025: Can Too Much Fermented Foods Trigger Skin Rashes? w/ Summer Bock

Fermented foods have skyrocketed in popularity because they're a great source of probiotics. However, should those of us with skin rash issues be including ferments in our diet? My friend Summer Bock joins us again to discuss. 


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Summer is a leading gut health expert who coined the term “Gut Rebuilding.” She integrates her traditional studies in herbalism with modern research and a background in microbiology. After resolving her own slew of health concerns naturally by focusing on the gut bioterrain, she started teaching others how to do the same. She is certified in Integrative Nutrition through Columbia University and a three-time Good Food Award winner for her sauerkraut recipes. She is the founder of the Better Belly Project and CEO at Guts & Glory, an online business that offers live coaching and natural solutions for digestive problems.

In this episode, we talk more about fermentation, and whether fermented foods can be a trigger or problem for chronic skin rash issues.  

Do you eat fermented foods? Which ones? Tell us about it in the comments!


In this episode

  • Does it matter what type of ferment you eat?
  • What is histamine, and why can it be an issue for some people?
  • Are pickled foods fermented foods as well?
  • Do people with candida need to worry about ferments as far as yeast is concerned?
  • Supplements that help lower histamine levels or reactions
  • How to consume carbs when you have a histamine issue as well as candida



“People who are struggling with eczema, hives, even an overabundance of histamine…even some cases of candida and SIBO—these are all issues that I tell people, ‘You need to steer clear of the ferments for now.'” [2:55]

“Fermented foods are filled with histamines. Histamines are a part of our immune system. They are created by mast cells. It's also produced by bacteria.” [7:50]

“Eczema is super complex. It's one of those issues where it's not a cookie-cutter situation.” [13:37]

“Eating carbs gives your liver the glucose that it needs to break down this neurotransmitter.” [18:30]



Find Summer online here

Summer's first appearance on The Healthy Skin Show

My interview with Dr. Kara Fitzgerald about mast cell activation

Follow Summer Bock on Facebook | Instagram here and here | Pinterest

Grab Summer's 5-day Inner Spy Training by clicking here


“People who are struggling with eczema, hives, even an overabundance of histamine...even some cases of candida and SIBO—these are all issues that I tell people, 'You need to steer clear of the ferments for now.'”

025: Can Too Much Fermented Foods Trigger Skin Rashes? w/ Summer Bock FULL TRANSCRIPT

Jennifer:              Hello everybody. Welcome back to The Healthy Skin Show and today we've got a special guest back with us again and I'm really excited that she's joining us because the last time we spoke you may recall that we started to talk a little bit about, we were talking a lot about the gut, but what we didn't get to touch on, which is actually Summer's, I think one of the things that I rely on Summer heavily for cause she's more experienced in this area than me, is what do we do about fermentation as far as food and can fermented foods be a trigger or a problem for chronic skin rash issues? So if you don't remember that episode, we're going to put a link in the show notes back to our original episode. So go back and listen to that either before or after you get done with this episode.

Jennifer:              Otherwise, let's dive on in. If you don't remember, Summer Bock, she is the leading gut health expert who coined the term gut rebuilding. She integrates her traditional studies in urbalism with modern research and a background in microbiology after resolving her own slew of health concerns naturally by focusing on the gut bio terrain. She started teaching others how to do the same. She's certified in integrative nutrition through Columbia University and a three time good food award winner for her sauerkraut recipes. She's the founder of the better belly project, which I was actually a part of two times and I was very honored and the CEO at Guts and Glory an online business that offers live coaching and natural solutions for digestive problems. Summer. Thanks for joining us again.

Summer:             I'm happy to be back. I love talking to you about these topics because I feel like they're just so much to tease apart and kind of wrestle with.

Jennifer:              I know and there's only so much you can do at one time. I feel like sometimes when it's too much information, at least for me, my head's going to explode. So I love that we can break this down and just be micro super focused in this like micro way. Um, by breaking these conversations into two separate episodes. And I appreciate you coming back to talk about this because you know a ton about fermented foods. And the number one question I often get asked is, should I still eat my fermented foods or are my fermented foods a trigger and so can you talk to us like what's the deal? You know, where do you want to start this conversation? I think cause you know, how to guide us best through this information and make it make sense. So what's the deal with fermented foods if you've got these chronic skin issues?

