It’s Thanksgiving Day and diet-wise, all bets are off. By the laws of tradition, you reserve the right to indulge in as much tangy cranberry sauce, sweet potato–and-marshmallow casserole, bread crumb–topped macaroni and cheese, and freshly carved turkey topped with stuffing as you so desire. And while most guts have become relatively well seasoned in the art of weathering the annual marathon meal, let’s be honest: There’s plenty of room for improvement in helping our bodies bounce back from the feast (i.e., keeping things running smoothly so as not to fall into a food coma–induced slump for the rest of the break).
This is where California-based organic food brand Farmhouse Culture’s range of probiotic Gut Shots can be of service, says Vincent Pedre, M.D., medical director of Pedre Integrative Health and author of Happy Gut. “A shot of a sour, probiotic-based drink can help stimulate the release of gastric enzymes, which prepare your stomach for the food that it is about to begin digesting,” he says of the liquids made from the brine of sauerkraut. “This is especially useful before a large meal when your body needs to pump out those digestive juices to help you break down the food efficiently.”
While producing similar effects to that of bitter-tasting apple cider vinegar or saccharine kombucha, Pedre notes the equal parts unique and flavorful combinations—including classic caraway cabbage and ginger beet—as well as the low sugar content. The latter being a big draw, particularly for women, as kombucha is very high in sugar, which is a food source for yeast.
The long and short of it is, the cultured vegetable juices makes food more bioavailable, says Farmhouse Culture founder Kathryn Lukas, who first became passionate about sauerkraut in the ’90s as an American expat running a restaurant in Germany, where fermented raw cabbage is incorporated into many traditional drinks and dishes. “When the Germans were hung over, they drank kraut juice,” she explains. “When they were sick, they drank kraut juice. It’s high in vitamin C and potassium, so it’s really healing and therapeutic when you’re under the weather, too.” A secret weapon for boosting digestion and reducing bloating, it’s also a solution for when you have one drink too many this holiday season. Try it straight up or even infuse it into your Bloody Mary with the smoked jalape?o flavor. But the benefits of incorporating the surprisingly pleasant zings of kraut-based juices into your diet go even further.
“They help maintain the integrity of the gut lining, balance the body’s pH, and serve as natural antibiotics and antifungals,” explains Lukas, who began studying traditional food cultures and ancient fermentation techniques at the Natural Chef Culinary Program at Bauman College back in the States before launching Farmhouse Culture in 2008. “They also help regulate immunity and control inflammation, as well as help metabolize sources of fuel and liberate certain nutrients within your diet.” But most important, a shot or two of kraut juice a day can enrich the number of beneficial bacteria, as well as the diversity of the microflora, which will improve overall health and prevent disease in the long run.
And the evening of your Thanksgiving feast is the perfect time to have at it. For one, it’s often a spread that’s not particularly rich in fiber. “It can be a meal that stops you up,” points out Lukas, who not only takes a gut shot prior to every meal, but also 15 minutes after, as “the acids and probiotics ease digestion.” And while it may be a harder sell to your family than, say, a bottle of Champagne, Lukas insists group gut shots could become a fun holiday tradition. Not just because throwing them back brings everyone together, but when you consider the power of the gut-brain connection, adding healthy bacteria to the mix will inherently contribute to an even more joyous occasion. Happy guts, happy family.