In this episode, I am speaking with Dr. Susanne Bennett about the amazing health benefits of the Korean superfood, Kimchi — on everything from gut health to brain health to weight loss.
Dr. Susanne Bennett is an internationally recognized natural and integrative medicine expert with over 27 years of clinical experience in the fields of allergies, clinical nutrition, methyl genetics, and anti-aging medicine. She is the author of three books, including The Kimchi Diet, as well as the talk show host of Wellness For Life on RadioMD and iHeart Radio.
In this podcast, Dr. Bennett will cover:
- What makes the kimchi diet different from any other diet?
- The health benefits of kimchi (and how it can help with weight loss, gut healing and more)
- The different types of kimchi and how they play a role in health
- Is there science on benefits of kimchi? (A ton!)
- How to make kimchi at home in minutes (and why you should)
Download or listen on iTunes
Listen outside iTunes
Raise Your Energy and Heal Your Gut With The Kimchi Diet, with Dr. Susanne Bennett – Transcript
Ari Whitten: Hey everyone, welcome to the Energy Blueprint Podcast. I am your host Ari Whitten, and today I have with me my good friend Dr. Susanne Bennett who is an internationally recognized natural and integrative medicine expert with over 27 years of clinical experience in the fields of allergies, clinical nutrition, methyl genetics, and anti-aging medicine. She is the author of the number one bestseller “Mighty Mito,” which is about mitochondria. And that is actually how I first got to know her as I read that book and then later met her in person at one of the many conferences we have attended together. And she is also the author of “The 7-Day Allergy Makeover.” And now more recently, most recently “The Kimchi Diet” which is the subject of today’s Podcast episode. I also want to mention that Dr. Susanne is the talk show host of Wellness For Life on RadioMD and iHeartRadio and is devoted to sharing the best health strategies and providing easy to implement tips to improve your life and start feeling better today, the all-natural way. So welcome Dr. Susanne Bennett.
Dr. Susanne Bennett: Thank you so much, Ari. Oh, so glad to be here to chat with you about the exciting thing that I am into right now, which is kimchi.
Ari Whitten: Yes, yes, yeah. This is a long time in the making. We have been trying to make this happen for I think like two years now. So, it is. Finally. I am glad that it is finally happening. And I am glad that it is happening right after, you know, a few months after you released this book “The Kimchi Diet.” So, you are originally from South Korea, and I know from experience, because one of my best friends in high school was also from South Korea, that one of the traditional foods over there is kimchi. And when I was in high school, and I would hang out at my buddy’s house, I thought kimchi was the most disgusting thing in the world. I was like horrified with it.
They, he and his parents used to have these giant, you know, huge glass jars of kimchi in the fridge. And I was like, “Oh my God, that looks disgusting.”
Dr. Susanne Bennett: Did you try it?
Why Dr. Bennett wrote the Kimchi Diet
Ari Whitten: No, I was afraid to try it. So, but now, fortunately, I have become more worldly, and I have also become more well-read on the almost innumerable health benefits of kimchi. And thanks, in part, most recently to your book which educated me even further on the subject, I now eat kimchi probably three or four times a week. So, I now look back on it and wish I would have got started back then when I had the opportunity in high school. But having said all that, what, besides, you know, eating this food traditionally, you know, growing up, what got you so interested in this subject and made you want to write a book about it?
Dr. Susanne Bennett: Thanks so much, Ari. Oh, that must have been amazing. You know, being exposed to a different culture like that at such a young age. You know, I grew up in Korea, was there until I was 12 years old and I never thought I was going to write about kimchi. I am a clinician, and I do love fermented foods and, of course, I ate it since, gosh, my grandma started me on kimchi actually when I was four months old — super, super young.
And I don’t remember that part, but what I was told was that she gave me kimchi juice a little bit at a time, about four months old when, you know when most babies are given soft foods. And part of the reason I think was that I was not breastfed. I was not breastfed; my mother could not breastfeed. That was her, that is what she told, you know, me, that I was not a non-breastfed baby. And now, you know, as a grown up, I know why I have, I don’t know if you understand what a tongue tie is. But anyway…
Ari Whitten: Actually, my son, my firstborn, had a severe tongue tie. So yes, I have a lot of experience with it, and it is pretty brutal to deal with. We had to get laser surgery on the tongue when he was just days old. And, then the worst part is you have got to go in there with your fingers every day, multiple times a day and reopen the wound and cause your newborn baby harm. So yes, firsthand experience with it, and it is brutal.
Dr. Susanne Bennett: You know what your, it is really good that you did work on that because the fact is that if your baby was not going to be able to nurse because of that tongue-tie, then so much of his microbiome, his structural and nervous system is totally effected, immunity. Right? So, it is such a good thing what you did. Well, what ended up happening was that you know, I have been eating kimchi my whole life. And my mom, all the kimchi recipes have been passed down. But I didn’t really, really understand the health benefits and the science, kimchiology, behind it until I went back to Korea. For the first time, I go back after I left at 12. I was 50 years old when my son was in his teens, and he wanted me to like, “Hey, let’s go to Korea where you are from, mom, I have never been there and let’s go visit.”
