" All disease begins in the gut." These wise words from Hippocrates lead us down a path that permanently changes our relationship with food. A quick glance of contemporary medical literature reveals digestive complaints are among the most common ailments today. The severity of the epidemic can be gauged by the fact that many people feel it is normal to require antacids, H2 blockers or PPI's on a daily basis. These things damage our natural cycles and are being added to the long list of things our body must battle against in order to maintain a healthy equilibrium. Having proper beneficial bacteria and PH balance in the gut is imperative to health and vitality. It is my intention to give you some tools to add to your food forays that will encourage health in this area so commonly ignored.
Getting friendly cultures into the fridge can be an exciting tour de taste bud with all sorts of tantalizing sour delights. Take a deep breath, relax your belly and open your mind to a paradigm shift around the need for sterility in food production.
For starters, let's examine the brain in our belly. We have a secondary brain system called the Enteric Nervous System that is as complicated as our spine. It has over 100 million neurons, more than the spinal cord or peripheral nervous system. Many of these resources are utilized in the process of digestion, yet our emotions are also regulated through this second brain. It controls our serotonin levels which is what antidepressants influence. The long and short of it is that when we address one we impact the other whether we are conscious of it or not. Let's not get too mired down in the scientific jargon of it all, just know that it is more than a tummy ache that ensues from improper nutrition. The food we eat and the mood we produce are inextricably linked with our immune system.
We can talk about a lot of options to tweak nutrition for intended results of wellness, weight loss, energy or mood improvements, etc but unless our digestion is working properly it is futile. This is the first step to detoxification, weight loss, or any other type of healing.
So what to do?
It is usually recommended that we take probiotic supplements and enzymes in the form of pills or powders. Probiotic means "for life". Antibiotic means "anti life". No kidding! If you choose this route, buy from a reputable company. Even better if that company in close proximity to you. The bacteria in the probiotics are supposed to be alive so it stands to reason the further it has had to travel to get to you the more likely a link in the preservation chain has been broken. I have read it is nearly impossible to tell if what you are eating is still living when you get these essentials from a pill. I think Bio Kult is a great one, and Dr Natasha Campbell McBride helped create it. She has done some amazing research in nutrition related causes of Autism. Be sure to get a probiotic with multiple strains of different bacteria should you choose a different brand.
For me, making my own cultured foods has been a fun and tasty way to begin restoring optimal gut function. It is an easy, delicious way to increase the nutritional content of your food, preserve it and introduce the friend bacteria we need to be healthy into our bodies. Fermented foods have been used for millenia world wide and it is only in our recent history that these foods have fallen out of favor. Lacto fermented pickles, Beet Kvass, Kombucha, Kruats, Ketchups and even french fries all offer unique benefits. During our program together I can offer you some basic advice for getting started fermenting your way to fizzy bliss. Did I mention these foods also help with sugar cravings and weight loss? Sour is the antidote to sweet.
Another fun way to incorporate these vital foods is to add water kefir grains to coconut water to make a coconut kefir. This process eats up the sugar in the coconut water and produces a fizzy drink that can be mixed with a little fruits or ginger juice to make a soda. Sweeten with stevia for a treat the kiddos will ask for again and again.
Please note, the pasteurized kraut you find unrefrigerated at the grocery store does not offer these benefits. Look in your refrigerator section at a local health food store, community supported kitchen or take a few minutes every other week to get a batch going with whatever veggies you have floating around. I recommend the books Nourishing Traditions and Wild Fermentation for more info on 'getting cultured'. There is so much information to cover here this will be a series. Next time we can get into leaky gut, IBS and a host of other unfortunate outcomes of the Standard American Diet and our dependence on pharmaceuticals.
Until then, Get fizzy with it!
For more info:
Weston A Price Foundation http://www.wapf.org
Nourishing Traditions with Sally Fallon
Donna Gates and The Body Ecology Diet
Dr Natasha Campbell-McBride and Gut and Psychology Syndrome
The Abdominal Brain and Enteric Nervous System
David L. McMillin, M.A., Douglas G. Richards, Ph.D.,
Eric A. Mein, M.D., Carl D. Nelson, D.C.