My family has a history of high blood pressure. I struggled with high blood pressure on and off for years and was told to just expect to take medication for it. This made me fighting mad, and I didn’t want to accept it as a predetermined destiny that I had no choice over. I wanted to know why I had a tendency for this and what was happening inside of me that was causing all of this. I kept getting clues all along but never figured it all out until the birth of my third child and finding cultured foods. I had trouble in all my pregnancies with hypertension and preeclampsia, and because of this, I had to be hospitalized for all of the births of my children.
My last child was born 7 ½ weeks early and I was on bed rest for six months of the pregnancy. My blood pressure was extremely high and the stress began affecting my liver. They delivered the baby early to save my life. But my blood pressure didn’t come down after the birth of my child, and in the hospital they put me on a high dose magnesium drip that made me so sick I couldn’t get out of bed to see my daughter who was in the neonatal unit down the hall. It tortured me, and keeping me from my daughter made my blood pressure even higher. She was too sick to leave the neonatal unit and I couldn’t even sit up long enough to get into a wheelchair because the dosage of the magnesium was so high. It is times like these that can change our lives if we let them. I was staring at the ceiling and begging God to bring my blood pressure down when a nurse came into the room and I asked her to please take me to see my daughter. I told her it would make my blood pressure come down. She did just that at 2:00 in the morning - wheeled my entire bed into the neonatal unit and there I saw my four-pound preemie. Touching her tiny body, I vowed to find the answers to what had happened to me and give her the life she deserved.
Blood Pressure Normalized
My blood pressure started coming down after I saw my daughter, and as I rested in bed I started putting the pieces together. If they kept me on a magnesium drip so I wouldn’t have a stroke in the hospital, did that mean I wasn’t hanging on to magnesium in my cells and maybe this was the cause of my high blood pressure? I started researching this many months later and this was the time I started drinking kefir. I watched my blood pressure normalize with the addition of kefir, and I found out that not only was kefir high in magnesium, but it also helps you absorb more of it from the other foods you eat along with the kefir. I read in a study that kefir works on an enzyme in the stomach to lower blood pressure naturally in one out of three people. It also reduces inflammation throughout the body. It had normalized my elevated blood pressure and I was thrilled. The understanding didn’t end there. I started realizing that every food that I craved on a regular basis had magnesium in it: dark chocolate, avocados, bananas, figs, and nuts. So I started experimenting with things and found I could drop my blood pressure even more with certain supplements.
Minerals In Bath Salts
I read in a book that the body absorbs minerals, especially magnesium, in bath salts extremely well. It will only absorb what it needs and will leave the rest. I found these wonderful Dead Sea Mineral Bath Salts and when I would take a bath with these salts, my blood pressure would come down even more, virtually overnight. It was dramatic and it felt like I had found the missing piece to help my body find its balance. I started to realize that my tendency towards high blood pressure, especially during my pregnancies, was my body’s cry for more magnesium, and foods that had lots of magnesium began to appear in my life everywhere. My cries for help were being answered and I was a woman on a mission to learn all I could. Kefir was keeping my blood pressure normal but if this food could do this, what else was possible with this mineral called magnesium.
Minerals in Salt
I was always told that salt would raise my blood pressure – and then I found Celtic Sea Salt ®. Celtic Sea Salt ® is moist, so I keep it in a little glass jar on my counter. The moisture comes from the magnesium in it. Salt manufacturers making regular table salt refine the salt, which includes removing the magnesium and other minerals. This removes most of the moisture and makes it shakeable. This refining process makes it easier to use and sell, but destroys many of the components that make unrefined salt useful to the body. The magnesium in Celtic Sea Salt ® lowered my blood pressure and did not raise it, so the mainstream media was wrong again. I added this salt to the foods I cooked, especially my cultured vegetables, and even kefir. I liked other natural mineral salts, but now exclusively use Celtic Sea Salt ® because it has more magnesium. This is why this particular salt is wet and other salts are dry. Salts like Himalayan salt are loaded with minerals and are good for you, but Celtic Sea Salt ® has more of what my body needed. Cultured foods need minerals just like you do, and adding them to your kefir and cultured veggies when they are fermenting will make you absorb them easier. Your veggies will ferment better and your body will thank you. Everybody needs minerals: plants, humans, and animals. It is part of the cellular makeup of this planet.
Magnesium is a Co-factor in More Than 300 Enzyme Systems
Minerals are essential to our lives and many people struggle to hang on to magnesium. Magnesium deficiencies can wreak havoc in more ways than one. Magnesium is a co-factor in more than 300 enzyme systems that regulate different biochemical reactions in the body including protein synthesis, muscle and nerve function, blood glucose control, blood pressure regulation, as well as hundreds of other processes. Magnesium can be found in food, but the amount is dependent upon the amount in the soil where the food is grown. Highly processed foods, especially sugar, deplete the body of magnesium. A number of studies have previously shown magnesium can benefit your blood pressure and help prevent sudden cardiac arrest, heart attack, and stroke. For example, one study published earlier this year in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition looked at a total of seven studies collectively covering more than 240,000 participants. The results showed that dietary magnesium intake is inversely associated with risk of ischemic stroke. About 80% of Americans are deficient in magnesium. A magnesium deficiency can lead to diabetes and high blood pressure, which is becoming more and more prevalent.
I wrote this blog for more than one reason. Yes, you need a lifestyle that adds a lot of magnesium and minerals to your life, but you need to listen to your body's warning calls. There are signs all around you, but you have to pay attention. What foods do you crave and what is in them that you are missing in your diet? Don't just take the drugs and mask the symptoms - go on a seek-and-destroy mission to find out exactly why you are experiencing disease. Wellness should be the norm and not the exception; and if you will seek and ask for the answers to your health issues, the answers will come to you. Awaken inside of you the desire to work with your body and live an extraordinary life of wellness and joy. Give your body whole, real foods and add cultured foods and lots of minerals, then watch as your body gives you evidence of the miracle that it is. It makes you stand a little taller and feel stronger when you find answers to problems that plague you, and disease will become a thing of the past.
I am the creator and founder of Cultured Food Life and I could not have done any of this without my body's help. Just think - what could you and your body do together? The sky's the limit.
Listen To My Podcast
Our bodies can’t produce all of the nutrients that we need to function properly, so we have to eat them. One specific mineral saved my life.
A healthy body isn't the only result of consuming good bacteria - having a healthy gut also leads to a healthier emotional state.
Before I found cultured foods, I was a different person - physically and emotionally. As a young woman, and all the way into my late thirties, I would get upset easily. I didn't smile often and simply wasn't that happy. I am sad to say that I often felt grouchy and snapped at my kids. But when I started to eat cultured foods, everything changed. The summer I started to clean up my diet I also started to realize that I wasn't getting overly cross with my kids. I began to wonder how food, especially cultured food, could change someone's state of being so much. Since this realization, I've come upon research that helps me understand what happened in my life.
An article published in Natural News talks about a study out of Oxford University in the U. K. led by Dr. Drew Ramsey. The article discusses Dr. Ramsey's findings: "Nutrient deficiency is a major cause of behavioral abnormalities. Without the proper nutrients, the body cannot produce the appropriate chemicals and hormones required for clear thinking and a healthy mood, which in turn can lead to irrational and even dangerous behaviors."
The study he conducted, in an attempt to see just how diet affects mood and behavior., was done with prison inmates who were split into two groups. The first group was given vitamin supplements and the second was given a diet of junk food. What he found is that the people in the first group became much more calm and less aggressive.
A nutritionist named Nicolette Pace said, "Deficiencies in nutrients, magnesium or manganese, vitamin C, or some B vitamins may make a person hyperactive towards a stressor, a short fuse so to speak. Junk food doesn't give your body what you need to cope with day-to-day stresses.1"
This means that anything you can do to help your body absorb more nutrients, such as getting more healthy bacteria in your gut, will help your emotional state.
Decreasing Stress Hormones
Lactobacillus reduces anxiety
In his study, anxious mice were dosed with the probiotic bacterium Lactobacillus. This decreased stress hormones and even had an increase in brain receptors for a neurotransmitter that is vital in curbing worry, anxiety, and fear.2 Why would this happen? One reason is that 90 percent of the body's total serotonin - the feel-good chemical that leads to happiness and a sense of well-being - is produced in the digestive tract. Only 5 percent is produced in the brain.
Let's talk about this a little more. Serotonin is produced in different anatomical locations. In the brain, it acts as a neurotransmitter; and in the periphery,3 it can act as a hormone. Serotonin does not cross the blood-brain barrier; therefore, the two major pools remain separated.
Although 95% of serotonin is produced in the gut and is peripheral, its functions have been ignored until recently. Peripheral serotonin is produced in the digestive tract by enterochromaffin (EC) cells. Researchers at Caltech found that the EC cells from germ-free mice produced 60 percent less serotonin than did their peers with conventional bacterial colonies. When these germ-free mice were recolonized with normal gut microbes, their serotonin levels went back up - showing that the deficit in serotonin can be reversed.4
Social Anxiety and Fermented Foods
William & Mary college Psychology Professors Matthew Hilimire and Catherine Forestell recently joined with University of Maryland School of Social Work Assistant Professor Jordan DeVylder for a study. It was conducted on June 18, 2015, and showed that a diet rich in fermented foods and drinks containing probiotics may help curb social anxiety in young adults.
Social anxiety is a disorder that fills you with a fear of being judged by others or embarrassed in front of them in ordinary situations The researchers looked into whether eating fermented foods helps people get more out of traditional treatments such as medication or cognitive-behavioral therapy. The study, published in Psychiatry Research, included 710 students taking intro psychology courses at William & Mary. They filled out questionnaires about their fermented food eating habits, and rated how worried (or neurotic) they tended to be, and also said whether or not they had social anxiety. The questionnaire asked about a variety of foods including yogurt or food and drinks that contain yogurt, kefir, soy milk kefir, miso soups, sauerkraut, dark chocolate, juices that contain microalgae, pickles, and kimchi.
While not all of those foods necessarily have the live, active cultures that some cultured foods contain, they still have the potential to contain prebiotics. Researchers also considered factors including eating healthy foods and exercise along with analyzing their answers to look for underlying patterns.
Among those reporting a "neurotic" disposition - and thus more prone to social anxiety - exercise, eating more fruits and vegetables, and more probiotic foods each markedly reduced anxiety symptoms.
Researchers stated, "Probiotics also reduce inflammation of the gut. Because anxiety is often accompanied by gastrointestinal symptoms, reducing gut inflammation helps alleviate those symptoms. Probiotics have also been shown to modify the body's response to stress, and the stress response is highly linked to mental health disorders, such as social anxiety."
The researchers stated, "Research on gut bacteria is expanding a lot. This study is interesting in how it ties together several relevant threads of personality, food intake, and exercise. This information was not collected from a clinical sample of people with diagnosed anxiety disorders. Participants were first-year psychology students in an American liberal arts university. This means the results have implications for broad population health. Bacteria in the gut produce vitamins and break down our food. Their presence or absence has been linked to all kinds of mental and physical disorders."
Microbes in the gut make neuro-chemicals
So, since we're talking about feces and microbes, let talk about Mark Lyte. Lyte has worked in a small closet lab for over three decades in the Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center.5
He's been working away examining feces from monkeys. One day he got feces samples from monkeys. He placed them in 18 vials and had them spun down in a centrifuge. Lyte got really excited because he couldn't believe what was extracted out from the monkeys. "We found that the microbes here in the gut make neurochemicals. We didn't know that! Now, if they make this stuff here, does it have an influence in their brain? Guess what? It does and as humans, we make the same stuff in our bodies." All this communication has an influence on our behavior, our moods, and a million other processes. Lyte hopes to better establish how certain gut microbes influence the brain functioning (as psychiatric drugs do). He is currently compiling a list of the psychoactive compounds found in the feces of monkeys. Anxiety, depression and several pediatric disorders, including autism and hyperactivity, have all been linked with gastrointestinal abnormalities. Here's the great part - changing your gut microbes is not invasive brain surgery, and this is the point!
Lyte started this research three decades ago and everybody dismissed him, but the National Institute of Mental Health awarded four grants worth up to $1 million each to spur new research on the gut microbiome's role in mental disorders, affirming the legitimacy of a field that had long struggled to attract serious scientific credibility. Lyte and one of his longtime colleagues received one of the four grants and stated, "What Lyte thought for more than 25 years has come to fruition. It seems reasonable to say that we might one day use microbes to diagnose neuro-developmental disorders, treat mental illnesses and perhaps even fix them in the brain. "
Changing a person's bacteria might be challenging if you didn't know Me! But it's easier than altering your genes. The easiest way to change your gut flora is to feed it probiotic and prebiotic foods. This is what I did and you can do it too. It's fun and makes you feel great! Eating probiotic foods is much stronger than taking supplements that are often killed by the stomach acids before they ever get to the parts of the body that need them.
When you eat a probiotic food, the food itself provides a protective armor that helps shield the friendly bacteria. It also speeds the transport out of the stomach, thus keeping the good bacteria intact. Probiotic pills are often trapped in the acids of the stomach, and the probiotics are killed before the body ever gets a chance to use them. So consuming probiotic foods such as kefir, kombucha, and cultured vegetables is more effective than taking pills. Check out how to make these foods below. Start with the one that most interests you and let those microbes produce the chemicals you need to feel good. When you feel good you do good. It's a side effect of being happy!
