probiotics

How to Use Trunk Rolls to Improve Reflux and Colic Symptoms in Babies Naturally

What are trunk rolls and why do we use them? I'll give you a hint. They have to do with reflux and colic.

Unfortunately, having a baby with reflux or colic is becoming a common parental experience. But just because it's common does not mean it's normal!

Colic (severe, fluctuating abdominal pain that causes crying and screaming in an infant) and reflux (leakage of stomach contents into the esophagus through an open sphincter causing pain and spit-up in infants) are challenges for parents and caregivers, not to mention the babies! But these conditions don't have to be tolerated!

They are symptoms, signals from the body that something is wrong! And when that root cause is addressed, the symptoms of reflux and colic will go away! Addressing the root cause of colic or reflux takes at least a few days, and in some cases (like prematurity) it may need to be managed for a little longer.

While you are waiting for the root cause to be corrected, trunk rolls can be a helpful tool to keep your baby comfortable and hopefully reduce the frequency of these symptoms. Simply put, trunk rolls are blanket splints placed on either side of the baby before they are swaddled. They keep the abdomen from getting "squished," which reduces the likelihood of reflux (a cause of colic crying).

Watch the video demonstration to see how to use these correctly for your baby. Because of all the extra blankets, it's important to keep the blankets away from the baby's face, and monitor their blanket position frequently. This technique is most helpful when holding, picking up and moving the baby around, and may not be as needed during longer sleeping periods (like at night). Also, the trunk roll should never be used inside the buckles in a carseat, as this would prevent the carseat from doing its job in keeping the baby safe and secure.

The trunk roll is a helpful tool, but it is not going to fix the root cause. If your baby is struggling with reflux or colic, please contact me so we can eliminate the underlying problem that is causing your baby pain!  

Immunity: The Best Defense is a Good Offense {Part One}

Fall is coming! I hope you have been enjoying the cooler nights (and sometimes day) like I have! The onset of cooler weather also means that cold and flu season is coming!

Is your immune system ready? We often respond to illnesses defensively... waiting until we catch something before we take care of it. But there is another way... a way to go on the offensive and give your immune system a running start! The food we eat (or don't eat), our obsession with cleanliness, the frequency medications are prescribed, and the environmental toxins we are exposed to can lead to our bodies being run down, and our immune systems functioning below peak performance level.

In fact, it's pretty amazing that we have any immunity left! I'm thankful for the incredibly complex design of our bodies, which allows them to compensate and continue working, even in sub-optimal conditions. Here is a fun video that explains the workings of the immune system. But doesn't it seem like a good idea to support our bodies—and our immune systems—the best that we can? The good news is that there are ways to support our immune systems!  

  • Eat a diet rich in nourishing foods

  • Support the good microbes in your body and environment

  • Detoxify to give the inflammatory arm of the immune system a break

  • Use essential oils and herbs to support your body's natural defenses

Today let's talk about the first two, and next time we will talk about the other two.  

Nourishing Foods

Eating nourishing foods is a topic I talk about often. If you haven't heard much of what I have to say about this yet, you can check out some other posts like this one and this one. Today I'm going to share with you the nutrient dense foods that your immune system LOVES!

Your immune system is a very hungry organ. It is overseeing the entire body, and needs lots of little soldiers to work properly. For a strong, well-staffed immune system, the body needs to be well supplied with cholesterol, calcium, vitamin D, vitamin C, zinc, and more. These nutrients can be found in the same nutrient dense foods that I am always recommending... meat stock, butter, fermented cod liver oil (source), liver (you can get it in a capsule), caviar, egg yolks, full-fat yogurt or kefir, grass-fed beef, and some others. Important minerals can be found in whole salts (sources).

When these types of foods are consumed on a regular basis, the immune system will have enough building blocks to make itself strong. While you are increasing the amount of nutrient-dense foods you are eating, it's a good idea to decrease the amount of empty, processed foods you eat. These foods are mostly empty calories, and any food that contains processed sugar depresses the immune systems for hours after it's eaten. As you fill up with real, whole foods, phase any sugar-containing, processed food out of your diet.

Support Good Microbes

Another reason why our immune systems are struggling is because we have declared a war on microbes. Since the days of Louis Pasteur we have been sterilizing and pasteurizing everything in sight. Even if you don't take antibiotics, you are still getting exposed to them through the food you eat, the water you drink, and often even the soap you wash your hands with. Additionally we obsessively use hand sanitizer, bleach and other cleaners that kill 99.9% of germs. But these sanitizers aren't just killing germs.

