Fermented Pickles Benefit the Gut, Skin, Brain & More - Dr. Axe

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Fermented Pickles Benefit the Gut, Skin, Brain & More


Fermented pickles - Dr. Axe

Pickles are easy to make using just a few ingredients, but the way you make them indicates the type of pickle you will get. Fermented pickles in particular can be a great fermented food choice.

While we know that the combination of acid, spices and, in some cases, sugar creates the cucumber-based food called the pickle, choosing what type of pickle you want to make is your first step. Fermented pickles, or lacto fermented pickles, require a curing process that usually takes a few days to a few weeks. This is the time when fermentation takes place, creating a good bacteria commonly sought after for the probiotics it contains. 

Now, the fresh-pack style may be used to produce whole cucumber dill pickles, cucumber slices and bread-and-butter pickles that you pick up at the grocery store, but these type of pickles don’t have the same probiotic benefits without the fermentation process. That’s why fermented pickles are perhaps the best pickle option out there. Let’s see exactly what benefits fermented pickles provide.

Benefits of Fermented Pickles

  1. Aid Weight Loss
  2. Support the Central Nervous System
  3. Benefits Skin
  4. May Help Reduce the Risk of Parkinson’s
  5. May Help Prevent Colorectal Cancer
  6. Treat Candida Symptoms
  7. Can Help Reduce Anxiety and Depression

1. Aid Weight Loss

According to a 2014 study published in the British Journal of Nutrition, good bacteria in the gut may help with weight loss, and since fermented pickles are potent probiotic foods, they can aid weight loss as well.

In a double-blind, placebo-controlled, randomized trial, researchers examined the effects of probiotic supplementation on weight maintenance and weight loss in obese women and men for 24 weeks. What they found is that over the course of the 24 weeks, the beneficial probiotic group was able to maintain a healthy weight, in particular women. In fact, researchers concluded: “The present study shows that the Lactobacillus rhamnosus CGMCC1.3724 formulation helps obese women to achieve sustainable weight loss.” (1)

2. Support the Central Nervous System

The microbiome, a blend of symbiotic bacteria in the intestines, needs to maintain a healthy state to be effective. To do that, it needs to the right probiotics. This helps maintain a strong digestive system. When the gut is healthy, the body receives the right signals from the brain.

To get specific, research shows that the gut microbiome greatly affects neurodevelopment, such as the formation of the “blood-brain barrier, myelination, neurogenesis, and microglia maturation,” which directly affects behavior. It makes sense that feeding the body with good bacteria may contribute to the development and function of the nervous system — therefore contributing to mental health. (2)

3. Benefit Skin

Our skin contains quite an environment for microorganisms, giving way to the need for good skin health. Cleansing the skin properly is definitely important, but providing the proper environment for the skin to be at its best is important too. Part of that good health comes from probiotics.

While they can be applied topically, the probiotics that you consume affect skin health too. For instance, according to research published in the journal Beneficial Microbes: (3)

Probiotics as well as resident bacteria can produce antimicrobial peptides that benefit cutaneous immune responses and eliminate pathogens. Nutritional products containing prebiotics and/or probiotics have a positive effect on skin by modulating the immune system and by providing therapeutic benefits for atopic diseases.

Since fermented pickles offer a good bit of probiotics, this makes them a good choice as part of a healthy skin regimen.

4. May Help Reduce the Risk of Parkinson’s

Researchers have known for a long time that there is an association between a healthy gut and Parkinson’s disease. A 2017 study has given even more reason to ensure a healthy gut. The study, conducted at the University of Alabama, focused on 197 patients who had Parkinson’s and compared the results to 130 healthy control subjects. The findings showed that the Parkinson’s disease subjects had way more gut bacteria that was disrupting the normal microbiome than that of the control group. What’s even more important is that the species that helps remove toxic chemicals from the body was very low. So basically, they had very little protection. (4)

Additionally, a healthy gut helps provide important neurotansmitters, such as dopamine and serotonin, but if this is low, it can increase the risk of Parkinson’s. This can cause the deterioration of motor movement and coordination. (5)