Listen To My Podcast
Before I found cultured foods I was a different woman physically and emotionally. New research shows that you make chemicals in your gut that affect your emotional state. Check out the podcast for more info.
What Do Your Bacteria Eat?
Diet changes your microbes quickly
Is that crazy or what? But it's true. Some of these microbes want fat and others want sugar, and they fight for nutrients. They do this so they can stay alive and dominate the gut by sheer numbers alone. They influence our decisions by releasing signaling molecules into our gut. Since the gut is the second brain and linked to our immune system, the endocrine system, and the nervous system those signals influence our physiological and behavioral responses. Let's face it - we all know we should eat more healthy foods. You have to be living under a rock to not know that we should be eating more fruits and vegetables, so why don't we do this? Well, the makeup of your bacteria is a huge part of who you are. You're 99% microbial more than anything else, and what you feed these trillions of microbes will greatly affect your life, your cravings, and your mood.
Our diets have a huge impact on microbial populations in the gut. It's a whole ecosystem, and it's evolving on the time scale of minutes. Carlo Maley, Ph.D., director of the UCSF Center for Evolution and Cancer says, "Bacteria within the gut are manipulative. There is a diversity of interests represented in the microbiome, some aligned with our own dietary goals, and others not. Fortunately, it's a two-way street. We can influence the compatibility of these microscopic, single-celled houseguests by deliberately altering what we ingest, according to Maley, with measurable changes in the microbiome within 24 hours of diet change.”
There are even specialized bacteria that digest seaweed found in humans in Japan where seaweed is popular in the diet. These bacteria are unique to them as their microbes adapted and multiplied because of their diet.
You can easily change or manipulate bacteria
Dr. Aktipis, who is currently in the Arizona State University Department of Psychology says, "Microbes have the capacity to manipulate behavior and mood through altering the neural signals in the vagus nerve, changing taste receptors, producing toxins to make us feel bad, and releasing chemical rewards to make us feel good."
You can easily change or manipulate bacteria that reside within by ingesting prebiotics, probiotics, and cultured foods; by taking antibiotics; and making dietary changes. This isn't just researching to me - I've lived this in my own personal life and I manipulate my own diet to change food cravings. The change happens in less than a day. Cultured foods have a huge impact on how you feel and what you crave; but combine them with prebiotic foods (fiber and food for bacteria) and you'll be shocked how much control this gives you over your life.
Remember the arcade game PAC-MAN, where the yellow PAC-MAN eats his way through a maze of dots? I'm going to relate this to prebiotics and probiotics within your gut: PAC-MAN is the probiotic and the dots are prebiotics. Makes more sense now?
Foods That Change Your Bacteria
Here are some of the foods that have changed my bacteria and food cravings the most. You might be surprised by some of them. Vegetables, and especially greens, are a huge source of fiber which is food for bacteria; but certain ones are better than others such as carrots, beets, celery, broccoli, leeks, onions, jicama, garlic, kale and more. Your bacteria go crazy for these foods. It's interesting, I would ferment my garlic and couldn't understand why it was so crazy bubbly and hissing at me in the fridge. Lo and behold, it's a huge source of prebiotics which gave the bacteria tons of food to eat, thus making it super bubbly. I have found juicing my greens to be one of the fastest ways to change my gut flora. My craving for foods will change quickly. Most people think you lose the fiber and are losing the prebiotics when you juice, but this isn't true. The soluble fiber remains in the liquid and this prebiotic feeds your microbes like crazy. They love it. Onions and leeks make your microbes grow like crazy. Leeks, especially, are huge prebiotics. You've got to learn to eat a lot of leeks if you want to change your gut flora. They're crazy delicious and Jeff Leach from the human gut project eats them every day. He actually tested himself for the impact that leeks had on his microbiome and found he could change his ecosystem in a day just by having some lightly sautéed leeks.
Some more prebiotic fibers that I love, and also help us, are fruits such as berries and apples and lemons. Make a kefir smoothie with these fruits and oh my, what a difference it can make for you each day.
Foods That Change Your Bacteria
Now here is another prebiotic food that has had one of the biggest changes in my microbiome in regards to cravings and feeling satisfied. It might surprise you, but it's coffee. I love coffee but thought it was bad for me because, good grief, they're always demonizing foods in the media. What I noticed was I started getting hungry all the time and couldn't figure out why until I read Dr. David Perlmutter's book, Brain Maker. I have found that drinking coffee makes me feel full and satisfied for hours. I never understood why this was until now. Researchers found that the microscopic (prebiotic) soluble fibers in coffee form a gel in the gut that makes you feel full and satisfied. It's so important to have lots of fiber. You can't digest it, but your bacteria can and it helps your good bacteria grow and flourish. But that's not all. Researchers in Germany did studies on microbes and found that microbes love the microscopic fibers in coffee. As these microbes grow, they cover the intestinal walls and keep harmful pathogens from colonizing. They also lower the gut's pH to an acidity that causes most germs to die. These soluble coffee fibers are food for bacteria and make the beneficial Bacteroides microbes experience up to 60% increase in growth. Soluble fibers, which are prebiotics, do so many things. They improve insulin sensitivity, allow you to absorb more calcium, convert some plant fibers into Vitamin A, and much, much more.
He also talks about coffee and a study in Finland which followed 1,409 people between the ages of 65 and 79 for an average of 21 years. They found that those who drank moderate amounts of coffee had a 65 percent decreased risk of developing Alzheimer's as compared with low- or non-coffee drinkers. He goes on to say that researchers are finding extensive evidence of protective qualities in coffee and it all begins with the microbes in the gut and the coffee fibers they ingest. These microbes can lower the risks for Type 2 diabetes, strokes, Parkinson's disease, and even cancer and cardiovascular disease. It does this by consuming the coffee fibers (soluble fibers) in the brown liquid and using this as fuel to grow and multiply and can shift the ratio of Firmicutes bacteria to Bacteroidetes bacteria. This shift is associated with a reduced risk for diabetes and obesity as well as reducing inflammation.
When I added coffee back to my diet, I felt full and satisfied and my cravings shifted back to healthier foods. I drink organically grown and naturally decaffeinated coffee so I won't get the jitters. It makes such a difference in my life and I really enjoy it. We also made a coffee kombucha which is crazy bubbly and never knew why until now, it was the fibers feeding the good bacteria and it is really delicious too.
If you're not a coffee drinker, there are wonderful alternatives that have lots of prebiotics in them. We actually used these special faux coffees to heal my daughter's gut when she had IBS along with cultured foods. They worked so well for her that we recommend them to you as well: Teeccino Herbal Coffee and another herbal coffee called Faux Joes. Each of these delicious drinks has a blend of the prebiotics barley, dandelion root, and chicory root along with just a touch of carob, coconut, and cinnamon. Check out this article for more information.
Another great way to get prebiotics is to consume a powdered version. In our store, you will find Prebio Plus which you can sprinkle in any food be it kefir, cultured vegetables, your tea, salad dressings, or your coffee. It works to feed your microbes and repopulate your gut along with the colonies of bacteria in cultured foods.
So these are just a few of the things I do that help me feel balanced and stay balanced. This keeps my hitchhikers - all 100 trillion of them - fed and happy which in turn keeps me happy too. You must use the science and wisdom in your own life or it doesn't work. Try a few of these things and see how you feel. You are made up of 100 trillion bacteria and you might as well embrace them and work with them. They have been waiting for the day you do just this.
Listen To My Podcast
There is no one size fits all for the perfect diet. We are unique and diverse, but so are our bacteria. Our genes aren't what matters, it's our microbes and they can adapt. They evolve depending on what you feed them and this determines your health and well being. Discover how important this is for you!
What Happens When You Eat Sugar
80% of Your Immune System is In Your Gut
Boosting your immune system is one of my favorite things that cultured foods do. Your gut is responsible for 80 percent of your immune system. The more good bacteria you have, the better your immune system will function. Viruses run around looking for a human host to inhabit. When it finds one, your body has special helpers designed to seek and destroy this invader. One of the things that can affect your immune system is eating sugar. Let's talk about this in regards to vitamin C.
On a daily basis, our body uses antioxidant vitamins to boost the immune system. One of the most important antioxidants for this is vitamin C (sometimes known as ascorbic acid). Studies have shown that vitamin C helps reduce cardiovascular disease, coronary heart disease, stroke and improves prenatal health problems, eye disease, and even skin wrinkling. We don't have the ability to make this special vitamin in our bodies, so we must obtain vitamin C from the diet. One of the best ways to do this is through cultured foods - especially cultured vegetables. Lactic acid fermentation increases the micronutrient profile of foods. Not only does vitamin C increase when you ferment foods, but many other vitamins, too, such as A and B vitamins. All of the essential nutrients boost our body's ability to fight infections and invaders and keep our adrenal glands running at optimal levels.
Take Vitamin C For a Cold — Theory
In the 1970s, Dr. Linus Pauling - one of the greatest researchers in the field of microbiology - discovered that vitamin C helps the body combat the common cold. But what he also found was how sugar can do the opposite. This is very important to know, as using this information can prevent illness and dramatically assist healing. Because the idea that sugar is "bad" for you is becoming pretty well known, I am going to give you a quick journey through your own immune system so you can see for yourself what Dr. Pauling discovered.
Dr. Pauling discovered that vitamin C is needed by white blood cells to engulf and absorb viruses and bacteria. In fact, a white blood cell has to contain 50 times the concentration of vitamin C as would normally be found in the blood around the cell. That's how we came up with the "take vitamin C for a cold" theory. In order to continue to desťroy bacteria and viruses, the white blood cells have to accumulate vitamin C all the time to keep up the 50-times concentration. Vitamin C is water soluble and so we need to constantly acquire more vitamin C to keep our cells in balance throughout the day. When we have too much vitamin C it is excreted through the urine. So, vitamin C is being moved through the cell membranes into the white blood cells all over your body, all the time. That's why it's important to have plenty of vitamin C available to your body.
The Body Mistakes Sugar for Vitamin C
Glucose, or sugar, and vitamin C have a similar chemical structure. So similar, in fact, that when a white blood cell tries to pull in more vitamin C from the blood around it, glucose can get taken in by mistake. If the concentration of glucose in the blood goes beyond a certain amount, the white blood cell's 50-times vitamin C concentration can start to drop because of the large amount of glucose it's pulling in instead of the vitamin C.
So, as your blood sugar starts to rise from eating sugar and gets to a 120 units or above, the white blood cell's ability to absorb and destroy viruses and bacteria is reduced by 75%. This blood sugar level would be easily obtained by any normal person eating some sugar (cake, cookies, candy, soda, or even drinking fruit juice). It can take four to six hours for the vitamin C concentration in the white blood cells to reach the optimum 50-times concentration again. I want to tell you that one of the fastest ways to get vitamin C is from cultured veggies. They contain over 700 milligrams in one cup, but it can't get into your cells if your blood is filled with sugar. As you can see, it's not a great idea to eat any kind of sugar if you're sick, even if you're consuming extra vitamin C. This is because it won't help if the white blood cells can't get past the sugar to use the vitamin C. If you were on a program of health improvement or healing from an injury of any kind, sugar should be your Number One Enemy! White blood cells and other phagocytes remove dead tissue as well as other types of waste associated with injury healing. So have I scared you?! It's ok! I'm just trying to help you understand what I have been learning for years cause its gonna set you free. Here is what is so cool about this. Every time you eat sugar you know it is depleting your cells of vitamin C and it's gonna start bugging you. This little bit of knowledge will start to change your mind and it can effectively start a change in you that otherwise might have never happened. Your mind will help you change the habits that your body has on autopilot and you will start to change. Maybe not all at once, but it takes a lot of courage to make changes; but when you change your life, you change everybody around you.
Cultured Foods Boost Your immune System
Having lots of vitamin C in your diet is a great way to keep your immune system healthy. Did you know that one cup, or the juice, of cultured cabbage can have as much as 700 milligrams of vitamin C, while un-fermented cabbage only has 70 milligrams of vitamin C. Impressive, right?! You're more bacteria than you have cells in your body, so eating probiotic cultured foods is a no brainer. These are some of the most powerful reasons you need to eat cultured foods to help boost your immune system. I'm not just giving you facts and figures, I have actually lived these results and seen so many others do the same. They work, they do the job, and you will receive the benefits. It will make you a believer. Eat your cultured foods: kefir, kombucha, and cultured vegetables. They talk to your immune system and keep you strong.
On a daily basis, our body uses antioxidant vitamins to boost the immune system. One of the most important antioxidants for this is vitamin C (sometimes known as ascorbic acid). Studies have shown that vitamin C helps reduce cardiovascular disease, coronary heart disease, and stroke. It also improves prenatal health problems, eye disease, and even skin wrinkling. We don't have the ability to make this special vitamin in our bodies, so we must obtain vitamin C from the diet. One of the best ways to do this is through cultured foods and especially cultured vegetables. Lactic acid fermentation increases the micronutrient profile of foods. Not only does vitamin C increase when you ferment foods, but many other vitamins such as A and B vitamins are also increased.
