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Vinegar and Fermentation

What does Ellen White and Science Say about fermented foods?

Fermentation & Vinegar

This article includes all seven of the quotes on fermentation and the three quotes on vinegar found in Sprit of Prophecy. I have added some information from scientific sources as well as clarify some points using information from my college studies as a nutritional counsellor.  Quotes, as always, are in quotations.

Fermentation was a symbol of sin: "Christ is still at the table on which the paschal supper has been spread. The unleavened cakes used at the Passover season are before Him. The Passover wine, untouched by fermentation, is on the table. These emblems Christ employs to represent His own unblemished sacrifice. Nothing corrupted by fermentation, the symbol of sin and death, could represent the 'Lamb without blemish and without spot.'" 1 Peter 1:19.  {DA 653.2}  Wine, yeast (leaven), or any fermented foods were not permitted during Passover because of the symbolism.  There is no Biblical evidence to suggest it is a health law.  Alcohol does have Biblical evidence for avoidance.

"In addition, ideas in this lesson are also related to concepts found in the following Alcohol Learning Goals:
    Alcohol decreases the activity of the nervous system.
    The blood carries the alcohol throughout the body.
    The main route of metabolism of alcohol is its oxidation in the cells of the liver.
    Alcohol may have both positive and negative effects on the cardiovascular system."
AAAS ScienceNetLinks, "Alcohol's Effects on Organs" Sourced on 2015-07-08 from

Don't eat anything that will cause fermentation in your body: "I consider that one reason why I have been able to do so much work both in speaking and in writing, is because I am strictly temperate in my eating. If several varieties of food are placed before me, I endeavor to choose only those that I know will agree. Thus I am enabled to preserve clear mental faculties. I refuse to place in my stomach knowingly anything that will set up fermentation. This is the duty of all health reformers. We must reason from cause to effect. It is our duty to be temperate in all things."  {CD 493.3}
"Fermentation is a process used to produce wine, beer, yogurt and other products. Here's a look at the chemical process that occurs during fermentation. Fermentation is a metabolic process in which an organism converts a carbohydrate, such as starch or a sugar, into an alcohol or an acid. For example, yeast perform fermentation to obtain energy by converting sugar into alcohol. Bacteria perform fermentation, converting carbohydrates into lactic acid." Food and beverages that use fermentation: wine, yogurt, cheese, bread leavened by yeast or sour dough bread, sauerkraut, kimchi, and others.  Salted foods such as Kosher pickles also use fermentation.  You don't need vinegar to ferment foods.
Thus it is the alcohol production we are to avoid as far as what it does to the blood and brain.  However, some alcohols are good and not 'strong drink'.  Our body produces ethanol in digestion and it is also found in the liver. BUT like bacteria NOT all alcohol is created equal and like other chemicals it's one thing for the body to create it naturally when it is needed and another thing to consume it or create an environment for the body to overdo it.


What causes fermentation in the body

Improperly prepared deserts: "Let health reformers remember that they may do harm by publishing recipes which do not recommend health reform. Great care is to be shown in furnishing recipes for custards and pastry. If for dessert sweet cake is eaten with milk or cream, fermentation will be created in the stomach, and then the weak points of the human organism will tell the story. The brain will be affected by the disturbance in the stomach. This may be easily cured if people will study from cause to effect, cutting out of their diet that which injures the digestive organs and causes pain in the head. By unwise eating, men and women are unfitted for the work they might do without injury to themselves if they would eat simply."  {CD 334.5}

Eating too much or too much variety: "At bountiful tables men often eat much more than can be easily digested. The overburdened stomach cannot do its work properly. The result is a disagreeable feeling of dullness in the brain, and the mind does not act quickly. Disturbance is created by improper combinations of food; fermentation sets in; the blood is contaminated and the brain confused."  {7T 257.2}   "So many varieties are introduced into the stomach that fermentation is the result. This condition brings on acute disease, and death frequently follows."  {CD 110.3}
Oil and vinegar salad dressing can cause fermentation: "The salads are prepared with oil and vinegar, fermentation takes place in the stomach, and the food does not digest, but decays or putrefies; as a consequence, the blood is not nourished, but becomes filled with impurities, and liver and kidney difficulties appear."  {CD 345.6} 

Too much sugar: "Sugar is not good for the stomach. It causes fermentation, and this clouds the brain and brings peevishness into the disposition."  {CD 327.1}  Ellen White did use some sugar. 


Vinegar, Cheese, and other fermented foods in context of Ellen White's day.

