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Fermented Foods Aid Digestion

The following article says it so well.

If you’d like some great recipes and info about how to make your own fermented (and dried) foods, check out www.preservetheseason.wordpress.com. My friend Lee Lee started this blog prior to our Lama Foundation Fermentation/Preservation/Traditional Food Prep day, where we taste tested and loved all of them.


Dr. Rubman on the Power of Pickles

Something is inherently funny about the word “pickle”… but the truth is, foods that are pickled (fermented) actually dish up serious health benefits. Specifically, they are really good for soothing digestive discomfort of all kinds. Counterintuitive as it may be, eating fermented foods — not only pickled cucumbers, but also peppers, tomatoes, chutney and sauerkraut, to name a few — is a simple and tasty way to resolve heartburn, bellyache and other intestinal distress.

In fact, Daily Health News contributing editor Andrew L. Rubman, ND, told me that in addition to being a way to create deliciously tart, appealing foods, pickling is an ancient preservation technique. British seamen ate sauerkraut to ward off scurvy… Bulgarians were believed to live longer because they drank fermented milk… and Koreans today eat more than 40 pounds per year of kimchi (a blend of cabbage, garlic, chilis and other ingredients) both for taste and to ease  digestion. Interesting, isn’t it?

PICKLING PROMOTES DIGESTION

The fermentation of foods takes place through the breakdown of carbohydrates by live microorganisms such as bacteria (for instance, Lactobacillus acidophilus or Lactobacillus bulgaricus), yeasts and molds. Kimchi, pickles, sauerkraut and the like act as probiotics, encouraging the growth of positive intestinal microbes. These fermented foods promote efficient digestion, support immune  function and boost good nutrition overall. They support availability of B vitamins in certain foods and essential amino acids. They also serve to counteract the ill effects of antibiotics.

According to Dr. Rubman, fermented foods are far better than the over-the-counter antacids or the proton pump inhibitors (PPIs) people routinely swallow to relieve heartburn and stomach upset, which end up causing more harm than good. While they may provide temporary relief, use of antacids or PPIs can  backfire because you need acid to efficiently digest foods… and insufficient stomach acid can upset the proper environmental balance of intestinal flora. In contrast, fermented foods encourage the growth of good gut flora while also helping to neutralize the small amounts of stomach acid left in the system between meals, which is a common problem for people with gastritis and GERD.

PICK A PECK OF PICKLED PEPPERS

Eating fermented foods a few times a week  can make a real difference in how well your digestive system functions. It’s easy enough to do — you can spice up stews with a dollop of chutney or a ¼ cup of kimchi, enjoy a bowl of miso soup, slice pickled cucumbers or peppers on sandwiches or spoon yogurt over fresh fruit. To find fermented foods, visit your local health or gourmet store or shop online…

  • Order fermented foods from farms such as Wills Valley Farm Products (www.willsvalley.com) in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, which offers fermented vegetables including kimchi, red cabbage, red beets and ginger carrots. Other American picklers include ADAMAH in Falls Village, Connecticut… and Alexander Valley Gourmet in Healdsburg, California — and you can find many more online.
  • Go international. Explore fermented foods from around the world, such as the pickled Asian plums known as umeboshi. In Japan, these have been used for thousands of years for their purported ability to counter nausea, stimulate the digestive system and promote the elimination of toxins. Find them in Asian and gourmet markets and on Web sites such as www.kushistore.com. To explore the extensive world of Indian chutney, check out recipes at Web sites such as www.epicurean.com and www.allrecipes.com.
  • Choose carefully. Read labels and buy fermented products that are low in sugar and contain live or active cultures. Dr. Rubman warns that most brands of yogurt, in particular, are loaded with sugar and artificial flavoring, but he notes that Stonyfield Farm and Nancy’s are two brands that do contain live bacterial cultures.

In cases of active intestinal disturbances such as irritable bowel syndrome or gastritis, Dr. Rubman sometimes  prescribes fermented foods and/or probiotics (supplements that you can take if you don’t enjoy the taste of fermented foods), but he does not recommend that you try this on your own. See a qualified and experienced naturopathic physician who can assess your condition and prescribe an appropriate dosage. But if you’re in good health, pile pickles on your plate… pucker up… and enjoy.

Source(s):

Andrew L. Rubman, ND, medical director, Southbury Clinic for Traditional Medicines, Southbury, Connecticut. www.naturopath.org.