So, I said, “Okay, let’s do it.” And I get there, and I couldn’t believe how many grams and grams of sugar and carbs Korean people ate. Now when I left, it was all mainly Korean food because it was in the ’70s, mid-’70s, and it was American information, American culture was not integrated yet. Although we had military there, it just wasn’t integrated into the regular Korean culture. Well, let me tell you, now every corner you have got the coffee shops and the burger joints and the pizza parlors and the sandwich shops. They are all there as we have it here. But the problem, the thing that I noticed the most was that the Korean people were not overweight at all. This was about six years ago. Oh gosh, yeah, around there, maybe even longer now. I am just thinking about the time. It has got to be six years because I am 56 now.
So, six years ago was when I went. And so, I am like thinking, “What is going on with Korea now?” I did some research, and their obesity rate is only at 5.8% back then. Yes. And I knew that you know what? The United States, we are number one, of course. We have the highest number of obese people in the world, and we are, you know, over 34% now. And so, I am going, “Wait, they are eating the Americanized food, all Western. But why is it that they are not gaining the weight as we do and not suffering?” I mean, they had, they were energized, they are really athletic, they have got the flat belly, and their skin is amazing, and it just didn’t make sense to me. So, I was taking a lot of pictures, Ari. My family was taking pictures of all the beautiful places in Korea wherever we were going. And I became like a foodie stalker, and all I wanted to do was take pictures of people eating because that is what they ate, noodles, white rice, tons of desserts and sugars.
So, it was just blowing me up, my mind, blow, blow, blow. So, by the end of the family vacation, you know, I realized that there was actually one major difference between the Korean diet and the American diet. And it was really not in the main dishes that they were eating, but it was in the side dish. And that was kimchi, the ancient fermented probiotic rich super food that they had been eating for thousands of years. And that is what got me into looking in on the science. I became a kimchiologist, literally overnight. All I did was do research. I mean, there is like thousands, over a thousand research, really current research coming out from, sure enough, Korea, because that is where all the science is of… Especially the World Institute of Kimchi. It is a government run facility of doctors and researchers that only research kimchi. We don’t have anything like this. I have never seen anything like it.
I have never read up on any other type of facility that just works on one food. And it was brilliant. And so, what I did was I did a lot of research, and I found that there were just incredible amounts of the science behind kimchi and why the kimchi was so eaten that way. Of course, the Korean’s have been eating it for like at least 2000 years. In my lineage alone and my mother’s lineage, which is where I learned how to make kimchi, I am sure it is at least 2000 years old because my mom, you know, and my grandma and the lineage is deep. And I did the genetic testing, so I know it is deep on my mom’s side. So, that is what I figured, and I decided to implement it. So as soon as I got back, for the last six years, I have been implementing the kimchi diet. I put it into all of my patients who have got chronic illnesses, multiple sclerosis, Parkinson’s disease, mold toxicity, chronic fatigue syndrome, digestive disorders, you name it. I have just implemented it. And what I found was that you have to eat kimchi every day to really make the difference. And over a few weeks, you start to see the shifts. Over two months, which is eight weeks, you really start to see the changes. And that is what I want to talk to you about is the changes that it can make for every individual. Whether you are a child, a baby, or into your elder years, and it will make a difference for you as you eat it daily, kimchi daily.
What is kimchi?
Ari Whitten: Yeah. Awesome. I want to talk about those differences and what it is doing and some of the science behind it. First, what I want to do is for all the American and European and Australian and wherever, Asian listeners all over the world who have no idea what kimchi is, explain that. So just like a real quick summary of what this actually is. Because maybe some Americans have seen this before and it looks like just kind of this massive weird stuff and reds and greens and other stuff, but they have no idea what is actually in it. So just explain that real quick.
Dr. Susanne Bennett: Absolutely. So, I thought that you might ask this. So, guess what? I am doing a little show and tell for you, Ari. And kimchi is the way; it is basically, it is a fermented food. There are many different fermented foods that we are familiar with from all around the world. Yogurt, kefir, we know, even beer is fermented but so is something that is like sauerkraut. Most likely people will say that kimchi is similar to sauerkraut because it can be cabbage. But there is a lot of different kimchi. Did you know that there is over 250 different kimchi out there? So, what I am going to show you are some of the kimchi that I put into my book “The Kimchi Diet.” And I will start out with the… First, there are different phases of kimchi that I put into the book because I realized that there is actually, different types of kimchi will give you different kinds of results. And the first kimchi that I wrote up about and in phase one is cucumber kimchi. You can’t see it very much here. But anyway, cucumber kimchi. You could see maybe, there it is. Can you see that?
Ari Whitten: Yeah, I can. Now for everybody who is listening, not watching the video, this is a glass jar, like a homemade kind of mason jar thing that looks like a mixture of like red and some greens, just like kind of almost like a paste of red and green stuff. And it looks, I think for the average American pretty intimidating.
Dr. Susanne Bennett: Well, you are absolutely right. Only because it is not similar to anything out there, so, what the ancient people have realized was that if they used fermentation… They learned fermentation just by trial and error, using salt and then specific types of vegetables which are in here and I can talk about that. And then what you do is you brine the vegetables. So, this one being, the one that I just showed you right now is cucumber. And cucumber if you salt it, what the salting, brining action is one of the… To me, when you are making anything fermented, Ari, it is really important that you salt it properly and you salt it with the right type of salt. I use sea salt. I like Korean sea salt because I like the taste of the ocean and sea salt. But you can use kosher sea salt, you can use Celtic sea salt.
