As with most dietary fads, they may not only be unsustainable but also potentially do more harm than good, and as usual, Ayurveda will have a say on it (since Ayurveda has a say on everything - It is the "science of life” after all).
Fermented foods certainly have the potential to be highly medicinal, but they have their time and place. Literally.
Fermented food is traditionally a winter food.
Fermenting folk would preserve fruits and vegetables to feed them in long winter months, which typically was only required in colder countries.
Pitta (Fire) 🔥 Aggravation
Ayurveda teaches that fermented foods are heating. The acids that are present increase pitta (fire element) in the body, which may create inflammation.
This has its time and place - like Northern and Eastern Europe who could use that pitta increase in the winter-time. But in warmer climates, like Australia and India, it can trigger imbalance.
Not only do fermented foods have their time and place, they also have their unique “person”
Consider the person eating the fermented foods.
If they have a pitta imbalance - ie. they are prone to inflammation or fire in the body, presenting conditions like acne, skin inflammation, eczema, psoriasis, anger, frustration, hyperacidity, gastric ulcers, hemorrhoids and other “hot” conditions - perhaps they should proceed with caution and moderation.
The Ayurvedic View on Fermented Foods
There is a slight dogma in Ayurveda that fermented foods are bad. This was perhaps developed because most of people in India don't need to preserve foods for the cold months since they experience warm weather year-round.
And those parts of India (and Australia) that do experience cold climates, it is for a short period of time.
On top of that, these warmer climates mostly experience an abundance of produce in summer and the months surrounding.
Fermenting foods for too long can be over-heating and even a bit dulling (tamasic) or rajasic (stimulating).
However, Ayurveda certainly utilises fermented foods:
Thin lassi, a drink of yoghurt + water or buttermilk, is a highly prized simple but powerful food-as-medicine drink in Ayurveda, which actually reduces pitta and supports gut health.
There are many pickles and even medicinal wines, known as ariṣṭas and āsavas.
Paneer, a fermented cheese advised having in small amounts.
But note the ways these are taken. They are taken as condiments. Don’t fill a quarter of your plate with kimchi or organic herbalised fermented veggies, or a fermented organic super berry. It should be a small condiment size.
The role here is to give that right amount of acid, that digestive stimulant, that inoculation of microbiome richness.
Benefits of Fermented Foods
Fermented foods have a wonderful ability to inoculate the digestive tract with beneficial bacteria.
Lactic acid, which commonly oozes out of fermented foods as beneficial strains of bacteria and food particles mingle, not only preserves the veggies or fruit, but also slowly releases sugars from the cellulose to feed the good bacteria in your body!
This supports a healthy microbiome, and your microbiome has a plethora of roles in your body, supporting immunity being one key component.
Do Fermented Foods Have a Place at All for Hot Climates or Pitta Types? 🔥
That being said, even in summer, fermented foods in small amounts can be utilised to support digestion and a healthy microbiome.
That is why Ayurveda recommends mixing a small amount of fermented pickle with the first morsel of food, to boost digestive strength (dīpana) for bon-appetit.
A good tridoshic fermented dish you can try is my Amla Pickle Recipe. Amla is one of the most important herbs in Ayurveda due to to its many powerful benefits. It pacifies pitta, vata & kapha. Check it out!