The importance of pickles in the mostly vegetarian, grain-based diet cannot be overemphasized. Pickles contain large amounts of lactobacilli bacteria, which are important to the digestion of grains and vegetables. Scientific research has shown that these "friendly" bacteria survive the trip through the acidic juices of the stomach to the small intestine. In the small intestine they aid pancreatic enzymes in the transformation of dextrin (a carbohydrate found in grains) into simple sugars that can be readily used by the body.
Lactobacilli have other functions in the digestive system. In the large intestine they help synthesize B and K vitamins, and they inhibit the growth of putrefying bacteria. The role of intestinal bacteria in human metabolism is extremely complex. Dr. Phillip Evans, a US physician and the author of The Biochemical Basis for Disease and Disorders, feels that an overall sense of well-being cannot be experienced without a healthy population of appropriate intestinal flora.
Other benefits of pickles relate to specific types, such as the alkalinizing properties of umeboshi and the high niacin content of bran pickles. One property common to all pickles is high fiber, which is so important to proper intestinal cleansing and functioning.