"Among the items regularly counterfeited or adulterated were drinks (beer, tea, coffee, spirits, and wine), bread, cheese, pickled foods, and sweet treats. In fact, by the early 1800s, the practice of adulteration had become so common, nineteenth century people developed a taste for fraudulent substances in their food and drink and often did not realize anything was wrong with what they were ingesting until it was too late."

"Spurious items were regularly added to bread. Sometimes chalk or bone meal were used, but alum (aluminum potassium phosphate) was the preferred item for adulteration because it improved the firmness and the look of bread. Additionally, "to produce the degree of whiteness rendered indispensable by the caprice of the consumers in London, it [was] necessary...that the dough should be bleached; and no substance [for]...this purpose [was] better than alum." At the time, London bakers added "about 1½ ounces of alum per 4 lb loaf," and with the amount of bread Londoners ate daily, it quickly added up to the maximum daily intake that an adult should consume. Unfortunately, many children in London and Southern England primarily subsisted on adulterated bread and that is why many children experienced debilitating diseases, such as rickets, "hypophosphataemia [abnormally low levels of phosphate in the blood], hypercalciuria [excessive urinary calcium excretion] with calcium resorption from bone,...general malaise, debility, anorexia, and muscle weakness."

"Cheese was another food adulterated. Accum maintained that Gloucester cheese was contaminated with red lead buried in annotto, a carotenoid-based yellow to orange food coloring. This adulteration to "Gloucester cheese began as early as the sixteenth century because supposedly the more orange the hue, the better the quality of the cheese. However, once the cheese was adulterated with red lead, people reported "distressing...indiscribable [sic] pain in the region of the abdomen and of the stomach, accompanied with a feeling of tension, which occasioned much restlessness, anxiety, and repugnance to food." In one case, a kitten was feed some adulterated Gloucester cheese and it became "violently sick." An investigation was undertaken to discover the source of the adulteration and it was soon traced to the farmer who manufactured the cheese: "He declared that he had bought the anotto [sic] of a mercantile traveller [sic], who...supplied him and his neighbours for years...On subsequent inquiries, through a circuitous was found that as the supplies of anotto [sic] had been defective and of inferior quality." In fact, a chemist found it expedient to color the commodity with vermilion and the vermilion had been mixed with red lead."

"Pickled vegetables did not escape adulteration either. French beans, samphires, and cucumbers, which were often green in color, could obtain an even finer and livelier green color if "intentionally coloured by means of copper." Fatal consequences were often the result of using copper to achieve a green coloring. For instance, one young lady who consumed a copper-adulterated samphire pickle "soon complained of pain in the stomach; and, in five days, vomiting commenced, which was incessant for two days. After this her stomach became prodigiously distended, and in nine days after eating the pickle, death relieved her from her suffering." Part of the problem was cookbooks often provided recipes advising cooks to impart a brilliant green color in the pickled foods by boiling them with a halfpence and then allow them to stand for twenty-four hours in copper or brass pans. Sometimes they suggested boiling vinegar in a copper pot and then pouring the mixture over the pickes. However, copper was not the only problem with pickled foods, as even vinegar was adulterated. Accum found it was particularly difficult to detect adulteration in vinegar but noted that in many cases sulphuric acid was added to vinegar 'to give it more acidity.'"
Source: History of the 18th and 19th Centuries, Wednesday, August 20, 2014 "Food and Drink Adulteration in the 1700 and 1800s"
Accum, Friedrich Christian A., A Treatise on Adulterations of Food, and Culinary Poisons, 1820, on Google Books
Dunningan, M., "Commentary: John Snow and alum-induced rickets from adulterated London bread: an overlooked contribution to metabolic bone disease," on the Internal Journal of Epidemiologyaccessed 7-5-2014
Herbert, Thomas, The Law on Adulteration, 1884, on Google Books 


Vinegar Quotes

"When the darkness lifted from the oppressed spirit of Christ, He revived to a sense of physical suffering, and said, "I thirst." One of the Roman soldiers, touched with pity as he looked at the parched lips, took a sponge on a stalk of hyssop, and dipping it in a vessel of vinegar, offered it to Jesus. But the priests mocked at His agony. When darkness covered the earth, they had been filled with fear; as their terror abated, the dread returned that Jesus would yet escape them. His words, "Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani?" they had misinterpreted. With bitter contempt and scorn they said, "This man calleth for Elias." The last opportunity to relieve His sufferings they refused. "Let be," they said, "let us see whether Elias will come to save Him."  {DA 754.4}

"The salads are prepared with oil and vinegar, fermentation takes place in the stomach, and the food does not digest, but decays or putrefies; as a consequence, the blood is not nourished, but becomes filled with impurities, and liver and kidney difficulties appear." {CD 345.6} 

These are the ONLY two vingear quotes in Ellen White's writings.


