Fermented by L A B

The Life Changing Power of a Healthy Gut: Eczema, Topical Steroid Addiction and Sauerkraut

HealthAlana Holloway

This interview was originally published by Jo on Wondergut - a fabulous resource for all things microbiome.

Life is rarely a straight line. Alana Holloway knows this only too well. Her understanding of the enormous influence our gut microbiome has on our health comes from direct experience of what can happen to health when things aren’t right in the gut department.

Alana and I met at Otter Farm in Devon whilst attending a food fermentation course run by the unsurpassable Naomi Devlin. Whilst massaging salt into cabbage (which is very therapeutic by the way), Alana and I got talking.


To say that you have learnt about gut health the hard way Alana, would be a bit of an understatement. How did your health issues first start to manifest themselves and how old were you when they did?

My mum tells me I was born scratching! Not literally, of course, but I was born with eczema. I continued to have eczema on and off throughout my life, although it completely disappeared between the ages of about 14 and 20. I am not sure why it abated then. It could have been due to the ‘seven-year cycle’ theory, whereby eczema appears and disappears – without rhyme or reason – in seven year cycles. I’m not sure whether I believe that theory but I also recall that some familial upheaval settled down when I was around 14. When I was 20, I went to University and I suspect the plentiful consumption of alcohol, combined with lack of sleep, may have been a trigger.

When I moved to London in my early twenties, it came back with a vengeance.

Initially, how did you manage your symptoms?

In the same way that most people with eczema manage their symptoms; with prescribed steroid creams.

Did you or your parents have any awareness at that time of supporting your health through nutrition or through alternative therapies?

As a child, symptoms were always managed in the conventional way (topical steroids). As I grew older, I became extremely interested in the link between diet and health and my interest in alternative therapies blossomed too.

What was your lifestyle like?

I’ve always lived a pretty healthy, active lifestyle, but my biggest downfall is stress management, or lack of it!

Did any doctor or medical practitioner give you any advice in terms of your diet/sleep levels/lifestyle?

Unfortunately, my GP did not. However, I also saw Naturopaths and Traditional Chinese Medicine Practitioners, who did.

How did things deteriorate?

As a direct result of using the topical steroids, I developed a condition called Topical Steroid Addiction (TSA). It’s an odd name, but it basically meant that my entire body – and its daily functions – became completely reliant on the use of topical steroids. Every time I broke from using them, I entered a hideous withdrawal cycle. Over time, the steroids cause deterioration of, not only the skin, but areas throughout the body, including the gut microbiome and gut lining, normal repair and regeneration function, adrenal function, temperature regulation… the list goes on! The only way to break the cycle is to cease use.


What were the practical consequences of this, Alana?

Anyone with eczema knows how uncomfortable it is, but TSA takes things to another level. For the whole TSA period, including the withdrawal (which adds up to years rather than months), my skin was a mess. It was so fragile that it would break at the lightest touch. I had so many raw, weeping patches and each one would take months to heal. My skin was bright red from my head to my toes, as if I had third degree burns. There was no position in which I could find comfort. My face was swollen due to the inflammation and the steroid use (steroid bloat, I suppose). Children used to stare and whisper about me if I passed them in the street and I even caused my young niece to cry once when she saw my face. I frightened her. It was not a surprise – I was frightened of seeing myself in the mirror.

Around my knees and elbows, I had what the TSA community call “Elephant Skin” – where it is so dry that it becomes thickened. I got painful boils on my legs which took eons to heal. My skin would shed constantly, although there wasn’t fresh new skin underneath, it was just raw.

I also seemed to have a very metallic smell to me. I don’t know what caused it, but it was quite strong and very unpleasant. And the nerve pain; just shocks of pain which went off like fireworks in my body.  About once a month, I'd wake to find my whole body swollen, especially my face and hands.  My body temperature was all out of whack, too. My skin would be red hot, yet I’d be shivering – similar to a fever. I would have to wrap myself in 3 blankets on the sofa (with about 4 layers of clothes on), with a hot water bottle and I would still be shivering. I wouldn’t want to get out of bed most days – I felt and looked dreadful and the sheer effort and pain involved in simply getting dressed was too much to bear. I rarely left the house.

I had to stop work and, as someone who was self-employed, that meant no income. My partner and I had to move home to live with my Dad and Step-mum as we couldn’t afford rent. As you can imagine, my mental health really suffered as a result. As a very positive person, I’d say it’s the closest I’ve been to depression. Even eating was a real struggle; every morning after my 2-hour long Dead Sea Salt bath (the only time in my life I haven’t found baths relaxing), my skin would set, drum tight. I therefore couldn’t open my mouth more than a straw’s width otherwise my skin would split.

