Fermented foods

The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy.- Martin Luther King

As a part of Dream Week San Antonio, one of my favorite neighborhood restaurants, Alchemy, hosted Fermentation Evolution featuring Jason Gourlas, PA-C, with the San Antonio Weston Price Chapter. I’m not ignorant to the benefits fermented foods offer, but after this meeting I am convinced I have to drastically change my diet. Fermented foods have been around for centuries & each culture have their own versions. Americans consume chocolate, coffee, cheese, sauerkraut, wine, soy sauce, Worcestershire sauce, kimchi, miso, kombucha, Yakult, sour cream, tempeh, and other foods considered to be fermented or a result of a particular fermentation process. My personal favorite is Tabasco sauce! Who knew?  I should’ve because it’s produced in my home state & I’ve visited the factory when my son was in 4th grade!  In 2008 I began a journey of eliminating many things from my diet.  These included artificial sweeteners, high fructose corn syrup, processed foods, fast foods, powdered coffee creamers, overly processed meats, any Monsanto related foods, and more.  This change came about after watching the documentary, Food, Inc.  Using the terms eye opening or life changing are mere understatements.  Reading the book, The New Wellness Revolution by Paul Zane Pilzer, was another excellent convincing tool.  In times past I have practiced the Raw Food Diet.   I loved this philosophy & my body responded extremely well to it.  After 6 months I began adding certain foods back in.   In the recent several months I began juicing & absolutely loved it.  Again, my body responded very well to this.  Losing weight, not having kankles due to excess salt & having more energy were just a few affects I enjoyed.  I moved out of town & the juicer wasn’t able to make the trip, so I found myself following a healthy lifestyle eating regular foods.  In doing so, I’ve noticed I actually crave smoothies or juicing. I’d like to think my body recognizes the nutritional benefits & prefers this over regular meal choices. I’m fortunate that Central Market juices several amazing blends, so I have access without having the juicer! And I don’t have the guilt of throwing away all that pulp! Actually that’s great for composting. For 13 years I’ve chosen to do the 21 day Daniel Fast.  This is primarily for spiritual reasons setting time aside allowing God to direct me for the upcoming year & praying specifically for certain people.  I so respect this fast as it has been the single most important time in my life to hear clear, precise direction.  Sometimes when I need to make an impactful decision, I will do this type fast for 7-10 days.  I can’t imagine making serious type decisions without it.  Daniel Fast is basically a vegan diet.  I have to confess, I do not follow this 100%, but have realized, through experience, God is more pleased with the fact I’ve chosen to commit some level of self-sacrifice putting His will first rather than chastise me for eating honey or real butter. I always feel better during this time & often hesitate adding normal foods back in.

Before my recent move, I discovered kombucha thanks to a friend who makes her own. I respect her natural food choices, like making her own almond milk, so it caused me to research the benefits of drinking kombucha.  My daughter began buying it & after my move, I did the same.  I have to admit it was pretty cool talking to Kevin, one of the owners of Alchemy, listening as he explained their choices & driving home with a growler of milk oolong kombucha.  The best part is that I’m now addicted to it!  Other than adult beverages, kombucha is primarily the only fermented food I eat.  During my season of juicing, I stopped eating yogurt or kefir.  Now I feel like a total idiot!

Jason titled his presentation, Counter Culture.  One of my favorite quotes was mentioned,

“Let food be your medicine & medicine be your food-Hippocrates.

He explained how epigenetic traits are heritable (can be passed on to your children), are affected by food, sleep, exercise, beliefs, stress, & environment.  He stated every bite of food you take sends a message of health or sickness to your body. The comparison between Traditional vs Standard American Diet (SAD) was beyond enlightening.  I was proud on many levels to have already made significant changes from the SAD toward Traditional.  This almost evened out being an idiot for stopping kefir & yogurt!  Almost!
Learning how fermentation changes food substrates, makes food more nutritious, removes toxins, were just a few of the facts worth learning more about.