They are killing the good microbes as well—microbes that keep balance, and even health, to our bodies and the world around us. Another theory emerged around the time of Pasteur, and with our growing knowledge of the human microbiome, it seems to be the more true of the two. Antoine Bechamp created the cellular theory, with the main hypothesis that it is the environment that causes disease, not the germ. A short recap of these two theories can be found here.

If Pastuer were right, then our bodies should do better and better as we "cleanse" and reduce the number of bacteria and other microbes. But we have found that the opposite is true. Research has shown that those people with fewer species of microbes in their gut are actually more prone to illness and disease, including chronic disease like obesity, autoimmunity and cancer. So stop killing things! Get rid of your antimicrobial soap and Clorox spray! When you need to clean your hands, wash them instead of sanitizing. And expose yourself to the good and helpful microbes that help keep the bad ones in check. you can do this by eating fermented foods, taking a probiotic, and getting into the dirt sometimes. Eating the nourishing foods we talked about will also support helpful microbes in your body.

That should get you started, but come back to learn about the other two ways you can support your immune system. Remember, the best defense is a good offense!

Onward!

Zucchini Bread {GAPS legal}

Zucchini... if there is one harvest that defines summer, it's zucchini.

Zucchini is great because of its versatility: it can be used hot or cold, baked or fried, and in soups, salads, breads, or even as a noodle substitute.

Today I want to share with you a recipe for a zucchini bread that is legal on the full GAPS diet, WAPF diet, Paleo diet and Whole30. I want you to remember (and take hope in) the fact that I am not primarily a chef. I am just average in the kitchen. If I can make this, so can you! This recipe is very forgiving—so try it!

There are a couple keys to this recipe that need to be followed. Don't shortcut them...they are what make this recipe forgiving, and the bread yummy! The first key is also the first step: fermenting the almond flour. Have you eaten baked goods made of almond flour that are dense and dry? Fermenting the flour creates a lighter, fluffier end product. But that's not all! Fermenting is one of the three processes that can be used to make nuts more digestible.

For more about soaking, sprouting or fermenting, watch this video.

The other key is using sour cream (you could also substitute in a full-fat yogurt) for the fat. As a cultured food, sour cream helps make the bread lighter as well.

Fermented Almond Flour Zucchini Bread

Ingredients

  • 2 1/2 cups almond flour (organic preferred)

  • 1/2 cup whey (strained from yogurt or kefir)

  • 2 cups zucchini (grated and squeezed to remove the liquid)

  • 2-3 eggs (chicken or duck)

  • 1 tsp cinnamon

  • 1/4 tsp ginger

  • 1/4 tsp nutmeg

  • 1 tsp sea salt (source)

  • 1/2 cup sour cream

  • 2/3 cup date syrup (source)

Directions

24 hours (or more) before

Mix almond flour and whey together in a bow.l Cover and set on the counter for 24 hours

This fermentation, which takes place at room temperature, will change the texture of the "flour." At the end of 24 hours you will have something that resembles dough more than wet flour. This is a base that can be used for many recipes. It will keep in the fridge about a week, so many people make this ahead of time and keep it in their fridge for future use. With this step done ahead of time, you can pull it out, add ingredients, and have a fermented baked good in about an hour.

The Next Day

Preheat the oven to 350° F Grate more than 2 cups of zucchini. The zucchini is very wet, so squeeze it dry using a cloth or towel (you can see it in the picture below).

Next, measure 2 cups of the zucchini (dry, but not compressed) and mix it into the 24 hour fermented flour. Add 2-3 eggs (it depends on the size of your egg, those pictured are duck eggs, which are larger than chicken eggs).

Mix in the rest of the ingredients (sour cream, date syrup, salt and spices).

I used date paste instead of honey because cooking honey is thought to turn the honey toxic. You can also make your own date paste in a strong blender like a Vitamix.

Pour into a greased pan (I prefer lining mine with parchment paper, but this is optional).

Bake at 350° for 45-50 minutes, or until toothpick comes out clean from the middle. Wait at least 10 minutes before cutting into the bread. This allows the steam to finish the cooking progress, and will make the texture of the bread better. Add butter, and enjoy!

This post contains affiliate links. Your trust is important to me, and I only recommend products that I trust.