Summer:             Well, there's really two different kinds of people when it comes to fermented foods and people who can tolerate it and people who can't. And that's usually based on whatever concerns that you're dealing with at the time.

Summer:             Right? So people who are struggling with eczema, you know, other skin issues like hives, um, even just like an over abundance of histamine, runny nose, allergies, um, even some cases of candida SIBO. I mean, these are all issues that I tell people you need to steer clear of the ferments for now.

Jennifer:              Really.

Summer:             I think there's some people who can handle it that might be in that category. But most people that I talk to, we've struggled with those health concerns. I just say back off for now, don't panic. You know people get really worried like how am I gonna get my probiotics?

Jennifer:              Right.

Summer:             And even people who deal with these issues struggle with probiotic supplements often. They can be a trigger. It can be a flare for this underlying audit. Like it's usually underlying immune stimulation issue.

Jennifer:              I agree with you. And then here's the other question, I was just asked this the other day. I was going through this woman has a ton of histamine problems. This client of mine and she questioned when I said what fermented foods are you still eating? Cause she was doing a more Weston A Price style diet and she's like well I'm doing this sauerkraut but it's the salt ferment. So she specified that it was a salt ferment. I don't make my own fermented foods, so that doesn't mean a whole lot to me. But for maybe somebody listening it will. Does it matter what type of, you know, cause people are going to go wait. But I do this type of ferment and that type of ferment, does it matter?

Summer:             Well, I mean depending on what you use, salt will affect the kinds of probiotics that grow. But in terms of histamine or eczema, things like that. In my experience, salt ferment, that doesn't make much of a difference I'm assuming. I mean adding salt to this fermented vegetable before they make it instead of, you know, just doing it salt free or adding whey to some of the vegetables and fermenting it that way. I know that's kind of the Weston Price tradition is add some whey from dairy to get the ferment started.

Jennifer:              Oh, interesting. I didn't know that. Again, I don't make my own ferments. They always scare me. But that's a topic for another day. Um, and not, not to eat them by the way guys, just to make them, I, it's like feels like a science experiment to me. But if you're making that, so this is the thing. So it sounds like if you've got these histamine driven type skin issues, that's where you want to steer clear of of these type of foods for a while. Um, and so the histamine issue, people might not fully realize that that is, you know, I got a question from my client the other day like, well, what does the histamine really means? So can you talk a little bit about what histamine is and why this can be an issue for some people?

Summer:             Off course. So, you know, I mean, I've been doing this work with people for almost 10 years and I started noticing a pattern in my practice. People were coming to me and they were eating the fermented foods. Like most people eating the fermented foods feeling better are issues around bloating and gas. And you know, digestive complaints were resolving along with like energy and other things. So they're like, they're stoked, they're really excited about the results. But then I always had this population of clients that would come in and they would get worse or have flare ups when they would introduce the fermented foods. And I myself have also dealt with that and it's a story that I rarely get to fully go into detail about. But when I started trying to figure out what was going on with me, I started taking probiotics. I felt a lot better.

Summer:             I started eating fermented foods, I felt a lot better and now I started fermenting everything. Now I take everything to the extreme. It's part of my personality. And so I was like culturing better and then like doing all this Weston A Price stuff. Like I did everything in that book probably. Um, literally everything I ate was fermented for a period of time. And then I reached this point where my histamine levels just went through the roof. And then some of my symptoms came back and some other worse symptoms like, uh, panic attacks, anxiety, heart racing, hives, skin flushing, rashes, just like uncontrollable itching. It was really uncomfortable. My eyes would water randomly, sometimes all day for weeks. Um, I noticed I would get headaches and the weirdest symptom that to me is just like so uncomfortable with my stomach would just rumble all the time. It felt like it was empty and like giant empty starving pattern, which was a rumble even when I was full.

Summer:             Um Oh and I would get tinnitus so my ears would ring. So these were all my symptoms and it sucked. It was not fun. And so then I was able to help these people coming to me because I figured out how to handle this. Cause here's what happens with fermented foods. They are filled with histamines. Now histamines are a part of your immune system. They are created by mast cells and release, sometimes even stored in mast cells, which is part of another immune cell. And they hang out there ready to, to like deal with either like a foreign invader and infection or an injury. And when your body is triggered, you know, to release the histamine, obviously we know what happens. It brings fluid to the area. It gets red, it gets swollen. You know, think about somebody who's having an allergic reaction to a bee.

