Fermented foods—like sauerkraut, kimchee, and many others—have a rich cultural history, and have helped people heal and thrive for millennia. Today, these original “functional foods” are being studied more and more for their remarkable mechanisms and health benefits. From digestive health to mood, immunity, metabolism, and more, fermented foods are gaining recognition as simple yet powerful strategies for maintaining optimal health and longevity.
Now, emerging research adds an important indication to this list of benefits, suggesting that fermented vegetables may offer some protection against COVID-19 infection.
Early population data suggests a correlation between COVID-19 severity, and consumption of fermented vegetables, showing that some countries with higher consumption of fermented vegetables have lower complications and fatality rates from the virus.
Fermented Foods and ACE2 Receptors
Since the pandemic’s initial days, researchers have shown that the virus that causes COVID-19, SARS-CoV-2, attaches to a receptor called ACE-2 on the surface of cells. The virus uses a key “spike protein” to unlock ACE-2 receptors and infect healthy cells. ACE-2 receptors are found to be higher in people with conditions such as metabolic and cardiovascular diseases. It’s also suggested that oxidative stress from out-of-control free radicals and reduced antioxidant activity in the body can increase ACE-2 receptors on cells.
Importantly, ACE-2 receptors can also be influenced by diet, as well as medications and other factors. For example, a diet high in saturated fat is shown to increase ACE receptors in the body.
On the other hand, researchers have shown that natural compounds from fermented cabbage in particular may reduce ACE-2 expression in the body, while providing additional antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and immune-modulating protection. This has important implications for potentially reducing COVID severity and infection rates.
Lactobacillus: Bacteria for Immune Health
There are hundreds of species of beneficial microorganisms that make up your microbiome and deliver unique benefits for long-term health and vitality. Lactic acid bacteria, the kind used in food fermentation and many probiotic formulas, belong to a family of beneficial flora that is well-known for their benefits in digestion, immunity, and more.
With over 70% of your immune system located in your gut, the immune-supportive benefits of friendly flora are vast, and rely on unique mechanisms and actions to optimize immune function.
One of these mechanisms involves a receptor, HCA3, on the surface of immune cells. Researchers have shown that HCA3 interacts with a specific byproduct of lactic acid bacteria. When the metabolite D-phenyllactic acid (D-PLA) attaches to HCA3, it spurs the immune system into action against harmful invaders.
Gut Dysbiosis and Viral Infections
The importance of maintaining a healthy inner ecosystem with a robust, diverse microbiome is becoming more evident as researchers continue to link gut dysbiosis with increased risk of serious conditions, including infection.
Now, data shows that many COVID patients also have gut dysbiosis, with an overgrowth of pathogenic microbes in the gut.
Supporting Optimal Microbiome Health
Over the years, I’ve found that one of the most effective ways to support microbiome health, digestive vitality, and immunity, is with a potent live-fermented liquid probiotic formula. In addition to a healthy, fiber-rich diet, including fermented vegetables, this organic fermented formula offers powerful support for rebuilding and rebalancing a healthy GI system. With live lactic acid bacteria and potent digestive and immune-supportive herbs, this powerful microbiome formula demonstrates substantial benefits in patients with long-standing inflammatory digestive imbalances, delivering faster results than what I’ve seen with traditional pill-based probiotic formulas.
As modern research continues to expand our understanding of the benefits of a healthy microbiome, time-honored fermented foods and botanical preparations are likewise being increasingly studied. Stay tuned for more breakthrough findings showing the benefits of a balanced microbiome for our most critical areas of health.
Learn about my Live-Fermented Botanical Pre + Probiotic Elixir below:
Bousquet, J., et al. Is diet partly responsible for differences in COVID-19 death rates between and within countries?. Clin Transl Allergy 10, 16 (2020). https://doi.org/10.1186/s13601-020-00323-0
Fonseca S, et al. Association between consumption of fermented vegetables and COVID-19 mortality at a country level in Europe. (2020). 10.1101/2020.07.06.20147025.
Peters A, et al. Metabolites of lactic acid bacteria present in fermented foods are highly potent agonists of human hydroxycarboxylic acid receptor 3 [published correction appears in PLoS Genet. 2019 Jul 19;15(7):e1008283]. PLoS Genet. 2019;15(5):e1008145. Published 2019 May 23. doi:10.1371/journal.pgen.1008145