How to Make Lacto Fermented Electrolyte Drinks
Lacto Fermented electrolyte drinks…. brings to mind hot days, lots of sunshine and a bit of sweat right? Well that is just what they are intended for.
If your mother is anything like mine, then you were cowed into drinking your 8 glasses of water per day – preferable before meals. However, did you know that drinking too much plain water can actually be detrimental? Well I sure didn’t, but it appears that drinking lots of pure water, especially after exercise or sun exposure is not ideal.
What Electrolytes Are
Electrolytes are actually ionized salts or minerals which can conduct electrical impulses within the body. These include sodium chloride, potassium, calcium, sodium bicarbonate and magnesium.
The Importance of Electrolytes
Electrolytes play a vital role in the body and support a myriad of basic human functions. They are particularly important for a category of functions which are termed ‘bioelectrical’. These include moving, heart-beating, thinking, and seeing. If you are low on electrolytes then you might experience some of the following symptoms.
Symptoms of Electrolytes Imbalances
- Other blood pressure swings
- Irregular heartbeat
- Muscle twitches
- Nervous system disorders
Under normal circumstances most of us who are enjoying reasonably good health, probably have generally balanced levels of electrolytes present within our bodies. Things like excessive sweating due to sun exposure or hard exercise, diarrhea, vomiting, and fever can cause the body to lose electrolytes.
With regards to excessive sweating in the heat or during exercise, we usually tend to try and top up our fluid levels. However the medical experts (1, 2, 3) claim that this can cause one to actually lose even more electrolytes via the urine! That is why, if you are engaged in some serious physical activity, or simple sweating it out in high temps, then having a source of electrolytes is wise.
Why C0mmercial Electrolytes Are Not Always a Good Idea
The flip side to electrolytes is that while you do not want to become depleted, science has shown (4, 5,) that having too many is also not a good thing. An overdose of electrolytes can lead to as many ailments as a deficiency! While a diet consisting of whole foods will not easily give anyone a case of electrolyte overdose, commercial electrolyte mixes can.
Because it is easy to overdo it when using brandname electrolyte compounds and drinks, turning to a DIY natural alternative is a safer option.
Making Your Own Electrolyte Drinks
Making your own electrolyte drinks might seem daunting in the extreme, especially when one tries to think of where to get ionized salts and minerals! In reality however it is actually the easiest thing.
First Add Salt
The first component, a source of sodium can be easily found in pure sea salt. One can’t use iodized salt with running agents, but natural salt which has not been tampered with will work perfectly as a sodium source. If you are using Himalaya rock salt, then this will also be a source of potassium.
Select a Base
Besides some pure sea salt or Himalaya rock salt, you will need a base. Plain water can work fine, but not many of us feel like drinking salt water. Also, for a really good electrolyte, you will want a few more minerals present and ideally a small amount of sweetness for blood sugar
Why Lacto Ferments Makes the Perfect Base For Electrolyte Drinks
Thanks to the process of fermentation, lacto ferments make for a really great base for your electrolyte recipe. The reason for this is that they automatically contain varying amounts of minerals. As well as vitamins, usually some sugar or other sweetening, and probiotic benefits to boot.
If you are already making lacto ferments such as kombucha, water kefir, ginger beer or root beer, then all you really need to do i combine them in the right quantities with your pure salt.
If you are not making these kinds of lacto ferments, but are making yoghurt, milk kefir or sourdough bread, you can still utilise these cultures to create yourself a lacto fermented beverage which you can turn into a source of electrolytes.
5 Ways to Make Lacto Fermented Electrolyte Drinks
# 1 Using an Already Made Lacto Ferment
This is probably the easiest method, as it really couldn’t get simpler. All you need to do is add your pure salt to the finished ferment, in the ratio of 3/4 teaspoon salt to 1 gallon water.