I would say that Himalayan is my last choice. And, of course, table salt, just forgets it. You don’t want to use that. But anyway, when you salt a vegetable what it is doing is in the process of brining, you are taking out a lot of the water, pulling the water out. But what is most important is that it actually kills the bad bacteria that could be on the vegetable. But then the magic of that salting, brining, improves the lactic acid bacteria growth. Now, lactic acid bacteria growth is actual, I would say what really creates the difference between any other food like regular food that you eat fresh to fermented food. Fermented means you are growing the lactic acid bacteria, the good probiotics, which is going to help you with your microbiome, the diversity, the inflammation, helping you with building the gut integrity.
I say that kimchi is the number one gut sealant because it is known to improve some of the bacteria that help make the gut barrier and the mucus lining. So, when you have got, and you have got this fermentation action going… And by the way, fermentation in kimchi is only one to two days. When you make sauerkraut it can be weeks, three, four weeks to make sauerkraut. Kimchi is one to two days and you can start eating it right away. Absolutely. And you know, it is interesting, the science shows that there are three different types of strains of the genera of different bacteria. Three of them that is really, really high in kimchi. It is also similarly in sauerkraut. You see all of these vegetables? There is a reason why you use different kinds of vegetables because each vegetable in here actually has its own microbiome. So, I always say that if you know, Ari, if you got me some sea salt, garlic, ginger, and then whatever vegetable you want me to make into kimchi, I can do it. We can make this also, without any fire. What I mean by that, you don’t need to cook anything. So, if you want to be in the jungles with me, let’s make some kimchi, Ari. And not just that. What is really beautiful about kimchi is that this is a wild ferment. Everyone asks me this all the time, “Hey, what kind of starter do you use?” You don’t need starter. The starter is in, naturally in the microbiome of the vegetables. Did you know that ginger has its own microbiome? Garlic has its own.
Ari Whitten: Yeah. This is actually I think a topic worth explaining like on a little bit more basic level because I think a lot of people are shocked to find out that the vegetables that they consume are actually teeming with bacteria. I think a lot of people think of the vegetables they eat as, you know, pretty sterile. So just explain that and kind of what kinds of bacteria are on there.
Dr. Susanne Bennett: Absolutely. There are hundreds, thousands of bacteria strains on food. Hundreds. The reason is because it comes from earth, like meaning, like the soil, you know, and soil, it is not just bacteria. There is yeast, there is molds, viruses, you know, so there is even amoebas and different types of parasites. There are a lot of bugs growing and teaming on food. On your skin, Ari, one square inch, a million bugs right here. So do not think that washing your body with soap, and you know, washing your vegetables with water is going to get rid of all the bugs. There is a reason why you do want to eat it. And that is because you are going to feed the microbiome. We need fresh foods; we need fresh vegetables. And of course, we want to eat fresh vegetables that are not teaming with pathogenic bacteria. And which one are those?
Those are the gram negatives usually. And the gram negatives are Klebsiella, E. coli, the bad ones, you know, salmonella, shigella the ones that cause like you know, the Montezuma’s revenge you want to call it or if you get food poisoning, those are the bad ones. But when you ferment and you use the brining process and salting it for a specific amount of time, you are killing off the bad ones and you are growing the good ones. That is the reason why ancient times they started realizing we can preserve vegetables. You know when, way back when, thousands of years there wasn’t such thing as a refrigerator. And in the wintertime when they would grow vegetables there, the vegetables would be packed over the snow, especially in places like Korea. We would have 10 degrees, 20 degrees below zero. There is all just snow, there is no vegetation whatsoever.
So, when I was growing up in the wintertime, every October to November, we would do what is called a Gimjang. Gimjang is basically the community all comes together. It Is such a beautiful act of people coming together and neighbors and your relatives all coming to make a huge amount of kimchi. And what we would do is we would dig a big hole in the earth before the first snow. And we put this earthenware, just a ceramic big jar into the earth before the snow came. And then we would make kimchi. And as soon as it starts to snow, it was our own little refrigeration. And we would, the kimchi would slowly, slowly ferment and we would have that vegetable four, five months, sometimes six months when it is winter. From October, November to springtime, even up to May, depending on. You know, and we would consistently have preserved vegetables.
I mean, that is the way our, you know, our ancient people have created this amazing magic of fermentation. Now I think the refrigerator has ruined us in a sense if you think about it, because we don’t eat a lot of fermented foods anymore. We don’t use fermentation as a way to preserve food because of the changes of the season. But, you know, Korean people and many, many cultures all around the world have their own fermented food from their own country. And I think going back to those ancient practices, of using those ancient wisdom, really will help fortify that microbiome that they have been doing for thousands of years. And I think that is part of the reason why the health of Korean people has still been able to be sustained much better than America.
The science on fermentation
Ari Whitten: Yeah. Now let’s dig into some of the science around the fermentation process and the species of bacteria. So, a couple of things I want to mention are, one, I have heard something to the effect in a few different places where I have read that there are as many bacteria in a tablespoon of kimchi as there are in an entire bottle of, you know, expensive probiotics. First of all, what are your thoughts on that? Do you have any sort of data around quantifying the amount of bacteria in kimchi versus typical probiotics?