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PS: Respond to the Raw Milk Raid

The recent state and federal raid on a private food buying club in California that was selling raw milk is explained more thoroughly HERE where you can also respond by contacting your Senators and Representative. Please help support the right of every American to participate in a private food club that sells raw milk (or other natural farm grown food regardless of whether the mainstream finds the food strange or supposedly dangerous).

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More on Mercury; Dealing With the Big Picture

Heavy metals, including mercury, cause havoc in various bodily systems. Regularly decreasing the toxic burden on the body is a positive move toward greater health. There are now many products and protocols available for doing this. I and my clients have used several with good results. My favorite, however, is a product called HMD (Heavy Metal Detox) which is backed by a 3 year double-blind placebo study. You can read about this liquid chelator HERE . And by the way, Iris Herbal Products sells this 4 oz. tincture cheaper than Amazon. At present, you need to call toll-free 877-286-2970 to order it.

Thinking about mercury pollution as we in the Southwest are experiencing a massive drought, and a big chunk of the country is dealing with record-breaking high temps, and the Tea Party wing of the radical right is explaining how they intend to shut down the EPA (after they successfully played “Chicken” with the national debt), I am led to my strength and curse: seeing clearly the Big Picture. So here are a few “exposes” that have crossed my computer desk today that eloquently describe in part or in whole our current “reality.”

For those who wish to confront their fears about environmental decline and how to adequately address the current situation of global warming, here is an article from AlterNet that is sobering in that it gets real about power, corporate control (of everything), privilege (of those of us living in industrialized states), and what has worked (and not worked) in social change movements.

If you don’t believe the corporate greed machine is really that insidious, then check out this wonderfully scathing indictment of the Supreme Court by Hightower, that can be read here. 

Oh no, you say, we have freedom of the press, look at all you’ve shown us courtesy of the alternative media…and that is my point. Mainstream media (except National Geographic and a few other bolder entities) is not giving us important news about anything alternative unless it has already been co-opted by a multinational. Here is an article about the recent intergovernmental raid against a buying club that dared to sell raw milk.

Next week I’ll start exploring the many and fascinating alternative views to Type II Diabetes and its treatment and prevention.

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How Drought/Floods Are Affecting Food and Herbs

My intern, Irma, and I went for a walk yesterday. Where there were once lush wild grasses, a few naturalized yellow dock and milkweed plants, was now totally dry and crunchy underfoot. Dead cottonwoods, barely alive junipers (what everyone persists in calling cedar), and the saddest looking native chamisa and sagebrush…only the prickly pear cactus looked healthy, though small. This is drought in a high desert: the ground has NO moisture. Deer, rabbits, and all the smaller rodents are eating garden plants and flowers down to the ground. Many folks can’t keep their gardens watered enough…and even with drip irrigation the plants don’t get the nitrogen from rainwater, and hot dry winds desiccate the leaves. Our National Forests are closed because you could literally start a forest fire by holding a cigarette to a tree needle.

Meanwhile, in Europe around the Mediterranean, it has hardly stopped raining. I’m expecting essential oils from Armenia, and the distilling date just keeps being pushed forward. Whether the weather disturbances are totally caused by global warming (what I often call climate change) or a combination of various natural patterns  exacerbated by changes such as the increase of temperature and acidity of seawater, we can’t say with 100 % assurance….and yet, as I read the weather news, and talk to customers all over the continental US, everyone is reporting weird and unseasonable and record-breaking weather.

That fact means the farmers are having a harder time growing everything: vegetables, grains, fruits, herbs, flowers. First and last frost dates are changing. Warmer and wetter areas are getting warmer and wetter; drier and colder areas are getting drier…but not necessarily colder. Birds are changing where and when they arrive….and this can affect pollination just as surely as bee colony collapse or the white nose fungal disease is decimating bats.

We are living in a volatile time of change, and having adequate stores of dried food, herbs (especially tinctures that have a good shelf life) and drinking water is a good idea. If flood water can overrun a nuclear plant, if larger and more destructive tornadoes are showing up in places where tornadoes have historically been rare, emergency preparedness is not just a Girl Scout / Boy Scout slogan. Food prices and herb prices are already increasing due to shortages caused by weather disruptions ( late planting and late frosts), insect damage, higher fuel prices, and changing dietary patterns worldwide.

