Tag Archives: organic food

Bacteria Are Us–Part 2

After discovering the importance of microbes to our health and our very existence, we had to take a fresh look at the subject of fermenting vegetables. Gut flora is responsible for immunity and absorption of nutrients, and up to 90% of our immune defense is in our intestines.

Our ancestors used fermentation for preserving foods, long before canned goods appeared in the supermarket. The first thing I discovered is that canned sauerkraut is not the real thing. Food subjected to extreme heat in the canning process is dead and cannot possibly possess the attributes that are afforded by natural fermentation.

Our first exposure to real sauerkraut was by purchasing a refrigerated glass jar from a health food store. It had a crunchy fresh taste, but was almost as sour as the canned type. The only ingredients were cabbage, water and salt, so I assume the lactic acid created the tartness. It should be used unheated, to protect the beneficial bacteria and vitamin C. The big surprise was the cost—over $5.00 for a 25 oz. jar.

We were advised to start out with very small servings of real sauerkraut each day. The beneficial microbes in large amounts could possibly cause a die-off of pathogenic bacteria, virus and fungi, releasing toxins which could cause temporary tiredness, rashes or headaches. We had no problems with it and quickly got accustomed to the taste.

The role of beneficial microbes:

• Rid the body of toxins, including heavy metals
• Enable the gut to produce more serotonin than the brain, benefiting mood
• Improve bowel function
• Increase immunity to illnesses and environmental allergies
• Decrease plaque formation on teeth
• Improve appearance of hair and skin
• Restore the balance of the body if antibiotics must be used

If you would like to learn more about the importance of gut flora, here is an informative 25-minute video by Health Coach Summer Bock: Creating a Thriving Intestinal Ecology.

Also, here is an informative article by Dr. Joseph Mercola: How to Easily and Inexpensively Ferment your own Vegetables.

Part 3 will be about our first experiment with making sauerkraut.

Bacteria Are Us–Part 1

Organic sauerkraut--a great source of probiotics

Organic sauerkraut–a great source of probiotics

This is an excerpt from my book, “How to Stop Colds, Allergies & More.”

In 2003 I was introduced to the Soil Food Web at a native plant conference. For most of my life, gardening organically just meant using compost and mulch, and avoiding poisons and chemicals. But here on a big screen was the whole story of what is going on beneath our feet—how a teaspoon of healthy soil is full of millions of microbes, including bacteria, fungi, and other critters that have a synergistic relationship with the plants and provide nutrients in exchange for the sugars that plants make through photosynthesis. Everything eats something else, not all nematodes are bad, microbes also live inside the plants, and so forth.

We have always been told that plants don’t know the difference between natural or synthetic fertilizers, as if that somehow justifies the lifeless soils across our country. For more information about real soil, see the Soil Biology Primer, available through the online store of the Soil and Water Conservation Service.

Well, guess what, folks? The same applies to us! Only about 10% of the cells in our body are of human origin. The rest are bacteria, fungi, and who knows what else. While they represent far less than 90% of our weight, the roles they play in our existence are still being discovered and may never be fully understood. I know this might be shocking, if you have not heard it before–but just ask any microbiologist.

The next question is, what have we been doing to the fungus among us, not to mention the bacteria? Well, let’s see. Antibiotics kill bacteria, not all bacteria are bad, and the details of our synergistic existence are still being discovered.

For example, H. pylori was linked with stomach ulcers; so it has been widely eradicated with antibiotics. Now we are learning that it also has beneficial uses, like assisting hormones in the stomach that tell us when we are full. Could that be a little clue to some of our obesity problems? It also is believed to have a role in preventing esophageal cancer, asthma, and other conditions.  H. pylori is just one of many hundreds of species of bacteria that live in our gastrointestinal tract, most of which have not yet been identified, not to mention the numerous microbes that occupy other parts of our bodies.

In studying the soil food web, I learned that trees and perennials like fungi-dominated soils, while vegetables, annuals, and grasses prefer more bacteria. What do antibiotics do for the balance of fungi and bacteria in our bodies? I just know that antibiotics can have a negative effect on our digestion and are not appropriate for most chronic sinus infections, as mentioned above.

According to several health newsletters which I have received recently, our metabolic pathways are a series of chemical reactions our bodies perform to stay alive. Since the role that microbes play in our metabolic pathways is still unfolding, we really don’t know how many species of microbes may be critical to our existence. We can expect to hear a lot more about new discoveries regarding invisible friends and foes.

We have become almost obsessed with sterilizing our floors, hands, and even babies. Now we are learning that some of the healthiest children have been inoculated through mother’s milk, gradual introduction to grass and soil, etc. It is time to realize that not all bacteria are bad, and some are even beneficial. Antibacterial products are not the answer for everything.

Part 2 will include comments on an article by Dr. Joseph Mercola about fermenting your own vegetables and Part 3 will contain my recipe for the above photo.

I would like to hear your comments about fermenting vegetables.

Looks Like an Apple, Tastes Like an Apple?

I received this photo today from my friend, Jerica:

“So I peeled this apple at lunch today but didn’t eat it. I peeled it because it was conventional and I didn’t want to eat the petroleum wax coating. I forgot about the second half, which sat on the counter all day until 8:00 this evening. When I picked it up, I was quite surprised to find that, except in a few bruised places, it had NOT TURNED BROWN AT ALL. And they say irradiated food is ok to eat? It’s totally dead and without enzymes!”

This brought back memories of childhood, when I had negative feelings about a fruit than tended to turn brown before you finished eating it. I thought it was trying to rot before my eyes. Only now do I appreciate the science behind it and the importance of raw foods for the nourishment of our bodies. I always peeled apples, despite being told that the skins contained a large percentage of the nutrients. But now we are told that apples may have as many as 27 different pesticides and other chemicals, many of which are systemic and cannot be peeled off.

Apples are one of the super foods in the American diet. They are filled with antioxidants and have a reputation for fighting asthma, cancer, heart disease and type II diabetes. On the other hand, they also compete for top position on recent lists of the dirty dozen fruits and vegetables–along with peaches, celery and strawberries–because of the toxic chemicals used to grow conventional produce.

Can it still be true that an apple a day keeps the doctor away? In my opinion it is possible only if you can find a source of fresh, organic apples. I can’t imagine that members of the dirty dozen would boost immunity to the common cold, allergies or any of the usual maladies that cause most of our visits to the family doctor.

Thank goodness we can rely on plain vitamin C powder to supplement our diet rather than relying solely on fresh fruits and vegetables to get enough vitamin C.

Since we live in the South, our apples are shipped in, and we are usually limited to enjoying them in season, which is best for health anyway. Fuji and Red Delicious apples are reported to have the highest phenolic and flavonoid content. We used to get some beauties from our local discount club, but not any more. I suspect there is a growing demand for organic produce as more people learn the advantages of it.