5 Foods that Every Female Athlete Should be Eat: Part 2 – Fermented Foods

I am a big fan of making food as “functional” as possible. It doesn’t just fill a space on your plate, but it is being eaten for a specific purpose. It is the reason why we eat real food, not just calorie shakes. If you didn’t catch last weeks post, you don’t want to miss out. Go here…

Before we can talk about fermented foods I need to tell you what LPS is.

It stands for Lipopolysaccharide. Yes, I know, that’s why we just call it LPS.

But what really is LPS?

LPS is an endotoxin.

A what!?

Basically, a toxin that is produced by less helpful bacteria in your gut. In someone who has a “leaky gut” or what is more scientifically known as “intestinal permeability”, this toxin can pass through into the blood stream and increase internal toxicity and wreak havoc will a whole bunch of stuff (endotoxemia)

Symptoms of what endotoxemia include:


  • Fever
  • Headaches
  • Nausea
  • Dizziness
  • Loss of appetite
  • Abdominal pain, gas, bloating
  • Foggy brain
  • Lethargy
  • Depression
  • Increased pulse rate
  • Fainting
  • Drop in blood pressure
  • Collapse



Now I bet you are thinking, this is only for sick people right?


Studies have shown that in those who exercise at high intensity (greater than 80% VO2max) or long duration, display an increase in LPS in their blood stream. This is likely to be attributed to the effect of exercise on intestinal membrane permeability (leaky gut). The mechanisms by which exercise affects our gut health is still under review, however it is suspected to be related to a reduced blood flow to the GI tract during exercise in favour of blood flow to the periphery to promote cooling, this may cause a rise in core body temperature. Additionally there may be some mechanical aggravation due to impact (think jolting up and down when you are running or doing box jumps), particularly when there is some food in the stomach.

It is likely that the more intense someone trains, the more often they train and the longer they train, they will be more susceptible to this damage. Overall, this could contribute to poor recovery, tissue and mitochondrial damage, and increased insulin resistance.

It is very often suggested that overtraining can cause a plateau in weight loss/performance. This is typically attributed to cortisol and adrenal imbalances. Could it also be attributed to insulin resistance, inflammation and mitochondrial damage due to a leaky gut and endotoxemia? Yes, it is possible.

The good news is that a recent study showed a significant improvement in LPS levels in athletes who supplemented with a probiotic. All this aside, there is an abundance of research available to show how probiotics can reduce inflammation and improve metabolic signalling.

One of the misconceptions about probiotics is that you take them and then they “live” in your gut and “grow”. Probiotics are transient. What they do is take up the “parking bays”, to stop less helpful bacteria overdeveloping until your own natural gut flora are ready use that space.

fermented foods

Fermented foods work in the same way.

When we look at fermented foods there is an abundance of choice:

  • Live yoghurt (if homemade then even better!)
  • Kefir (fermented water, dairy, coconut or goats using specific grains)
  • Kimchee (Korean fermented cabbage dish)
  • Sauerkraut (traditionally fermented cabbage but any vegetables can be fermented)
  • Kombucha (fermented cold tea drink – think slightly fizzy iced tea)

Any of these will do, take your pick!

Personally I like sauerkraut because it has a natural acidic flavour which means it can be added to salads as an alternative to vinaigrette. It also acts like a relish to make meat a bit more exciting. Sauerkraut and sausages. Sauerkraut and bacon. Sauerkraut and steak. You get the idea :)

sauerkraut gut health

You can make it yourself, but if you are a little lazy like me, I order mine from here.

I recommend a little every day.

If you want to double up, you could try some fermented beetroot. Find out why in part 3…


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