Summer:             Like that's a really prime example of a heightened histamine reaction to something. Now, so histamine is found naturally in our body, part of our immune system. It's also produced by bacteria. It's one of their byproducts. So when they break down this, this compound called histidine, it's in most plants, it's in a lot of different foods. They will convert the Histidine into histamine and they can do it not just in food, like fermented foods, which is one of the highest, or you know, the highest foods that has histamines in it, but they also can do it internally. So inside your body they can convert histidine into histamine and raise your histamine levels just from having certain bacteria and certain foods and really dysbiosis. Having an imbalance of bacteria can cause this. And then there's also histamine just naturally found in food even if it's not fermented.

Summer:             So you know, there are foods out there with, avocado is a great example of a high histamine food. Bacon, a high histamine food, basically going to list all of your favorite foods, coffee, chocolate, all the foods that we love and crave. And I do believe that there's a connection between the cravings that we have for these histamine foods because histamine is a neurotransmitter that that gives us like woof, like it gives you a kick. There's an adrenaline shot associated with it because when you have a histamine reaction, you need to handle whatever's happening in that area where the histamine is released. But then you need adrenaline to come and break it down and help to let that situation like calm back down. So think about it again like a bee sting. Somebody who has a bee allergy, they carry around an EpiPen. So epinephrin, which is like the body's neck, one of the forms of adrenaline. You put that EpiPen in your leg and get that epinephrin running through your system to calm the histamine down. It contracts all the way. It does the exact opposite effect that histamine does. Histamines like expand, fill the fluid, woo. And you know, epinephrin is like shoo , you know, let's get all the blood out of here. Let's just tighten this up, clean it up, we're good. So I do believe that it's really connected then not only these foods like having a little bit of an addictive nature, but that little histamine boom that you get.

Jennifer:              I love how you've just described that. That is perfect and it's so relatable and understandable and I just want to share for anybody if you're, like we, I heard her say mass cell reaction if you want to listen more to that and you miss Dr. Kara Fitzgerald's podcast, I'll link to that and we talk more about that in depth in that podcast but Summer as far as histamine rich foods. Okay, I got another question for you. What about pickled foods? Are those fermented foods as well?

Summer:             That's a good question. So the way I categorize it, I categorize pickled foods as foods that are, you know, preserved with vinegar. That's how I think of it. And then like naturally lacto-fermented foods, they're using basically lactic acid instead of acidic acid and it's a bacterial process. So vinegar is still a ferment, it's part yeast ferment and then it's part bacterial ferment. It goes through two phases. So it, you know, pickles are still going to be high in histamine. Any pickled foods you know, that are preserved with vinegar are still gonna be high in histamine because of the vinegar.

Jennifer:              So anything that is preserved is off the table guys.

Summer:             I mean those are going to be the biggest offenders. So you'll, you know, we are talking about cured meats, we're talking about liquor, wine, beer, we're talking about cheese, yogurt, you know, any of the ferments we eat, even caulking chocolate. Like I said, they have high histamines in them as well. So, and they are fermented as well. You actually ferment the beans on both of those foods.

Jennifer:              That's true.

Jennifer:              That is very true. That's a piece that a lot of people don't realize is that those beans both have to be fermented in order for them to be usable. You don't actually eat them raw. So everybody listening to this, if you're like, yeah, but I eat raw cacao those are fermented. They're fermented directly out of the pod. I have been in Belize and watched the process myself. So yes, they are all fermented. Even the raw ones.

Summer:             And so I want to say something that's really important. It doesn't necessarily mean it's off the table forever. What you have to understand about histamine is that it's like a bucket, right? And so you have an amount of histamine that you can tolerate because you have an amount of histamine that your body can naturally break down and regulate. It's when that bucket gets too full and starts spilling over, that you start seeing some of these reactions. And I've worked with clients where eczema with one of their major symptoms and we handle the histamine piece and worked through the gut rebuilding system using the I, you know, that concept that histamine is a big trigger for them and we're able to see really great results with their eczema. I used to have eczema, my mom used to have eczema, my sister, you know, and so this is something that we all had to kind of figure out how to do.