Here are the types of ferments which are well suited for this:
- Water kefir
- Jun tea
- Ginger beer
- Root beer
# 2 Using Whey as a Starter
If you are not making any of the above ferments, but are making yoghurt, milk kefir, or natural cheese, one can also use whey as a starter. Even is you are not making any of these, but have a source of live yoghurt, you can harvest the whey off of the top and use that.
How Much Whey to Use
About 1/2 cup whey to 1 gallon of liquid.
The process is very simple, and you can tweak it any way you want to suit your tastes. All you need to do is add the whey to a beverage of your choice and allow it to ferment in a sealed glass container at room temperature. To avoid excess pressure build up, crack the lid of the jar once a day. Once the ferment is ready, add you salt refrigerate and enjoy!
As far as fermentation time goes this will depend largely on what the temperature is. A normal time would be between 3 -7 days, but very hot weather could cause you to stop it early before the brew will become overly tart. Low temperatures might mean that to get the level of fermentation which you want you will need to leave it for up to two weeks.
Here are some examples of what bases you can use:
- Fruit juice (can be delicious)
- Sweetened tea
- Water sweetened with some sugar
- Coconut water
Just remember that the probiotic microbes which will carry out the process of fermentation need a source of sugar on which to feed.
# 3 Using Brine from Cultured Vegetables
Besides whey, you can also some brine from cultured vegetables to kickstart the fermentation of your electrolyte drink. This is not always the ideal option, as the brine can carry some heavy flavors. For example, the brine from fermented onions or garlics might not be suited to fermenting a nice big jar of watermelon juice!
If however you have a mild tasting vegetable ferment, particularly a sweet one such a carrots or beetroot, then the flavor might be compatible.
How Much Brine to Use
About 1/2 cup brine to 1 gallon of liquid.
Once again, all you need to do is add a small amount of your starter liquid from the fermented vegetable brine to a beverage of your choice, fruit juice, tea etc, and allow it to ferment in a sealed glass container at room temperature. To avoid excess pressure build up, crack the lid of the jar once a day. Once the ferment is done, add salt, refrigerate and enjoy!
As mentioned in the previous method, fermentation time will depend on temperature, but should fall within 3-7 days. You can always sample it carefully along the way to gauge how far the ferment is. The longer you leave it the sourer it will get, with usually more carbonation.
# 4 Using Sourdough Starter
If you do not have any of the above ferments on the go – you can even use some sourdough starter to get things going.
How Much Sourdough Starter to Use
Pingpong ball sized to 1 gallon
Pinch off a piece of the sourdough starter culture. drop it into the beverage which you wish to ferment, and it should sink to the bottom. Along to ferment in a sealed glass container for 3 – 7 days at room temperature. Once done, add in pure salt and refrigerate.
As mentioned in the previous method, fermentation time will depend on temperature, but should fall within 3-7 days. You can always sample it carefully along the way to gauge how far the ferment is. The longer you leave it for the more tart it will get, usually with higher levels of carbonation.
# 5 Using Apple Cider Vinegar Instead of a Homemade Lacto Ferment
Lastly, if you are doing none of the above ferments, there is still yet another hack you can apply. And that is to use, raw unpasteurized apple cider vinegar. Because apple cider vinegar is made by a process of lacto fermentation, it is the perfect ready-to-go ingredient for a lacto electrolyte drink.
Combine 1 gallon of water with 2/3 teaspoon salt, 5 tablespoons of raw apple cider vinegar, 3 – 4 tablespoons honey or other sweetener of your choice. Mix together, refrigerate and enjoy! If you want to make a fruit juice version, simply omit the honey, and replace the water with fruit juice.
While water has been advocated as the holiest drink with regards to health, it might not always be the best choice. It turns out that if you are exercising or exposed to hot weather, you could be losing valuable salts and minerals through your sweat. According to science, drinking lots of pure water to make up for what is lost through sweat may just cause a further leaching of the body’s electrolytes!
Whether you are a mom with little ones running around in the sun all weekend, an avid gardener who regularly sweats cups, or a hard hitting gym fiend – or even all three! – then making your own lacto electrolyte drink might be an invaluable wellbeing hack.