Dr. Susanne Bennett: Absolutely. Let me go ahead and give you like numbers because I love numbers because numbers never lie to you, you know? And the science, and I mean all the research that I have done, I have found that the average in one gram of kimchi, now what is one gram? You know what a pill is, right? Let me show you, because I want to show you what the size of one gram is. And it is about here. This is one gram. Do you see that?
Ari Whitten: Yeah. So, a typical, like fairly large capsule of supplements for those listening.
Dr. Susanne Bennett: Exactly. A large capsule of supplement or let’s say a soft gel of fish oil. You have seen that, right? It is about one gram. In this one gram, you get a minimum of 1 billion CFUs of bacteria, 1 billion. Now in kimchi…
Ari Whitten: CFUs are colony forming…
Dr. Susanne Bennett: Colony forming units. Exactly. Now you will read that on every probiotic bottle, every probiotic supplement bottle. What the science shows is that for commercial kimchi you can have 900 different strains of bacteria, 900 in kimchi.
Ari Whitten: Wow.
Dr. Susanne Bennett: Whereas in a bottle, if you are lucky, you get 12, right? Average, you might get five, eight, and I am talking about Lactobacillus. There are three to four strains there. And then Bifidobacterium, there’s three to four strains there, right? In kimchi, I am saying it is 900 to 2,500 strains. That is the science. And it is different studies show this. Commercial it is lower end. And it might be because in commercial they use different, like they have some MSG in it and stuff like that.
Ari Whitten: You are talking about like the store-bought kimchi versus what you could make at home.
Dr. Susanne Bennett: Yes, exactly. So, if you look at a tablespoon, I believe a tablespoon, Ari is about 15 grams, right? Fifteen grams So, let’s say on the low end, in one tablespoon you have got about on the low end 15 grams. I eat myself I would say over 300 billion CFUs a day. That is because I eat it regularly. I don’t eat it once…
Ari Whitten: Compare that, so a typical one-gram size probiotic pill is going to be about a billion?
Dr. Susanne Bennett: Sometimes. Yeah. Sometimes it is millions. It won’t be even a billion. Some of them in one pill, the ones that you get at the regular health stores can be, let’s say in the millions to about 5 billion and they are expensive. Probiotics are very expensive. And then you have got to also look at is it heat treated or heat resistant? And is it refrigerated? And do you really know if there is that amount of bacteria? There is a lot of controversy for that. Now I use products, if I am going to use probiotics, I use them that are higher in number. And it could be up to a 50 billion to a hundred billion per pack. But I’ll tell you what, it costs a lot of money for those. That supplement can be over a hundred dollars per bottle, you know, which is a lot. But I am telling you for this, you know, that what I make, this is like maybe $5 if even $5 that will last you probably, this can last me probably about a week.
Ari Whitten: Basically, what you are saying is that glass jar that you are holding up of weird looking red and green stuff is like liquid gold for your intestines.
Dr. Susanne Bennett: Oh, it is the best. It is the best because the science, you know, evidence is the loudest voice, isn’t it Ari? You and I love talking about like science and what is real, what is really going on. And they are finding bacteria after bacteria. There are three main ones that are in kimchi, Leuconostoc, Lactobacillus and Weissella. It is really interesting, but there is a lot more bacteria. There is Pediococcus There is even a type of Escherichia, blah, blah, blah. I mean, there are so many strains.
Ari Whitten: There is dozens of species that don’t exist in any probiotic supplement.
Dr. Susanne Bennett: No, and that is why it is gold because you are creating diversity in your gut. The microbiome diversity is key. It is one of our problems in America and why? Let’s talk about it a little bit, why? Because why? Because those are the things that I want people to understand you have got to prevent from happening. Number one, we drink tap water in America and a lot of countries, they use chlorine in our water. And what is chlorine but an antibiotic, antibacterial, antimicrobial. It kills bugs. So, we are killing off the good microbiome. Number two, we use antibiotics. If you use one dose of antibiotics, you are wiping out the majority of the good bacteria in your gut. Even if you were to take probiotics, it is just not enough because probiotics is like a drop in the ocean. We have got hundreds and trillions of bacteria in the gut, five pounds worth. And when you take antibiotics you are wiping out a huge amount of that and it takes often four, six months to replenish and how are you going to replenish with a little bit of probiotics? You just don’t. So, eating fresh vegetables, getting the good bacteria that are clean but also supplementing as a side dish every day with probiotic rich kimchi that is probiotic rich. You are going to replenish it and if you do it together with antibiotics, you will have, it will be a game changer because you are not going to have all of the symptomatology and the negative side effects of antibiotics. Why else? We eat a lot of toxins that you are not aware of. Pesticides…
Ari Whitten: So, I just want to, real quick. You said something a minute ago that, you said if you do it together with antibiotics, is that what you meant to say? Or do you mean to say to take the kimchi after a course of antibiotics?
Dr. Susanne Bennett: No, I think you, I recommend you eat kimchi with antibiotics. Meaning like, not at the same time. I don’t mean that. But let’s say that you do.
Ari Whitten: Like in the case of needing to use antibiotics, during that course.