I developed a pattern of insomnia, where I’d only be able to sleep for about an hour at a time, waking for two hour stints in between. I couldn’t sleep in the same bed as my partner as it was just too uncomfortable if his skin touched mine. The constant hoovering and daily sheet changing due to shedding skin was insane. This all went on for about two years.

What was your lowest point?

Do you know, I’d actually say it was a year after the day I quit using steroids. I remember it quite clearly. There’s something called an ‘Anniversary Flare’, which people on the TSA Facebook group and forums (the only source of information available at that time) talked about. After a year of slow progress, people found they regressed, almost back to square one. I don’t know what causes it, but it happened to me. You reach the stage where you think you’re finally on the road to recovery and then out of the blue, you’re back at the beginning of it all. Mentally, it was so very tough. I felt I might never reach a stage in my life when I could live normally. Luckily for me though, it was just three months after this that I reached a major turning point.

What was this turning point?

I had a couple, actually – the first was when I realised what was ‘wrong’ with me. My insomnia resulted in incessant night-time Googling sessions, trying to find someone else who was going through the same thing. I remember seeing a picture of someone’s hand on Google Images and a light going on in my head. TSA can be defined by a ‘red sleeve’ where there is a distinctive colour change between the bright red of your arm and the pale colour of your palm. I saw it and almost shouted – THAT’S ME!!  And then I cried. From that moment onwards, I knew I wasn’t alone and after reading the blog I had stumbled upon, I knew I could do something to help myself.

The second turning point was three months after my ‘anniversary flare’, which was 15 months after quitting steroids. Throughout those 15 months, I had tried every ‘diet’ and way of eating under the sun; Paleo, Vegetarian, Alkaline, Sugar Free, Juice Cleanses – with no real success. Nothing brought about lasting change and I always ended up bingeing because these diets left me feeling so deprived. After my anniversary flare, I had a serious word with myself and cut out dairy, gluten, sugar and nightshades, for good. After doing so, my body was healing a bit faster than before, but it wasn’t enough. I kept reading about gut health and learned that fermented foods were a good way to help ‘heal’ your gut (and therefore your whole body). I made my first jar of red cabbage sauerkraut.  When it was ready, I ate a bit every day and after a couple of weeks, I noticed that my body was healing at a much faster rate than before. The only thing I had changed during that period was the inclusion of some fermented cabbage in my diet!!

If you had not have made your own diagnosis and helped yourself, what were the remaining standard medical options left open to you?

Internal steroids and immune-suppressants. After reading the side-effects of both, I knew they weren’t an option for me.

What changes did you notice – both physically and emotionally after introducing fermented foods and drinks?

So many! Everything from patches of raw skin that I’d had for months finally healing, to feeling better within myself – both physically AND emotionally. I had more energy and more physical and emotinal resilience. And, my traumatised bowels finally began producing regular (and now brilliant!) bowel movements. So much changed on so many levels to be honest, it felt pretty miraculous!

Was there anything else you changed later on to try to better support your health? 

I tried to rest more, I moved to a quieter, more peaceful location and did what I could to remove the big stressors from my life. I also had acupuncture and later on down the line, when my skin could cope with it, I took up yoga.

Was there any particular milestone on your road to recovery that stands out for you?

I think I’d say the first fermentation workshop that I gave, although at the time, I probably didn’t realise it. Looking back, it’s the time that I felt comfortable enough for people I didn’t know to see me, my face and my skin, and it was the first time I earned money from something that had evolved as a direct result of TSA. The saying ‘no experience is ever a wasted experience’ couldn’t be more appropriate for me.

Looking back, with what you now know about the importance of a healthy gut microbiome, are there trigger points in your childhood that you think may have contributed to your health issues?

I was born vaginally and was breastfed (both generally thought to be positives for gut microbiome development), but my Mum suffers with eczema and asthma and as a result, has been taking and using steroids (both topical and internal) throughout her life. Her mother also passed away just before I was born, which must have caused a great deal of stress for my mum (and we know that stress affects the state of our gut microbiome). I now know that we inherit the maternal gut microbiome to some extent, so I think I started with both a genetic and a microbial leaning towards these illnesses. I was also given steroids and antibiotics as a child, which both have a detrimental effect on the gut microbiome so, in truth, I didn’t have much hope of getting off to a great start. I also suffered with severe constipation when I was little and until I started to look after my gut. This is a sure sign that all is not well in the gut department. And when all is not well there, we now know that this generally has consequences for our health in other areas too!

How is your health now?

Mostly, it’s great. My biggest downfall is stress and lack of sleep, both of which play a HUGE role in how I feel. It’s quite ironic though, because the business I’ve started to help others with their health has had the opposite effect on mine! I have to do something about it if I am to continue to thrive (both in business and personally), though. My next plan of action is to incorporate yoga, meditation and sensible bed times into my daily routine (she says, typing away at 9pm!). I need to commit to this because if I don’t, I pay the price with my health.