Start your day with kefir, and consume a glass of kombucha for lunch or dinner if at all possible. Add in a spoonful of cultured veggies as a side dish and perhaps some minerals, too. Sugar depletes your minerals and you'll need extra. And if you're going to eat sugar, have a cultured food before or after so it can consume some of the sugars. Limit your sugar and up your cultured foods and watch what happens. It will make you a believer, too. Food is powerful and cultured foods are mighty heroes in my life. What would I do without them? I did try and eliminate them for a short time and well. . . that didn't turn out so well. That's another story, and I'm thankful for the lessons that turned to wisdom.
"Knowing yourself is the beginning of all wisdom.”Aristotle
Listen To My Podcast
One of my favorite things that cultured foods do is to boost your immune system. Your gut is responsible for 80% of your immune system. Find out how sugar can drop your immune system by 75% and how cultured foods can help.
Understanding How Bacteria Work In The Body
We know that more than half of all women will experience the burning urgency of a urinary tract infection in their lifetime. Although men also suffer from these infections, the occurrence is much less frequent due to anatomical differences. If you experience discomfort when you urinate, you may have an infection. There are two types of infections that commonly affect these areas - urinary tract infections (UTIs) which are also called bladder infections and yeast infections. While these are different conditions, some of their symptoms, causes, and prevention methods are similar.
Bladder infections often cause a frequent urge to urinate, a burning sensation during urination, and bloody, cloudy, or pungent-smelling urine. While a yeast infection may include pain when urinating, you’ll also experience pain and itchiness in the affected area. Vaginal yeast infections also typically cause a thick, milky discharge. UTIs are normally treated with antibiotics; but what you really need to know is that if you do have to take an antibiotic, you need to replace the good bacteria that is wiped out by the antibiotics.
Dr. Ann Stapleton, Professor of Medicine at the University of Washington, stated, "When a UTI occurs, gut bacteria like E. coli take up residence in the vagina and displace good bacteria that normally live there. UTIs cause pain during urination, and can even lead to back pain, fever. and bladder and kidney infections. Women take antimicrobial medications to combat these infections and the medications wipe out all bacteria, both good and bad. But for some women, the bad bacteria grow back to cause a recurrent UTI. Probiotics help to restore the natural bacterial environment to make it hard for the bad bacteria to cause another infection."
I have seen this in myself and in so many people. If they take the antibiotics to rid themselves of the bladder infection but don't replenish the good bacteria that the antibiotics wiped out, consequently they have a big battle with recurring infections even though they take multiple antibiotics. If you do find yourself in this situation, consuming probiotic foods will help keep out pathogens, parasites, bacteria, and viruses, especially Gardnerella, Proteus, Chlamydia, Campylobacter, Neisseria, Treponema, Salmonella, and Escherichia coli (E. coli). 1 These are the urinary tract bacteria that can cause yeast infections and bladder infections.
Berries And Bacteria For UTIs
Adding to your diet lots of blueberries, cranberries, blueberries, and lingonberries–a European derivative of cranberries–provides compounds called tannins. Tannins may prevent strains of bacteria from attaching to urinary tract cells and may aid in reducing infection. Eating and drinking these berries at the onset of a UTI may help decrease the number of symptoms a person experiences and lessen the frequency of infections in women with recurrent UTIs. Most juices contain huge amounts of sugar, so it is best to stick with the berries.
Cranberries have proanthocyanidins (PACs) which are very powerful antioxidants that remove harmful free radicals from cells. They have shown that the antioxidant power of PACs is 20 times higher than that of vitamin C and 50 times higher than vitamin E. That gives this berry superpowers! The PACs in cranberries have a special structure called A-type linkages.3 The special structure of PACs in cranberries acts as a barrier to harmful bacteria that might latch on to the urinary tract lining.
WebMD reports that if you drink unsweetened cranberry juice, within eight hours the levels of bad bacteria in the urinary tract decrease. Thus, cranberry juice could prevent an infection. Raw blueberries and blueberry juice are rich sources of vitamin C and proanthocyanidins. These compounds can help flush bacteria from the urinary tract.
In a new study in The Journal of Biological Chemistry, scientists found that when we eat certain foods (such as cranberries and blueberries), our bodies break them down into small molecules during the process of digestion. This can influence how well E. coli (the most common cause of UTIs) can or cannot grow in our urinary tracts. "We didn't set out to link diet to urinary tract infections at all," said study's author Jeffrey Henderson, MD, Ph.D., Assistant Professor of Medicine and Molecular Microbiology at the Washington University School of Medicine. "We were looking at immune response—how the body naturally fights infections.” Their finding was a surprise. "Your body makes a protein called siderocalin that is known to control bacterial growth, and it shows up in the urine of people with UTIs, like the body's first responders," Henderson explains. They found large differences in people's ability to fight infections. Some exhibited greater bacteria-fighting power. Certain foods that they were eating helped siderocalin do its job, which is to deprive bacteria of iron, a mineral it needs to grow. "Siderocalin uses these dietary compounds as molecular grips to bind to iron and keep it away from the bacteria," Henderson says. "If you can keep iron away from the bacteria, you prevent it from growing." Blueberries, cranberries, and tea, along with fermented milk products topped the list of foods that can help process the foods you eat into more of those bacteria-busting compounds.
Women and Yeast Infections
Yeast infections occur when too much of the fungus known as Candida builds up and gets out of control. In women, bacteria normally colonize the vagina and keep Candida and yeast infections under control. There are five known vaginal bacteria, and many of them (such as Lactobacillus) produce lactic acid, which lowers the pH, creating a hostile environment for pathogens. When these bacteria are killed by things such as antibiotics, there becomes a big void of empty space. Candida suddenly has room to spread out and grow. An overgrowth of yeast may result, leading to a yeast infection.
Looking for balance, not complete extinction
Candida is something that everyone is talking about and seems to be afraid of. This same thing happened many years ago with bacteria when everybody and their brother came out with antibacterial soaps and disinfectants. It was the new buzz and this caused so many problems. I believe this was the wrong approach to keeping pathogens at bay. Most thought if we could just stamp out the bad bacteria (and now Candida) all our problems would go away, but this is not the case. If we will build up the good yeasts and bacteria, they will solve the problem for us and also create a balance that otherwise wouldn’t exist within our bodies. Killing bacteria kills both the good and the bad, and the same with Candida – you want a small amount to remain but you really are looking for balance, not complete extinction. It’s the same story, again and again, good versus evil. If you focus on the good instead of only destroying the bad, the good will be in control, will dominate, and will bring things into balance. The struggle will cease.
Studies have shown that when you add probiotics from the Lactobacillus family you downregulate Candida, stopping yeast infections and keeping them from recurring.2 I can think of no better way to do this than through cultured foods, which are loaded with many probiotics, especially those from the Lactobacillus family.
Eating Cultured Probiotic Foods Makes It Hard For Pathogens To Survive
It comes as no surprise to me that bacteria organize communities of bacterial responses to help us fight pathogens. This does depend on what you eat, and especially the strength of your microflora. Kefir has more good bacteria than any other cultured food and is a powerful ally in preventing and combatting UTIs and yeast infections. Making a kefir smoothie with cranberries or blueberries can flood your body with all the components it needs to help stop UTIs and yeast infections.
One study found that milk Kefir, with its 50+ probiotics was impressive at inhibiting Candida albicans and harmful bacteria. This interesting study added kefir to a sugar broth (molasses, demerara sugar, and brown sugar) and it still inhibited bad bacterial growth as well as Candida albicans. Several strains of bad bacteria such as Salmonella and E. coli were added, and the kefir inhibited all of them! 4
A lot of people avoid cultured foods - especially kombucha - when they have an overgrowth of Candida, believing that these foods actually make the condition worse. Saccharomyces boulardii, a probiotic yeast, is abundant in kombucha. S. boulardii is able to effectively compete with and displace harmful yeast strains such as Candida.5 S. boulardii is absent from the natural gut since it is a transient yeast that passes through the intestines after ingestion. If taken every day, it achieves a steady stream in the colon within 3 days and is cleared from the stools 2 - 5 days later.6 It does not attach to the mucosal cell lining, but works its magic on you as it moves through the gastrointestinal tract. When S. boulardii is present, it inhibits toxins from binding to intestinal receptors and steals the metabolites it needs to survive. Thus many pathogens pass out of the body unable to survive in the presence of this powerful probiotic. They even found that other pathogen strains like E. coli, Salmonella typhimurium, and S. typhi adhere to the surface of S. boulardii, thus preventing them from attaching to the mucosal lining and passing through the body rendering them harmless. S. boulardii also produces anti-fungal substances such as capric, caprylic, and caproic acids. In the case of kombucha, it is important to drink the first-fermented kombucha and not the second-fermented ones with fruit juice to ensure that all the sugars are gone and it is properly fermented. Cultured foods can aid in the treatment of Candida overgrowth as long as they are made properly in order to remove the sugars and allow the probiotics to grow and become strong.
Sauerkraut is another fermented food that research has found to inhibit Candida albicans and it also has antibacterial activity. Fermented kraut juice was observed against Escherichia coli (E. coli), Salmonella enterica, Staphylococcus, and Bacilllus amyloliquifaciens. 7 It was shown to have antibiotic and antifungal activity against a wide range of bacteria and fungi. It was concluded that the antifungal activity of sauerkraut juice is comparatively better than commercial antibiotics. Further research is being done to find treatments for a variety of pathogens.
Often when you first start consuming cultured foods you can feel like you're getting a yeast infection. This may be a healing crisis as the body is flooded with good bacteria and the pathogens start to die. The medical term for a healing crisis is the “Herxheimer Reaction.” The cells release toxins into circulation and the body is not able to eliminate them quickly enough. Candida alone can give off 80 different toxins when it starts to leave the body and it can even mimic a yeast infection making you think you're getting worse and not better. You can read more about this in this article - Healing Crisis and Cultured Foods.
Here are some more articles to help you if you're battling Candida or a yeast infection:
I just thought I would share what has worked so effectively for me. Makes sense to me – flood the body with good bacteria and it will counteract the toxic bacteria and fungi that can wreak such havoc on your life. I can help you make these foods a part of your life. I'm really good at it, and I've been doing this for almost two decades.
It is my belief that one of the most powerful medicines on the planet is what you eat!
- Hawrelak J. Giardiasis: pathophysiology and management. Alternative Medicine Review. 2003;8(2):129–142.
- A-Type Proanthocyanidin Trimers from Cranberry that Inhibit Adherence of Uropathogenic P-Fimbriated Escherichia coli
- Saccharomyces boulardii CNCM I-745 supports regeneration of the intestinal microbiota after diarrheic dysbiosis – a review
Stress is an alarm clock. It’s your body trying to communicate with you, sending you alert notices; but so few of us listen and I am no different from you. This is a very personal subject for me. Stress made its presence known to me in 2016, but I didn’t listen. I just ignored the signs. I was working like crazy for years and adding more and more pressure to myself. So many things were going on in my life, and I thought that as long as I had my cultured foods I could just keep adding more and more things to my life and I’d be fine.
Well, that was not happening, I had panic attacks and couldn’t control them. It scared me so badly that I followed my husband around like a puppy dog scared to be alone and afraid. It was my chiropractor who told me I had been working too much and my body was showing all the signs. I sat in his office and cried and cried. He told me he had been through the same thing and felt just like me. Here he was trying to help people get well and he couldn’t even help himself. He told me my mind was looking everywhere to find a disease or ailment that was causing all of this, but I needed to surrender to it and learn from it. I just cried harder and said, "It couldn’t just be stress, could it? How could this be?" And then finally after weeks of searching, I surrendered. I prayed, "Please teach me what I need to know, I'm ready." And then the dreams started. Every night I had dreams about people who had struggled with anxiety - friends, family, and even my dog who was traumatized when our other dog died and he didn’t want to be alone. Every night another person who had struggled, sometimes from twenty years ago, started showing up in my dreams. My heart filled with compassion and a desire to help those who were hurting. I didn’t understand what a panic attack was or a breakdown because I'd never experienced anything like this. Then everything switched inside of me.
I started doing different things and found things that helped me so much, and I thought I would share them with you. When we're desperate, sometimes we need tools to help ourselves, methods that are the bridge, and this is what I found worked so effectively for me. I couldn't just eat perfectly and expect everything to be all right and then run myself into the ground. Eventually, it all catches up with you. Lack of sleep, stress, and physical exhaustion will shut you down but will wind up teaching you so much if you let it.
10 Ways I found to Reduce Stress
Surrender and Listen:
First of all, you have to listen to what your body is trying to tell you. It's trying to get your attention and no matter how scary this is, you need to surrender and listen, because your body is going to win and shut you down if you don’t so you must pay attention. Surrender and ask for what it is trying to teach you, and then listen and find clues. Symptoms are only the warning sign and not the enemy. Make peace with whatever is happening and ask it to teach you what it needs to. This is one of the fastest ways to find the answers that are seeking you. I used to walk around telling myself the answers would come to me, and I was not meant to live this way. The answers did come and changed my entire life. I tuned myself to wellness and then hung on with as much faith as I could muster. I practiced faith with every thought and turned my mind away from sickness and disease, and then a tipping point came and the answers flowed in like a river. I still practice this to this day. Your mind is a powerful tool in your wellness and faith is ever present. You just have to reach for it and hang on for dear life, even if you're afraid. Fire cannot kill a dragon.
