Fermented by LAB

gut health

If You Treated Your Microbiome Like You Do Your Plant, Pet or Kombucha SCOBY, You'd Probably Look After It Better Than You Do Yourself

HealthAlana Holloway

Let’s be honest, we’ve all been guilty of looking after our plant, pet or kombucha SCOBY (Symbiotic Community of Bacteria and Yeast) better than we do ourselves, right?


Do they have enough light and water; are they too hot; is that too much sunlight?  Do they need to go the groomers; be walked?  I’ll buy them this little toy, just because. Aw, they want to play!  I can’t feed them that - they can only eat organic/raw food! Oh! What have I done?  I bet I fed it too much sugar again, or perhaps kept it in the wrong place, or maybe it’s because the water I used was wrong!  GAH!

It’s crazy behaviour when you think about it, eh.  So why do we do it?!  I’m sure there’s a study out there somewhere, digging into the psychology of it all.  My guess?  It’s got a lot to do with feelings of responsibility, failure, reward (when it all goes right), companionship, and a constant visual reminder of your success as a plant/pet/booch parent, all rolled into one.  It’s easy to see when a plant droops, a pet will soon let you know if they’re not happy and bad tasting booch… I just can’t cope!  

We droop and it can be pretty obvious when we’re not happy, too!  But we’re much easier to neglect and ignore.



Let’s go with the notion that all disease (dis-ease) begins in the gut.  Hippocrates said that.  Whilst I’m mostly in agreement with the statement, I do feel it’s a little over simplified.  To me, it paints the picture that it’s a solely a physical problem that needs to be fixed, not mentioning influencing factors such as diet, stress, sleep, lifestyle choices and movement. Much like our beloved pets and plants.   

But hang on… if we bring all of that together, we might be on to something. 

Sauerkraut and Kimchi

If you’ve been hanging around these parts for a while, you’ll already know this.   

Your gut is home to your very own, live in, pet, plant and SCOBY, all rolled into one… YOUR MICROBIOME! You therefore have full permission to look after it, maybe even better than you do yourself!   

Basic rules apply: 

  • Feed it the right food; it loves lots of variety, fibre and ferments

  • Make sure it never goes thirsty

  • Treat is to regular exercise and movement

  • Make sure it gets enough rest

  • Reduce the stress it’s exposed to; play, meditation and breath-work are some of its favourite things to do!

So there you have it.  Treat your microbiome with the same love, care and attention as you give your plant, pet and SCOBY and you’ll be onto a winner. 

Until next time,



What Is Mindful Eating and How Does It Benefit Digestion?

Gut HealthAlana Holloway

I’ve been the family record holder of speedy eating and of the ability to eat A LOT, for as long as I can remember.  “Hollowlegs”, a play on my surname Holloway, has been a name that’s been with me since childhood.  I used to feel pretty smug about both eating ‘achievements’ (I know how ridiculous it sounds to have counted them as achievements) but in recent years, I’ve realised that neither eating behaviours do my digestion any favours.  I’m often hit with after dinner bloating, discomfort and gas… no surprises there, then.  


In a bid to approach the way I eat with more respect for my digestive system, I’ve tried many things: smaller plates, putting my knife and fork down in between mouthfuls, chewing each mouthful over 10 times, stopping eatingbeforeI feel full and cooking only the amount that’s needed for that meal, not extra for leftovers (because, y’know, I’ll only eat them from the pan!)  My experiments have caused me to look at the way others eat, too.  And I realised, it’s not just me who eats without much consideration.  From what I’ve seen - be it at restaurants, out and about or at home with friends/family - most of the time, we eat without even realising we’re doing so.  Whether it’s because we’re watching the TV, distracted by our smart devices, eating whilst driving, eating at our desks, eating whilst walking (anybody else finish a chocolate bar in the time it takes them to walk from the supermarket to their car?!), eating from the kitchen counter… the list goes on.  So last week I took to Instagram to ask if any of you had tips that could help the rest of us eat more mindfully. 

But no…

About 99% of the people I asked, didn’t know what Mindful Eating was or had never heard the term before. Add to that, they confessed to eating in all the ways I’d seen people eating out and about, and in the way I myself eat.  