The social scientists have had a field day talking to each other about why the average person is having such a hard time wrapping their head around global climate change and its consequences. It’s not an easy or pretty picture. Those of us who farm, or work with plants, or bird watch: we are seeing the changes. it is not theoretical. As consumers, we can affect national policy and corporate policy primarily through how and where we spend our money. Supporting local agriculture, herbalists, and companies who are green in deed and not just spin is a worthwhile endeavor. So is bugging the hell out of all your Congresspeople.

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Boycotting Fake Organics

When I was in my twenties I helped start a small town buying cooperative for those of us “hippie-types” who lived in the Appalachia/Big Stone Gap, VA area. We wanted food the local Piggly-Wiggley wouldn’t/maybe couldn’t offer. So 4 times a year all the “back to land folks” and the “urban political folks” gathered together and tried to mix a 5 gallon tub of peanut butter so that everyone got sorta the same consistency….you can imagine how that turned out. Bags of brown rice, lots of laughter, and everything organic…and grown by family farms or manufactured by family businesses,  as those were the only folks interested in the “weirdness”of organics back in the early 70ies.

When I left for the big city (Atlanta, GA) in 1977, I joined the local food co-op (Sevananda), and by early summer of 1979 was somehow its produce manager…talk about learning on the job! And what a great time to be getting up before dawn: driving the produce truck to the (genuine) Farmer’s Market, where, in the summer, one could buy 3 kinds of peaches and watermelons, corn, and lots of other fruits and veggies, so fresh the dew still sparkled on the green leaves….and though none was organic, at least it was from the farmer who grew it, or an independent agent who worked all night going from farm to farm picking up cases of delicious, ripe food.

As I learned my job, I found out a lot of people were asking for organics, and discovered that some of the hippie-type back to land folks in California were growing organic food on a scale that was, though still family farm (or cooperative farm), large enough to send me a one ton air freight container of fruits and vegetables every week. Since the Gerson Diet for cancer treatment was starting to become popular, I easily sold every morsel of that incredible food.

So that’s what I “grew up” considering organic; and sold it, purchased it, and ate it, despite the larger culture’s less than welcoming attitude…that is, until all us hippie types, in our innocence and idealism, launched what is now a juggernaut of profit so mind boggling that most of those family farms/manufactures have “sold out” to large multi-national corporations….who are hell-bent on cutting any and all corners to squeeze another ounce of profit…which means organic that isn’t really organic.

If you’d like to learn more, please check this out:

Organic Spies Strike Again: Exposing the Shocking Links Between the Biotech
Industry and the Organic Trade Association

After the success of “Organic
Spies Find Lies,” the organic industry’s most diligent muckrakers,
the Organic Spies, are at it again with a new documentary, this time exposing
the connection between Horizon, Dean Foods, Land O’ Lakes and Monsanto.

Watch the
Video and Take Action

So it’s time to boycott the “fakes:” Horizon Dairy (with their imaginative spin on “free-range”) and all the other companies above. It’s time we consumers paid a wee bit more attention to what we are consuming…and from whom.

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Internal Cleansing: Our Organs of Elimination

If fasting is about paying attention to what goes into our body (and any kind of detoxification program starts with what food we eat), then cleansing is paying attention to the other end of the equation: what comes out (or not), as well as what gets assimilated in between.

This week I’m going to briefly describe how 5 of our major organs are always involved with detoxification, which is just a part of life. We eat, we digest, nutrients are (hopefully) absorbed, and we deal with the by-products (wastes) of innumerable chemical processes throughout our bodies.

The colon hosts several pounds of friendly (ideally 85% of the total)  bacteria that are true workhorses: they help digest food, manufacture vitamins, and play a major role in our immune function. Our colons also do the heavy lifting of eliminating solid waste. Most problems in our colons (including constipation) develop when we are out of balance: too little fiber; too much “toy food” and not enough real food; too much sugar (which feeds the “bad” micro-organisms like Candida) and not drinking enough water.

Our kidneys filter waste from our blood in an amazingly complex dance. Good nutrition is essential for their job; too much animal protein (especially the poor quality of corn fed confined animals fed antibiotics) stresses the kidneys as they labor to remove excess uric acid. Sometimes lack of Vit. K and other nutrients can result in the back up of inorganic minerals, causing kidney stones. Again, we are talking about a healthy body in balance, and the health of one organ affect the health of all organs.