Meditating was the only way I found to calm my mind which is like a runaway train when I'm under stress. It took me a while because I couldn’t calm my mind down, so I only did five minutes a day and it was enough. Later on I did more; but in the beginning, this was all I could muster and then I did more. I'd find some calming music to listen to that lasted five to seven minutes or I'd use an app called Calm. It had ocean waves and other soothing sounds. Sometimes I needed a guided meditation to give my mind something to focus on. I tried a lot of different meditations and still do, sometimes I just focus on my breath; but whatever I do, I'm quieting my mind and stopping the chatter. Even five minutes was enough to stop my mind from going to the dark side that was telling me something was terribly wrong with me.
There are many different kinds of meditations out there and I encourage you to find what works for you. I had to start with something little because everything overwhelmed me and this was perfect for me. Fast forward many years later and meditation has changed my life and body in so many ways. I don't go a day without it and the effects are cumulative. Meditating has been found to calm the central nervous system and lower blood pressure1 . Something I have noticed is that every successful person I meet has a meditation practice. If I've learned anything from all of this, I realized I can't control all the moving pieces in the outside world, but I can control my response to them through meditation. I'm the happiest and calmest I have ever been in my life and I credit so much of this to training my mind to calm down at will. It's a skill just like learning a new task and you need to practice it. It can give you a tool to use when life around you seems crazy. Took me a good year to really get good at it, but I didn't give up and kept going and it has made all the difference. I love meditation like I do my cultures. It was part of the mind-body connection that I needed to complete my life.
Kefir contains the most probiotics of any cultured food. With 50+ good bacteria and yeasts (we need good yeasts, too) it is one powerhouse food and the one I get the most emails about. Sometimes it's hard for me to talk about kefir without getting emotional because it has helped me over and over again throughout the last seventeen years. When I was struggling, I drank 2 ½ to 3 cups of kefir a day. I normally only drink about a cup, but I needed the huge amounts of B12 in kefir. One cup has half the B12 you need in a day. This is so, so calming to the central nervous system so I drank three cups at least. A good friend of mine actually told me about how much this helps calm her down when she is stressed out. She drinks two to three cups and it makes a huge difference for her. I hear this over and over again. I even saw a post on one of my Youtube comments today that expressed how it keeps her anxiety at bay. If you come to one of my classes you will hear the stories of wellness from the people in the classes. I used to walk around my house holding my jar of kefir close to my heart knowing that it is always there for me when I need it. You'll never understand it till you experience it yourself, and I believe you wouldn't be here reading this if you didn't need it. Guidance and help for problems usually come in whispers and nudges. No worries, if you're on the fence it will keep showing up until you decide to try it.
For me, there were days that all I drank was kefir because I couldn’t handle anything else. The results were a deeper sleep and my body would calm down. I often had a hard time sleeping since cortisol seemed to be running rampant. On many occasions, I got up in the middle of the night and drank a half cup of kefir and within a few minutes, I was back to sleep. My husband does this too when he has trouble sleeping. Kefir is the best for relaxing the body. The calcium found in kefir will help the brain use the tryptophan to make sleep-inducing melatonin. 2
Have Probiotic Drinks For extra Help
Another wonderful thing that helped me was coconut water kefir. It has tons of electrolytes and a lot of potassium. Coconut water may contain more than 600 mg of potassium per serving - an amount higher than one serving of just about any other food or beverage. They even found it lowers blood pressure3 and can help with elevated stress markers. I loved the taste in the morning with a slice of fresh lime. I have a bunch of recipes for this on my blog: Love Affair With Water Kefir.
Kombucha is another drink that can greatly help you. Those stress hormones that are flooding your body can really mess up your digestive and immune systems. Kombucha will assist the body in removing those extra hormones and also strengthens the immune system to keep you strong. Kombucha is full of glucuronic acid which plays a part in one of the body’s most important detoxification processes: glucuronidation, a process in which glucuronic acid binds to toxins and transforms them so they can be easily eliminated by the kidneys. The liver produces this substance naturally, but sometimes the body can’t keep up with the number of pollutants and hormones that it comes into contact with. The extra glucuronic acid in kombucha helps make up the difference. 4,5
Herb Passionflower Vine:
Passionflower vine tincture was another thing I found that helped me so much. I took the liquid drops and I put them in a glass of water. It stopped that crazy circular thinking in my head and helped me relax. Indigenous Americans are the first people known in history to have found a use for passion flower. It's great for anxiety and contains many flavonoids. The flavonoids “chrysin” and “benzoflavone” may be the primary flavonoids in passion flower that are responsible for decreasing anxiety.
Chrysin and benzoflavone are believed to have the effect of increasing the amount of gamma-aminobutyric acid (often abbreviated as GABA) in the brain, in much the same way that standard anti-anxiety medications are known to do. It really helps me and is a wonderful way to help myself calm down. I checked with my health care provider before taking the herbs and supplements, and I suggest you do the same. You can get Passionflower vine tincture at most health food stores or click on the words above to take you to an online source.
Catnip capsules (3 capsules) or a cup of catnip tea is a fantastic way to reduce anxiety and stress. I just couldn’t believe how effective this was for me and it also has many applications besides just anxiety. This herb has natural relaxing and soothing properties. A cup of this mild tea made with catnip herb is said to help improve digestion, ease morning sickness, calm nerves, lower blood pressure, and help with fevers. Its relaxing properties also make it beneficial to those who suffer from insomnia.
You can get catnip in tea or capsule form and most health food stores carry it - or click on the words above to take you to an online source. I'm very thankful I found this wonderful herb. I checked with my health care provider before taking the herbs and supplements and I suggest you do the same.
Another key vitamin for stress, abundant in cultured foods, is vitamin C. It is also key in helping support your adrenal glands and myriad other processes in the body as well. Vitamin C is absolutely essential for adrenal function. Vitamin C will allow you to respond properly to life’s stressors and recover more quickly from them. Cultured veggies not only supply you with a ton of vitamin C (one cup contains 700 milligrams of vitamin C) but they also allow you to better absorb it throughout the body. Good microbes heal the gut and allow better absorption and digestion from all your foods. Cultured vegetables and kefir are abundant in vitamins C and B. Vitamin C has many, many functions in the body; and since it is water-soluble, not stored by the body, and is eliminated in urine, we require a continuous, daily supply in our diet. I love drinking the juice from cultured veggies. It a fast way to get that much-needed vitamin C into the bloodstream quickly.
Social anxiety: A study, published in Psychiatry Research, included 710 students taking introductory psychology courses at the College of William and Mary. 6They were given a questionnaire about how many fermented foods they ate on a regular basis and how much anxiety and social awkwardness they felt. In students with high degrees of anxiety, eating more fermented food was linked to fewer symptoms of stress and anxiety. Probiotics help to reduce inflammation throughout the body, and reducing inflammation in the gut is crucial to emotional wellbeing.
My chiropractor really, really encouraged me to do yoga. He told me that tons of yoga studies have been done. These studies have shown that yoga twice a day for fifteen minutes, done for a month, works as well as anti-anxiety drugs and you know what? I did it for fifteen minutes once a day and it made a believer out of me. It's like getting your mind-body connection going in some kind of wonderful way and even just doing a little bit makes a huge difference.
Sudha Prathikanti, M.D., an integrative psychiatrist at the University of California, San Francisco, did several studies on the effectiveness of yoga on those patients who had mild to major depression. Earlier in her career, Dr. Prathikanti had run into some limitations when using conventional psychiatric techniques alone. “Whether I was using psychotherapy, medications, or behavioral interventions, there seemed to be little scope for addressing the spiritual dimension of my patients’ lives,” she says. “I also noticed an over-reliance on clinical experts to achieve and maintain health.” She believes that an integrative approach to emotional wellness helps overcome these limitations.7,8 Try it and see. I’ve always been into strength training and cardio and boy, did I need yoga. I could feel myself calm down.[
Loving Yourself or Mirror work.
You just gotta do it - stand in front of a mirror and love yourself. Louise Hay, the late founder of my publishing company, Hay House, built a whole company on these principles because they work. They helped her overcome cancer and then using her own life as an example, she went on to help thousands of others. Looking in the mirror and telling yourself that you love yourself and that all the problems you're facing are going to turn around is huge in self-recovery. I believe the cells of your body listen to everything you say. We have beliefs and habits and our body and mind are running a program each and every day. What you think about and how and where you put your focus governs just about everything you do. Most of it is subconscious. For instance, you never really think about putting your foot on the gas when you're driving. Your mind has neurons in place that you taught to do this automatically. We have thousands of things we do every day that are simply programs in our neuro-network that help us get about our day. But what happens when things aren't going so well? You want to program your mind to look for wellness. You want to love yourself into health and encourage yourself every chance you get. I read a book, Love Yourself Like Your Life Depends On It, by Kamal Ravikant that had a big impact on me when I was going through this. It might be a good read for you. It was a blessing to me.
Listening to those who have been there can inspire you. We need mentors. We need those who have walked through the flames and blazed a trail for us. Maybe I went through all of this so I could find the answers and hopefully help you, too. I’m so thankful my doctor had been through this. He told me to surrender, do meditation, yoga, and gave me some helpful supplements. Then he told me I needed to slow down and gave me some things to watch and read. I needed his wisdom. He had been through it and I am so thankful for his life that stood as an example to me. You will find your way and as you look towards wellness, those people who can help and inspire you will show up in books, podcasts, videos, and friends and family too. Seek it out and it will find you. And remember my friends, as the great poet Rumi says, "What you seek is seeking you." The pain will turn to wisdom and one day you'll be so thankful for the pain that made you change. I know I am! I have more compassion for others, I meditate and do yoga, and I have a peacefulness I had never known. I put systems into place that allowed me to work smarter and take more time for myself and spend more time in nature.
I believe that you're loved and watched over even when you can't feel it. What a journey this life is! The pain has made me grow in ways I otherwise wouldn't have. I wouldn't be here writing to you had I not struggled and found my way. Sometimes when you're running low on faith and you're scared, you just need a little grace; so I write this blog to hopefully send you a little hope and lots of love. It'll be okay — just you wait and see.
Listen To My Podcast
All of us find ourselves in situations where we’re under tremendous stress which can cause anxiety. Here are the ten things that have helped me calm my mind and body in miraculous ways. It may not be what you think!
Everybody I know leads busy lives, but did you know there is always help for you? My family had a lot of big changes in 2017, but a constant through it all was the way each member of my family used and ate cultured foods. Maybe this could be the answer for you, too. But first, the journey . . . it was March 18, 2017, and I was sitting in a truck with a convoy behind us with all our worldly goods, driving across the country to a new destiny. Both of our older kids had moved to southern California and wanted us to join them. Since we have our own businesses, we can live anywhere; and with one 16-year old kid still at home missing her two older siblings, we made the big decision to move. Not knowing all this would entail, we sold our home, packed up our stuff, and headed towards our new home hoping to be a family again. My side of the family all lives on the east coast and my husband’s family is in Colorado and Nebraska. We were in Kansas City and had nothing holding us there anymore with our kids gone. We left on my birthday and the stress of moving got to me.
I have lived far away from my family since the age of 18. I moved away to college and never came back except to visit. My mom and dad lived on the east coast and my sisters did, too, and it was hard for my family to visit since we all lived so far from each other. Ron’s mom had died many years ago and his dad didn’t really communicate with us but maybe once a year with a phone call. Watching my kids grow up without a lot of extended family was different from everybody else I knew, but I was determined to make my family something that would sustain us all. It would be something special and something we could build a strong foundation upon. Ron and I are a strong team. With over 35 years of marriage, both of us having our own business and not having a lot of outside support, these pressures and struggles have made us really strong and I'm so thankful for that! We had to depend on each other, so Ron and I our three kids did everything together. When people talked about us they always talked about us as a unit. We were mostly alone, far from extended family, but we had each other and it was enough. Until our oldest daughter and husband moved to California. Then my son went to visit and was offered a job, and my son said he would only go if we would eventually come too. We sure did miss our kids and felt bad for our youngest who was missing her brother and sister. So we made the decision to sell our house and move closer to them. As we got our house ready to put on the market we renovated the kitchen, painted, and redid all the rooms. And it was something else - all the while writing my book Cultured Food in a Jar. At this busy time, I was living out of jars with cultured foods in them as our kitchen was torn apart and in disarray. I never realized how much I would need my own recipes to sustain me and get me through this challenging time. I can remember sitting on the kitchen floor on a towel amidst the wreck in my kitchen eating miso soup out of a jar, drinking raspberry kombucha punch, and being so thankful that I had something easy to eat. My own foods from my book saved me again and again. We all reach for easy foods when we're busy and I created ones that not only nourished me but kept me calm too. Cultured foods do this with their powerful combo of microbes that work with me from the inside out.
