How To Make Fermented Kimchi (For Fresh Gut Bacteria)

Delicious & Healthy - Make it a daily staple food.

Delicious & Healthy – Make it a daily staple food!

Fermented veggies like kimchi have probiotics that improve our gut flora. It’s the last thing you’d want to miss out on as an eczema sufferer.

Gut health is important because it strongly affects our eczema skin conditions.

Fermented foods contain beneficial gut bacteria that is proven to fix microbe imbalance in our gut.

The problem is: it’s hard to find probiotics that are fresh (effective).

You can solve this problem by home-making it yourself. Although it may sound hard, making fermented veggies at home is painless, here’s how I did it.

Why do I emphasize so much on kimchi to you? (results I got)

Gut healer.

Gut healer.

Simple, because I’ve found great improvements (not 100% but significantly) from regular consumption of fermented foods:

  • Less itching
  • Smoother skin
  • More moisture to the skin
  • Peeling off of hardened rough skin patches
  • Extremely better digestion
  • More bowel movements

And kimchi is my favorite choice (bean curd too… but for now I don’t know how to make that) so I want to teach you how to make your own kimchi that actually work – it’s different from the restaurant stuff.

Eating fermented foods is extremely healing to the gut (I’d say the best course of action that’s from food). Of course, it’s not a magic pill with overnight results; the concept behind it is consistent consumption AND eating fresh and probiotic-rich foods.

But kimchi is not the only fermented food, it’s just my personal favorite choice; obviously, other fermented foods are also effective e.g. bean curd, sauerkraut, pickles, yoghurt, kefir.

The Problems We Face About Probiotics

*Probiotics = friendly gut bacteria/flora/microbes.

  1. Cost – probiotics in pill bottles are often quite expensive.
  2. Sustainability – probiotics are living organisms and they often die due to contact with acidic stomach acids before they reach the gut to even do us good.
  3. Freshness – store-bought non-pill packaged probiotics e.g. kimchi, sauerkraut, yoghurt have little to no actual bacteria because probiotics die with time. Most of the products are processed, the labelled organisms refer to at the time of manufacturing – not the time when you buy it (by then, some 80% would be lost).

Solution?

Ferment your own kimchi at home!

Fermentation: Why DIY (Do-It-Yourself)?

Price: it’s cheaper in price and higher in quantity at the same time.

Fresh: the fresher the fermented foods are, the more probiotics you get and you’ll get the most benefits; whereas store-bought versions are mostly dead of fresh organisms. (actually this is the most important reason – the main reason of making your own kimchi is the freshness advantage – the fresher, the more healing)

Fun: to be honest, the whole experience is actually quite fun for the first few times, and you could even boast about it to friends or even sell it to them!

My Kimchi Experiment (It Worked)

I apologize for not having taken photos of each individual step I took to make it.

So, I read some materials online and learned how to make my own kimchi, originally I wanted to eat plainly fermented cabbage, but it smelled sour and was tasteless so I had to make it into kimchi.

Kimchi Recipe Instructions

Ingredients:

As for amounts, this depends on the size of your container and how strong you want your kimchi to taste – note that anything fermented smells and tastes stronger.

  • Kimchi Mix (but add more!)

    Kimchi Mix (but add more!)

    Cabbage

  • Scallion
  • Ginger
  • Apple/Pear (for a little bit of sweetness)
  • Garlic
  • Fish sauce/anchovy sauce (Koreans tell me this is very important)
  • Brine (add salt)
  • Chilli powder (add slowly, mix in more if you need, I’m saying this is because I added a little bit too much to mine)

Salt is the requirement for foods to ferment, therefore it is important to make sure all parts of cabbages are submerged in salty liquid.

Steps:

  1. Adjust per your personal tastes.

    Adjust per your personal tastes.

    Get a big container or jar with a lid (there are many people advertising jars specially designed for fermentation – those are nice in the long run but are not necessary).

  2. Wash your veggies cleanly (if there’s dirt the fermentation could go back into fungi and you’d have to throw it away).
  3. Optional: chop your cabbages into tiny pieces so you won’t have to do it later; or if you are making it in bulk you can just leave the cabbage as is and put the other ingredients in between each of the leaves.
  4. Add all the other ingredients into the container in the right amounts (mix around so you’ll know).
  5. Wear plastic gloves and mix the cabbages around until they are mixed equally with the other ingredients.
  6. Push the cabbages down to submerge all of them under liquid (this is required for fermentation).
  7. Let it sit around in the shade for around 24 degrees (the optimal temperature) and open the container day to day to release some CO2 generated by fermentation.
  8. Start tasting after 3 days and if it’s not sour enough let it ferment more; as soon as it is, put it in the fridge so fermentation slows down because of the temperature.