Fermented Almond Flour Zucchini Bread

Author:
prep time: cook time: total time:

ingredients:

  • 2 1/2 cups almond flour (organic preferred)
  • 1/2 cup whey (strained from yogurt or kefir)
  • 2 cups zucchini (grated and squeezed to remove the liquid)
  • 2-3 eggs (chicken or duck)
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp ginger
  • 1/4 tsp nutmeg
  • 1 tsp sea salt (source)
  • 1/2 cup sour cream
  • 2/3 cup date syrup (source)

instructions:

How to cook Fermented Almond Flour Zucchini Bread

24 hours (or more) before
  1. Mix almond flour and whey together in a bow.l Cover and set on the counter for 24 hours
  2. This fermentation, which takes place at room temperature, will change the texture of the "flour." At the end of 24 hours you will have something that resembles dough more than wet flour. This is a base that can be used for many recipes. It will keep in the fridge about a week, so many people make this ahead of time and keep it in their fridge for future use. With this step done ahead of time, you can pull it out, add ingredients, and have a fermented baked good in about an hour.
The Next Day
  1. Preheat the oven to 350° F Grate more than 2 cups of zucchini. The zucchini is very wet, so squeeze it dry using a cloth or towel (you can see it in the picture below).
  2. Next, measure 2 cups of the zucchini (dry, but not compressed) and mix it into the 24 hour fermented flour. Add 2-3 eggs (it depends on the size of your egg, those pictured are duck eggs, which are larger than chicken eggs).
  3. Mix in the rest of the ingredients (sour cream, date syrup, salt and spices).
  4. I used date paste instead of honey because cooking honey is thought to turn the honey toxic. You can also make your own date paste in a strong blender like a Vitamix.
  5. Pour into a greased pan (I prefer lining mine with parchment paper, but this is optional).
  6. Bake at 350° for 45-50 minutes, or until toothpick comes out clean from the middle. Wait at least 10 minutes before cutting into the bread. This allows the steam to finish the cooking progress, and will make the texture of the bread better. Add butter, and enjoy!
Created using The Recipes Generator

Making New Ruts

We often get stuck in ruts. It's easiest to keep doing the same thing—once a pattern (good or bad) is established, we tend to keep doing things the same way. One of my deepest ruts is how fast I live my life. How much I try to squeeze into each day to live up to my own expectations. How hard it is for me to be okay with down-time. I have been consciously making different choices to try and get out of this rut for the last 3 years, but because it is so ingrained, it has been slow going. Of course there has been progress! I have become so much more okay with slowing down, saying no, and doing things just for fun. But a recent event has given me the opportunity for some concentrated time in the new ruts.

The event? Being sick! Sicker than I have ever been in my life. Sick and recovering for 2 weeks! Sick enough that all of my energy went just to taking care of myself.

It was hard to do. Taking care of myself is something I have only really learned to do in the last few years... when I found the GAPS protocol. It was then that I started to believe that it is important, and right, to take care of myself. And I began learning how to do it. I have been a slow learner... being busy and productive was so deeply ingrained in me that it has required a lot of purposeful energy and conscious thought to make choices that take me out of that rut.

I still considered myself a beginner at self-care. But after these two weeks I may be about to level up!

I had to let go of so many things as I allowed my body to heal. And I mean really let go. I could not catch up, make up, or push through like I usually can. I was focused on one thing: me. And that focus was obligatory, I had no real choice in the matter.

As I canceled my schedule day after day, I had to remember that my worth was unattached to my productivity or presence.

As I thought about everything on my to-do list that was not getting done, I had to remember that God is in control of growing my business.

As I gave my body the best support I could using herbs, essential oils, vitamins, and meat stock, I had to remember that healing is complex, and our bodies are amazing!

As I wondered at times if my body was strong enough to handle whatever was going on, I had to remember that it was okay to ask for help, and to receive it.

I was sick enough for long enough that I also needed time to recover. That means I couldn't jump back in a full speed once I was feeling better. I had to evaluate my important tasks, and be realistic in what I could accomplish in between naps. Part of me thinks that I will go back to how I was before. But most of me doesn't want that. Slowing down is refreshing and freeing. Tasks are so much easier when I let God carry the burden, instead of trying to bear it on my shoulders alone. I don't know if I can stay out of my old ruts, but I pray that I can. I want to keep making these new ruts deeper.

As I go, Onward!

Real Food: More Than the Sum of Its Parts

Every time I learn more about the complex interactions between the human body and different nutrients, bacteria, and dozens of other factors, I am blown away! Not sure what I mean? As an example, this was mentioned in my latest post. A seed has enough intelligence to protect itself from being digested, but then is able to release those protections when the conditions are right to grow! All while it's still a seed! And that complicated process relates only to the seed. We haven’t even begun to explore the combining of that seed with some other food, or in a different form, or after the seed grows up. Not to mention the effect stomach acid levels, digestive enzyme activity, and different gut flora have on that seed. And the list goes on and on. Therefore we see that our bodies, and the processes that happen inside them, are incredibly intricate. And it begs the question:

Are vitamins, or carb/protein ratios really what it’s all about?