How to kick the habit of an addiction

We know we can be addicted to all kinds of food and drink.  Addictions are on the increase and hurt our bodies and mind.  Ellen White had an addiction to drinking vinegar which was a common practice in her era (they made various drinks using vinegar – switchels were just one of them).
She describes here how she stopped this addiction.

"There was a time when I was in a situation similar in some respects to yours. I had indulged the desire for vinegar. But I resolved with the help of God to overcome this appetite. I fought the temptation, determined not to be mastered by this habit.  For weeks I was very sick; but I kept saying over and over, The Lord knows all about it. If I die, I die; but I will not yield to this desire. The struggle continued, and I was sorely afflicted for many weeks. All thought that it was impossible for me to live. You may be sure we sought the Lord very earnestly. The most fervent prayers were offered for my recovery. I continued to resist the desire for vinegar, and at last I conquered. Now I have no inclination to taste anything of the kind. This experience has been of great value to me in many ways. I obtained a complete victory.  I relate this experience to you for your help and encouragement. I have faith, my sister, that you can come through this trial, and reveal that God is the helper of His children in every time of need. If you determine to conquer this habit, and will fight it perseveringly, you can obtain an experience of the highest value. When you set your will resolutely to break off this indulgence, you will have the help you need from God. Try it, my sister.  As long as you acknowledge this habit by indulging it, Satan will retain his hold on your will, and bring it into obedience to himself. But if you will determine to overcome, the Lord will heal you, and will give you strength to resist every temptation. Ever remember that Christ is your Saviour and Keeper." {CD 485}

This was not the occasional pickle on a sandwich or relish on a burger.  This was an addiction from drinking vinegar.  Abstaining is the best practice for any addiction and the only way to have full victory over it.  Source: Dr. Nedley's Depression Recovery Program.

Note: if you need help getting over a habit or addiciton I do provide one-on-one faith based life coaching and counselling see



Ellen white only mentions vinegar and fermented foods 10 times in all her writings, while on the other hand talks about sugar, meat, alcohol, and other harmful things 100's of times.  In addition, NONE of these quotes can be found in "Ministry of Healing" the book she wrote from her vision.  They are from compliations, namely "Counsels on Diet & Foods", pulled out of letters and other sources so the full context is not always available to us. 

You can know your body, and you can know if your body is fermenting foods.  Here are symptoms of fermentation in the stomach: gas, bloating, and any symptoms of drinking alcohol like

  1. Slurred speech.
  2. Lowered inhibitions.
  3. Impaired coordination and motor skills.
  4. Sense of confusion.
  5. Memory problems.
  6. Concentration problems.
  7. General personality changes.

.  There is a rare condition called auto-brewery syndrome or where other foods (usually carbs) can cause this to an extreme. Hence Ellen White stated we can't proscribe a diet for all people.


Note of extremes: "You have erred, and thought it was pride which led your wife to desire to have things more comfortable around her. She has been stinted, and dealt closely with by you. She needs a more generous diet, a more plentiful supply of food upon her table; and in her house she needs things as comfortable and convenient as you can make them, things to make her work as easy as possible. But you have viewed matters from a wrong standpoint. You have thought that almost anything which could be eaten was good enough if you could live upon it and retain strength. You have pleaded the necessity of spare diet to your feeble wife. But she cannot make good blood or flesh upon the diet to which you could confine yourself and flourish. Some persons cannot subsist upon the same food upon which others can do well, even though it be prepared in the same manner.  You are in danger of becoming an extremist. Your system could not convert a very coarse, poor diet into good blood. Your blood-making organs are in good condition. But your wife requires a more select diet. Let her eat the same food which your system could convert into good blood, and her system could not appropriate it. She lacks vitality, and needs a generous, strengthening diet. She should have a good supply of fruit, and not be confined to the same things from day to day. She has a slender hold of life. She is diseased, and the wants of her system are far different from those of a healthy person."  {CD 201.1} By Ellen White.

If a food causes you indigestion, try it again when you are well.  If it does it again a second and third time, that food does not improve your health and you should discontinue using it.  If you need help with this subject we have a book on finding food allergies and sensitives on our website: