Saurekraut for Improved Performance

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I wanted to talk about something that I’m personally starting to take more note of, and that is gut health.  I’m turning 25 soon and I think this is when things start to slow down.  I know of people who can’t eat beef anymore and even bread starts to feel weird to eat.

I guess food intolerance starts to become a bigger concern than say it was ten years ago when you could slam a Mr. Noodles packet with 2% milk and a few spoonfuls of sugary Nesquick chocolate powder, and top it off with a Jamaican Beef patty.

But what happens when you have to go to the bathroom every time you eat something?  What happens when you’re eating something that’s beneficial to your training goals and you can’t digest it properly?  That’s just shitty.

Being able to properly digest the food that you are using to fuel your performance is something that I’ve started to become more aware of this year.  I want the most of my nutrition to benefit my training.

Especially with the added energy demands of endurance training, eating more food has become a big strain on my gut.  Regardless, not eating enough sucked but eating to just maintenance made my stomach feel terrible.

Looking up stuff to figure out how to work around this, pre and pro-biotics were something that kept coming up.

This in turn, got me interested in sauerkraut (as well as kimchi, pickles, and other fermented foods).

Enter Sauerkraut

Sauerkraut is fermented cabbage, usually in a salt and water mixture.  There are all sorts of variations, changing the brine, type of cabbage, but at the end of the day, it’s still a fermented cabbage, capiche?

The cool thing about sauerkraut is the diversity of bacteria that it possesses.   In the supplementation and nutrition world, there’s an argument that supplementation of probiotics is great for fermentation therapy purposes, where you get to focus on improving quantities of a particular strain of gut bacteria.

Yet, because most bacteria exist in an ecosystem that includes other bacteria, some researchers say that its better for general purpose use, to eat whole foods like sauerkraut or kimchi to gain a diversity of bacteria that are beneficial for gut health.

Digestion impacts psychology

Crazy right?

I first came across this idea earlier today while listening to a podcast by Dr. Ellen Hendriksen who talks about various topics on mental health.

She mentioned that our digestion can in fact impact aspects of our personality as well as our mood, even contributing to depression.

She summarized that although you can’t change the demographics of your gut culture you can still impact the types of metabolites that those bacteria produce.


Through diet

Links have been drawn between gut inflammation and affectation to anxiety and depressive-like behaviours.[1]  A literature review form 2014 talked about how there is emerging research on the impact of nutrition on mental health through the gut-brain axis.[2]  Independent studies from that review mentioned that the micro biomes in the gut can impact anxiety related behaviors as well.

Taking better care of the gut

Its pretty cool to see how something like digestion has an impact on higher level processes like cognition.

Adding a stimulus that places a lot of stress on digestion, (more eating from endurance training peaking) means taking management precautions for myself to keep doing what I’m doing and still remaining relatively okay.

Hopefully it gets you thinking about gut health as well.



[1] Foster and Neufeldn(2013) Gut–brain axis: how the microbiome influences anxiety and depression

[2] Dash et al (2014) The gut microbiome and diet in psychiatry: focus on depression

Sigma Nutrition Radio Interview with Grace Liu, PhD – Probiotics, Fiber & Creating a Healthy Gut