When I first tried fermented miso (versus the off-the-shelf kind), I had a gut-wrenching reaction that I would have likened to a mild form of food poisoning or some sort of miso-induced food allergy.
Of course, there was a chance that I had messed up the ferment and was experiencing food poisoning… except I was eating store-bought fermented miso. It looked, smelled and tasted good. It was definitely not food poisoning…
…My body was just reacting to new ferment.
Common side effects of fermented foods.
Trying new fermented foods can introduce a whole new set of probiotic friends to the party in your digestive system. At first, they might not all get along and a fight ensues. A few of the unsavoury types end up getting kicked out as the brawny newcomers assert themselves. Then slowly, over time, your digestive system will settle down as everyone finds a new equilibrium.
Some of the common side effects of fermented foods include:
- Gas and bloating
- Nausea and diarrhea
- Dizziness and racing heart
A strong reaction isn’t always a bad thing, especially if you were eating fermented foods to improve your gut health. However, if the reaction seems like an allergy, or exasperates allergy symptoms, then I recommend avoiding that particular type of ferment in the future.
How to prevent side effects
A gut-wrenching reaction to a new ferment may actually be a good thing! It means that you are slowly bringing the microbiome in your gut back into a healthy balance. This is particularly true if you were eating fermented foods to recover from antibiotics.
Regardless, self-punishment is not the way to introduce new probiotic cultures. Never overdo it thinking that you’ll cure yourself quicker. There is no point in suffering if you don’t have to.
Here’s how to prevent possible side effects of fermented foods:
- Ferments that are made with an airborne culture should not cause a large reaction, as they are already in your home. This includes sourdough, ginger bug and vegetable ferments.
- Only try a small amount (1 tbsp) of any fermented cultures that are very new to you. Personally, I reacted to miso and water kefir. However, other more unique fermented cultures include heritage yogurt strains, milk kefir, kombucha, jun and raw tempeh.
- Continue eating a tablespoon of the new probiotic food every day for a week so that your body can adjust to the new culture of bacteria and yeasts.
- After a week, feel free to try a small serving. If it doesn’t cause any digestive symptoms then you’re free to eat as much of that fermented food as you want.
Have you had a problem with a particular fermented food? Let me know on my Facebook page or in the comments below.