Note: if you’re going to use the container for other purposes later, first fill the empty container with a plastic bag before you do anything because it really stains after fermentation.

Extra Resources (for better understanding)

This article How to … Kimchi (family 김치 recipe!) provides a simple and thorough tutorial on making kimchi with pictures. I highly recommend you to read this.

And here’s a nice video too:

Additional Tips & Advice

Don’t pick yoghurt as your fermented food choice unless you’re 100% sure you don’t have a sensitivity to dairy products.

A recommended staple fermented food choice would be kimchi (it’s cheap and easy to make), or if you don’t like the taste go bean curd (natto in particular, it’s sticky and might be a little off-putting but it’s healthy).

Every time, eat your fermented foods before eating anything else in a meal because if you leave the probiotics at the end, then it would be very ineffective in protecting your body from the leaking of other food particles in the first place. Although it still helps, but it’s preferable to accommodate this practice.

Eating homemade fermented foods and eating so-called “fermented foods” bought from supermarkets are two different stories. Industrially processed fermented foods may have had a great amount of organisms when it was produced, but by the time it is delivered to the stores, they are mostly dead, becoming ineffective for us. Also, most of industrially produced goods are filled with food additives. Why panic from this when you can make your own at home?

The more sourer your kimchi, the more healthier it is because the more fermented it is. If you are a person of efficiency and want to get results as fast as possible; then go for the sourest kimchi you can tolerate.

To Eczema Sufferers (Don’t Skip This Part)

Persistence is actually really important. (I love this picture by the way)

Persistence is actually really important. (I love this picture by the way)

So now, you’re probably thinking “why am I learning how to make kimchi?”

My answer is, you’re not. The point I’m trying to give you is that consistently eating freshly homemade fermented foods is an extremely effective way to restore gut balance – which essentially means elimination of major eczema symptoms.

Key message: although this won’t heal your eczema completely right away, there will be significant improvements for instance less itching. Most people often give up early because they don’t see results, when in fact you should eat around two bowls of kimchi every day (half-half at lunch and dinner before the main course). You should aim for 1 month of the fermented foods consumption experiment before you decide on stopping, by then, anyway, you must see results.

And remember, you’re not limited to only kimchi, you are open to other fermented food choices! Google is your best friend!

17 Comments

  • comment-avatar
    Tim 12/01/2014 (03:30)

    Nice. I’ll look forward to making some.

    • comment-avatar
      Harrison Li 12/01/2014 (14:38)

      Great Tim! Let me know where you’re up to later on.
      Harrison

  • comment-avatar
    Lucy 03/07/2014 (00:20)

    Thanks for the informative site. Did you experience any eczema flare-ups from the die-off when you started eating fermented foods?

    • comment-avatar
      Harrison Li 03/07/2014 (11:24)

      No worries. Could you elaborate a bit on die-off? I’m assuming the late recovery stage where your skin is almost clear. If so, just one or two tiny ones, think of it as a wave with tiny fluctuations before, as you say, dies off.

      • comment-avatar
        Lucy 04/07/2014 (02:54)

        I switched to a whole foods diet last November and was able to get rid of 95% of my eczema, but I still had some residual eczema left on my hands. After reading a ton on the importance of the microbiome, I decided to introduce sauerkraut. I did so slowly, and whenever I ate it I seemed to get a flare-up, but I assumed it was die-off and kept it at a manageable level. More recently, I switched sauerkraut brands (not realizing that the new brand was raw sauerkraut and had more probiotics) and had a HUGE flare-up. It’s now a few weeks later and my skin is starting to return to normal, but I’ve now gone 3 weeks without any fermented foods, trying to get my skin back to its pre-sauerkraut state. I’m thinking about starting up again (with a tiny amount to start), but was just wondering if you had similar worsening of symptoms in the short-term before you saw improvement.

        • comment-avatar
          Harrison Li 06/07/2014 (16:49)

          Everything you are doing is on the right track. Fermented foods with no doubt is good for your microbiome but those flare-ups (obviously linked with eating the sauerkraut) can be due to two reasons. 1) They are as you say die-off symptoms 2) You have intolerance towards sauerkraut. Since your skin already healed up to 95% it’s uncommon to have a HUGE flare-up. What I suggest you to try is: 1) switch to a different fermented vegetable that you are sure you have no problems with (like cabbage; other varieties: carrots, radishes, cucumbers). 2) If you have flare-ups still, then is is certain those are die-off symptoms. If you are slowly healing without those flare-ups, it is likely sauerkraut, or at least the ones you buy are causing your inflammatory responses. Anyhow, switching will prove this point and you have nothing to lose, so if symptoms get really bad I advise you to do this.