Mindful Eating is the practice of eating completely presently, without distraction.  

Basically, how we probably all ate before the dawn of technology and oversubscribed lifestyles. It’s about looking at your food, smelling it, noticing different tastes and textures, taking a breath between mouthfuls, chewing properly, stopping when your comfortably full.  It can even extend to cooking; do you cook in a rush whilst doing ten other things, just to get something on the table, or do you cook with enjoyment?


All of the above allows your body to prepare for what it’s about to receive.  It allows your salivary glands to be simulated and gets your digestive enzymes going, which results in more efficient digestion and less post-meal digestive complaints.  It’s also more enjoyable; food tastes much better when you’re actually paying attention when eating it.  Lastly, it shows appreciation for the food, for how it got to your plate, for the people who grew it/farmed it, and so on.  Gratitude has been linked to better mental health, so I’m all for slipping it in wherever possible.


I’m still trying to figure out that one, but here’s a good starter for 10.

-      Put your phone away.

-      Put your iPad away.

-      Put your book/magazine away.

-      Turn the TV off.

-      Eat away from your desk.

-      Look at your plate and take a couple of breaths before digging in (I’m not religious but perhaps pre-meal prayer is about more than worship and gratitude?)

-      Take a seat. That could be on a blanket in the park or at a table, just try not to eat whilst walking from a to b.

-      Enjoy your cinema snacks before the movie – and trailers - start! (Oh the scoops of ice cream and popcorn I’ve shovelled down in many a cinema).

-      Wait 20 minutes before going in for seconds.

-     Use your favourite crockery and cutlery… maybe even set a nice place! It makes a difference to how much you appreciate your food, trust me!

Any other tips?!  I’m all ears!

A List of Ways to Enjoy and Eat Kraut + Kimchi

FermentsAlana Holloway

I think “how do you eat it” is one of the most commonly asked questions we get asked at FBL.  I’ve been eating both Kraut and Kimchi for a while now and have tried some weird and wonderful ways of eating them, some more successful than others.  In this super short blog post, I’m going to share with you a list of ways to enjoy Kraut + Kimchi.  If you’d like more detailed recipes, then head over to the recipes page for inspiration galore!

gut loving lunch



Avocado on toast



Hummus on crackers

Mushrooms on toast

Smashed avo on crackers

Scrambled eggs on toast

Stews and casseroles




Cheese on toast

Croque Madame/Monsieur

Welsh rarebit





kimchi snack



(Just make sure you add it at the very end of the cooking process to keep some of the microbes alive!)



Stews and casseroles



Chilli con carne

Mashed potato



Bone broth

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Why I Choose House-Pressed, Cold-Extracted Juices to Flavour FBL Water Kefir

FermentsAlana Holloway
Cold-pressed rhubarb juice

Cold-pressed rhubarb juice


Happy Friday folks! How are you?  

I was uploading an Instagram story the other day about why I choose to cold-press apples in house in order to make apple juice, over buying in ready-made organic cold-pressed apple juice. The reason being: because most, if not all, pre-pressed apple juice contains ascorbic acid.  Ascorbic acid is a concentrated derivative of Vitamin C, which really isn’t that bad, I know.  It’s often used as a preservative to extend shelf life, prevent spoilage, and to retain colour… ever noticed how your home pressed apple juice turns brown pretty quickly? The reason it does all those things is because the pH of ascorbic acid sits somewhere between 1.0-2.5, meaning it prevents microbial growth. Which is precisely the reason I’d rather leave it out of FBL Kefir!  Kefir is built on microbial growth (of the beneficial kind).  Adding something that prevents that would also stop any further beneficial microbial growth from taking place.  You see, because FBL Kefir is alive and kicking with microbes, those microbes produce even more microbes once it’s flavoured with (cold pressed) juice, which acts as microbe fodder; it’s known as the second ferment.  Call me crazy but adding something that prevents microbial growth just doesn’t make sense!   

It got me to thinking about all the other reasons I choose to only use organic, house pressed, cold extracted fruit and vegetable juice in FBL Kefir… 

-      It’s additive free.