“All disease begins in the gut – Hippocrates” has been believed for generations.  I vividly remember my mother forcing a tablespoon of castor oil down our throats should we ever miss school.  This was torture.  Years after I became a nurse & I would almost puke when having to administer a certain bowel prep containing castor oil.  There was no way to mask that smell or memory!  Dysbiosis – overgrowth of bad bugs & not enough good is believed to be the primary cause of most problems.  Small intestine bacteria overgrowth is the primary cause of most problems. A great reference –The Second Brain, Michael Gershon, MD– is going to be one of my reads.  Here is an excerpt from one of his studies on autism. This reference, in itself, was mind boggling.  To think how parallel our gut is to our brain in the context of being able to create, not only messages, but other cellular level products is unbelievable.  Another quote & thought was how the gut relates to mental clarity, depression, mental illness & beyond.

“The primary seat of insanity generally is in the region of the stomach and intestines.- Phillipe Pinel, Father of modern psychiatry, 1807” 

Think about it.  Horrible bacteria forms in the gut releasing toxins which cross over the blood brain barrier………. the cycle is never ending.  Then patients are given meds to reduce the awkward symptoms never addressing the gut issues.  When I took care of patients with the diagnosis of sepsis, 9 out of 10 times, they experienced an altered mental status. This was the first indicator something had to be wrong. Then caretakers noticed the patient had fever. With some patients, fever induces an altered mental status. Fever is our first line defense for fighting infectious processes.   Cellular. Level. Imbalance.  After hearing the symbiotic breakdown of what happens in the gut, it all began making crystal clear sense.

I think one of my favorite research studies Jason shared related to diabetes.  Subjects ingested Kefir, fermented milk products, which resulted in a decrease in Hemoglobin A1c levels.  Fermented milk.  Another discovery was that while Miso in itself is salty, instead of having the effect regular salt does, it is proven to actually reduce liver damage & lower blood pressure. I use Pink Himalayan Sea Salt for this very reason & because it creates an alkaline balance.
I couldn’t help reflect on the age old adage, “You are what you eat.” I know my level of dedication when it comes to “growing” things at home & other than houseplants or pets, I’m non-committal!  I did, however, realize I could make my own kefir.  I’m already in love with this product & knowing I can use it in my daily smoothies made me even happier.  Generally one thinks they have to use raw milk, which is optimal, but because the bacteria makes everything better, I can purchase organic milk to use until I find raw milk.

So…..my ever changing, evolving, lifestyle of eating healthy is now going to include as many natural probiotics as possible.  Jason mentioned while probiotic supplements contain upwards of billions of units of healthy bacteria, fermented foods provide trillions.  To protect my immune system, I take Beta Glucan daily.  When I asked about this particular supplement, he suggested Saccharomyces boulardii, which is obviously many, many, times better.  I can order it from the same place I order my Turmeric Caps & that’s awesome!  In beginning probiotics, it is wise to introduce them into your diet slowly.  After hearing how autism, immune deficiency disorders, psychological disorders, and more can be affected by our diet, I’m convinced the references they provided will be downloaded on my Kindle immediately.  Here are a few:
Nourishing Traditions-by Sally Fallon = recipes
Wild Fermentation  -Sandor Katz
Mother Culture – local San Antonio vendor at Pearl Brewery Market best known for her phenomenal yogurt
Cultures For Health – Starters for Kefir, kombucha, etc.  (use powder for kefir to make it thicker)
Mommypotamus Blog – kid friendly suggestions & recipes using fermented food for children.
Brain Maker – The Power of Gut Microbes to Heal & Protect
Your Brain for Life- book by David Perlmutter
Nutrition & Physical Degeneration – book by Weston A. Price, DDS
Gaps Diet for Autism, Auto Immune Deficiency, etc.

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To change things in your life, you have to change things in your life!  What I ingest is something I can control & choose to change.  In fact, I refuse to refer to it as a diet.  It is my lifestyle. I’ve ordered both kefir & kombucha starter kits. I can’t wait to brew my own & save money in the process!
Blessings on your endeavors in becoming a better YOU!
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