What Physiological Dentists and Doctors Need to Know About Home-Fermentation

Dorothy Mullen on Fermentation

Editor’s Note: 

Dorothy Mullen was a guest lecturer at the AAPMD Airway Summit in Tucson, AZ. AAPMD highly endorses what she is doing in the field of nutrition. Dorothy’s model is in sync with ours… 


The human microbiome is composed of microbes and their genes and can influence growth and development, health and function.

Connecting the Dots:

Microbes in our intestinal track outnumber the cells of our body by a factor of ten, and these microbes encode a hundred times more gene expression. Our “gut health” is a proven factor in inflammation and sleep. Our gut-resident microbial community’s cellular activity is regulated by circadian rhythm. Alteration in diet, sleep, lack of exercise and increased stress affect, not only us, but our gut bacteria leading to increased physiological dysfunction, opening the door to increased inflammation, metabolic disease, chronic pain, autoimmune problems, decreased brain function, and more.


Restoring a healthy GI microbiome should involve dietary, airway/ sleep and stress reduction interventions.

Read Dorothy’s article about a simple way to give your microbiome a boost. 

by Dorothy Mullen

“Obesity is one of the best characterized conditions linked to the microbiome,” so says Microbial Ecologist, Rob Knight. “We can tell whether someone’s lean or obese with at least 90 per cent accuracy based on the microbes that they have in their gut … on the other hand if you take all of the human genes that have been linked to obesity by genome-wide association studies you can only tell whether someone’s lean or obese with about 58 per cent accuracy.”

Microbes are powerful. And versatile. They help us maintain a normal weight – or not; they help us digest food; they educate our immune systems. They determine who will have toxic reactions to pain killers and whose skin attracts or repels mosquitoes. And they are drivers of appetite, often taking a leading role in our eating behaviors.

We are 100 trillion cells them, but only 10 trillion cells us. The complex ecosystem of microbes that inhabit our skin, gut, vaginas and mouths are in constant communication with each other and our immune systems, speaking their microbial language to the brains in our heads and the brains in our guts, the enteric nervous system. Some drive inflammation, but the ones we all want more of put out the fires.

The story of modern western living is filled with chapters about how we kill off the organisms that literally form our safety nets: overuse of antibiotics and other pharmaceuticals, exposure to agricultural chemicals, high sugar diets, diets low in fiber and pre- and probiotics, births by C- section without swabbing the babies with their mothers’ vaginal fluids, and living high-stressed lives that keep us pumping adrenal stress hormones.

The dentist who treats for airway health will recognize that many of these challenges are also drivers of impaired breathing: obesity, high-sugar diets and the cravings and addictions and behaviors that go with them, as well as bodies pumping out cortisol in response to multiple forms of stress.

What physiological dentists and doctors need to know about fermentation is that there are exceedingly simple, ancient, traditional methods of food preparation that can help restore gut flora – often more effectively than pills. Making home-fermented products is easy. It’s also potentially more powerful than store-bought probiotics, which lose potency sitting on the shelf and may not take up residence in the gut as some fermented foods will. Two ounces of home- fermented sauerkraut has been shown to contain more probiotics than a bottle of 100 count probiotic capsules (Mercola.com), which is the same as saying that 16 ounces of homemade sauerkraut is equivalent to eight bottles of probiotics.

The process of fermenting essentially starts the digestion of foods before we eat them. It’s a natural way – and an extremely inexpensive way – of introducing beneficial organisms.

In her book Nourishing Traditions, Sally Fallon says, “The proliferation of lactobacilli in fermented vegetables enhances their digestability and increases vitamin levels. These beneficial organisms produce numerous helpful enzymes as well as antibiotics and anti-carcinogenic substances. Their main by-product, lactic acid, not only keeps vegetables and fruits in a state of perfect preservation but also promotes the growth of healthy flora throughout the intestine.”

Adding more probiotic foods to your diet can provide the following health benefits:

  • Improved digestion: stronger immune system, increased energy from internal production of vitamin B 12, which also aids in hormone synthesis and is critical to brain health as we age.
  • Healthier skin: probiotics are said to improve psoriasis and eczema.
  • Healing from inflammatory bowel disease, and leaky gut, GERD and the gut permeability issues that express “downstream” to the brain as ADD, ADHD, and cognitive problems.
  • Healing from other inflammatory conditions that are driven by processed foods and environmental toxins.
  • And mental health. There are studies from a variety of universities that point to the usefulness of probiotics in mental health, for anxiety, depression and aggressive behavior.
  • And of course, David Perlmutter, MD devoted his most recent book The Brain Maker to the power of gut microbes to protect and heal the brain.

The solution is simple, but it may not seem easy to people who think that 15 minutes in the kitchen is hard work. But honestly, that’s all it takes to make a quart of lacto-fermented kraut.

Recipes and directions abound. Here is one, nearly fool-proof, method for making one quart of lacto-fermented cabbage:

Home-Fermented Sauerkraut Recipe

Sauerkraut Recipe
  • 1 cabbage (any kind, with organic and local being the best)
  • 1 TBS salt (any kind will work)
  • 1 quart wide mouth canning jar
  • Remove the outer leaves and rinse the cabbage, but do not wash off the microbes. Core. Make wedges.
  • Slice the cabbage into strips and place in a large bowl. Add 1 TBS salt.
  • Manipulate the cabbage, squeezing and pressing until brine comes out and you can squeeze a handful and brine streams out of your hand, 5 to 10 minutes. (The good organisms – lactobacilli – – hate air and love salt. The bad organisms hate salt and love air.)
  • Pack a clean quart jar by adding handfuls of cabbage and pressing it down until brine rises above each addition. If your hand doesn’t fit in the jar, use a slotted spoon.
  • Stop about an inch below the top. (As CO2 bubbles out, the level rises.)
  • Place the jar in a dish on the counter. Cover with a canning lid, but don’t screw on the ring. (It needs to burp.)
  • Each morning and evening, take about 3 seconds to press the cabbage beneath the brine. (This will prevent mold forming.)
  • The first couple of days there will be a slight smell, not bad and not strong. This is correct. The organisms are duking it out in there. You have set it up so that the lactobacilli triumph.
  • In three to ten days – depending on the temperature in your kitchen – the sour smell and taste will tell you, you have made kraut, not compost! You’ll know because it stops bubbling.
  • Screw on the lid and place the jar in a fridge. Let the flavors mature for a few days before eating (but’s it OK to eat now).
  • The internet abounds with directions and recipes and especially opinions. This method was taught me by a modern Hungarian woman whose grandmother did it a different way. Your take home message is that fermentation works.

The prince of fermentation is Sandor Katz: https://www.wildfermentation.com/ And I teach home fermentation to people whose lives depend on eating well: https://www.thesuppersprograms.org

Dorothy Mullen is the founder of The Suppers Programs, a network of support groups for people who must develop a palate for, cook, and eat whole food for the sake of their health.

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