-      It’s fresh as can be.

-      It retains far more nutrients than juice that isn’t cold-extracted.  Cold-extraction uses a masticating action, rather than centrifugal. It effectively chews the whole fruit/vegetable to extract the juice.  Centrifugal juicing is very fast action spin and chop motion and produces a fair bit of heat in the process, which begins to kill off heat sensitive nutrients in the juice… I’m all for maximum nutrients!

-      I have control over choosing fruits and vegetable varieties which yield the tastiest juice and therefore, the tastiest Kefir.

-      The pH of Kefir (between 3.0 - 4.2) offers all the ‘preservatives’ I need.

-      It gives me more freedom to choose to work with a wide range of organic, seasonal fruits and vegetables… carrot, rhubarb, grapefruit, beetroot, the list goes on!

Producing the highest quality ferments is of utmost importance to me and using fresh, organic and seasonal cold-pressed juices is just one way of ensuring that.  

Just a short one for today. Have a lovely weekend,

Alana x

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10 Ways a Yoga Practice Will Benefit Your Gut Health

HealthAlana Holloway

Ahead of my first Self Care Sunday: Yoga & Gut Health; the gut healthy yoga brunch I’m hosting with the LOVELY yoga extraordinaire Lucy Victoria Jackson (pictured below), I wanted to share a bit about why we’ve created this event.  Yoga and gut health might seem like a bit of an odd pairing at first, but they help each other out in more ways than meets the eye.  The more I delve into the world of gut health and fermentation, the more I realise that EVERYTHING they are involved with is based upon beautiful symbiotic foundations. There really is no end to the magic of microbes! The Yoga and gut health duo is no exception but I have (rather stupidly, I now realise) only covered one side of the story in this blog.  Gut Health for Your Yoga Practice will have to wait for another post! 

yoga and gut health


-      The twist poses in yoga aid digestion as they apply pressure to your digestive organs, helping them to release toxins and waste matter.  You may have noticed that in twist poses, you’ll twist first to the right and then to the left.  This helps the natural flow of the digestive system (which flows from right to left), encouraging waste and gas to move along the transverse colon to the descending colon.  Don’t tell me you’ve never left a twist-heavy Yoga class feeling a little windy!  

-      You’ll know that the gentle poses in a yoga practice help to relax your whole body, but did you stop to think that that includes the muscles surrounding your gut?  So many of us hold tension in our abdomen (I am terrible for doing it), whether that’s by holding our tummies in or because we become tense during stressful periods.  Tension restricts movement, wherever it’s held.  Dedicating some time to a relaxing Yoga practice - therefore allowing your tummy to soften - will ultimately allow your digestive system to function as it should.

-      Many of the poses which involve your thighs pressing close to your stomach - such as Child’s and Pigeon Pose – will gently massage your digestive organs as you breathe, helping to alleviate constipation and trapped wind, therefore aiding the natural detoxification of your gut… 

-      … Deep/belly breathing, which is mindfully practiced during a yoga flow, meditation and/or breathwork, is another way to give your gut a little massage.  Great for all the reasons mentioned in the previous point.

-      During Savasana (the lovely relaxing bit at the end) your body enters rest and digest mode. Oxygenated blood flows to your digestive organs, enabling them to work on digestion, cleansing and healing.

-      A yoga practice is a fantastic way to manage and reduce anxiety and depression.  Have you ever heard the gut being referred to as the second brain?  That’s in part because the gut and brain communicate via a two-way nerve called the Vagus Nerve, meaning the brain feels what the gut does and vice versa.  It’s more scientifically known as the gut-brain axis.   A stressed brain = a stressed gut, so the more you can do to relax your mind will also help to relax your gut.

-      What’s even cooler is that between 80-90% of the hormone Serotonin (the happy hormone) is produced in the gut.  Committing to a regular Yoga practice - that improves your gut health - means you’ll be doubling down on the anxiety and depression reducing factor.

-      As well as reducing feelings of anxiety and depression, Yoga is well renowned for reducing stress.  It’s not just a diet full of processed foods that reduces the strength and diversity of gut bacteria... chronic stress does as well.  Yoga = less stress = stronger, more diverse gut bacteria = a healthier gut.