This incredible journey has resulted in you setting up Fodder + Plonk and latterly, Fermented by LAB. Can you tell us a little about these businesses, what they do and the motivation behind them?

Fodder + Plonk is on a bit of a holiday right now! I would love to get it going again, once I have more of a handle on Fermented by LAB (LAB stands for lactic acid bacteria – the bacteria responsible for the fermentation action in fermented foods). Essentially though, it is my blog and a place that I share my recipes (gluten and dairy free, as well as fermented and gut-friendly) and information about living a healthy life. It was really a culmination of everything I learnt during TSA, but I never had the guts(!) to share whilst I was in the thick of it.

Fermented by LAB evolved out of the fermentation workshops I taught (which came about after putting some fermentation recipes up on Fodder + Plonk). I realised that not everyone who attended the workshops was able to ferment at home. I wanted to find a way for them – and anyone else who was interested – to experience the enormous benefits of eating fermented foods daily. Now I make fermented foods under the guise of Fermented by LAB, which I sell online and deliver to people’s homes throughout the UK. They come in boxes, which contain a variety of ferments such as sauerkraut, kimchi and kefir. The flavours change seasonally and they’re raw/unpasteurised, organic and celebrate the best of British produce.

If you had to choose just one fermented food or drink, which would be your favourite (not pomegranate kefir with gin!!!)

Ha!! Oh, I’ve mixed many-a kefir cocktail since!! I would have to say sauerkraut, though. With a versatile base of cabbage, the flavour possibilities are endless. And the beneficial effects on health are mind-boggling. I think I will be eating it and benefiting from its health-giving properties for the rest of my life.

What We Get Asked Most About Fermented Food and Drink...

Alana Holloway

Dipping your toe in the water of fermented food and drink can be a little daunting; our whole lives we've been conditioned to believe that all bacteria is bad, we're not used to dealing with 'live' foods and with so many RDA's out there, we've forgotten how to let our bodies lead the way.  We get asked a lot of questions about the how's, why's and when's, but these are most definitely the ones we get asked the most, so we'd thought we'd share them for all to see!

How much am I supposed to eat/drink?
I really recommend listening to your body when considering how much to eat and drink per day.  If you are very new to fermented foods, then start with a small amount such as a forkful or a sip, and build from there.  You will soon discover your individual tolerance as you might experience some temporary gas and bloating if you exceed it!  This is completely natural and is just a sign that your internal microbial balance is shifting and once it settles, you can begin increasing your intake.

How and when am I supposed to eat/drink the ferments?
However you like!  At LAB, we believe that you should enjoy eating your probiotics; it should not be a chore!  This means adding them to your favourite meals, using them in your cooking (although they should only be added at the very end so that you don’t cook away all the living bacteria!) or just eating them straight from the jar.  We’ve got some great recipes here.  The same goes for the sodas; drink them at whatever time feels best for you.  They’re great post-workout energisers, morning/afternoon pick-me-up’s and thirst quenchers.

My ferment has a very strong smell; is it OK to eat?
Each ferment has its own personality; some smell stronger than others; some fizz more than others and some are tangier than others.  All these are great signs that the ferment is LIVE and perfectly OK to eat.

How much sugar does the Kefir contain?
Our 250ml, 1 serve bottle of kefir starts life with 15g added sugar, of which approximately 80% is consumed by the bacteria during fermentation.  By the time it arrives with you, that same 250ml contains approximately 3g sugar, which is under 1tsp.

There is some sediment floating at the top of my Kefir; is it safe to drink?
Absolutely!  Kefir contains naturally occurring carbon dioxide, which pushes any sediment in the kefir to the top, especially when particularly pulpy foods such as citrus and berries are used!  Just give is a gentle shake to re-distribute and drink away!

What are the health benefits associated with eating fermented foods?
Fermented foods are alive and kicking with good bacteria, or probiotics.  They help to balance your gut bacteria and stomach acids; releasing enzymes to help ease and improve digestion, making it easier for your body to extract and absorb more nutrients from the foods you eat.  Not only that, but when you introduce good bacteria into your diet via fermented foods, you enable your gut to support your immune system in fighting disease and contribute to the reduction of systemic inflammation, which is said to be at the root of many modern-day, chronic illnesses.  Read more about the health benefits here.

The Incredible Link Between Kefir and Cancer

Alana Holloway

Phew, what a week!  Whilst Alana had a few well earned days off in Devon over the Bank Holiday, I was busy with a mammoth project for one of my clients.  Why is it that the week after a Bank Holiday seems to be the most hectic and stressful of all?  The silver lining is that it’s given me lots of food for thought about next week’s post, so stay tuned! 