Fast forward many months later . . . we sold our home and had all our trucks and trailers packed, ready to move and a tornado hit right down the road from us. And I heard my husband say, “If that tornado picks up my trailers and puts them in the neighbor's yard after I spent all this time packing them I’m not going to be happy!" I closed my eyes and prayed and although the tornado did hit not too far from our home, we were left untouched and left the following morning on our journey which just happened to be my 57th birthday. I was sitting in the back of the truck because I felt horrible and was trying to sleep and discovered after missing several nights of sleep I had gotten a cold. This was my first cold in years and I felt like I was going to die. The body can only take so much stress and lack of sleep before it shuts down. I'm not used to being sick and I forgot how horrible this can be. I knew my body was reacting to all the stress I was feeling and it was trying to get my attention. On that day, nobody remembered my birthday which at this point I didn’t care about anymore, but I was running a fever and couldn’t breathe out of my nose and thought I made a terrible mistake moving across the country. Tornados and sickness . . . well, it felt like all the forces were converging to stop me and that’s when I saw the cooler sitting next to me. I grabbed the new spicy kimchi jar out of the cooler. It was a recipe I had made from my book and then I grabbed a q tip from my makeup bag. I ate some of the kimchi and then dipped the q-tip in the kimchi and swapped the inside of my nose. I had a reader tell me this got rid of a six-month sinus infection she had. A lot of sinus problems are yeast related so adding probiotics to your diet, and in this case up my nose, made my sinus clear and I was able to breathe, finally.
Three days later we arrived, and I saw my kids for the first time in almost a year and I couldn’t stop the tears. I couldn’t believe I had made it there, thousands of miles, to be a family again. Halfway there I thought I had made a terrible mistake but drinking three jars of kefir, gallons of kombucha, and kimchi got me there in one piece. My own recipes have sustained me through some of the hardest times of this last year and helped me back to my family. The Schwenks are a strong unit and if you come to my classes you will see everybody there helping and working as a team. We love each other and we also love helping you, too. I feel truly blessed, to live my life with my family by my side. FYI, moving to California allowed me to go to Disneyland (see picture above) for the very first time in my life. What a day that was and my kids have dubbed me "Disney Donna" but then that's another story for another time!
Foods as Medicine
Why We Each Need Cultured Foods
So much has happened since that day. My daughter Maci and her husband, Jeff, bought and moved into their first home. Maci consumed every cultured food known to mankind as she was so stressed out from buying a home and jumping through all the hoops they make you jump through. She found that upping the amount of kefir she drinks is one of the most helpful things. Cultured foods can help you so much through difficult times. Our bodies need nourishment but especially when we're under stress; and kefir, kombucha, and cultured veggies are all nutrient dense and predigested so eating them not only nourishes the body but helps all those stress hormones from getting the upper hand. Water kefir is another drink Maci makes a lot, and if you go to my classes you'll get to sample her many creations!
My younger daughter, Holli, is soaring to new heights. I was most worried about her when we moved. Being 16 years old and leaving your friends is not an easy thing to do. But Holli wanted to come and loves theatre and found several wonderful theatre groups, did tons of musicals, and was Awarded Best Over-All Performer of the Year at Star Repertory Theatre - one of the most highly awarded theatre groups in San Diego. She also has lots of new sweet friends, but never in my wildest dreams did I think she'd be doing the things she does now. Holli is a strong advocate for kefir, kombucha, and veggie juice too. I've watched her drink this every day to keep her acne under control. She swears that it's the only thing that has worked for her and I myself was shocked that even though it took a month of having this every day, the results speak for themselves.
My husband, Ron, was retiring but that didn't work out so well for him. He's not someone to sit around, and he casually mentioned to an acquaintance that he used to have a roofing business in Kansas City. One thing led to another and now he's working for a large San Diego roofing and solar company. He told them he just wanted to work a few days a week and now I never see him!! One thing I love about Ron is how he rises to the top in everything he does. He has a lot of integrity and so much wisdom that everyone takes notice and you can't be around him very long before he commands your respect. My husband loves cultured veggie dip and cultured veggies help him stay regular along with kefir which he swears helps him sleep like a baby and keeps acid reflux at bay. Kombucha is his go-to drink and he has it constantly. We drink a lot of kombucha and kefir soda in our house!
My son, DJ, is a master mechanic and got a job right near the beach in beautiful San Clemente, California. He lived with us for a few months and asked for my help to fix an ulcer that was bothering him. He started drinking kefir every day and lost over 40 pounds and his ulcer is no more. He actually makes his own kefir now at the mechanic shop for himself and for anyone else who wants some. He goes to the local Sprouts grocery store for lunch to get a salad and kombucha almost every day and they actually know him by name now. He spends the weekends with us and I've been watching him transform and I gotta tell you, it's a wonderful thing to see.
Even my little Yorkie dog, Tank, started acting sick after we moved and was not doing well and I noticed blood in his urine. I started giving him kefir and he was right as rain within a day. Check out this blog for more on how kefir can help your kidneys.
Me, I have kefir for breakfast every morning along with my Einkorn Sourdough Bread. I have this wonderful granola recipe that’s in my book Cultured Food in a Jar. It's made with fresh bananas as a sweetener and is so crazy good I can't keep it in the house. My son just sent me a picture of his kefir he made this morning, I just made a batch of kefir no bake cookies today and Ron was grabbing kombucha for work and Holli was off to one of her rehearsals with a jar of kefir. This is my life. Not so much different from anybody else; we have all the stresses and struggles that others have, we just have these foods we eat that help us. Probiotics in jars that give us all the different things we need, we’ve just made it a habit that's fun.
So how about you? Do you have certain foods you eat when you're under pressure? It can make all the difference and it can be delicious. I make a lot of recipes for you but the truth is I need them more than anybody. Kefir changed every aspect of my life and I shall never be the same. Cultured veggies and kombucha - I need them, too. And water kefir and sourdough bread and yogurts and cheeses and fermented lemonade and the list goes on. These are the foods I love that help me and my family and they can help you too. You don’t have to believe me but one day you’ll need them and you’ll remember me and I’ll be waiting for that email that you will share with me about how it changed your life. And then we will both be changed cause after all, my friends, we're all in this together. It's worth the effort to stay healthy . .. It can change everything!
Listen To My Podcast
Everybody I know leads busy lives, but did you know there is always help for you? My family had a lot of big changes this past year, but a constant through it all has been the way each member of my family uses and eats cultured foods. Maybe this could be the answer for you too?
Microbes In Your Gut
The microbes that have made your body their home are quite impressive, and most people are unaware of the magnitude of microbes that reside within them. One hundred trillion microbes is a tremendous amount, and let me better explain just how much this is. This is more than the stars in the Milky Way Galaxy and they're all abiding in you, creating you and it's time you understand what a miracle it is to be a human host for bacteria. We live in harmony with bacteria and fungi and trillions of organisms until we mess it up by pushing against them and killing them left and right with antibiotics, anti-bacterial disinfectants, chemicals, and an unhealthy diet creating an imbalance in our gut flora that works to keep us well each and every day. Understanding how this works is key to creating not only balance and harmony but making your body thrive like never before.
So how do we keep our trillions of bacteria happy? You feed them with lots of fiber; but first, you have to have the good strains of bacteria and that's where cultured foods come in. If you live in this day and age, most likely your gut flora has diminished due to chemicals and pesticides, drugs, highly processed foods, and overuse of antibiotics. Adding cultured foods is an excellent way to add the strains of bacteria you need. If you're unfamiliar with these special foods, I can teach you how to make them and use special cultures that can last your lifetime. See below.
Keeping The Mucosal Lining Intact
To feed these special strains of microbes you must feed them prebiotic fibers and then they grow and multiply. We all know fiber is good for digestive health, but new studies have revealed just how much gratitude we owe to roughage that we take for granted. Foods such as garlic, leeks, berries, fruits, nuts, seeds, and grains all contain lots of soluble and insoluble fibers that we can’t digest (and often receive no calories from); but our bacteria can digest them, and they thrive, grow, and multiply to make our inner ecosystem a powerful force for good in our lives. It makes us happy, healthy, calm and keeps us feeling fantastic. As the microbes grow from the fibrous food they work to help fight against intestinal infections and keep the mucosal lining intact which keeps out pathogens.
According to a study now published online in the journal Cell, fiber deprivation causes the gut microbes in animal studies to begin to eat the mucus lining of their gut.1 If this deprivation is allowed to continue for too long, it will cause a complete erosion of the gut and may allow invading bacteria to infect the colon wall. Researchers said this finding could have implications for possible uses of fiber against the effects of digestive tract disorders. In fact, leading researcher Eric Martens explained in a recent statement, "The lesson we're learning from studying the interaction of fiber, gut microbes, and the intestinal barrier system is that if you don't feed them, they can eat you!"
I saw this first hand with the effects of my daughter Maci many years ago when she went on an extremely low carb diet. She was a normal 16-year-old teenager and after a year or so on a diet that was extremely low carb with very little fiber she started having all kinds of stomach issues. Not that a low carb diet can't be healthy if you do it right, but you need a lot of fiber to keep these microbes happy and a lot of diverse kinds, too. Years of antibiotics had stripped her of all her good bacteria. Stress, certain foods she was eating, and a lack of nutrient-dense foods were destroying her gut lining. The lack of proper bacteria to turn her foods into vitamins and fatty acids was causing changes in her gut. There was nothing to protect her gut lining and she developed Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) and multiple food allergies. Her microbes were in dire need of fiber in the form of prebiotic carbohydrates such as fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, and grains to thrive and grow. She was essentially starving her microbes and was taking antibiotics. When your microbes don’t have any food, this can cause the pH in your gut to shift. This shift can favor the growth of less healthy, negative endotoxin-producing gut bacteria such as Bacteroides, and reduce the growth of positive bacteria that are “more healthy” for your gut. Jeff Leach from the American Gut project states, 2 “As pH shifts, prospects for opportunistic pathogens increase, as do opportunities for gram-negative bacteria like Bacteroides and Enterobacter. When you add this up – and a lot more shifts in the microbial ecology of the low-carb gut – you most certainly have a classic case of microbial dysbiosis – as the name implies, an imbalance. This dysbiosis can lead to issues associated with Inflammatory Bowel Disease, autoimmune disease, metabolic disorders, and so on.” This now makes sense to me since it was the perfect storm – she was a perfectly normal teenager with no food allergies, and suddenly she developed all kinds of symptoms and food allergies she’d never had before. Antibiotics had stripped her of all her good bacteria and left her defenseless. This, along with starving her microbiome with a lack of fiber to feed her microbes, was changing the world within, causing great pain and symptoms that changed the course of her life. We also found that just eliminating the offending foods will eliminate the pain to a degree. but then you need to fix the microbiome to re-establish a new inner microbiome. We fed her a cultured food at every meal and lots of prebiotic food, too. This regimen repaired the lining in her gut and her food allergies vanished. You can read more about this here. Healing From Food Allergies.
You can't expect all fibers to have the same functions, just like we don't expect all vitamins to have the same functions. Mixing different types of prebiotic fibers will ensure that they work together and will be as beneficial as possible. The real problem is we don't know we have a problem. Thirty-five percent of the people in this country think we are getting enough fiber. Men need about 35 grams and women need at least 25, but I think this is really low and we could do better with a lot more. We need lots of soluble fiber, which is what bacteria feed on. Insoluble fiber is good too for creating bulk for stools, but bacteria don't necessarily digest this type of fiber. Think of the foods as fertilizer for your microbes and then watch them do their thing while you go about your day. I love connecting with my body in this way. It helps me make better choices and understand this miraculous machine that creates everything I need from the foods I eat.