I recently read that if we had to build a factory to represent our liver, that physical plant would cover 2,000 acres! This is because our liver performs so many complex tasks: making antihistamines, cleansing blood, neutralizing and eliminating toxins, metabolizing fat, dealing with the cholesterol process, making and storing red blood cells, and helping with digestion, bile, our immune system and the balancing of hormones. No wonder out deeply toxic environment is putting such a strain on this precious organ. If we strive to lower the chemical burden, through eating organic real food and filtering out water, we will assist our liver greatly.

Our lungs provide us with a process that is constant from our first breath to our last: the bringing in of oxygen to the red blood cells, and the removal of waste products like carbon dioxide. A good practise is to slow the breath, breathing as deeply as possible, and completely exhaling the air, including that bit that seems to hold on at the bottom of our lungs. You may have to use your diaphram consciously to do that.

Not everyone realizes that our skin is an organ of elimination. And yet not only is it our largest detoxifier, it can act like another set of kidneys and cleanse up to a pound of impurities a day. Our skin also assists our lungs in respiration, doing about 15% of the intake of oxygen and release of CO2 that our bodies need. Our skin tone, elasticity, lack of or appearence of cellulite (which is toxic waste lodged in the skin’s fatty tissues, often due to a sluggish lymphatic system), and lack of or appearance of acne/excema, etc. are all indicators of our entire body’s health. Problems that show up on the skin can be caused by food senstivities, allergins, problems in our lymphatic system, an over-burdened liver, poor food assimilation (and that can be due sometimes to the lack of digestive enzymes), and auto-immune disorders.

Last but never least is our lymphatic system, which is not a discrete organ but a network of lymph vessals and glands throughout the body that helps detoxify and drain areas of our body that are not well perfused with blood. Many of us find as we age that our lymphatic systems get a little sluggish, perhaps due to not enough exercise (the ‘pump” of this system is our legs striding and our arms swinging). A 20 minute walk per day will help, and some folks like to do dry brushing as well (using a dry natural bristle brush, lightly brush your skin from the extremities toward your heart). This is especially beneficial before a shower as it helps remove dead skin.

Tune in next week for herbal specifics (tinctures, teas, essential oils) to assist our bodies’  in their daily detoxification. And happy Spring!

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Spring Tonics

Stinging Nettles

Before supermarkets offered all fruits and all vegetables all the time, winter diets in the Northern Hemisphere were heavy on root vegetables, grains and beans, breads, cheese, and meats, often combined in soups. Spring saw the proliferation of wild greens and the planting of gardens, increased trade with other communities as the snows melted, and the understanding that the heavier fatty meals could lighten a little as the temperatures rose. Diet was a construct of the interplay of culture and environment, as well as one’s family’s class. You ate what your parents ate, and barring famine, that system worked fairly well for hundreds of years.

Alfalfa

For those of us who wish to re-connect with the natural rhythms of the seasons, eat more nutritious foods, and recognize that this transition from winter to spring is important, I offer you three fabulous spring tonics: nettles, alfalfa and chickweed.

Nettles are my personal favorite. People have been collecting and using stinging nettles for food, medicine, fiber and dyes since the Bronze Age (or earlier). You must wear gloves in the gathering, but once cooked, the stinging chemical is inactivated. Nettles are the quintessential spring tonic, and have traditionally been used to rebuild the systems of the chronically ill, as well as help gently release  toxins. Medicinally they are useful as an expectorant (help thin and expel mucous), for chronic coughs, to treat cold and flu, as a gentle and safe diuretic (increase the flow of urine and reduce edema or swelling due to fluid retention), and as a restorative for the kidneys and bladder.  Nutritionally nettles contain high amounts of chlorophyll, protein (up to 10%, more than any other vegetable), and minerals: calcium, magnesium, iron, potassium, phosphorus, manganese, silica, iodine, sodium and sulfur. They are also a good source of Vitamin C, beta carotene and the B complex vitamins. Recipe hint: substitute for spinach, especially in a Quiche. Gather in the early spring until they flower. Once they start producing seeds, they are not so good for either food or medicine.

Alfalfa comes from the Middle East, and a tea made from the leaves and flowers has been traditionally used as a spring tonic and blood thinner, so it is especially good for arthritis and gout.  The green leaves contain 8 essential enzymes and aid digestion. Alfalfa contains over 10 vitamins, and is especially high in A, C, D, B2, B6, and K. Plus you get some iron and calcium.