          • comment-avatar
            Lucy 08/07/2014 (05:14)

            Thanks for the response! I’m pretty sure it is a die-off reaction, because I get a similar flare-up from taking probiotics in capsule form. I will definitely look into experimenting with other fermented veggies though – thanks for the suggestion!

          • comment-avatar
            Harrison Li 08/07/2014 (10:29)

            Good to know! Keep me updated on your progress 🙂

  • comment-avatar
    J.Singh 14/01/2015 (04:02)

    Hey there, would you suggest keeping the chili powder very limited in the kimchi? I know that it is a nightshade and would it not be counter productive to put it in the kimchi? I have a 2 year old son that has a nightshade sensitivity.

    • comment-avatar
      Harrison Li 07/07/2015 (11:29)

      J. Singh.

      Great spot. You are one of those that notice this dilemma. It’s one of those questions of personal choice. What I usually advise is if it doesn’t incur a specific sensitivity (which your son has, and so should avoid), then the person can keep that food item. It then becomes a matter of choice e.g. taste. And I have a future post regarding conflicting-information, hope that may explain more.

      Harrison

      • comment-avatar
        Christi 14/07/2015 (00:54)

        I have often wondered if the fermentation process alters the bothersome alkaloids of the nightshade vegetable in a beneficial way. In the past I have spent time on the internet searching for that answer to no avail. And I haven’t yet been brave enough to try it out personally. I would love to know of other’s experiences. On a side note: I read once that a government study showed that a slow decaying compost will completely neutralize some very dangerous chemicals. Also, I am always amazed as to how much peppers are utilized in the diets of virtually every culture of the world, and yet those people are not detrimentally affected. So, I guess there has to be more to the story.

        • comment-avatar
          Harrison Li 24/07/2015 (23:54)

          Christi. Your question is literally imprinted in my mind from now on. I’m really eager to find out too. I’m going to try get an answer from my future professors when college starts. Please let me know if you discover an answer!

          Another related question I have is, will contact of the digestive system with irritant proteins like gluten (which is often advised to avoid 100%) behave the same with high alkaloid content of nightshades? Would slight amounts be tolerable?

  • Solution to Eczema-Unfriendly Fruits and Veggies (here are 10 suggestions) | For my son 19/05/2015 (18:52)

    […] Check it out: How To Make Fermented Kimchi (For Fresh Gut Bacteria) […]

  • comment-avatar
    Christi 14/07/2015 (01:10)

    Sauerkraut that has been fermented for a short time will be high in histamines. If it is fermented in a cool place for 12 weeks, the histamines (and other things as well) will have been processed by the fermentation process. (I wish I knew more details.) The sauerkraut will now be tolerated — and delicious. It has made all the difference in our family. I must give credit to Kathleen of pickl-it.com for educating me of this fact. You will find that many others have had the same experience.
    I have found that other items such as daikon need only about 4 weeks. I would love to know of other’s experiences with other foods.

    • comment-avatar
      Harrison Li 24/07/2015 (23:56)

      Thanks for sharing. You seem to know a lot on fermentation! 🙂

  • comment-avatar
    Paul Steven Sabile 01/08/2015 (07:22)

    Is chili powder the same as chili pepper. If nightshade veggies aggravates eczema, how can kimchi be good for me if it has chili?

    • comment-avatar
      Harrison Li 10/08/2015 (19:19)

      Paul, I’ve answered your question via email. Hope you don’t mind if I paste it here for others to read:
      “As a precautionary measure, and especially because you are reacting to it, you definitely should remove the red pepper. Yes they are nightshades. However, I don’t think you are reacting specifically to it alone. More likely, you are having symptoms of food sensitivities towards a couple of other items in your diet. So don’t be surprized if eczema symptoms don’t improve well after eliminating red pepper.

      As a dietary substitute, you can use black and white pepper (which come from a different plant family). If you are concerned about seasoning, you can use turmeric, ginger, garlic, cumin, lemon juice, and rice/apple cider vinegar. Just a few suggestions.

      Since kimchi is out, you can simply eat sauerkraut as a source of fermented vegetables. I personally make this at home. It is easy to make and has no gut irritating proteins.”

      Cheers.