Eating real food is more than eating food-shaped packages of vitamins, proteins, and fibers. Real food is dynamic, and what you get from a particular food is conditional, and depends on several factors.

Growing Conditions: The actual nutritional value of that particular piece of food depends on the conditions it was grown in, including sun exposure, water quality, and the amount of vitamins, minerals and healthy bacteria in the soil or food the animal was eating.

Preparation Methods: After it is grown, different ways of preparing food will make it more or less digestible; helpful, stressful, or even harmful to the human body.

Individual Body Status: Even if it’s prepared properly, each individual body's environment has a role in determining the amount of benefit or harm that food will have.

In fact, a food's helpfulness to an individual body is dependent on the season, metabolic needs, current hormone state, and a myriad of other factors that are going on in the body at that moment. So what's helpful to your body in the summer may be harmful in winter. Or what's beneficial to eat at noon may weigh your body down at dinnertime. Every minute your metabolic needs may be different.

This is why "eating healthy" cannot be reduced to fortifying processed foods with vitamins, or taking the "perfect" supplement mix. It is so, so much more! Now that you know all this, eating healthy may sound like an unattainable goal. And in some ways it is. Even if we are extremely in tune with our bodies, it is unlikely that we will think “I need 5.78 mcg of calcium and 4.24 mg of vitamin D at 2:57pm”… and so on. And this is my first point.

There is no magic pill or secret supplement!

Even if the advertised effects are real, it doesn’t mean that it will work for you! Your body may need something else entirely. If anyone tells you that they have the one product that will fix all your ills, run the other way! On the other hand, the innateintelligence inside our bodies does know what it needs, and how to get it. We can work on listening to what our bodies are telling us. I call this becoming an expert detective (for more, see chapter 7 of Notes From A GAPS Practitioner).

As we renew the partnership with our body, we will begin to understand its signals about what foods will best support our bodies at that moment. Dr. Natasha Campbell-McBride talks about this in a wonderful article, One Man’s Meat is Another Man’s Poison. In it she shares how important it is to listen to your body telling you what food to eat at the moment, and how much of it to eat. Becoming an expert detective does not happen overnight. It is a commitment to observe, experiment, create theories, and modify them as needed. It will get easier with time and experience, and every time you learn something, your health will benefit. And you will have taken one more step in your journey toward better health.

Onward!  

Disclosure: Contains an affiliate link, which helps support my blogging. Your trust is important to me, and I only recommend resources I trust.

Why Soak Grains? {Video}

Ever wondered about recommendations like "soaking," "sprouting," "fermenting," or "properly preparing" your nuts or grains? Ever wondered what that meant, or why it's better? I did! In fact, when I first heard about "sprouted bread," I thought it was made-up. But there are real reasons why eating properly prepared seeds is better for your body. Check out the video below to find out why.

Did that make sense?

This is just one example of why food preparation matters. And while food preparation techniques used to be passed on from generation to generation, our modern western culture has largely lost that heritage. But some do remember. And some do research. And some teach. And some write it down for us. That is the entire reason behind the cookbook, Nourishing Traditions, by Sally Fallon. Traditional ways to prepare foods in traditional recipes are recorded in this helpful resource. If we want to return to health, we need to start understanding these principles. Our health depends on it! Still have questions? Have another food preparation question? Ask it in the comments below.

Disclosure: The link in this post is an affiliate link. Links like this help support my blogging. Your trust is important to me, and I only recommend resources I trust.

Spring! And Natural Allergy Management

Spring has come to my neighborhood! Over the last week, things have been budding and growing. Green has been showing, and flowers blooming. The sounds of spring have been happening for awhile, but are now in full force—birds chirping, squirrels chattering, and children playing. I took an sunset tour around my neighborhood to enjoy the spring evening, and I want to share with you some of the pictures I took. Then keep reading for some natural ways to manage your spring allergies!