Dr. Susanne Bennett: Exactly. You can eat it in various times. Usually when it comes to antibiotics, they might say one day, you know, depending on what type of antibiotic you get from the doctors, it is once a day or twice a day or three times a day. So, what I do is I tell people to take, to eat kimchi throughout the day in between, away from the antibiotic. What you are doing is you are replenishing the good bacteria that you are wiping out with the antibiotics and it will prevent side effects. There is a side effect of antibiotics. A lot of people know if you are in the health industry, meaning like in the hospitals it is called C. diff, Clostridium difficile. I don’t know if you have… I treat a lot of that in my practice and I am known for that I think because in the last six years I have treated so many with that kind of condition. C. diff is a very difficult bacterial infection secondary to antibiotic use and a lot of people get it…
Ari Whitten: Yeah. That is one of the ones where they have found pretty good results with the fecal transplants, right?
Dr. Susanne Bennett: That is correct. That is correct. And I am saying why go that direction when you can go this direction. Because you don’t need…
Ari Whitten: For those listening, in other words, she is using her fingers to point in different directions. But why go up the butt when you can come through the mouth?
Dr. Susanne Bennett: Yes, exactly. And let me tell you, this is all bacteria, that is, that can bypass… Lactic acid bacteria, Ari, can bypass the acidity and the acid, you know, HCl. Everyone says, “Well, probiotics, you need special kinds that is all encapsulated so that it bypasses the small intestine, the stomach acid.” Right? That is one of the arguments of probiotics of why you need a special kind. Well, kimchi, they have done studies that it can go through and it lives without a problem because kimchi is low in acid. The entire process of making kimchi fermentation, like the first week that… Remember I said that there were three different bacteria that are really high. The genera Leuconostoc, Lactobacillus and Weissella. That is how it is really high. Leuconostoc usually is the king of the hill right in the beginning of the first fermentation process. And very interestingly about the second week, 10 days into it, you end up getting the Lactobacillus goes up, especially Lactobacillus plantarum and Lactobacillus paracasei
There are many different kinds of strains, but Lactobacillus and Weissella goes up, too, and Leuconostoc starts to go down. And then third week, to me, the second week, you know, when the Lactobacillus is higher and the Weissella is high, that is, the kimchi, it is like the sweet spot for kimchi tasting because it is so delicious. And there is a redness to this kimchi that I am holding up and that redness is from the red pepper. But I want you to know I don’t, I’m sorry I don’t have the white, my white kimchi. But I make white kimchi all the time and white kimchi is kimchi without any red pepper. Let me show you a white kimchi that I make all the time. What I mean by white kimchi is I mean white Napa cabbage. This is a white kimchi, but it is water kimchi. Do you see this? I am holding up a big jar of liquid. There is a radish in here, green onion, garlic, ginger, sea salt, and I brined the radish. And then, oh, there is probably a red pepper here. One red pepper somewhere. There it is, on the bottom. And, but what this does, is this radish water kimchi is super good for diarrhea, constipation.
Ari Whitten: You actually drink the liquid in that case.
Dr. Susanne Bennett: Oh, yes. This is kimchi juice. This is my favorite. Let me tell you a little about kimchi juice and what it can do. I have done some research about sinusitis. You know, chronic sinusitis, rhinitis, runny nose, pain, headache, congestion, really, you know, yellow to green mucus, postnasal drip, coughing, problems with their eyes. This is a very, very common condition all around. And antibiotic over antibiotic, people can’t get rid of it. Well, I am telling you that the kimchi juice can get rid of it within weeks.
Ari Whitten: It is Lactobacillus sakei or sakei.
Dr. Susanne Bennett: Yeah, sakei, exactly. Oh, you know it. Oh my gosh. Good for you for knowing that because…
Ari Whitten: I was shoving kimchi juice up my nose at one time because I thought I had sinusitis.
Dr. Susanne Bennett: Well did it, what happened?
Ari Whitten: I thought I, for several months I thought I had had like a chronic sinus infection. So, I was reading up a lot about that subject and that is why I stumbled across that. I was eating a lot of kimchi and I was shoving it up my nose, which was not the most pleasant thing in the world. But it turned out actually what was causing my symptoms was actually just a dairy allergy, intolerance, which was, which is actually quite annoying because I like dairy and I have eaten it my whole life. Up until about a couple of years ago I was, I would enjoy it fine without any symptoms. And then I guess I ate too much of it because a couple of years ago I developed an intolerance to it. That is the only thing I have an intolerance to. But yes, as soon as I got rid of the dairy that symptom went away. But I did also shove a lot of kimchi juice up my nose.
Dr. Susanne Bennett: Was it red kimchi juice or was it clear or like, or was it a non-spicy kimchi?
Ari Whitten: No, it was definitely the spicy kimchi that I had at that time. I was not aware that there were non-spicy versions. So that is why it was so unpleasant. It is because it had like chili peppers in it.
Dr. Susanne Bennett: Oh, that must have hurt, man. That must have hurt. But you know what? At least you tried. But that does help. I have helped a lot of people with sinusitis problems when it is true bacterial sinusitis, right? And even fungal, even fungal sinusitis. Most often when…The studies show that when you have an infection and antibiotics don’t work, it is because it is actually a fungal infection. So, kimchi is known to knock out fungus and fungi, but you can use that. So, like I said, you can use this juice for many, many different reasons. I have even helped people with vaginal infections, streptococcal infections or Strep B infection. A lot of women have it, 25% of women have it. And you can knock that out with kimchi juice.
