I can accept almost all foods with “strange” tastes, probably because one of my mother’s friends has lived in China for long and invited my family to her place for about 1 month once. I tried literally every “strange” and “disgusting” food there – from vegs that I had hardly had before to pork intestines and blood. I even tried the pig’s brain and the evil egg.
I can’t say I’ve enjoyed all the foods there, but I have an open mind to all existing foods. What exists is reasonable, after all. Among all the foods I’ve tried, I find fermented foods especially attractive because of their special tastes.
Pickles like kimchi are perhaps the most acceptable fermented food for Americans. There has been a considerable amount of studies showing the health benefits of these foods, such as improving digestion, boosting immunity and even helping people lose weight.
However, what you may not know is that fermented foods may not work for everyone, and can even cause serious health issues for some people.
Fermented foods contain loads of microorganisms like live bacteria and yeast (known as probiotics). Many of these microorganisms are harmless or beneficial to us. The probiotic in fermented foods have been proved to have anti-oxidant, anti-microbial, anti-fungal, anti-inflammatory, anti-diabetic and anti-atherosclerotic ability.
But some people may experience severe side effects after consuming fermented foods.
A temporary increase in gas and bloating after consuming fermented foods is because of the process probiotics killing harmful gut bacteria and fungi. Although this process seems to be a good sign that the harmful bacteria are being removed from the gut, some people might experience severe bloating which can be very painful.
It’s reported that commercial yogurt contains the antimicrobial effect of probiotic Lactobacilli strains, so yogurt may cause you bloating.
Headaches and migraines
During fermentation, biogenic amines are produced and stay in the fermented foods. Some people who are sensitive to histamine, a kind of amines, and may experience headaches after eating fermented foods. One study found that low-histamine diets reduced headaches in 75% of participants. Taking a probiotic supplement might be therefore preferred.
Histamine can normally be digested by some enzymes in our bodies. However, some people don’t produce enough of these enzymes, which can cause a range of histamine intolerance symptoms.
Common symptoms include itching, headaches or migraines, runny nose, eye redness, fatigue, hives and digestive symptoms (diarrhea, nausea, and vomiting). More serious symptoms include asthma, low blood pressure, irregular heart rate, circulatory collapse, sudden psychological changes (anxiety, aggressiveness, dizziness and lack of concentration) and sleep disorders.
There have been some outbreaks of bacteria infection in the US and the world. While most fermented foods are safe, it’s still possible that they are contaminated with bacteria that can cause illness.
Infection from probiotics
Probiotics are generally safe for the vast majority of people. However, in rare cases, they can cause infection, especially in people who have a compromised immune system.
Probiotic bacteria can carry antibiotic resistance genes that may pass to other bacteria found in the food chain and gastrointestinal tract. For example, the antibiotic resistance genes carried by fermented foods can be against the antibiotics used to treat respiratory infections and some STDs.
I know I may have bloating when I have too much kimchi at one time, so I always control my consumption. For those who are not sure, however, try a little bit each time in case you may have a grooming stomach or more serious conditions.