There is another way I know that spring is here… my allergies have started to flare. Since going through the GAPS diet, my allergies are mild compared to what they used to be, but they still cause minor irritation—enough that I need to address them. So today I am going to share with you what I do to manage my allergies naturally. But before we discuss management techniques, let’s review what allergies are. Allergy symptoms are a product of the immune system. And we can think of them as a signal from our body to let us know that something is going on. Basically, they signal two things:

The first is that an allergen (a protein chain that is usually referred to as an antigen) has bypassed the body’s protective mechanisms. When this happens, the body mounts a non-specific immune response (an inflammatory response) against that allergen. In this process, certain cells (called mast cells) are degranulated, and release things like histamine into the bloodstream. Histamine travels to receptor sites in the GI tract, respiratory tract and the skin. These receptors then trigger a further response to the allergen, and we see symptoms like hives, mucus production, and swelling.

The second is that our liver is unable to keep up with processing mediators (like histamine) that have been released in the inflammatory response. As we saw above, histamine triggers the symptoms we are accustomed to in an allergic reaction. Histamine is not a problem when it is being processed and removed by the liver fairly quickly. But when it continues to circulate (because the liver isn’t pulling it out fast enough) it will continue to cause unpleasant symptoms—sending you signals that your body needs some assistance.

Okay, now that we are on the same page about what allergy symptoms are, let’s talk about ways to support your body so you don't suffer from them! Again, these symptoms are signals that your body needs some help. So what can we do to help support the liver and immune system?

Feed it Fat

The immune system is a very hungry organ, and what it likes best to eat is fat! Especially the Vitamins A and D that it contains. These are both found in abundance in butter, as well as lard, fermented cod liver oil, and other animal fats. The cholesterol found in these fats also plays an important role, for it is cholesterol that helps the body repairdamage from inflammation (watch this video for more on this).

Eat Sauerkraut

There are two benefits to eating sauerkraut (or fermented cabbage any way). The first is the probiotic benefit. The root cause of allergies is a leaky gut. Bad gut flora has everything to do with this. (This is too much to discuss in this post, so if you have further questions, I recommend chapter 6 of my book Notes From a GAPS Practitioner.) So eating probiotics will help the allergy problem, both long-term and short-term. However, if you are unused to eating large amounts of sauerkraut, I recommend you work up to it slowly. The second benefit of sauerkraut is the high amount of Vitamin C available in it. Lacto-fermenting cabbage increased the bioavailability of Vitamin C by about 4 times. Our immune system also needs Vitamin C to function well. So consuming large amounts of sauerkraut is like taking Vitamin C daily (which you could take in other ways, like arceola cherry powder). I enjoy sauerkraut, and find that if I eat between 1-3 cups a day (broken up with meals, or as a snack), my allergy symptoms are fairly well managed. I generally feel that my itchy eyes and throat are calmed down within about 20 minutes of eating it.

Apply Lavender Essential Oil

This is my quick-acting go-to if my symptoms are overwhelming. Lavender is a powerful antihistamine. If I run into a situation where my allergies flare up quickly, like having a cat rub against me, or when the cottonwood trees are seeding, I pull out my lavender oil. There are several ways to use it. You can apply it topically near the area that is affected (best for skin issues) or on the bottoms of your feet (if you don’t like the smell). You can diffuse it, so you breathe it into your mucus membranes and calm the histamine response there. Or (if you have a pure and safe brand like the one I use), you can take it internally. I prefer to place a drop or two under my tongue and let it absorb sublingually. This is the quickest way to get it into the bloodstream. Lavender tastes about like it smells, but the quick relief I get far outweighs the bitter taste it leaves. I usually feel relief from my symptoms in 2-5 minutes, but for most people it may take 10-20 minutes to feel the effect.

Support Your Liver

There are ways to help the liver when it is overtaxed. First, reduce the amount of toxins you are asking the liver to process, thus adding to its workload. In the spring I am more careful about what I eat. There are some foods I have “graduated” to that can be too much for my body to handle when it also has to deal with extra histamines in my “allergy season.” In the same way, it is good to be cautious about other toxins from chemicals in the environment (or on our skin) that are overloading the body. It is also important to use other methods of detox, such as detox baths and juicing, to help remove toxins and thus reducing the workload of the liver. Finally, eating liver (consuming the animal organ that matches our struggling organ is always helpful) regularly can be helpful. If you don’t like it, you can take desiccated liver. And for a little extra support, I will sometimes take the Standard Process supplement Antronex.

Try Something New

I have not tried this yet because I just learned about it, but this season I am going to try lacto-fermenting honey! Most of us have heard that honey can help with allergies, but it turns out that lacto-fermenting the honey increases these benefits even more! I’m interested to see how it turns out, and if it helps. The honey does have to be local to have a strong effect, and I fortunately have a little honey left over from the year I tried beekeeping. If you want to learn more about it, I would recommend starting HERE.