Here are just a few of my favorite prebiotic foods and supplements.
|Acacia, often called acacia gum, contains 86% prebiotic content. It is used as a food stabilizer, has a substantial amount of fiber, and is essential for strengthening the population of good bacteria in your gut. One place to find this prebiotic is in the supplement Prebio Plus. I often add it to my tea or stir it into salad dressing. It’s wonderful since it can be used hot or cold.|
|Asparagus contains 5% prebiotic content. It diminishes in prebiotics the more it is cooked, so eat it raw or lightly cooked.|
|Bananas contain 1% prebiotic content. Green bananas and plantains contain up to 3% prebiotic fiber, depending on how ripe they are. The greener they are, the more prebiotics they contain.|
|Berries (strawberries, blueberries, blackberries, boysenberries) contain from 1% to 3% prebiotic content. Eating them raw is the best way to ensure you get lots of prebiotics.|
|Carrots, cabbages, and apples contain 1% to 2% prebiotic content. I love carrots and apples and use them daily in my juices and meals. I make tons of kraut with apples and carrots. This way, I get probiotics and prebiotics in one jar.|
|Chicory Root/Inulin is 64.6% prebiotic content. Inulin is made from chicory root and is a powerful prebiotic. The chicory root is roasted to reduce some of its potency as it can cause stomach problems if not taken with a probiotic. You can find inulin in Prebio Plus and sweet leaf stevia (the powder packages only). You can find chicory root in many coffee alternative drinks.|
|Dandelion Greens contain 24.3% prebiotic content. These are delicious as a salad and very enjoyable raw.|
|Raw Garlic contains 17.5% prebiotic content. As it ferments, garlic gets super bubbly and delicious, giving you both prebiotics and probiotics. When you cook garlic, it diminishes the amount of prebiotics as most of these fibers turn to sugars.|
|Seeds are also prebiotic, with flax seeds containing the most at 13% prebiotic content. Flaxseeds have been shown to improve insulin sensitivity and modify the gut microbiota significantly in certain individuals with obesity.3|
|Fructo-oligosaccharides, or FOS, contain 35% prebiotic content. FOS is made from fruits and vegetables such as bananas, onions, chicory root, garlic, asparagus, jícama, and leeks. It's a subgroup of inulin. Grains such as wheat and barley also contain FOS. The Jerusalem artichoke and its relative yacon, together with the Blue Agave plant, have been found to have the highest concentrations of FOS found in cultured plants. You can also find FOS in Prebio Plus.|
|Honey contains 3% to 4 % prebiotic content. The interesting thing about honey is that it is also antibacterial as well as a prebiotic. This can confuse people: how does it kill bacteria and also help it grow? The antibacterial qualities protect the honey from harmful micro-organisms when it’s in the hive. Honey contains unique oligosaccharides that have an important prebiotic activity that works to increase the ever-important populations of bifidobacteria and lactobacilli in the body.|
|Jerusalem Artichokes are rich in prebiotic fiber with a 31.5% prebiotic content. It can be eaten lightly cooked to obtain the benefits of the super prebiotic fiber.|
|Leeks and Jicama contain 12% prebiotic content. These are some of my favorite veggies. I use leeks and jicama in so many dishes and fermented foods. I love the taste, especially in soups. Check out my Butternut Squash and Leek Soup in my Cultured Food for Health book, and check out jicama in my Flu Prevention Cultured Veggies.|
|Legumes, Rice, Potatoes, and Sweet Potatoes contain 2% to 7% prebiotic content. Legumes and potatoes also contain resistant starch which is another type of prebiotic fiber. Resistant starch does just what it says, it resists being digested in the small intestine until it enters the large intestine where it is fermented by bacteria. It stimulates the growth of good bacteria in the large intestine and boosts the production of short-chain fatty acids like butyrate. Butyrate has powerful anti-inflammatory effects that go beyond the gut. You want more butyrate in your system as it is a powerful aid in preventing cancers, promoting weight loss, and boosting the immune system.|
|Raw Onions contain 8.6% prebiotic content. Cooked onions still contain 5%; but like garlic, much of the fiber turns to sugar. Raw is better!|
|Nuts contain 1% to 6% prebiotic content. Even roasted nuts can contain prebiotic fibers.|
|Whole Grains, Oats, Amaranth, Quinoa, Millet, and Buckwheat all contain 2% to 5% prebiotic content. It’s most important to eat sprouted or soaked grains or to consume bread made with sourdough starters. These preparation methods help to unlock the nutrients by deactivating the phytic acid in grains that can wreak havoc on your gut and keep you from getting the vitamins and minerals. Oats have a lot of soluble fiber and so does amaranth, quinoa, millet, and buckwheat. These are especially helpful if you have problems with wheat.|
|Prebio Plus, Sweet Leaf Stevia, and Ecobloom all contain tons of prebiotics - up to 86% prebiotic fiber content. Prebio Plus has the most with three different prebiotics: inulin, acacia, and FOS. Sweet Leaf Stevia contains inulin as does Ecobloom. You can use these in all kinds of cultured foods. You can also add them to regular dishes by adding it to your coffee or tea or sprinkling it on salads and dressings. They’re all pretty powerful and a little goes a long way, so start out small when first using them. Combined with probiotic foods, you will feed the microbiome in your gut and allow it to grow and multiply. As with all prebiotics, you want to allow your body to adjust, and you want to avoid any undue gas as these fibers ferment and grow and change your inner eco-system.|
There are many more prebiotics - these are just some of the more important ones. Concentrate on feeding your microbes lots of healthy probiotic foods and prebiotic fibers in fruits, veggies, nuts, seeds, and grains and watch as your microbes take care of you from the inside out. Here are some of the probiotic foods that can make all the difference.
Listen To My Podcast
Find out how important it is to feed your microbes. If your trillions of microbes don’t get what they need, they can start to eat the mucosal lining of the gut, leading to leaky gut, IBS, and more. Find out how to keep them happy and fed!
- Brahe LK, et al. Dietary modulation of the gut microbiota - a randomized controlled trial in obese postmenopausal women. Br J Nutr. 2015 Jul 2:1-12. [Epub ahead of print]
So How Do You Change Your Microbiome?
Helping Friends Get Better
I talk a lot about your body and what your body is made out of. Those 100 trillion microbes (which is more than ten times the cells in the body) that call you home are your constant companions. Most of you don’t even know your microbes because you can’t see them, but they know you and work their darndest to keep you alive each day. These unseen helpers made their presence known to me and saved my life, and the life of my daughter and family; and then in gratefulness, I started sharing all they could do with all my friends and started seeing them and their children recover from a myriad of diseases and it was pure joy. I felt I had stumbled upon a secret that nobody knew about and then I met Jolene.
People like to think that I’m special or weird. They say things like, "Oh yeah, that works for her, but not me." Or, "She’s a freak and it's weird and she’s crazy and I don’t want to do that. Let foods ferment on your counter? That’s just nuts and dangerous." Jolene's daughter was in the same dance and acting classes as my daughter, and she would watch me and my friends (whose kids had gotten better) and thought we had lost our minds. She said we had a "food cult" and all the stuff we ate was weird. Jolene was pregnant at the time. A few years later when her little boy was two, he was, as she put it, “in a stupor." He wasn’t communicating or crawling and he wasn’t thriving. He had a distended belly and he didn’t seem to be developing at the right pace, but I would watch this little guy and he was observing everything! I could see his mind working, but he was locked away from finding his way out and expressing himself in words and actions. She went to so many dietitians and doctors and to no avail. Nothing was working. He had so many food allergies, and it was so overwhelming that after years of discouragement she sat down in a chair across from me at dance class and said, “I’m ready to listen. Nothing is working. I’ve tried everything, please help me understand what you do. I’m desperate." He wasn’t absorbing his nutrients from his food and his diet was so limited that we had to do things in many special ways. We started with coconut kefir because he was allergic to dairy. He did great with vegetables so he could have lots of cultured vegetables. He loved kombucha, so we started with what I call The Trilogy: kefir, kombucha, and cultured vegetables. She had to give him a special protein made from peas because he couldn't handle any other kind of protein. He seemed to do well using coconut oil as a fat. This little guy was mostly living on just a few foods and not absorbing any nutrients so his brain wasn’t working. She gave him one of these cultured foods at every meal to help him digest his food and unlock the nutrients. And, lo and below, I kid you not, in a few weeks he started speaking in sentences. Fast forward a year later and he was no longer allergic to the foods he had been allergic to. And he was reading at 3 years old! It was as if he was making up for lost time and he was made brand new. This is not an uncommon thing to see in my work; and actually, there is a lot of science to support and explain why this works.
Reset Your Gut And Your Body Will Respond Accordingly
Inside of you are trillions of microbes that make up the body known as you. Without them, you can’t digest your food and receive the nutrients that you need to build your body and to have the building blocks of nutrients needed for cognitive function. Your emotions, believe it or not, are controlled by your gut bacteria. Studies now suggest that gut bacteria help control anxiety and stress responses. Your cravings for food are determined by how many microbes you have in your gut. If you crave a lot of sugar and fat then you have a lot of sugar- and fat-loving microbes - and the same with healthy foods. If you reset your microbes, you can change your habits, your behavior, and the markers that create inflammation and disease in your body. You will begin to heal just by resetting the microbes in your gut.
There’s a lot of crazy stuff going on in this world that is out of your control, but there is one thing you can control and that is what you put in your mouth. Just do this one thing and watch your microbes help you. Reset your gut and your body will respond accordingly. It's amazing! It takes a firm decision on your part and you're gonna see such a change. Here’s what happened to me just because I made the decision to make a kefir smoothie for breakfast. I started to feel better so I drank more of it, and then I decided to try some kombucha and then cultured vegetables. I felt so much better, so I added more healthy foods that fed my microbes like fruits and vegetables and legumes and it started to snowball. This is how I found myself here, telling everyone I know how to feed their microbes. Call it what it is, I call it Grace, I call it answers to my prayers, I call it a miracle. Who would have thought that the microbes that are in me and you are calling us to wellness and we don’t even know it?
Do you want to have an impact on your world? Then change what you eat. You won’t be needing the doctor anymore so you save money and use it other places and help increase the economy. You‘ll be happy and feel good so you’ll do more things to help others. You‘ll need less sleep so you’ll have more time to do things you love. You’ll need less sick days at work so you‘ll become Employee of the Year. You’ll share your knowledge with others and they will get better and then people will think you’re crazy or join you. You might even find yourself with a book and a website and podcast and it is not my fault if this happens to you! It’s a side effect of being happy.
7 Ways To Change Your Microbiome
#1 Stop Murdering Your Microbes!
Chemicals and pesticides that flood our environment disrupt our inner flora and can even kill it. A common ingredient in antibacterial soaps called Triclosan1 has been linked to food allergens and thyroid issues. The FDA issued a final rule establishing that over-the-counter consumer antiseptic wash products containing the active ingredient Triclosan can no longer be marketed.2
Overuse of antibiotics - I'm not against antibiotics. I think they're necessary in some cases, but they are way overprescribed and wind up causing more damage than they do helping if they're not used properly. If you do need to take an antibiotic, then you need to also rebuild your ecosystem when the antibiotics wipe out the good and bad bacteria indiscriminately. There are many ways to do this and ingesting cultured foods is a great place to start. You can check out this article for more help. What to do if you have to take an antibiotic.
Eating processed and junk foods devoid of nutrients starves your microbiome and can even cause them to die. When you start feeding your body real whole foods, your body and microbe population will start to crave them and eating healthy will be easy and fun. You are what you eat!
#2 Rebuild your Microbiome with a Kefir Smoothie
A habit is something you may not know you are doing; but once you realize you are doing it, then it becomes a choice and you can stop doing it or keep it going. We all want something miraculous to change us, but that is seldom how it works. Seventeen years ago, I never dreamed I would be eating and making these foods and teaching others to do the same. My life consisted of just getting through the day because I felt so awful. Trying to survive and take care of my family, my needs were on the back burner; but I got gentle nudges that felt like someone was trying to help me. I was constantly being reminded that I was so much more. I would read books and listen to lectures online and I would ache inside. I wanted to change and be well, and not just my body but my spirit was so hungry and I didn’t know what to do. I found kefir and slowly things began to change. I started rituals every morning. I would make and consume kefir every morning, and then my whole diet began to change and I felt so, so much better. Then as I felt better, the world around me and in me started to change. Wellness became the norm and not the exception. This is where it all began, with something as simple as a kefir smoothie. Check out these recipes.
#3 Feeding the universe of microbes inside of you
Do you remember when eating fiber became the new craze and they were putting fiber in everything? I never understood all this since the body couldn’t absorb any of the fiber. Yes, it was supposed to keep things moving along throughout the colon to speed elimination, but how was it helping the body’s immune system? What about fruits and vegetables? Everyone knows that we should eat more of them, but why are they so special? These prebiotics act as a fertilizer to promote the growth of the good bacteria in our gut. This is essential to the health and function of our immune system. You want a large and diverse amount of good bacteria in your gut, and eating cultured foods accomplishes this. With the addition of prebiotics, you have a super strong combination that boosts your immune system. Prebiotics also strengthen your ability to absorb calcium, magnesium, and other minerals usually lacking in our diets.
Here are just a few of my favorite prebiotic foods and supplements:
Asparagus, artichokes, leeks, onions, nuts, bananas, berries, carrots cabbage, apples, chicory root (inulin), dandelion greens, raw garlic, seeds (such as flax seeds), honey, whole grains, oats, amaranth, quinoa, millet, and buckwheat.
Acacia, often called acacia gum, contains 86% prebiotic content. It is used as a food stabilizer, has a substantial amount of fiber, and is essential for strengthening the population of good bacteria in your gut. One place to find this prebiotic is in the supplement Prebio Plus. I often add it to my tea or stir it into salad dressing. It’s wonderful since it can be used hot or cold. Fructo-oligosaccharides (FOS) contain 35% prebiotic content. FOS is made from fruits and vegetables such as bananas, onions, chicory root, garlic, asparagus, jícama, and leeks. It’s a subgroup of inulin. Grains such as wheat and barley also contain FOS. The Jerusalem artichoke and its relative yacon, together with the Blue Agave plant, have been found to have the highest concentrations of FOS found in cultured plants. You can also find FOS in Prebio Plus.
#4 Get Outside Get dirty
Next, get outside and get your hands dirty – as in, do some gardening, plant some flowers, mow your lawn, or do any activity that will connect you and your immune system with the trillions of microbes in the soil. These microbes have been found to work like Prozac. In 2007, Christopher Lowry, associate professor in the Department of Integrative Physiology and Center for Neuroscience at University of Colorado at Boulder, and a team of researchers published an article in Neuroscience that had people discovering that dirt was the new Prozac.3 A bacteria found in soil called Mycobacterium has been found to affect the same neurons as Prozac, offering people a natural lift in mood. They exposed lung cancer patients to this bacteria called Mycobacterium vaccae, found in soil. The patients unexpectedly reported increases in their quality of life, including a brighter mood. The very same thing was happening to me and it was undeniable that the effects were coming from spending time outside in nature. I have known many gardeners who have exclaimed how gardening is their happy place. Which convinces me more that we should grow our own food. It's good for the body, the mind, and it brings us a quiet peacefulness inside.