Summer:             And for us, histamine seem to be one of the major triggers. So I still work with some people where, you know, there's other factors, right? As you know, eczema is super complex. It's just one of those issues where it's just not a cookie cutter situation.

Jennifer:              Exactly!

Summer:             People have to figure out what works well for them. But I've found this for a significant portion of people, it could be a major factor in their outbreaks and figuring out also the timing. You know how sometimes you can't tell what it's related to. You're like, well, I dunno. I mean I ate this this day and then this this day and I had a reaction, you know, and like how can we, this time when I ate it, I didn't have a reaction. So it gets really confusing to start to understand some of the food pieces. That's where histamine who come in, because maybe it was fine when your bucket was half-full, but as soon as your bucket was all the way full and then you had the avocado, bacon , hamburger, then that's the moment when it tipped it over and now you're seeing your reaction, you know?

Jennifer:              So having a burger with bacon and avocado and cheese on top would basically be on sour, some sort of sour doughy type bread would be like a disaster.

Summer:             Histamine problem.

Jennifer:              Fair enough. So, um, let me ask you this. For somebody that has chronic candida, well yes, they have yeast infections, they've had thrush, they've got fungal toe infections. Um, it shows up say in an organic acid panel that yes, they've got candida albicans in their gut. Um, and I have had clients that developed skin rashes that are candida skin rashes. Do they need to be worried as well? Cause I know we've talked about eczema and histamine and this is kind of the other piece to it. Like do you have to worry about ferments as far as a yeast issue is concerned?

Summer:             You know, I think that for me personally, I had candida for years and I finally, every time I test I don't have it anymore. Thank goodness cause it was miserable. Um, but I do think that there is a period of time for people where they may have to go without ferments to help heal the candida as well. And why? The reason why is because, you know, I view the entire gut microbiome work. This whole community of organisms, they're working together, you know, and we kind of have these germs and we have these probiotics really, and candida kind of is a germ, but it's allowed to be there in small amounts, but when it failed, it goes out of control. It's crazy, right? That's when you start seeing some of these reactions and what I have found is for some people in order to fully get rid of the candida, they kind of have to eliminate all these ferments.

Summer:             They have to get anything out that's adding more microbes than for people with histamine too. I see this as connected. When you're eating ferments, you're bringing in a lot of data. I mean your body is like, okay, look, there's all these organic acids. There's all these bacteria, all the metabolites created by bacteria. There's all these neurotransmitters created by bacteria like histamine. There's all of these like components where I'm talking about the live organisms yet that are filled in that fermented food and your body has to be like, okay, what about this, and they all trigger reactions in the body and then we add in all these organisms and then they're having a little war inside fighting off.

Jennifer:              Yeah, it sounds like a disaster

Summer:             Its alot for somebody who's dealing with candida or autoimmunity. I just find that you're just, you're basically telling the body, Hey, here's way more work to do as if you didn't have enough already. So I was trying to keep it simple. I get people on a, I like help them lower their histamine levels through their food intake, bring in anti-histamine foods and then also just like chill on the ferments and don't panic about probiotics or your microbiome. Just, you know, the main factor that I have found that influences the health of somebody's gut and their community of microbes is the quality and kind of food that they eat, and that doesn't mean fermented foods. They can eat just plain beautiful vegetables, fruits, nuts and seeds. As long as you're getting a lot of fiber and a lot of those foods, you can feed your microbiome and build it up to what it needs to be.

Jennifer:              Cool. And we have a couple minutes left. Do you have one or two suggestions on any supplements for somebody listening who may be nervous that, wow, I have the same story as you do Summer. Are there any supplements that might help lower histamine reactions or levels?

Summer:             Yeah, absolutely. So, um, vitamin B two riboflavin is a huge help. Um, I've also worked a lot with, uh, there's ProBiota Histamine X, which is a probiotic that can help lower histamine levels by seeking help. I think it's a fantastic one. Quercetin. It's a very popular kind of anti-histamine help. Um, and then I also recommend eating more carbs. So I think this is where those that are on the Keto diet and folks that are, you know, on that like, Keto is so popular right now. I have just found that eating carbs, it gives your body that gives your liver the glucose that it means to break down with neural transmitter. Um, and it never surprised me why when I was trying to heal from this, I would crave cupcakes, you know, or anything sweet. Cupcakes are my favorite, right? And so I would crave a cupcake and I'd be like, no, no, no.