Last week we were sent some information by Dr Caroline Kerridge, and felt that it was just too exciting to keep to ourselves.  Caroline is a fellow fermented food fan (don’t try saying that after one too many!).  She put together the following paragraph for us after conducting some research on the effect of kefir on cancer.  As a nurse who has cared for countless cancer patients, I think this is really quite incredible.

Dr. Caroline Kerridge says:

"Exciting research is emerging from scientists around the world implicating yet another potential benefit of Kefir.

There is a small, yet consistent body of evidence to suggest that Kefir products (both milk- and water-based) have beneficial effects on cancer prevention and treatment. Although the mechanisms of action are not clear, the effects have been attributed to the special bioactive products that are made during the fermentation process. Experiments have been carried out in numerous cancer models including cancers of the breast [1], skin, colon [2], sarcoma, stomach and blood. What is striking is the consistency between the studies, all of which show significant evidence of the slowing of cancer cell proliferation [3] (or growth) whilst having no negative effects on healthy (non-cancerous) cells [4]. There is still a long way to go, as studies will need to be carried out on humans, however, it is a promising emerging area of scientific investigation."

There is a significant amount of research which shows a link between consuming kefir (and other fermented food/drink) and the decrease of symptoms and growth of disease.  I’ve listed a small selection of the areas of research below, and look forward to exploring some of these fields in future posts.  This is life changing stuff!

-  Infertility

-  Diabetes

-  Multiple Sclerosis

-  Depression

Keep reading to find out about the countless ways in which enjoying fermented food can help us heal.


  • [1] Zamberi et al (2016) The Antimetastatic and Antiangiogenesis Effects of Kefir Water on Murine Breast Cancer CellsIntegr Cancer Ther. 15(4):NP53-NP66.

  • [2] Khory et al (2014) Kefir Exhibits Anti-Proliferative and Pro-Apoptotic Effects on Colon Adenocarcinoma Cells with No Significant Effects on Cell Migration and Invasion. Int J Oncol. 45(5):2117-27.

  • Rafie et al (2015) Kefir and Cancer: A Systematic Review of Literatures. Arch Iran Med. 18(12):852-7.

  • [3] Jalali et al (2016) Kefir Induces Apoptosis and Inhibits Cell Proliferation in Human Acute Erythroleukemia. Med Oncol. 33(1):7.

  • [4] Chen et al (2007) Kefir Extracts Suppress in-vitro Proliferation of Estrogen-Dependent Human Breast Cancer Cells but not Normal Mammary Epithelial Cells. J Med Food. 10(3):416-22.


Are Fermented Foods, Probiotics? A Users Guide to Fermentation Jargon.

Alana Holloway

It’s been another busy week for us at LAB.  On Monday, Alana and I were busying away packing subscription boxes to send out to our lovely customers.  We hope those of you who received your boxes on Tuesday are enjoying the last of the Summer flavours.  We’re so excited to see what you think of the Autumn flavours.  I haven’t even tried them yet, Alana’s kept them under lock and key!  I’ve had some great feedback from you about last week’s post.  Thank you all for reading! 

This week, Alana and I thought it might be useful if I did a bit of a ‘de-jargoning’ post for you all.  The world of fermented food and drink certainly involves some strange sounding names.  These can be a little alienating!  The first time Alana used words like Kefir, Kvass, Kombucha and Kimchi I thought she sounded like she’d swallowed a pretentious dictionary.  Now, I love these words because I know they mean something delicious and good for me!  Hopefully, this post can serve as a point of reference to those of you who, like me, thought these words were a foreign language.  I’ve added in some of the other words you’ll find that we use, so that we’re all reading from the same hymn sheet.

Cultured Veggies
A recent magazine article which detailed the diet of a chef who ate ‘cultured veggies’ sparked some pretty funny comments on social media (‘‘My veggies read The Times’’ was a personal favourite).  So what are they?  Cultured vegetables are lacto-fermented, which is a method of food preservation which also increases the nutritional benefits of the vegetable.  It turns a healthy vegetable into a probiotic superfood!  Lacto-fermentation is a fairly basic process.  The food (vegetables in this case) is submerged into a salt brine, creating an environment which encourages good bacteria (probiotics) to grow and thrive, inhibiting the growth of pathogenic bacteria.  The good bacteria convert the naturally occurring sugars from the food into lactic acid (a natural preservative).  It’s an age-old method of preserving food!