5. May Help Prevent Colorectal Cancer

Colorectal cancer is the second leading cause of cancer-related mortality in the U.S. Studies are being conducted to help understand the role of probiotics and cancer. Using in vitro and animal models, strains have been reviewed to better understand their role in the gut flora. According to these studies, it appears consuming a healthy diet rich in probiotics has potential to help prevent colorectal cancer. This is good news in terms of preventive methods for the possible prevention of cancer. Though more studies are needed, particularly in human trials, this is positive news and evidence that a healthy gut flora may offer preventative measures for cancer prevention. (6, 7, 8)

6. Treat Candida Symptoms

Probiotics found in fermented pickles may help reduce candida symptoms. A study from the Military Medical Academy’s Department of Gynecology in Bulgaria focused on therapy for vaginal C. albicans infections using a probiotic treatment. The study conducted include 436 women who had vaginal candida. Of those women, a group of 207 was given specific bacteria, along with a second group of 209. After five days, 10 women were administered a vaginal probiotic. Complaints decreased in the 10 women, and results indicate that this treatment may prevent relapse as well. (9)

7. Can Help Reduce Anxiety and Depression

Studies indicate that healthy probiotics found in fermented foods can help reduce anxiety and depression.

For instance, research out of the University College Cork’s Alimentary Pharmabiotic Centre in Ireland notes that: (10)

Recent studies published in this Journal and elsewhere demonstrate that there is a distinct perturbation of the composition of gut microbiota in animal models of depression and chronic stress. This has direct implications for the development of psychobiotic-based therapeutic strategies for psychiatric disorders.

Furthermore, research published in the journal Psychiatry Research looked a previous studies and self-reported measures of young adults on fermented food consumptions, neuroticism and social anxiety. Researchers concluded after examining all the results that “taken together with previous studies, the results suggest that fermented foods that contain probiotics may have a protective effect against social anxiety symptoms for those at higher genetic risk, as indexed by trait neuroticism.” (11)

They do note that additional research is needed, but this is positive news on the potential for fermented foods like fermented pickles to help reduce social anxiety.


Fermented pickles - Dr. Axe


Types of Fermented Pickles

Generally, pickles are either fermented, brined or lacto fermented, which is pretty much the same thing, or they are known as fresh-pack or quick-process pickles. Let’s define the difference. Fermentation is a pickling method where the acidity comes from lactic acid fermentation. What happens is the starches and sugars in the food you’re fermenting, in this case cucumbers, are converted into lactic acid by the bacteria lactobacilli. It is this lactic acid process that gives fermented foods the distinctive sour smell and taste and puts them in the category as a probiotic superfood.

There are a few different types of pickles, all of which can be made as fermented pickles, but what you make is determined by the salt, spices and how long they are fermented. Here are some of the most common fermented pickle varieties:

  • Standard sour, full sour, kosher dill — Typically fully fermented, have no crispness, a dark green color
  • Half sour pickles — Ferment in the brine for a shorter time period, maintain crispness and the bright green color
  • French-style cornichons — Small pickles also known as gherkins containing tarragon as a key ingredient
  • Polish pickles — Lots of spices, including garlic, pepper and mustard seeds
  • Bread and butter pickles — Sugar is added for a touch of sweetness
  • Pickle relish — Finely chopped pickled cucumbers commonly eaten with hot dogs or hamburgers

Fermented Pickles Nutrition

A cup of chopped or diced fermented pickles (155 grams) contains approximately: (12)

  • 17.1 calories
  • 3.5 grams carbohydrates
  • 0.5 gram protein
  • 0.3 gram fat
  • 1.9 grams fiber
  • 72.8 micrograms vitamin K (91 percent DV)
  • 0.1 milligram copper (7 percent DV)
  • 296 international units vitamin A (6 percent DV)
  • 1.6 milligrams vitamin C (3 percent DV)
  • 0.6 milligram iron (3 percent DV)

In addition, fermented pickles contain some vitamin E, pantothenic acid, magnesium, phosphorus and potassium. Also, something to be aware of is that many pickle varieties are high-sodium foods, which is something you want to limit.