-      Backbend poses, such as Camel, Bow and Wheel Pose, stretch the stomach and intestines and can alleviate constipation.  These are my favourite to practice after a day of building tension in my abdomen.

-      I’m glad we’re at a point in time where we (again!) realise and acknowledge that our whole body is connected.  Tight hip flexors are a sign of the times.  We spend approx. 90% of our day inside, probably sat on the sofa, at your desk or in bed, which does our hip flexors no favours at all.  The hip flexors (the psoas muscle), run from deep within the hip joint all the way to the sacrum (bottom of the spine) and act as part of the shelf (together with the pelvis and pelvic floor) which supports the digestive system.  Tight psoas can constrict the digestive organs, affecting flow and how well we digest food.

SO, THAT’S 10!

I’ve absolutely loved researching this post.  Most of it I was familiar with, but I discovered some real gems along the way (the last one in particular).  Have you found improvements in your gut health since committing to a regular yoga practice?

Lucy and I are really looking forward to meeting those of you that are coming to our first Self Care Sunday.  If you were unable to come to this one, we hope to make them a regular thing, so keep your ears to the ground.

With microbial love,

Alana x

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Is it achievable to eat 30 different plant species in a week, in order to nurture a healthy gut?

HealthAlana Holloway
Fruit and vegetables

Instagram can be a wonderful place, can’t it?!  One of my favourite people to follow is Dr Megan Rossi, aka @theguthealthdoctor.  She shares a wealth of ‘no bullsh*t’ gut health related information, demystifies studies and debunks media articles which I just LOVE to read!

One of her recent posts posed the question: is a vegan diet healthier for your gut than a non-vegan diet?  She often asks these questions as polls in stories.  I answered ‘no’ but was pretty sure the answer to this one wouldn’t be a straightforward ‘yes’ or ‘no’.  I was right! Whilst a vegan diet isn’t necessarily healthier for your gut (vegan doesn’t always mean healthy), a focus on plant-based foods is.   Your gut microbiome relies on a variety of foods to build a diverse community and in gut terms, diverse = strong and health and Dr Megan Rossi’s recommended weekly target is 30. That’s 30 different plant species throughout the week.   

The Gut Health Doctor

Is that achievable?* A combination of precious kitchen space, weekly - rather than daily - shops, bulk cooking/meal prep, busy schedules and small households means it’s all too easy to fall into a routine of eating the same (or very similar) foods, every day.  When you cook a big meal on a Sunday, the likelihood is that you’ll be eating that same meal for lunch/dinner for the next 2–3 days.  When you buy a bunch of bananas, at least one of your 2-3 daily pieces of fruit is going to be – you guessed it - a banana!  You get the gist, I’m sure.  So, I decided to record the plant foods I ate for a week, to see if I was anywhere near hitting the target.  Honestly, I wasn’t so sure that I was going to, for all of the reasons listed above. I, like many others, have been so busy thinking about what I eat in a day (am I getting my RDA of fruit and veggies, fibre, protein, etc?) that I really wasn’t paying too much attention to how that panned out as the week went on.  

Here’s how I got on (‘<’ means a very small amount of something):

Day 1
Basmati rice

Day 2
Chia seeds
Hemp seeds

Day 3
Chia seeds
Sweet potato
Red onion

Day 4
Red pepper
Sweet potato

Day 5
White rice noodles
Fresh coriander
Tofu (soy)
Spring onion

Day 6
Salad leaves
Sweet potato

Day 7
Sweet potato

Wow, day 7 was a good day!!  Jokes aside, all in all, I ate 43 different plant species.  I was really careful not to fudge the results by doing anything different than my norm and am pleasantly surprised.  Looking back, what I think helped me achieve the target was making dishes where I could sneak in extra ingredients, such as the crumble I made at the beginning of the week (the topping alone contained 5 different plant species), or the savoury veggie pancakes I had towards the end (the fillings were very veg heavy).  I could’ve varied my grains/legumes a bit more, so will make a note of that for the future.  Over the winter, I’ll make sure to pack my stews and curries with veggies and grains and I’ll be interested to give it another go to see if the results are at all similar.  