Ari Whitten: I want to give one word of warning for anybody using it for vaginal purposes. Do not use the version with chilies. If my experience with my nose is any indication, that is a bad idea.
Dr. Susanne Bennett: That is right. You have got to make white kimchi or a non-spicy kimchi. And that means completely devoid of all of the red pepper.
How to make kimchi at home
Ari Whitten: Yeah. So, let’s, I want to do two more things before we wrap up. One is, we have alluded to this in many cases, but I would love to just have you give like the full picture of the sales pitch, if you will, for kimchi. Not that you are actually selling kimchi, but you are selling people on the health benefits of kimchi. So, tell us exactly what those health benefits are. I know you have mentioned a few of them in passing thus far. And then after that I want to talk quickly about, you know, the basics of how to actually make it at home.
Dr. Susanne Bennett: Yes, yes, that would be great. So, you know, like I said, the evidence is definitely there. The science, kimchi science is… Every single day, literally, I feel like there is something new out there. And the different areas of health, it starts with cardiovascular. It helps with triglycerides, cholesterol, LDL reduction. It is amazing for metabolic syndrome biomarkers. What does that mean? It helps with your sugar balance and it will reduce it. And I am talking about within four to 12 weeks, depending on, you know, how bad you have got issues. They have seen it in four weeks that if you eat a good amount of kimchi daily, even in seven days, it starts. You can see changes in your blood sugar levels go down, changes in your cholesterol, LDL, go down. I talked about triglycerides, metabolic syndrome, biomarkers. There is also fasting insulin and as well as leptin hormones, those go down.
And then there is a lot of human studies and there is a lot of mice studies, of animal studies. But both of them, they all confirm the same thing is that the numbers go down. And then, of course, then there was one that literally the aortic streak of plaque was completely minimized by eating kimchi daily. And it is not just the type, of eating kimchi daily. If you eat kimchi, a certain amount. They have done studies where if you eat higher levels, you know, like I said, I eat probably about a half of a cup to a full cup a day. If you eat higher levels, then the response is going to be an even better. And it is anti-inflammatory. So, what does that mean? It reduces inflammation in your gut. It reduces the cytokines, which are the immune markers, you know, interleukin 6, interleukin 8. These things, these markers, they are actually found to go down.
Inflammation goes down and it is helping your gut. Then it is going to help seal your gut. So leaky gut, IBS, SIBO totally. And I said earlier, it is like an amazing gut sealant. It really improves the mucus layer. There are bacteria that one of the studies show with Lactobacillus, certain types of Lactobacillus which is really rich in kimchi. It helps the akkermansia muciniphila. Anyway, akkermansia is actually mucous producing and it really creates a robust mucus lining and that is key. That mucus lining is important so that you seal up that leaky gut. And if you have less leaky gut then you have less leaky brain, leaky kidneys, leaky bladder. There are kidneys, even bladder, so many areas it is going to help. And that inflammation reduction changes then your joint pain, your allergies, your asthma, your headaches, your gut swelling. It by far helps you with good bowel movements. I had a case; she went to the bathroom once a week. Once a week she had a bowel movement and it was always like dry and you know, in little rabbit pellets. And I told her, “You have got to eat some kimchi.” She went to the health food store, she didn’t make it but she, you can get it at the health food store, and she ate it. Within a day of eating kimchi, she had a good bowel movement and she has been having it every day since. This is a game changer for people. Game changer, you know. And for me it is, to me it is like a universal super food. It is so easy to make and eat and of course to eat in different various types of food.
You can eat it with a taco, and I put it like, chop it up and put on top. You can have it like on top of an omelet. I even have it with different types of, you know, I am big on bolognese pasta of course, gluten free. In my book I talk all about reducing the inflammatory foods. And once in a while I just have a gluten free pasta when I go out. But sure, enough when I go home, I eat some kimchi to offset what I have eaten. Now I really believe the reason why Koreans can eat a ton… And I am not saying that, go out, go eat kimchi so you can eat the sugar. I don’t mean that.
Ari Whitten: Well there goes my Friday night plans because I was going to go out and binge on pizza and ice cream tonight and burgers and French fries and then follow it with some kimchi. But I guess now…
Dr. Susanne Bennett: Yes, exactly. But I am just saying is that I think, I believe the reason why Koreans can eat that huge amount of carbs and I mean hundreds and hundreds of grams per sitting, per meal, and noodle dishes just galore, because they eat kimchi with it at every meal. They eat kimchi with pizza. They eat kimchi with burgers. It is always in their lives. And so, the bacteria… And when you have got such a rich, robust microbiome, it is eating and digesting the carbs for you. They need to eat too, right? They need to eat.
Ari Whitten: You know what is kind of cool here, I was thinking as you were talking about all this is, you know, kind of the melding of some eastern food and medicinal traditions with western medicine and western… Also a lot of the research is coming out of Korea and, you know, some other countries in that region but modern kind of western medicine as an approach to study things, is that if you would, if you were to have this conversation, you know, if you were to do an interview a hundred years ago or even 50 years ago on the benefits of kimchi and say, “Hey, it is great for your heart and your brain and you know, your gut and all these different things, and your mitochondria,” and all these kinds of claims, it would seem like snake oil.