Chickweed
Chickweed is a European annual that has naturalized through much of North America. It has even shown up in my greenhouse, and is now a regular part of my diet. Medicinally it is soothing and useful to help treat skin conditions, upset and ulcer-prone stomachs, as well as bladder and liver problems. Excellent as a nutritive tonic eaten fresh in salads (or cooked into omelets), chickweed is high in Vit. C, rutin, biotin, choline, inositol, PABA, Vit. B6, B12, Vit.D and beta carotene. It is another mineral powerhouse with magnesium, manganese, sodium, copper and silica.
All of these herbs are also considered “weeds” because they grow so easily and profusely. Nettles especially can become invasive. However, because of this ability to not need much of our assistance or attention (except in a desert or high desert climate: you will then need to water) they are excellent for the ” gardening challenged.”  Both Nettles and Alfalfa are perennials, and Chickweed, though an annual, easily (almost scarily  so) reseeds itself: therefore, once planted, they will be your constant and generous companions.
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Six excellent sites for cutting edge alternative health info

The Internet is an incredible place for information…and as most of us have realized, not all info found here  is accurate, factual, useful, understandable, or relevent. Many of the  most popular health info sites on the Web are dominated by Big Pharma, the AMA, The Gates Foundation, and others allied to the current “sick-care” industry mis-named health care. 

Since the mid-70’s, when I helped start a rural natural food buying club in southwestern Virginia, I have been studying many aspects of alternative health and lifestyles. The truth that consistently arises is:  prevention is less time-consuming and less expensive than treatment. And way easier said than done!  Also, many strategies for becoming and staying healthy have been marginalized, vilified, or ignored in the mainstream press. This is not to say that the alternative movement is perfect! We have our fair share of  folks whose reach exceeds their grasp.

So here are six helpful sites I use, and my opinion (and me just say up front that it is an opnion, not absolute truth, whatever that might be) about each one. Notice that one is well served by an open mind and a sense of humor concerning  the diversity of those who self-define as being “alternative.”  AlterNet is a great source for news; their health info is both semi-main stream and many shades of alternative.  Often excellent investigative reporting is presented about related health subjects (like food and water) to give one the “back story” or help explain why what is, is.  For a good recent example click  here to read about whistleblowers and food safety.  Also at AlterNet (this was a good day for big picture info) is a story about our food growing system (the political aspect of farming). To read about it, click   here.

Prevention may be key, but most of us are already dealing with “issues.” This next site addresses both. The GreenMed Info newsletter is always thought-provoking, and iconoclastic, as well as one of the most densely researched on the web. Click  here  for the issue on wheat, which will open a veritable Pandora’s box.  GreenMed Info hosts the largest study-based, peer-reviewed alternative health data base on the internet, and it is free.  With over 10,000 useful entries, this database has already helped a client of mine find the best supplement to take for his situation (and it is helping).

The Organic Consumer Association puts out a newsletter called Organic Bytes. This issue focuses on GMO, and what you can do to participate in campaigns to confront, halt, label, and educate. In case you are wondering what genetically modified food could have to do with health….well, check out this site, or the next two for way more info than you really want, but do need.

The next 2 sites are the most well-known, have the most advertising, and reflect the values of their authors.  Both of these men do their homework,  say what their opinion is up front, and cite their research. I may still quibble a bit here and there (both are prone to hyperbole), and you can find out a tremendous amount of info on a very wide range of health issues including healthy food (from the vegetarian and vegan point of view as well as the organic and free-range meat eaters), exercise protocols, supplements, herbs and healthy sleeping habits, as well as the more controversial and political issues like  GMO, vaccines, pesticides, cell phone radiation problems, etc.

For an excellent article on  Lyme disease check  here from Health Ranger Rick’s  naturalnews.com. For a comprehensive look at drinking water check  here  from Dr (MD) Mercola’s  mercola.com.

Last but not least is Byron J. Richard’s Wellness Resources. He always seems to come up with fascinating research (that he quotes and sites) often from mainstream sources. Click here for how the bacteria in our guts affects our brains.  He also has a full range of info on his site. Like the other 2 men above, he is trying to sell you supplements.

OK, now for my 2 second infomercial!  I have a supplement buying club that has a few openings. At some point later in blogdom I’ll elaborate. However, if you have read this far, take supplements, and would like a free 15 minute consult, call me toll-free @ 877-286-2970,