If you fancy giving this a go, please share the results with me over on Instagram @fermentedbylab – let’s raise the awareness of this weekly target and all help each other achieve a more diverse gut microbiome!

*Megan does recommend just adding one extra plant food to your week if 30 seems unachievable.

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What Alana Eats in a Day to Keep Her Gut in Good Health

Alana Holloway
Abundance Bowl

This was originally published on the Pollen + Grace blog, as part of their Food Diary series.  Read on to find out what and how our Founder, Alana eats to keep her gut in good health.

Approach to food: I love to eat intuitively, according to the seasons… not only that, but according to the weather and how I’m feeling on any given day.  After a lifelong battle with eczema, I have now found the key to managing it with the right foods for my body, and a complimentary lifestyle, too.  I like to maintain a balanced, healthy gut and so eat/drink ferments every day… just as well I run a company that makes them!

Food Diary:


I tend to start day with about a pint of warm water. I really find it gives me immediate energy following sleep.  I’m really not a lover of cold water, so will always drink it at room temperature or warm/hot. 

I usually have breakfast about 10.30 as I struggle to eat too early in the morning.  I like to allow my body time to build up a good hunger!  Now that Spring is here, I’ve swapped my porridge for smoothies.  This morning’s is organic cooked beetroot (I cook up a batch and then freeze it for smoothies), organic frozen strawberries from last Summer, a green banana, which is a great source of prebiotic fibre, coconut yoghurt, goats milk Kefir for the all-important probiotics, Plenish cashew milk (my favourite) and a little raw honey for a some more prebiotic love! I also take an omega 3 supplement; generally speaking, I’m not a massive supplement advocate and prefer to get what I need from my diet, but as I am prone to really dry skin, I find this one helps.  

I grab a small handful of Brazil nuts as I head out the door.

At 1pm I have a chunk of goats Gouda and another pint on warm water whilst waiting for my lunch to cook.  I can tell it’s going to be a hungry day for me today! 

At 1.30, I have a lunch of sliced avocado roasted chickpeas with nigella seeds, soft boiled egg, roasted sweet potato, Fennel + Lemon Kraut from the Fermented by LAB Spring Collection, steamed broccoli & kale.

3.30 small glass of Kombucha as I need a bit of a kick!

At 7pm I have dinner - it's lentil Dahl with Carrot + Coriander Kraut from last year’s Autumn Box (one of my favourite things about fermenting foods is getting to eat them months later!)

I drink a Golden Mylk before bed and soak some oats for tomorrow morning’s porridge… I mentioned Spring too early and hear it’s due to snow tomorrow!


10am - I start the day with two huge mugs of warm/hot water again and follow it with the porridge I soaked last night.  I always soak my grains/pulses/legumes to make them easier on my digestive system. My porridge toppings are roasted rhubarb, coconut yoghurt, a little raw honey and some chopped Brazil’s. 

3pm - Lunch is a chunk of goat’s milk Gouda (I can’t get enough of it!) and roasted broccoli, carrot, fennel, sweet potato and nigella seeds with a soft-boiled egg (again!)  Despite it being the weekend, I’m working and need something easy to cook which doesn’t require too much thought!

5pm - I have a bottle of Red Grapefruit + Rosemary Kefir from the Spring Box.  I’m lucky enough to be able to delve into a good selection of seasonal ferments… it means I don’t get bored with eating the same Kraut all the time!

7pm - I try to stop eating by 8pm so that I can give my digestive system a break overnight.  As I had a late lunch, I’m not overly hungry so make a beetroot, carrot (both cooked and frozen), blackcurrant, green banana and goats kefir smoothie and have a mug of chicken bone broth.

I drink a small Golden Milk just before bed.  They really relax me and as I have a history of eczema, find they really help keep my inflammation at bay.

Best piece of advice about health + wellbeing?

Don’t search for all the answers in one place.  Every day, I try to remind myself that it’s not just about a healthy diet, a good exercise regimen, good quality sleep or daily meditation practice, for example, it’s a combination of all of them that allows you to live your healthiest and happiest life.