Fermented Food
The art of fermenting food is something that dates as far back as 6000 B.C.  Fermentation was used to prevent the need for constant hunting and gathering by preserving food, and was also a method of converting potentially poisonous foods into something safe to eat.  Romans ate Sauerkraut and relied on the health benefits it contained to stave off scurvy and and other diseases.  It could be said that the health benefits of fermented food were discovered by happy accident, as fermentation was originally intended to preserve food .  See ‘Cultured Veggies’ for details.

Pronounced ‘Kuh-fear’.  There is more than one type of this gut loving drink.  Kefir is really just a mixture of yeasts and bacterias living happily together!  You may read about Kefir ‘grains’ (not actually grains), also called ‘SCOBY’.  Kefir can be added to various milks to create milk Kefir (tastes a little like natural yoghurt), or to a sugar-water solution to create water Kefir (the sugar is mostly consumed by the Kefir bacteria during the fermentation process).  We use raw organic cane sugar and add pure, cold pressed, organic fruit and vegetable juice (sometimes herbs/spices too) to our water Kefir to make our delicious sodas (pictured above)!

originates from Korea, and whilst it is best known as spicy fermented cabbage, it actually covers a variety of highly seasoned fermented vegetables such as cucumber or radishes.  It is considered to be one of the healthiest foods in the world, boasting high levels of B vitamins, vitamin C, minerals (including iron) and fibre.  Kimchi is also made using lacto-fermentation (see Cultured Veggies).

Pronounced ‘Kom-boo-cha’.  Kombucha is a fermented, probiotic ‘living’ tea drink.  Like many other ferments, it has been around for centuries.  It is made using SCOBY, but Kombucha SCOBY is rather different to Kefir SCOBY and is also known as the ‘Kombucha mushroom’.  It looks a bit like a jelly pancake, and is white or beige.  The SCOBY is added to a sugary tea, and ferments over 7-10 days.  It has many health benefits, which include improving digestion, fighting disease and stabilising mood.

Pronounced Kuh-vah-ss.  Kvass is another type of fermented drink.  It can be made in many ways, including the original method which involves using stale rye bread.  Kvass originates from Russia and is always water based, usually cloudy in appearance and often contains fruit juice or honey. 

The Mother’- This is the cloudy, cobweb like substance that occurs in ferments like Apple Cider Vinegar.  It is often strained out, but it’s the best bit for your gut!  It is the original ferment, and is a natural carbohydrate which is produced by the bacteria in the vinegar.

The concept of Prebiotics is relatively new, and was only introduced just over 20 years ago.  The definition of a prebiotic has been altered several times since then.  A prebiotic is currently said to be a specialised plant fibre which nourishes the existing bacteria in the gut.  Simply put, a prebiotic feeds the good bacteria in your gut.

The World Health Organisation defines probiotics as ‘’Live microorganisms which when administered in adequate amounts confer a health benefit on the host’’.  Essentially, good bacteria which do good things for your health when you eat them!  Probiotics are created during the fermentation process.  The word ‘Probiotic’ literally means ‘for life’.  


Pronounced ‘Sow-er-krowt’.  Also known as ‘Kraut’.  Sauerkraut is lacto-fermented shredded cabbage.  Thought to have originated in China, over 2,000 years ago, it was first made by pouring rice wine over finely shredded cabbage.  It is more commonly known as a German delicacy, but in the German preparation it was made by sprinkling salt over shredded cabbage to draw out the water which provided the ‘juice’ or brine which accompanied it.  It was discovered to be so nutritious that, in Northern Europe, it was made a requirement for Sauerkraut to be on board every ship to prevent disease.  Our Turmeric and Black Pepper Kraut (pictured above) was a big hit this summer, but we didn’t post it out to any boats!

This is actually an acronym for ‘Symbiotic Culture of Bacteria and Yeasts’.  Essentially, it is cellulose containing the live part of the yeasts and bacteria, which multiplies when fed.  It is the presence of SCOBY in fermented drinks such as Kefir and Kombucha which makes them such a good source of natural probiotics.

So now you know!


How Eating Fermented Food Helps Me Manage My Endometriosis

Alana Holloway

Hello!  I’m Lauren.  I’d like to tell you a little about myself.  When I’m not running my small business, nursing patients or riding my horse, I’m LAB’s new resident blogger!  I’ll be writing a weekly post and hope to cover a variety of topics.  I’m Alana’s big sister, but you’ll find no false claims of miracles in this post, or anything other than an honest story of my experience and why I encourage others to try fermented foods.


