gave me a sort of purpose each day, a bit of stimulating experimentation. It gave me something ELSE to talk about with my friends. Of course, it did not solve anything. That would be silly. It would be silly if fermented foods could cure loneliness, or boredom, or the feeling that my life has no direction or purpose. But I find myself wanting to believe that if I'm able to change my diet, to just eat one or a few things differently, I will be adored, vibrant, and long-lived. I want to believe that I can completely transcend human disease and its unpredictability and randomness. I want to believe that if I can control my food, I can control my life. 1 simple trick. My biohacking is over, though, for now, and I will not exploit my colon for any more content.

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