If you have tried lacto-fermenting honey, found success with any of these natural means, or want to share other things you have found helpful with the community, then leave it in a comment below!  

Onward!

References: McCance, K. and Huether, S. (2006). Pathophysiology: The Biologic Basis for Disease in Adults and Children. Elsevier Mosby. Philadelphia, PA. Pg. 249-255. Lavender and the Nervous System. Koulivarnd, P. Ghadiri, M., Gorji, A. (September 4, 2012) Retrieved March 20, 2017 from https://www.hindawi.com/journals/ecam/2013/681304/

How to Shop Like Betty: Tips on Nutrient-Dense Shopping

In the last post we discussed the differences in food quality, and explored the intricate way God designed our senses to be able to taste, smell, and see the difference. But, as amazing as all this is, we hit a reality check.

We can't all grow our own garden vegetables, have our seafood overnighted, or raise a cow in the backyard. It can be a struggle to even afford purchasing these things.

And that's okay. Most of us are in the same boat.

While I still encourage people to think differently about food budget—considering it instead as part of your health-care budget, I understand that at some point, cash-flow is a limiting factor. You can only do the best you can, prioritizing the things that seem important to your body and family, and go from there.

I want to share a few tips with you. Ones that can help you put more nutrient-dense food on the table. Today let's talk about how to shop.

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Nutrient-Dense Shopping:

  • Shop sales, coupon, or go to wholesale stores (like Costco), and buy in bulk when the food is a good price.

I actually specifically recommend Costco because of their conscientious sourcing, and their larger selection of organic items. This automatically leads to better quality food options. Buying in bulk, and on sale are also great ways to get things like coconut oil and sugar (to feed your SCOBY, of course), as well as non-grocery items like Epsom salt, soaps and shampoos.

  • Find out when your favorite organic-carrying grocery store marks things down for quick-sale.

Stores go through their produce, dairy and meat products on a regular basis in order to catch and mark-down food that is about to expire. Usually this is scheduled, and if you know the time and day you can show up soon after (or during) this mark-down period and get incredible deals! You can also check to see if there is a local discount grocery store, that takes almost out-of-date items and sells them at a large discount.

Produce: The small health food stores that I shop at usually put the older assorted produce in $2 bags. Often times it comes out to roughly a 90% discount! You have to be creative with using it, and be willing to give away food you may not be able to eat (like maybe potatoes, for example), but I often walk out of these stores with $15-30 worth of organic produce that cost me $4-6.

Meat: Similarly, stores mark down meat when it is nearing it's expiration date. Find out what days they go through the organic produce, and shop at that time. Again, I have found even better deals in smaller stores, where they have more to loose by throwing away food. And don't be afraid to buy frozen meat! Very few nutrients are lost when the meat is frozen. If it comes down to buying fresh commercial meat, or frozen natural or organic meat, the latter will definitely give you more nutrition for your buck.

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  • Know when to spend your money: when quality really matters, or when it varies tremendously.

There are some foods that are more difficult to find on sale, and ones that I recommend paying more for. Many of these items can be purchased much "cheaper," but the quality ranges from very poor to very good, and you get what you pay for. Dairy products in particular are very manipulated by manufacturers, and should be bought with that in consideration.

Dairy: If you can get raw milk, then do it! Otherwise, I do not recommend consuming pasteurized milk unless it has been cultured, like in yogurt or cheese. Aside from milk, most dairy products tend to keep longer, and may be more difficult to find on sale. Organic is important here, because commercial cows are given many antibiotics and hormones that will come through the milk and affect you. Don't "buy cheap" in these areas, especially butter, as it may be a main source of cholesterol (fat) for you. Cream can be purchased at the store, and although it has been pasteurized (some more than others), it is more stable than milk, and is less affected by pasteurization. Cheese, yogurt and sour cream have all been cultured, and those active cultures are working hard to counteract the damaging effects of pasteurization.

Eggs: Deciding which eggs to buy will depend on your area. If you can't purchase them from a local farm (real free-range are better than store-bought organic), then choose your egg based on the color of the yolk, and the taste. The yolk should be bright yellow or orange, meaning the chickens have been out in the sun and may even be able to eat bugs and fresh greens. Never buy eggs from vegetarian-fed hens. Believe me, hens are not vegetarians! Eggs are another large source of cholesterol, and it's best to buy the best quality of eggs you can find (these are not always the most expensive).

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  • Look for bulk ordering companies or clubs.