#5 Kombucha — the Fermented Tea Your Body Loves
Kombucha has so many benefits that I don't hesitate to drink it every day.
Kombucha has antibiotic-resistant probiotic yeast: In addition to the good bacteria in kombucha there is a special probiotic yeast called Saccharomyces Boulardii (S. boulardii) that is resistant to antibiotics, which makes it incredibly useful for maintaining a healthy gut when treating an illness with antibiotics.4
Kombucha protects the stomach lining: It neutralizes toxins produced by harmful pathogens and sends out a signal to the body to reduce inflammation that can lead to a number of negative health outcomes. The probiotic in kombucha (S. boulardii) can also act as a decoy to harmful pathogens. It attracts and binds with the pathogens, keeping them from attaching to the intestinal wall and doing damage. 5
Kombucha reduces joint pain: Kombucha contains acetic acid, which not only helps stabilize blood sugar but also contains an analgesic (pain reliever) and anti-arthritic compounds which help remove toxins that may have accumulated in joints causing pain and inflammation. Other compounds in kombucha include mucoitin sulfate, heparin, and hyaluronic acid, which help provide lubrication and protection to existing joint tissue. 6
Kombucha assists the liver in detoxification: Kombucha is full of glucuronic acid, which plays a part in one of the body’s most important detoxification processes: glucuronidation, a process in which glucuronic acid binds to toxins and transforms them so they can be easily eliminated by the kidneys. The liver produces this substance naturally, but sometimes the body can’t keep up with the number of pollutants that it comes into contact with. The extra glucuronic acid in kombucha basically helps make up the difference.7
#6 Cultured Vegetables and Its Many Wonders
Make a jar of cultured vegetables that can last many, many months perfectly preserved in your fridge. It will have many health benefits and if you don't have a jar, you can't reap those benefits so I encourage you to make or buy one and see for yourself all they can do.
The process of fermentation removes pesticides from the vegetables with the
special bacteria L. plantarum. 8 Not only does it help remove pesticides and chemicals from the veggies, but it removes them from inside of you, too. It’s exciting that microbes can help us by removing pesticides from our vegetables. It’s often a hardship for people to always buy organic, but the healthy bacteria L. plantarum can remedy this. L. plantarum bacterial strains studied from fermented vegetables in kimchi were found to be capable of degrading four different organophosphorus insecticides by using them as a source of carbon and phosphorous.
Adds Vitamins And Minerals: When you culture or ferment your cabbage into sauerkraut, the vitamin C and antioxidant levels go through the roof. Researchers at Cornell University tested levels of antioxidants and vitamin C in sauerkraut. They found the average level of vitamin C in raw cabbage was 57 mg per cup; but when fermented, the level was close 700 mg! Vitamin C is also an antioxidant and it protects the body against stress and helps boost the immune system.
Safest And Best Food Method To Preserve Vegetables: U.S. Department of Agriculture research service microbiologist Fred Breidt says properly fermented vegetables are actually safer than raw vegetables, which might have been exposed to pathogens like E. coli on the farm. “With fermented products, there is no safety concern. I can flat-out say that. The reason is the lactic acid bacteria that carry out the fermentation are the world’s best killers of other bacteria,” says Breidt, who works at a lab at North Carolina State University, Raleigh, where scientists have been studying fermented and other pickled foods since the 1930s.
Stomach Distress Of Any Kind: L. plantarum is pretty powerful and can even knock out food poisoning (as I myself have witnessed). It has been studied and found successful in the inhibition of food poisoning and pathogenic bacteria, and it is being studied for use in improving the microbiological safety of foods. 9 It’s also superior for any kind of stomach distress. I’ve seen this again and again and received so many emails with stories telling me how effective it was in stopping vomiting, stomach cramps, and nausea with just a spoonful of the brine or vegetables. Try it and it will make you a believer, too. Nothing works better for stomach distress.
#7 Replace Your Soda With Water Kefir
Water kefir grains, or we call them kefir crystals, are unlike milk kefir grains as they thrive on sugars and not lactose. The special probiotic yeasts and beneficial bacteria in the water kefir crystals consume the sugar in the sugar water. Then they produce probiotics, new enzymes, vitamins, and help repopulate your gut flora. They are dairy free and gluten free despite being called “grains.” They look slightly different from milk kefir grains and are translucent while milk kefir grains are white.
These live active crystals contain over 14 different types of yeast and bacteria existing in what some people call a symbiotic relationship, but that is not exactly true. Bacteria and yeast fight for dominance and each of them keeps the other in balance. The yeasts (which are probiotics too) are fast growers but run out of room to grow due to the larger amount of good bacteria. They are then forced to ferment and the by-product is the lovely naturally occurring carbonation present in water kefir. Bacteria and yeasts work in our bodies much the same way. You need both to have a healthy gut microbiome. You need more beneficial bacteria than yeasts and when you have this harmony, all is well. I love all that bacteria can do, and water kefir can help you replace drinks that don’t have health benefits such as sodas and energy drinks. For thousands of years, probiotic cultures have helped keep our foods and drinks safe through the process of fermentation. When a food or beverage is fermented, it is loaded with beneficial bacteria and yeasts that keep out harmful bacteria. The fermentation increases the minerals and vitamins and helps you digest the foods you eat when you have a glass with your meal.
Listen To My Podcast
It's so important to heal and nourish your gut. Hippocrates stated, "All diseases begin in the gut". I found seven ways to accomplish the task and it changed everything for me. Let me show you easy ways to heal your gut. Love your body and let it shine for you!
- S. Fallon, Nourishing Traditions (Washington, D.C: New Trends Publishing, 1999): 596.
"Enlighten the people generally, and tyranny and oppressions of body and mind will vanish like evil spirits at the dawn of day."Thomas Jefferson
Many years ago I was addicted to diet cola. I know, I know. It is terrible for you. But still, I couldn't stop drinking it. I had drunk it for years and when I first started eating cultured foods they made me want to conquer my addiction. But try as I might, I couldn't stop drinking it. It would call my name, so I knew it was an addictive substance. It had a hold of me and it was not giving up without a fight. Interesting things begin to happen when you start to nourish your cells with real food. You start wanting to eat better and better. The desire and feelings of wellness start to take over and you will begin to change. Slowly sometimes, but gradually this happened to me. Like having a personal trainer, my body began to train me to eat healthier because I wanted to feel good.
Changes In The Body
Naturally Occurring CO2
I noticed something wonderful that began to happen when I started drinking kombucha. The fizz that I loved in pop was naturally occurring in kombucha. It was not through forced carbonation but naturally occurring CO2 made through the bacteria and yeast that consumed the sugars and then made a natural bubbliness. I felt so good when I drank kombucha that I stopped craving diet cola, and I started reaching for kombucha instead.
Kombucha assists the liver in detoxification
Kombucha is full of glucuronic acid which plays a part in one of the body's most important detoxification processes: glucuronidation, a process in which glucuronic acid binds to toxins and transforms them so they can be easily eliminated by the kidneys. The liver produces this substance naturally, but sometimes the body can’t keep up with the number of pollutants that it comes into contact with. The extra glucuronic acid in kombucha basically helps make up the difference. 1
Kombucha also helps your kidneys
Kombucha may help kidneys eliminate environmental pollutants. Every day, your kidneys process about 200 quarts of blood to remove and eliminate chemicals and toxins. Calcium builds up in the blood tissues and can cause calcification throughout the body, which can cause calcification in the kidneys (aka kidney stones). Kombucha has been used to prevent the kidneys from forming kidney stones by helping to purify and remove toxins.2,3
The more kombucha I drank, the better I felt. My cravings for the artificial poisonous substances in soda began to leave me. After about eight months of not drinking diet cola, I was on vacation and someone bought me a diet cola. To be polite I drank it and as they kept refilling my drink I drank more and more. As my vacation continued I started drinking more diet cola and within a few days I started having severe dizziness and my eyes were having trouble focusing. It scared me and really ruined my vacation, but I didn't realize (at the time) that it was the diet cola. I thought something terrible was happening and there was something wrong in my brain. It got so bad that I had to take Dramamine, I felt so dizzy.
As soon as I got home I started drinking kombucha and stopped the diet cola and all the symptoms went away. I never put two and two together and assumed it was just a virus that had scared me to death. But I was happy the symptoms were gone. I didn't recognize that my body was guiding me and had put out a red flag that said, "DANGER!"
Symptoms returned with a vengeance
Two months later at my daughter's Christmas play, I was in charge of refreshments and of course, everybody brought pop to drink and nothing else. Everybody just always brought pop and never thought a thing about it. I thought regular pop was terrible for you and there was nothing else to drink so I drank diet pop all night. The next day the symptoms returned with a vengeance. When I tried to get out of bed in the morning I felt so dizzy that I almost fell over. Scared me to death. Confused and unable to think straight, I called my brother-in-law, a medical doctor, and asked him if he thought I had a brain tumor. My brother-in-law is such a great guy and always answers my questions when I probe him for how the body works. He never tires of my questions and is always happy to answer all 50 million of them. He didn't know what could be causing this but did go into detail about how the eyes and brain are connected and how the human brain has to interpret four different sets of electrical impulses from the light being picked up by the eyes.
Later that afternoon, in the kitchen washing dishes, it suddenly hit me. Both times when I got dizzy I had drunk diet cola, a lot of it. I rushed to the internet and found that aspartame, one of the main ingredients in Diet Coke, can cause headaches, dizziness, nausea, and eye problems. It is a neurotoxin that can greatly affect the brain and everything connected to it. I had my answer, it was my body giving me a warning sign. But why hadn't I had these effects when I drank tons of it years before? Was it because I had detoxed from it and then putting it back in after being free from it made my body revolt and teach me what it needed? This is my theory. Our body is a complex, magnificent machine that knows how to act and my body was actually helping me. I have a strong desire to be well and experience all this life has to offer. So many times I treated my body as something to just put up with, and instead I have found it is my best friend and teacher. Every day it is manifesting to me how I am doing.
Food addictions and habits that you don't want
If you find yourself with some food addictions and habits that you don't want anymore, my suggestion to you is just start adding the good stuff into your diet. You don't have to change all at once. I didn't, but I did begin by adding cultured foods and little by little my cells responded by behaving differently. Before I knew it, I was craving the foods that my body loved and thrived on naturally. It's like having a personal trainer go with you everywhere. Your body will teach you what it needs to be well nourished. Little things can make a big difference and desire is the key to change. One day at a time.
How To Make Kombucha
Do something today that your future self will thank you for.
Listen To My Podcast
Addictions —many of us have them, especially when it comes to unhealthy food or beverages. However, I found something to help! Check out the show to discover how to set yourself free.
- S. Fallon, Nourishing Traditions (Washington, D.C: New Trends Publishing, 1999): 596.
- Dufresne and E. Farnworth, “Tea, Kombucha, and Health: A Review,” Food Research International 33, no. 6 (July 2000):409–21.
- O.A. Gharib, “Effects of Kombucha on Oxidative Stress Induced Nephrotoxicity in Rats,” Chinese Medicine 4, no. 23 (November 2009).
When I first started with cultured foods almost two decades ago, one of the first things I noticed was the relief of joint pain in my knee. This was in the very beginning of drinking and making kefir every day. If I quit drinking kefir, it only took about three to four days before the pain would return, so I kept drinking my kefir! Kefir wasn't the only cultured food that helped me with pain in my joints - kombucha and cultured veggies have helped me too. I have gotten many emails sharing similar stories and research is starting to understand the power of microbes in the gut. New evidence has come forth showing that those with different forms of arthritis have different bugs in their gut that cause inflammation and autoimmune disease.1 So here is what I've learned and I hope it will shed some light on what's really going on in the body when it flares up with joint pain or arthritis.
Microbes In Your Gut
All Disease Begins In The Gut
Your body is host to trillions of microbes. This microbiome can influence your health in a powerful way. In fact, Hippocrates stated, "All disease begins in the gut," and more and more we are finding this to be true. Microbes are most often protective, guarding against pathogens and inflammation, but strong evidence suggests that disruptions in the microbial ecosystem may cause or contribute to many chronic diseases by interacting with your immune system. This includes inflammation in the joints and even different types of arthritis.
If you have an inflammatory type of arthritis, changing your diet and consuming cultured foods loaded with probiotics might be very important for you. Consuming lots of beneficial bacteria appears to have an impact on inflammation, reducing common biomarkers of inflammation, including C-reactive protein.
Sonya Angelone, registered dietitian, nutritionist, and spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics stated, “People with inflammatory arthritis have been shown to have inflammation of the intestinal tract, which results in increased intestinal permeability. This enables certain bacteria to cross the intestinal barrier, get into the bloodstream and trigger an inflammatory response. Probiotics may be able to help decrease the inflammation associated with increased intestinal permeability. A healthy diet helps keep the intestinal barrier strong and the immune system in top fighting condition.” Angelone adds, “Healthy foods and probiotic supplements can work together to keep joints healthy and also keep the rest of the body strong.”