Where to Find and How to Use Fermented Pickles + Fermented Pickles Recipes

You may be wondering, are store-bought pickles fermented? You can find fermented pickles at most grocery stores as there are many fermented pickles brands available, but pay attention to what you are purchasing. You want to look in a cooler section. Also, look at the ingredients. Since a brine is formed with water and salt, not vinegar, keep this in mind. It is the brine that helps form the natural probiotics that a fermented pickle offers.

How you use the pickle is wide open: Alongside a sandwich, as a complement to any dish or simply as snack works for this versatile treat. 

Fermented Pickles Recipes

There are many ways to incorporate fermented pickles into your diet. This recipe is for one 16-ounce jar. For more, double or triple the recipe, but keep in mind that the shelf life is shorter since there aren’t any preservatives added.


  • 7–8 small, unwaxed cucumbers(3–4 inches long) — pickling or “Kirby” cucumbers are usually the perfect size
  • 6–8 sprigs of fresh dill
  • 1.5 cups filtered water
  • 1.75 tablespoons sea salt  
  • 2–3 cloves of peeled garlic, cut in half, then smashed with a knife
  • 1 teaspoon mustard seeds
  • 1 teaspoon dried celery leaves or 10–25 celery seeds
  • 3/4 teaspoon peppercorns


  1. To start,  combine the salt and water. Allow it to sit until the salt dissolves.
  2. Thoroughly wash the cucumbers. You may leave them whole, cut the tips off on both ends, cut them in half or chop into quarters like spears.
  3. In the jar, put half the sprigs of dill, garlic cloves, mustard seeds, dried celery and peppercorns. Tightly pack the cucumbers into the jar, then top them off with the rest of the dill.
  4. So the cucumbers stay below the brine, cut one cucumber in half and place the pieces horizontally at the top.
  5. Now, pour the salt water into the jar, completely covering the cucumbers.
  6. Place the lid on the jar, but do not seal it.
  7. Place the jar on a countertop and watch the magic happen. When you see bubbles rising to the top of the jar, it is doing its job of fermenting! It is normal to see a layer of white scum form on top. Not to worry — you can skim it off with a spoon before you seal it.
  8. The time required is usually anywhere from 4–10 days. You can taste the pickles throughout the process to see if the texture and flavor is where you want it to be. Once you are happy with your work, tighten the lid and refrigerate.
  9. Since there are no preservatives, the shelf life is about 7–8 days.

Here are a few more fermented pickles recipes to try:

History of Fermented Pickles

It seems that there is quite a story behind fermented pickles. Cleopatra kept her beauty secret in a jar of pickles, and the Bible and Shakespeare make mention of the pickle here and there.

In fact, pickles have been around as far back as 2030 B.C. The word pickle originated from the Dutch pekel and the German pókel, which is salt or brine. Pickling has been considered one of the best ways to preserve food, providing satiation for sailors, travelers and families in cold months.

The kosher dill was a staple for Jewish people in Ukraine, Poland, Lithuania and Russia, especially since it offered exciting flavor to the normal bland meal of bread and potatoes. The kosher dill entered America when European Jewish people arrived in New York. (13)

Precautions/ Side Effects

It’s hard to think that pickles would have a side effect, but too much of a good thing usually does. Too much pickle eating or drinking of the juice could cause flatulence, bloating and discomfort. Additionally, many pickles contain a lot of salt, which can lead to high sodium levels if consumed too often.

Final Thoughts

  • Fermented pickles, or lacto fermented pickles, require a curing process that usually takes a few days to a few weeks. This is the time when fermentation takes place, creating a good bacteria commonly sought after for the probiotics it contains.
  • Fermented pickles can aid weight loss, support the central nervous system, benefit the skin, potentially help reduce the risk of Parkinson’s disease, help prevent colorectal cancer, treat candida symptoms, and help reduce anxiety and depression.
  • Fermented pickles are a great way to get probiotics, which can aid in a healthy digestive system and prevent disease. Like all foods, moderation is key, but consider putting them in your diet once or twice a week as a way to have a healthy gut. Just remember to either make your own or keep an eye on the label if you purchase in the grocery store to ensure you are getting the right product.

Read Next: 5 Health Benefits of Sauerkraut, Plus How to Make Your Own!

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