You don't have to join a CSA to get farm-fresh produce. There are companies like Azure Standard, Miller's Organic Farm, and others that send you meat and produce from a farm (maybe in another state) and deliver it to you. This is a great way to buy things that are more difficult to get, like lard, nuts or dried fruit. This can also be a good way to get non-grocery items.

I hope these tips help you make more nutrient-dense food purchases. What other ways have you found to make nutrient-dense food affordable? Share your knowledge with the community in the comments below. Happy shopping!

Onward!

Beneficial Bacteria: Why Lacto-ferment?

Fair warning: the following post was originally written as an article. It is longer and more technical than a normal blog post. It contains great information, including the history of fermentation and some basic fermentation chemistry, but may be more than you need to know. Feel free to read (or not) accordingly!

The Benefits of Bacteria: How Lacto-fermentation is Good for You

The history of lacto-fermentation is rich and alive. There are signs of people groups fermenting their food as far back as we have found artifacts in various archaeological digs. It remains a mystery how the first people discovered fermentation.

However, as science has discovered now, a large part of “our” body’s makeup is not our own DNA, but rather a body-shaped shell containing a symbiotic environment teeming with bacteria, yeast, protozoa, and other microbes. Therefore, consuming probiotic foods is not only beneficial, but it is vital to our very life. Without the symbiotic relationships working in our body, we would be unable to function.

We often use the word “culture” to describe the ideals held in common by a group of people. In the same way, when we use “culture” to describe food preservation, we are also recognizing the grouping of different organisms, working together in symbiosis. This relationship, both inside the body, as well as out, demonstrates a beauty that not only brings tactile benefit, but is in many ways soul-soothing. You cannot ferment without paying attention to, and giving credit and help to the beneficial microbes that will, in turn, help to bring health and balance to your own body.

So what is lacto-fermentation?

Lacto-fermentation is one of the ways humans have used (for centuries) to preserve food. It does not necessarily involve milk, as the lacto-  prefix seems to suggest, but it involves creating an environment that encourages the growth of lactic acid producing bacteria. These type of bacteria work symbiotically with our bodies, and have been shown in research to be helpful in metabolism, detoxification,  immunity and allergies, preventing dental caries, kidney stones and cancer, and in reducing anxiety, cholesterol and blood pressure.If that list doesn’t convince you that you need to be consuming probiotic foods daily, scientists have also found that the nutritional value of most foods is increased through the fermentation process. An additional benefit, which is decidedly less important in the American culture, is food preservation without refrigeration.

How does lacto-fermentation work?

The concept of lacto-fermentation are simple. An environment needs to be created that promotes the growth of lactic-acid producing bacteria (LABs).  Many harmful and pathogenic bacteria and viruses are unable to live in the presence of lactic acid, so in this situation the body is working symbiotically with the LABs to control the environment of the body to be hostile to unwanted microbes. When we create a correctly hostile environment, beneficial flora are allowed to flourish, and unwanted flora moves on. It is very simple to create this desired environment, at it’s most basic, it only takes salt and water. The purpose of the salt is to create an environment that the LABs, and only the LABs, can thrive in. Other bacterial growth is stunted by contact with salt, allowing the LABs to flourish, eventually producing enough lactic acid that the salt is then unnecessary. In addition to preserving the food, the lactic acid helps with other aspects of fermentation, such as pre-digesting our food (starting the digestion process before it even enters our body) and nutritional enhancement.

Why have we moved away from lacto-fermented foods?

There are several reasons why we stopped fermenting our foods, the two main reasons being refrigeration and the “sterilization” or pasteurization movement. The first is simple to explain and understand, with refrigerators, we began to have the luxury of keeping food longer by keeping it cold. Previously, with only a few exceptions, people had two options--eat the food they hunted or gathered very quickly, or find some way to preserve the food. With the advent of electricity, refrigeration became available to almost everyone in a developed country, and with it the ability to store fresh food for a longer amount of time. Spoilage happens at a much slower temperature, so even fresh meat will keep for about a week. Because of this, and the accessibility of grocery stores, we can buy our refrigerated food, bring it home to our own refrigerator, and eat at our convenience throughout the week. No need for preservation here.Secondly, since 1857 when Louis Pasteur discovered that heating (killing) bacteria created more control over the process of alcoholic fermentation, we have been using heat to sterilize, or pasteurize, allowing us to store food, even at room temperature, for longer periods of time. However, because pasteurization kills the LABs as well as harmful microbes, there is a risk of spoilage, rancidity or putrefaction associated with any pasteurized food if contamination occurs. 

Can you learn to ferment?