For someone who works in nursing, I am not the best advocate for a healthy lifestyle.  I am overweight, never get enough sleep and burn the candle at both ends far too often.  I am a keen equestrian and am lucky enough to own a horse, which keeps me very active (you’ll know what I mean if you’ve ever mucked out a stable at 5am).  I am always on my feet.  Always, excepting when I am unwell.  I have Endometriosis, a chronic condition in which cells alike to those found in the lining of the womb are found elsewhere in the body.  This can cause pain, heavy bleeding, inflammation, fatigue, bladder and bowel problems and infertility.  I was only 9 when I started my period, and suffered with severe pain and heavy bleeding almost from the onset.  It got progressively worse as I entered my teens, and I was taken to the doctor countless times to try and find a suitable treatment.  At 14 I was put on the contraceptive pill in an attempt to stabilise my ‘painful periods’, my diagnosis at that point.  I was told that this was my lot and that I had to make the best of it.

The contraceptive pill regulated my symptoms but I continued to struggle with excruciating pain, fainting, vomiting and spending days in bed.  I tried hot water bottles and heat pads, pain killers and gentle exercise, until at last I was referred to a gynaecologist when I was 17.  After surgery when I was 18, I was finally diagnosed with Endometriosis.  Fast forward nearly 13 years, more surgeries, tests, scans, tablets etc, and I was in less severe pain, but now it was constant.  As far as western medicine was concerned, that was as good as I was going to get.

Enter Alana, with her new ‘food craze’.  As a bit of a foodie, I’ve never been one to decline trying new food and drink.  When Alana asked me to try some fermented beetroot Kvass, I though little of it in terms of health benefits and simply enjoyed it for the flavour.  Alana also gave me a huge jar of fermented aubergines to take home.  They were DELICIOUS.  I couldn’t help eating some every day. Thanks to Endometriosis, I had been taking anti depressants for two years to treat depression and anxiety.  Four weeks into my fermented aubergine addiction I realised I hadn’t taken an anti depressant for the whole of that time.  I’ve never been the best at remembering to take tablets, and often forgot for days at a time with horrible side effects.  You should always stop these types of medications gradually, but I hadn’t even noticed this time.  No withdrawal symptoms whatsoever.  I felt liberated.  Then I realised I had more energy.  My skin looked better.  I felt MUCH less anxious.  Hold on.  Was I in pain?  NO.  I had had more than three days without pain.  That’s something that hadn’t happened for as long as I could remember.  The one and only thing I’d changed was the daily ‘dose’ of fermented aubergine!

My DIY Ferments

My DIY Ferments


Now, I have pain free days.  It’s not a miracle cure (I’m working on it!), but it’s a VAST improvement.  I didn’t need to restart the anti depressants, either.  Is it a coincidence that the gut is the largest (80-90%) storage facility in the body for Serotonin (a natural anti depressant and mood stimulator)?  I don’t think it can be.  I’ve researched the link between gut health and Endometriosis, too.  It’s science.  Since our gut is responsible for around 80% of our immune system too, it shouldn’t have come as a surprise to me that addressing my own gut health would help treat my Endometriosis and depression. They’re both conditions which are shown to be related to a leaky or inflamed gut.  We can look after our gut health by introducing probiotics as part of a healthy diet.  As a quick reference, here’s a few ways in which probiotics can help reduce inflammation in the body.

- Modulate immune activity.

- Reintroduce good bacteria (When good bacteria are absent, bad bacteria set up an inflammatory response in the body).

- Kill (and inhibit the growth of) pathogens.

- Help to balance oestrogen levels by fighting the unfriendly bacteria which break the glucuronic acid bonds made by the liver.  The liver does this to excrete excess oestrogen, which is known to cause inflammation, depression, anxiety and a wide range of hormone related illness.

Probiotics are a great way to introduce ‘good’ bacteria into your gut, thus improving your gut health.  What could be better than a probiotic that occurs naturally in food?  I now drink Kefir like it’s going out of fashion and have a serving of fermented food at least once a day.  My body reminds me when I’ve forgotten as I’ll be in pain within hours, and it’ll be difficult to get under control.

  I strive towards an overhaul of my lifestyle (less chocolate and cake, more cycling and cucumber!) but I feel I’ve now made a promising start.

Please let us know (by commenting below or sending us an email) if there’s something you’d like to read about in upcoming posts, we’d love to hear your suggestions.



Struggling to Eat Fermented Foods Every Day? Read This...

Alana Holloway
Image credit: Milly Fletcher

Image credit: Milly Fletcher

Incorporating something new into your diet can be a challenge.  Many of us are creatures of habit, particularly when it comes to what we eat, which can mean eating the same meals week after week.  Whilst this is convenient, it’s not the best thing we can do for our gut.  Meal planning can help with budgeting, time management and shopping lists, but how often do we think about our health when we’re deciding what to eat for the week?  More specifically, do we think about our gut health?