It would seem like, “Yeah, right. This, you know, nonsense from Korea. It can’t possibly be doing all these different things to all these different, you know, systems of the body.” But we now know, you know, especially in the last 20 years, there is research showing there is a gut-brain axis. We know that what goes on in our gut directly impacts neurotransmitters in our brain and the blood brain barrier. We know that what goes on in the gut impacts blood sugar regulation, impacts hormones, and there is a gut-mitochondria axis. It impacts inflammation and immune function. We know that it directly impacts on some of the key movers and shakers, systems of our body that control our health. So you can now put the pieces together and you see that this simple intervention of this traditional food from Korea, that once you understand that it is rich in hundreds of different species of bacteria, which you know, 100 years ago or 200 years ago, they probably had no clue about.
They just knew it was good for you. But you put all that knowledge together and now you really understand, “Wow, this is a super food.” We have all these very clear mechanisms of how it can modulate different systems of our body. And we also have the research showing that it does actually benefit, you know, these different systems of the body. It is not actually just theory anymore, but a lot of this stuff is already proven. And I would imagine over the next 10 years, many more studies will prove many more benefits. So, yeah, I think it is just a remarkable thing and I am excited that you are here to share all this wisdom with my audience. On a final note, I would love to have you just describe kind of a simple process for how to make it. And you don’t have to get too detailed here, but kind of just the general gist of how one can make this at home because there is probably a lot of people listening to this thinking, “Oh, that is probably really time consuming and complex to make this. And I don’t want to have to learn a whole new complex recipe and this weird fermentation thing and I have never done fermentation before.” So, can you just break it down really simply for people?
Dr. Susanne Bennett: Oh, absolutely. Just know this, is that it is super easy. You don’t, like I said, I make kimchi often outside. It can be anywhere. What you need are just the basics. You need a vegetable. And usually I like the crunchy kind of veggies. Cabbage works, radish works, and of course cucumber, things like that. And you brine it and brining is just, you sprinkle salt on it and that is it. And you watch the water come out. And when the water comes out and usually it is, you are just going to let it sit there for about an hour to two hours, depending on the type of vegetable. Then you make the kimchi paste. And you can make it with red pepper or not. And with the kimchi paste, you get the garlic, you get the ginger you can use, to me, you could use fish sauce. Everyone is different.
If you don’t want to do seafood, you want to be completely 100% vegan, it is super easy to do that. That is totally fine. And you cut up the actual mixture of… And you want to use also some type of fruit. I like apple or pear and I usually grate it because I like the liquid because you want a little bit of liquid. And that is the food for the bacteria. Bacteria needs to eat food, otherwise it won’t grow very well. And then, and you can add other, little types of other herbs if you want. You know, but that is pretty much basically it. And you can use a little bit of red radish and cut that up. That is your paste. So, whatever you grind, you mix it into that paste and then you put it in a jar. That is, it.
That is as easy as it is. So again, you brine for a little while, you make the paste, you mix it together with the brined veggie, and then you jar it. And it just sits there for about a day or two. At 24 hours, you taste it. And you say, “Ah, it needs a little bit more tang.” Then you let it sit out a little longer. Now it needs to sit out in just regular room temperature, you know, and you just watch it. What is wonderful is the fermentation creates a lot of bubbles. And that is kind of cool because when you eat, right? The first time you open it up and you eat your kimchi, there is like a little bubbleliness on your tongue. And it is very effervescent. It is really yummy. And you will notice that there is a lot of bubbles because it starts, sometimes it rises. The vegetable rises, but you just open it and push it back down, the veggie down below the water. And that is all you have got. Fermentation, everyone thinks, “Oh my God, it is such a big, big ordeal.” It is not, this is super, super easy and I can help you make it anytime. And Ari, I want to make sure that you make it, too.
Ari Whitten: Yeah, I am going to. Well, I was going to say, “I am going to make it.” But my wife is a chef, so I am going to have her…
Dr. Susanne Bennett: Have her make it.
Ari Whitten: I am going to have her make it. She has made it a bunch of times before. We also have a newborn baby, so she is taking care of the baby at the moment. So, I am not about to put any more demands on her.
Dr. Susanne Bennett: That makes sense. But this is…
Ari Whitten: Well, maybe I will make it then. I take it back.
Dr. Susanne Bennett: It is so easy. Try It, try it. You know, it is basically, kimchi is, by eating kimchi every day, it is really health by addition. I am not asking people to remove anything. You know, really just by adding kimchi into your life, it will make a difference. You can be Paleo. I don’t know what type of diet you like, Paleo, Mediterranean, you could be keto, vegan, whatever it is. Do what works for you. I am just asking just to add kimchi daily and that is going to make a big difference into your life and your future generations. You know, I tell a lot of my female patients who want to get pregnant, starting eating kimchi now. Because we are going to change your microbiome in your vagina and that makes a huge difference when your baby comes out and gets its first inoculation coming into this world. It already has the defenses ready to help, you know. And I think that is truly what you want to do is change the future generations because we need that. We need that to, you know, alter the direction of modern disease.
Ari Whitten: Yeah, absolutely. And I want to be clear, I actually am a huge advocate of this. I have read your book. I have also been reading the research on this for several years. We eat kimchi on a daily basis or very close to daily basis and it is a mix. Sometimes she has, in the past, she has done it at home. Lately we are doing more store-bought stuff. But I think you have just given me a kick in the butt to start making it at home again in the sense that you get even more bacterial diversity with the homemade stuff rather than the store-bought stuff. But for anybody who feels too intimidated or you just hate making stuff at home, you can also get this in health food stores. Just make sure you obviously get the raw stuff. You don’t want to get pasteurized or any of that stuff.