Anyone can ferment--the process is very simple, almost foolproof, and safe. It is also fun, relaxing, grounding, adventurous, and sometimes exciting! Even if food prep is not exciting to you, the process is fulfilling and satisfying. And when you know that you have prepared food that has numerous health benefits, costing very little money or effort, you can sit back and feel accomplished at a job well done. And as you grow more comfortable with the process, you can experiment with different recipes--some in a book, some made up on the spot. That is the beauty of fermentation! You can ferment anything! And by following some basic principles, it’s really rather difficult to mess up!

How do I get started in fermenting?

There are several good resources available as you start on your fermentation journey. Books, like Sandor Ellix Katz’s The Art of Fermentation, will give you comprehensive instruction on this subject. There are website such as Cultures for Health, and various YouTube channels that will give written and video instructions on different ferments. Finally, there are various people (including myself) who teach the basics of fermentation in a classroom setting. Search these people out and sign up for a class--the information you will learn is invaluable to your health!

I like to call my ferments my children--because they need to be taken care of in the same way--you need to create a safe environment for them, feed them, keep them clean, and most of all, love them!

Part of the art of fermentation is the intention you put into them. When you are grateful for the health and support they are going to bring you, it will fill your soul (and usually makes them taste better). While, at times, the weight of responsibility for making ferments is heavy, it is always overshadowed by the benefits--physically and spiritually. So what are you waiting for--start on this journey today!

Citations:

  • Katz, Sandor. 2012. The Art of Fermentation: An in-depth Exploration of Essential Concepts and Processes from Around the World. Chelsea Green Publishing, White River Junction, VT.

  • Katz, Sandor. 2003. Wild Fermentation: the Flavor, Nutrition, and Craft of Live-Culture Foods. Chelsea Green Publishing, White River Junction, VT.

Still Healing

Hi everyone,

I realize I have been absent on the web for the last little while, and I would like to share why...

I have been recently reminded that my body is still healing... I have felt so great over the last few months that I forgot that I am healing years and years of sickness and imbalance, and that does not magically disappear overnight, or even over a few months. I'm glad that I am where I am--in so many ways and for so many reasons. I am glad I am healing, even when it takes so much energy to do so. Even though I have to slow down... maybe I'm glad because I have to slow down.

... maybe I'm glad because I have to slow down

I'm glad to be reminded about what I am healing from. Some "flare ups" and detoxing that I have been experiencing the last couple weeks have reminded me what my "normal" used to be. I'm glad it is not my normal anymore. Some of this flair up has been out of my control... some crazy things have happened to people around me that has made my life busier, because I have been helping them out. But most is in my control. A little more sleep, a little laziness in not getting up when I remembered I forgot to take fermented cod liver oil. Giving in to eating a little to much fruit, and not enough stock because it's easy. Because it's what I want in the moment, not prioritizing investing in what my body needs. __And____________Down_________________________I__________________________________Went  

Down and out!

Focus on sleep, rest, time out from the world and the busyness of life--whether or not I could "afford" to do so. My body was starting to wander from the path of healing and wellness. Since I was not giving it foods to heal, it was making me slow down physically, taking the energy it needed.

...which is good...

I appreciate the human body so much more than I ever have, and the amazing ways it compensates and presses on even with little to work with. But there are certain foods that help it heal and function well, and I know what they are. And with my knowledge comes my responsibility. To my body. To myself.

Also, I was letting my neighborhood run down--and unsavory characters were gaining strength in my gut. They were starting to dictate what I was craving again. And adding toxins to my body to further slow me down. And it becomes hard to fight all that. It is discouraging that I have to keep fighting to correct the bad that has been happening for years. And hard that it can so quickly slip away. It is hard to remember that I am still recovering, and not very far away from the time when I was very sick.

So the choice is there--fight again, or go back to how I was. I was functional, but also so cautious. Not able to make a mistake without miserable consequences like migraines, stomach aches, and more. I could go there--it sure is easier than GAPS, and I would be fine, probably, for a while...

But I have a bigger goal--not just to be alive, survive, exist. My goal is to heal. To be well--as well as I can manage to be with my imperfect body in this broken world. To be in a state of living!

Thankfully I took action early. It only took a week to get my trajectory back on course. I've almost regained that lost ground--almost. But I have gained something else that is very valuable. A deeper resolve to continue. To invest and expect a return, even when that investment is a little uncomfortable, and a little inconvenient. So forward I go--not perfectly or without faltering. But I know which direction I want to go, and I know that which lies in that direction is worth the journey.

Onward!