Adding fermented food and drink to your diet is a great way to look after your gut.  The health benefits are endless.  During the fermentation process, bacteria and yeast are present.  They contain enzymes which enable fermentation.  These yeasts and bacteria occur either naturally or with the use of a starter culture (for example, SCOBY in water kefir) and are referred to as probiotic.  To be considered as probiotic by the World Health Organisation, they must be defined as “live microorganisms which, when administered in adequate amounts, confer a health benefit on the host”.  The following are just some of the many ways in which probiotics benefit the body through their effect on the gut.

·       Produce natural antibiotics, lactic acid, butyric acid and acetic acid.

·       Suppress growth of pathogenic and putrefactive (harmful) bacteria.

·       Increase resistance against infections.

·       Manufacture B vitamins, vitamin K and biotin amongst others.

·       Assist in alleviating depression and anxiety in conjunction with a healthy balanced diet.

·       Dramatic reduction in inflammation related to conditions such as Crohn’s Disease, gastritis, and pouchitis .

Whether you have an inflammatory illness, suffer with depression, lack of energy or simply want to improve your overall health, there’s nothing to lose in giving fermented foods a try.  At Fermented by LAB, we’ve carefully prepared your fermented goodies for you - your subscription box has everything you need!  Here are some ideas to help you work them in to a busy lifestyle;

·       Drink Kefir/Kvass at breakfast time - Grabbing a bottle from the fridge is quick and easy, and great when you’re on the go.  Refreshing and delicious, it’s the perfect start to your day.

·       Add Kraut to your lunch-Whether you prepare your lunch in advance or buy it at work, add a portion of kraut or pickles.  It goes beautifully with salmon, roasted vegetables, chicken, cheese, salad, ham…need I go on?

·       Replace existing Condiments/Pickles with fermented ones - we found our Summer Box Salsa was a big hit with subscribers.  Great with roast chicken, as a dip for vegetable crudités and corn tortilla chips or as an ingredient in fajitas, it provides incredible flavour which is good for you!  Don’t forget that you can use Kraut in recipes too.  Try stirring into bolognese, chilli or stir fry just before serving and add a new edge to your favourite dishes.

·       Have fun with it - experiment with your ferments and open your palate to new tastes.  Don’t forget to share your recipes with us, we love hearing about how you’re enjoying your LAB boxes.

If you enjoyed this article and want to have a say in what we post next, please let us know!

Happy eating! Lauren. x



Probiotics, Prebiotics, Microbiome and Leaky Gut... What do All These Words Mean?

Alana Holloway
Learn About Probiotics

With all the new and exciting research that’s going into gut health at the moment, it can sometimes be a bit of a challenge to keep up with all the terminology.   Here’s a few that you may have heard flying around, with a little bit about what they mean.

Gut – Refers to your intestines.

Gut Microbiome – Also called Gut Flora, Bacteria, your gut microbiome are the community of bacteria (or microbes) that live within your gut.  They are responsible for breaking down your food, producing certain nutrients and communicating with your immune system.

Good Bacteria – The beneficial bacteria, a.k.a PROBIOTICS, present in your gut that support the gut, and therefore the body, in carrying out it’s duties (listed above).  You want a decent number of these guys in your gut.

Bad Bacteria – The pathogenic bacteria present in your gut that can wreak havoc, and can be linked to a whole host of health conditions, including chronic inflammatory conditions, autoimmune disorders, obesity, diabetes and mental health conditions.  We all have bad bacteria living within our guts, but the aim is to keep their numbers to a minimum.

Prebiotics - Foods (specifically the fibre in these foods) that feed the good bacteria in your gut.  These include garlic, leeks, onions, Jerusalem artichokes, dandelion greens and more.

Gut Dysbiosis - This is an imbalance between your gut bacteria, when the ‘bad’ bacteria outnumber the ‘good’.

Gut Lining – The wall of your gut.  It’s a meager one cell thick and is the protective barrier between the outside world and your inside world.

Leaky Gut Syndrome – This is when the individual cells that make up your gut lining separate, causing small gaps to form.  Bacteria and proteins are then able to make their way though to the other side, a place they don’t belong.  Cue immune system overdrive and systemic inflammation.

SIBO – Small Intestinal Bacterial Overgrowth.  This is when the number and/or type of bacteria normally present in your small intestine grow in quantity and variety.   This can interfere with the normal digestion of food, damage the gut lining (see Leaky Gut above) and therefore be a pre-cursor to other health conditions.

As you can see, gut related problems can be the result of a chain reaction. 

1.     Eat the right foods (and live a lifestyle complimentary to the health of your gut) and your bacterial balance will be kept in check. 

2.     Keep your bacterial balance in check and reduce risk of Gut Dysbiosis and SIBO. 

3.     Avoid Gut Dysbiosis and SIBO and assist your body in maintaining a healthy gut lining (which can also be linked to step one; eat the right foods.)