Summer:             For days I'd be like, no, no, no. And then one day I'd just be like, you know, all like histamine up. Just like all the symptoms. I'd eat a freaking cupcake, go to sleep, wake up. The next day, all the symptoms were gone. And I learned later it was because I was low carb. I wasn't getting that sugar for my liver to do the work that needed to do to break down the histamine. So if somebody is dealing with candida and histamine, how do they bring in the right carbs? My super secret, like Ninja tip for this is you eat your carbs, like, you know, make sure you're paying attention where a blood sugar monitor. Like I wear one, I've been studying with this one, it's called the [inaudible]. Make sure your blood sugar doesn't get like above 110 or 120 and take a walk every time you eat carbs.

Summer:             Take a walk for 30 minutes after that meal, maybe 45 minutes, keep your blood sugar down with that walk. And that will prevent these organisms from taking hold and growing rampantly with a blood sugar spike. Right? It'll, it'll help maintain that. And then you're still getting the carbs for your own body to fuel the organs in this breakdown. So those are, those are my main tips. I have a ton more. I wish I could just let it keep going with you guys.

Jennifer:              I know.

Summer:             But that's a really, really good start for folks. And one other thing, histamine jacks you up so you have to stay calm. So I do recommend also magnesium glycinate. I usually tell people take the 120 milligrams four times a day. So spread it out. And then also for people who are a little bit more on the anxious side, Calm CP by Neurosciences is a great product, that has [inaudible] and it breaks down cortisol. And when you break down cortisol, it's easier to break down histamine. So the stressed out individual tends to have more histamine issues, um, when they're having moments of stress than not.

Jennifer:              Cool. And I know too that you've got some cool stuff that we want to share with everybody. If you're listening, Summer has this fantastic five day inner spy training that she would love to give you if you guys haven't grabbed that yet. Summer, where can they get that?

Summer:             At Summerbock,com/NSS for natural skin show and yeah, I just want people to be able to self diagnose, you know, look at, look at your skin. I mean honestly you're going to look at your pooh, you're going to just try to figure out how are you functioning on a day to day basis. And people aren't, most of us are ignoring these signs and you have an opportunity to see feedback, bio feedback every day to make sure you're on the right track.

Jennifer:              Exactly. And so for anybody who's driving or not in front of the computer, we're going to put a link to that lovely training, which I would highly encourage you to go get Summer's got some amazing stuff. Every single thing that I've ever done with her or gotten the chance to experience has been absolutely fantastic. And I've also learned a ton from Summer. So I hope that you'll consider grabbing that free training, her five day inner spy training. I'll put a link in the show notes to you to that for you. And I also know one more quick thing. Summer, you've got some like interesting program and it might not be right for everybody, but I wanted to share cause it, it sounds like it might be helpful for some people.

Summer:             Yeah. I have a program called Allergy Antidote and we delve deep into histamine intolerance as it's called. Um, and I just share many more tips and tricks that I've learned, various diets to try to help cleanse the body and get the histamine levels lowered. I mean I've had really good success when I felt for my clients with this work. So I'm happy to share it.

Jennifer:              Great. And we'll put a link to that right in the show notes as well so that way it's really easy for everybody to find it. So come on over to skinterrupt.com/listen. You'll see the episode there and you can easily find the show notes for this episode. Summer, thank you so much for joining us and giving us so much of your time. I really appreciate it.

Summer:             I'm glad to be here. I know what it's like. I mean, like I said, I've suffered from eczema and many skin issues through my life and I just, now I know how important this information is, it's so needed.

Jennifer:              And it's life changing because when you've suffered with rashes, I personally think rashes are living in hell. That's my personal experience and anything that we can do to help any one of you listening to resolve these chronic issues. I dunno. I feel like that's like you're able to bring more joy and happiness into somebody's life when they're able to just not deal with that. You know, when their skin is not their number one thing that you think about and deal with every moment of the day. So, um, we're really happy and honored to be here with you guys and help you sort through this. Thank you Summer so much for joining us.

Summer:             Happy to be here.

Jennifer Fugo, MS, CNS

Jennifer Fugo, MS, CNS is an integrative Clinical Nutritionist and the founder of Skinterrupt. She works with women who are fed up with chronic gut and skin rash issues discover the root causes and create a plan to get them back to a fuller, richer life.

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