Finally, I highly recommend, if this topic has been interesting to you, that you go on Amazon and get Dr. Bennett’s book “The Kimchi Diet.” And it will go into many more details and you will also get lots of specific recipes for making different variations of kimchi, the kimchi juice she mentioned as well as some other good stuff in there. And, you know the details on the science and the health benefits of kimchi. Dr. Susanne, do you want to direct anybody to your site or any specific freebie or anything like that?
Dr. Susanne Bennett: Oh, gosh, yes. You know, you mentioned about the kimchi juice, but don’t you mean the liquid? If you go to the Facebook group, I have a Facebook group. Anyone, everyone is welcome who wants to learn more about kimchi. Everyone goes in there and we show our kimchi creations and there is a video there on how to make it there. And, but in the book you will, I will also give you a link on how to get there. But for your people who are interested, I have a guidebook and it is called, “The Magic of Kimchi, the Universal Super Food.” And you can get a link from us there and get… There is a first, there is the first phase recipe which is a cucumber kimchi. You get a recipe there, already on why you want to make kimchi, cucumber kimchi first.
Because it is a non-FODMAP. It has a lot to do with the FODMAPs. Because a lot of us are used to finding that if you go eat kimchi at a restaurant, let us say, it is usually Napa cabbage. But that is the last phase, the fourth phase. Because Napa cabbage can give you a little gas and bloating. So, there is a definite sequence and that is what I discovered, you know, working with so many people in my practice and in case studies and case studies, which kimchi comes first. But anyway, you know, the guidebook will give you all kinds of information.
Kimchi and histamine intolerance
Ari Whitten: You know what I just realized? There is one more quick question that I have that I forgot to ask, which is people with histamine intolerance, people who react to fermented foods, do you have any thoughts on whether… Should they just avoid kimchi, or do you have any process for introducing it to them without ill effects?
Dr. Susanne Bennett: I will tell you that many of my histamine sensitive patients have had no problems with kimchi if they start eating the cucumber kimchi. What is very interesting is that the scientific studies, because I was concerned, a lot of my patients are histamine, you know, mast cell problems and all that. And I was concerned about that. So, I did more research on that. And I wrote about it in the book. They are finding that actually kimchi, because of the ingredients in it, reduces histamine. It doesn’t trigger it. And I really believe that people who said that they have eaten kimchi and they get problems with it, is because, number one, they have had Napa cabbage and Napa cabbage is gas producing more so than let’s say cucumber or bok choy kimchi. And that Napa cabbage can be… And when you already, you have got dysbiosis going on, Ari, and you put the good stuff in, you are going to have a little bit of a war.
There is going to be a challenge there. Right? And when there is a little bit of challenge between the good bugs and the bad bugs, because in kimchi it is antimicrobial. It will kill the bad bugs. So, if you have got dysbiosis or SIBO, you are not going to feel a great deal of comfort right away. It will take a few days. That is why I always recommend one tablespoon only in the beginning. Don’t eat a lot because you are so overzealous, “I want to get, you know, change quickly.” No, this is all about little inoculation. Seeding it little by little. And if you do that, you will have a much gradual change and you will have less inflammatory, not like inflammation but less aggravation in the beginning. And then it will start to smooth out. It will smooth out. And just, you have got to be consistent. One tablespoon and maybe you are going to eat one tablespoon for one to two weeks. And then I tell my… And I have what is called the Kimchi Detox Program. I have a lot of students now all around the world, including Uganda and Croatia. Oh, my God. I love my students and they are all making the kimchi through my Kimchi Detox Program. It is an online video program that I created for easy kimchi making. But anyway…
Ari Whitten: This is part of South Korea’s colonization of the entire world. You are spreading the kimchi diet even to Africa and Europe and beyond.
Dr. Susanne Bennett: Yes. Oh, totally. In every continent because that is… You know what, I know that we are all suffering everywhere. We are, everywhere from all kinds of diseases and all the modern stuff that is affecting the heart and the blood pressure, the neurological issues to gut issues. You name it. We are all suffering from it. So, I want everyone, I want to globalize kimchi. I am going to get some kimchi apps.
Ari Whitten: Awesome. Well, Dr. Susanne, I have really enjoyed this. Thank you so much for sharing your wisdom with my audience. Again, everybody, you can get her book on Amazon. It is called “The Kimchi Diet.” And your Facebook group, I forgot the name of it. Where can people find that?
Dr. Susanne Bennett: Oh, you just go to Facebook and look up “kimchi diet.”
Ari Whitten: Perfect. Easy enough. Dr. Susanne, thank you so much and have a wonderful rest of your day.
Dr. Susanne Bennett: Thank you, Ari. Goodbye everyone. Thank you.
Raise Your Energy and Heal Your Gut With The Kimchi Diet, with Dr. Susanne Bennett – Show Notes
Why Dr. Bennett wrote the Kimchi Diet (2:17)
What is kimchi? (9:36)
The science on fermentation (19:23)
How to make kimchi at home (33:38)
Kimchi and histamine intolerance (49:03)
Follow Dr. Bennett on Facebook here