4.     Do all of that (basically Step 1) and improve your chances of avoiding a truckload of health conditions.

Are there any others you've heard of and would like to know what they mean?  Pop it in the comments below and I'll do my best to give you an answer...

*Originally published on Fodder + Plonk

New to fermented foods and drinks?

Alana Holloway
Rhubarb + Ginger Kefir

What are ferments?
Ferments are foods and drinks that have been through a process of lacto-fermentation, in which naturally present bacteria, or bacteria introduced in the form of a SCOBY (Symbiotic Colony of Bacteria and Yeast) feed on the sugar and starch in the food, creating lactic acid. This process preserves the food, and creates beneficial enzymes, B-vitamins, Omega-3 fatty acids, and various strains of probiotics.

What are the health benefits?
The benefits of including ferments into your diet are endless.  When you consume fermented foods and beverages, the probiotics are transported to your gut, which is host to your unique community of bacteria.  These bacteria not only produce vitamins and enzymes, but they communicate with your immune system, which leads to how your body deals with anything from coughs and colds, to auto-immune disorders and systemic inflammation.  They also have a direct line of communication to your brain, so affect your mood, emotion and brain health.

How much should I eat/drink?
This all depends on where you are in your fermented food journey and on the health of your gut.  The Baby Box has been designed for someone new to the game and the Big Box is for someone well initiated or more than one person.

If ferments are completely new to you, or you have an underlying gut issue, I recommend starting off with very little (a teaspoon or so) every other day and building from there.  The Baby Box will contain all you need to see you through a month.  If you have been eating ferments for a while, then go for gold!  The Big Box contains enough for a month of 50g per day (one person) and 6 x 250ml servings of kefir, for when you need an extra boost.

Always pay attention to how your body reacts and tweak when necessary.  You may feel fine, or you may experience some digestive discomfort (which is completely normal), in which case, I recommend reducing your intake until you feel comfortable enough to increase.  Everyone is different and it’s really important to let your body be your guide.

When should I eat/drink?
Whenever you like!  There really are no rules.  Most importantly, you should enjoy eating them because you like them, not because you feel you have to.

What should I eat/drink them with?
This is only restricted by your imagination.  Something like flavoured water kefir is great on its own, or mixed with some vodka for a little tipple.  Pickles are great in sandwiches and wraps, ramen bowls, served with cheese or dipped in some hummus.  Kraut can me mixed with avocado to make a delicious guacamole, or kimchi is great stirred into a cooked soup to add a bit of a kick.  Try not to heat anything fermented (adding to food once cooked is fine), as you’re looking to retain as many of the probiotics as possible.

How should I store them?
The contents of your Box is fermented to a stage where I feel the flavour and probiotic content is at its best, so once your Box has been delivered, store the items in the fridge where they will keep until the best before date marked on the bottle/jar.  However, if you prefer your kraut, pickle or kimchi a little sourer, leave it on your kitchen surface (out of direct sunlight) where it will continue to ferment, tasting every other day until it has reached a flavour you are happy with, then store it in the fridge.



10 Reasons to Eat Fermented Foods

Alana Holloway

Eating (and drinking) fermented foods is a way of including probiotic bacteria into your diet, and therefore, your gut.

The strains of bacteria in fermented foods help maintain the integrity of the gut lining, balance the body’s pH, regulate the immune response and therefore, control inflammation

Fermented foods are easier to digest. During fermentation, the bacteria feed on the sugars and starches naturally present in the food, essentially pre-digesting them for you…

…Which increases the bioavailability of the nutrients found in the food…

… Therefore, increasing the absorbtion of vitamins such as A, C, K and some B-vitamins.

The variety and number of bacteria available in the many varieties of fermented foods is far greater to anything you could take in pill form. Remember, variety is key.

By eating fermented foods you are better able to maintain bacterial balance in your gut and populate it with more of the good guys, aka probiotics.

Every culture in the world has a fermented food/drink that is unique to them (it was a way of preserving fresh foods before the invention of fridges). By trying a variety of fermented foods and drinks - the kind you'll find in your L A B Box.  You'll be taken on a mini culinary adventure around the world!

any meal; whether you stir some kraut into a soup, make a cocktail using water kefir or pop a pickled veggie atop your avocado toast, the flavour is hard to replicate and will take your meals to the next level.

Last but not least, they are delicious, with no two batches ever having quite the same flavour.

Did you know... one small gram of kraut can contain up to 1 billion CFUs (colony forming units) of lactic acid bacteria, coming from a wide variety of strains, as well as vitamins B1, B6, C & K plus some trace minerals such as magnesium and iron. We'd say that trumps most supplements on the market.