Red Grapefruit + Rosemary Kefir

Red Grapefruit + Rosemary Kefir

Finding The Motivation to Eat Well for Your Health

HealthAlana Holloway
Fermented by LAB team lunch

Fermented by LAB team lunch

It’s been quite some time since I’ve posted on this blog - so much to do and so little time!  We’ve been having a blast backstage at LAB.  Alana has been working hard on developing the Spring flavours and I can’t wait to taste-test!  Alana and I call the day we package your fabulous ferments and send them out to you ‘Boxing Day’, but we often find it doubles up as ‘Therapy Day’ as we end up talking the hind legs off a donkey and putting the world to rights.  I cook lunch for us and bring it along to headquarters, usually a hearty soup or a reviving curry (with a generous serving of a complementary ferment, of course!).  After the obligatory high five when your boxes have been collected by our courier, we sit down, take a deep breath and relax.  I’ve got to say, working with my sisters is brilliant.  I am the eldest of three.  Alana is in the middle and our youngest sister is Georgina.  Georgina is currently working on her own contribution to LAB, which we hope will help spread the word about what we do.  We’ve all worked together one way or another before and I love that we can do that.  I strongly believe that having a support network as strong as we do is a huge factor in our potential to achieve, keeping us motivated.  Which leads me to the subject of today’s post-  motivation!

It’s remarkable how much motivation we can find for something that we want to do.  Whether it’s getting dressed up to go out or saving money towards a holiday in the sun, we can often dig deep when there’s a dangling carrot to spur us on.  Why then, is it so difficult to be motivated to eat well when the dangling carrot is good health?  You’d think that feeling good would be the ultimate reward, yet millions of us fall in to the trap of eating something quick and easy that doesn’t always satisfy our body’s nutritional needs.  We’re pre-programmed to enjoy high calorie foods.  Primitively, this helped us to survive when access to food wasn’t guaranteed .  With processed and fast food readily available today, our need for convenience often leads us to grab a sandwich from a petrol station or order a pizza.  The result?  A calorific intake is achieved, but our bodies haven’t necessarily been nourished.  

What we eat is fundamental to not only our body weight, but energy levels, ability to fight infection and disease, emotional well-being and ultimately, how long we live.  Most of us have tried various diets and with the media advertising the latest way to lose weight at the appropriate times of year (after Christmas, the lead up to summer for a ‘Bikini body’), we’re spoilt for choice.  Food is everywhere.  Deep down, we all know that eating healthily is as simple as these seven words.  “Eat food.  Not too much.  Mainly plants.” (Pollan, 2016).  Whilst true, this doesn’t provide the specifics on how to do so, or, equally importantly, how to want to do so. 

I am my own worst enemy when it comes to what I eat.  A self-confessed chocoholic and cheese addict, I find myself reaching for these things when I’m in need of comfort.  During the past 2 years, I think I’ve changed what ‘comfort food’ means in my head.  As I discussed in last August’s post, I started eating fermented foods by becoming Alana’s guinea pig!  I rapidly noticed an improvement in my mood, reduction in symptoms of my Endometriosis, clearer skin and the list goes on.  Fermented food and drink has acted as a bit of a ‘lightbulb moment’ for me.  I eat/drink it, I feel better.  I am comforted.  It is my healthy comfort food!  It has made me think twice about my food choices.  I recognise now that when I eat unhealthily I am actually sabotaging my chances of feeling good (read ‘Love What You Eat: Choosing Foods That Will Change Your Life’ by Nicholette M. Martin MDHC – so helpful!).

Many of us find things easier to manage step by step.  I’m one of those people!  My first step to eating for health was to eat a portion of fermented food or drink every day.  My second step was to drink more water.  My third step, to ensure that half of my plate of food contained vegetables.  I’m working on the fourth step (reducing my chocolate intake)!  I don’t get it right every day, but I do know why I’m doing it.  I want to feel good!  So far, I’ve found that changing how I think about ‘comfort food’ has helped motivate me to eat for better health.  What helps to motivate you?