Studies On Probiotics And Arthritis
A study (done in 20142 and published in The Journal of Nutrition) recruited 46 patients with rheumatoid arthritis (RA). They were divided into two groups. One group received daily probiotic supplements containing Lactobacillus casei and the other group received a placebo. After eight weeks, several markers of inflammation were significantly lower in the probiotic group, leading researchers to do more studies. These conclusions may lead to the use of probiotics as an adjunct therapy for patients with RA.
Another study on RA was done using a 3 specially designed probiotic made to survive harsh stomach acids. Most probiotic supplements are killed in stomach acids while probiotic foods have a protective halo that helps them survive and speed to the parts of the body where they can thrive and flourish. This study was a double-blind, randomized controlled trial using the probiotic Bacillus coagulans GBI-30, 6086. The subjects were given the probiotic once a day for 60 days in addition to their standard anti-arthritic medications.
The results of the study reported significant improvements in pain assessment score when compared to the placebo. Those receiving the Bacillus supplement reported improvements in global and self-assessments of disability, the ability to walk two miles, physical reach, and the ability to participate in daily activities.
This has sparked exciting new possibilities in intense scientific research in the gut microbiome and arthritis. Maybe Hippocrates was right!
Dr. Mercola from the Mercola Natural Health Center and alternative medicine proponent has a wonderful story of a woman named Sarah. Dr. Mercola helped put her rheumatoid arthritis into remission.
Sarah was only 28 years old and was experiencing a lot of pain. When she went to a well-known rheumatologist in Milwaukee, he told her she needed to stop running or risk becoming permanently disabled. She was put on the drug methotrexate which is actually an anti-cancer drug. The side effects of this drug can be quite horrible. Her liver was checked every month and she began losing some of her hair. A rheumatology researcher told her to keep taking the drug, but expect it to shave fifteen to twenty years off her life.
Sarah stated, "I was really afraid of what that drug was going to do to my body. The physical therapist who recommended I get tested for RA said there was a lot I can do naturally. So I read a lot of books about rheumatoid arthritis and different alternative treatments. I read there's a possibility of it being connected with an infection, and that a low dose of antibiotics was being prescribed. I then came across your name in a book. I looked you up, found you in Chicago, and made an appointment."
She started on a new regimen and changed her diet quite dramatically with healthy fats, proteins, and fermented foods and the results were spectacular. In Sarah's own words, "I learned how to ferment my own vegetables and dairy products. I made my own kombucha, yogurt, cultured butter, milk kefir, and coconut kefir. It took almost two years to get my system in balance, but right away, I noticed a difference. In about two weeks my cravings for wheat, bread, and sugar diminished. You did a live cell analysis before and after the diet. My live cell analysis showed I had leaky gut and digestive proteins in my bloodstream.
I came back three months after being very strict with the diet. I felt better; I'd lost about 10 pounds. I had so much more energy and felt lighter. But when they did the live cell analysis and showed me on the screen that my blood cells were perfectly round, strong, and healthy — when I saw that my blood completely changed — that's when I really believed that food was medicine."
A year after following this strict regimen she was able to resume her physical activities and she even won an entire triathlon.4
Cultured Foods As Medicine
One of the many ways I use cultured foods as medicine in my everyday life is consuming kombucha, kefir, and cultured veggies on a daily basis. I had a sports injury that left me with a lot of pain and much to my surprise 16 ounces of kombucha a day made the pain go away. I tested this theory and sure enough, as long as I had it every day the pain stayed away. Once it healed, I became a firm believer that kombucha is good for joints.
Kombucha contains many components that can help improve joint health. Glucuronic acid(GlcUA), Gluconacetobacter, Chondroitin sulfate, Mucoitin sulfate, Heparin, Hyaluronic acid (HA) and glucosamine. All of these bacteria and enzymes can help the body to rebuild tissues. 5
GlcUA and its oligomers are used as pharmaceuticals; for example, HA serves as a lubricant and shock absorber; heparin is used as an anticoagulant. GlcUA in the human body can be converted into chondroitin sulfate associated with cartilage, collagen and the fluid that lubricates joints. Hyaluronic acid is a viscous jelly-like substance that fills the intercellular spaces of human tissues; it is present in the synovial fluid of joints, the vitreous humor of the eye, in the umbilical cord, and in mucous secretions such as saliva. Does it work for everybody? Well, this is yet to be known, but I have seen it work for myself and many, many others. Since it is just a fermented drink that is delicious and fun to make, I hope you will see for yourself if this probiotic drink needs a place in your kitchen. I couldn't go without this wonder drink.
Here are the foods that have helped me with joint pain when it occurs. Luckily it is always short lived for me, and I hope it will be for you too. Cultured foods aren’t a panacea. You also need to pay attention to the rest of your diet and be mindful of harmful substances that can tax the immune system and kill your microbes. The wonderful thing about caring for the microbes in your gut is what great teachers they can be. You’ll learn so much as you add them to your diet. The healthier you get, the less tolerant your body will become of harmful foods and substances. You’ll get warning signs when something is out of sync with you. Your body wants to be healthy and once you start down this road, hang on to your hat! You’ll learn so much about what it takes for you to be healthy. Those 100 trillion microbes have a way of letting you know what’s needed. Feed them and take the ride. It could quite possibly change everything. Just you wait and see!
About ten years ago I went to a class on “How to Make Sourdough Bread.” My daughter had gluten intolerance and we found that she could eat sprouted bread without the side effects created by regular bread. I had heard that sourdough bread achieved similar results to the sprouted bread, and I wanted to try it. What I learned shocked me. The man teaching the class explained that the process of making sourdough was an ancient art and one that had many benefits that we are unaware of today. Why do so many of us struggle with gluten today? There are all kinds of books and websites dedicated to gluten-free living, and rightfully so, because the bread we have today is very different from the bread we ate for hundreds of years. But why is gluten intolerance an epidemic in this day and age? What has changed?
"Our own physical body possesses a wisdom which we who inhabit the body lack. We give it orders which make no sense."Henry Miller
History Of Bread
Before the 1950’s, most bread bakeries ran two shifts of workers because the dough was fermented throughout the night with a long and slow process using a culture that contained the lactobacillus bacteria. This slow process was necessary for bread to be properly digested. In the process of making sourdough bread, the bran in the flour is broken down during the long rising time, releasing nutrients into the dough. Only when wheat gluten is properly fermented or sprouted (to learn more about sprouted bread click here) is it healthy for human consumption. When not, it is potentially one of the most highly allergenic foods we eat. The phytic acid in grain needs to be 90% neutralized in order for the minerals to be absorbed by the human body. When you naturally ferment or sprout bread, you eliminate all phytic acid. About 90% of the phytic acid remains in bread made with instant yeasts unless it is sprouted bread.
New methods harm the gut
In their efforts to increase profits and speed up the bread making process, bakers began using new techniques that took only three hours to make a loaf of bread - and now can even take only one hour. They used the new instant yeasts which made the old way of making bread (using cultures and fermentation that not only help to preserve food but also increase the nutrients available for our bodies) unnecessary.
During the making of sourdough bread, complex carbohydrates are broken down into more digestible simple sugars, and protein is broken down into amino acids. Enzymes develop during rising. These enzymes are not lost while baking since the center of the loaf remains at a lower temperature than the crust. This fermentation, partly from lactobacillus, also allows for a bread that is lower on the glycemic index, thus making it better for those with blood sugar issues. The fermentation also helps restore the functioning of the digestive tract resulting in proper assimilation and elimination.
Chemicals sprayed on wheat
There is a common process that is happening to our wheat before harvesting. According to farmers who grow wheat, applying the herbicide Roundup (glyphosate) just prior to harvest is commonplace among farmers who grow wheat crops. The manufacturer of Roundup, Monsanto, claims that application to plants at over 30% kernel moisture results in Roundup uptake by the plant into the kernels. This allows the Farmers to harvest their wheat earlier since the wheat plant will be killed off by the roundup. These changes in our bread have had devastating effects on our gut. I believe that along with the chemicals, soil depletion, and the loss of fermentation and probiotic foods that heal and protect our bodies, our diets are wreaking havoc on our guts. This, in turn, is causing a rise in all kinds of food allergies. Our diets are a dim reflection of the nutrient-dense whole foods we used to eat years ago. Pharmaceuticals are the norm and not the exception, and food allergies and gut issues are rampant along with a host of other health issues. The average consumer is unaware of these changes in our food supply and then labels gluten and bread as the enemy when they don't realize the culprit is the dramatic changes in the actual process of making bread today.
Gluten Intolerance And Sourdough
It was my daughter Maci's inability to digest wheat that started me on a journey learning about foods that were transformed when they were sprouted or made with sourdough. People who came to my classes and website were experiencing the same results when eating bread that was made with sourdough cultures or sprouted. Even those who were gluten intolerant seemed to do really well. Now, not everybody who is gluten intolerant can handle it right away. They need to heal their guts first with cultured foods on a regular basis or try Einkorn sourdough which is missing the protein that is hard for those with difficulty handling gluten. After this occurs, I have seen so many people thrive when eating bread as long as these breads were fermented or sprouted.
Ferment it for 7 hours or longer
Sourdough bread is transformed when it is fermented for 7 hours or longer. Then it is not only easily digested, but can often be handled by those who are gluten intolerant. Here is a recipe to make overnight sourdough bread. It is the best one for beginners and the one I think tastes the best. Well . . . that's not entirely true. I love so many, but this one has a great flavor and is easy. I have devised a slower, longer fermentation method that is even more effective for those who have severe gluten problems.
Try an Ancient Wheat
Those who are severely gluten intolerant might want to try an ancient wheat such as Einkorn flour. Einkorn wheat is the most ancient species of wheat. All wheat that we consume today is descended from Einkorn wheat which has about 14 chromosomes as compared to other wheats which have 28-42. This is important since some studies show that ancient wheat, with its fewer chromosomes, has lower levels of gliadins. Gliadins are proteins that can cause sensitivities in those who struggle with gluten. Einkorn does not contain this troublesome D genome, only the A genome, and most testing for gluten intolerance is based on the D genome. And while einkorn does contain gluten, it is a different type of gluten and allows for easier digestion and nutrient absorption. It is also delicious and one of my favorite sourdough breads that I make and eat each week.
You can find out more about Einkorn Sourdough Bread here:
Listen To My Podcast
Our bread is made so differently than in years gone by, and it’s wreaking havoc on our bodies. Understand the science of why this is, and how bacteria can change your bread into something healthy. Walk in the footsteps of those who made bread for thousands of years and called it the staff of life.
"When we do the best that we can, we never know what miracle is wrought in our life, or in the life of another."Helen Keller
I Heard The Bells On Christmas Day
This is one of the most personal blogs I have ever written. I wrote it several years ago, but what I didn't know was that the pain was the catalyst that changed everything in my life. I hope it will help you, inspire you, and encourage you to never give up, even when things look like they are going in the wrong direction. For this is how you find the miracles that have been waiting for you.
"Faith is taking the first step even when you don't see the whole staircase."Martin Luther King, Jr.
2009 was a year for the record books for me. One that is so etched in my soul I shall never forget it. Like many families, we began struggling financially. Things kept going from bad to worse; and as the time passed, it looked like we might lose our home. My father had died the year before and the holidays were marked with pain for my mother and sisters. With my mother in more pain that I had ever seen, and my own family spiraling into unknown territory, I was wondering what would become of our life and home. I was faced with an unbelievable amount of fear. I realized that I needed help. Did I really believe all the things that I said to other people? Did I practice faith or did I just expect it to find me? In despair, I decided to train my mind to not think of the things that were causing me such pain. I tried every day to find something to be thankful and joyful about. To, in essence, practice faith and to hope and trust with every fiber of my being that it would be OK. At Christmas parties, I decided I would not be the one to talk about how bad our economy was, but rather speak of how things were going to get better. Many times people would berate me a little by saying that they just didn't have as much faith as me. But most of those people had suffered job losses. So I quietly prayed for so many of them, that they would find new jobs. Everyone that I did this for actually got new jobs and their situations turned around.
It took a few weeks and the fear began to leave and it started to be replaced with hope. Although nothing had changed, I began to see messages everywhere. In songs and books, in people's words, and on billboards and movies. It was as if the entire universe was creating this world of hope just for me. The first nugget I got was in the song I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day by Casting Crowns. (Please listen to the song, it is part of the blog.) When I first heard this song, I swear it sounded like angels to me. I cried so hard I felt as though I would break. Then I read the story of the man who wrote it and I cried harder.
Henry Wadsworth Longfellow (1807-1882) wrote this song about the tragic death of his wife, Fanny, and the injury of his son. Fanny had dropped candle wax on her dress which engulfed her in flames and she died the next day. Almost a year later, Longfellow received word that his oldest son, Charles, a lieutenant in the Civil war, had been severely wounded with a bullet passing under his shoulder blades, taking off portions of several vertebrae. It was Christmas day and Henry was walking to church. In pain and despair, he heard those bells ringing, and a wave of emotion flooded over him. As those bells rang he knew that he was not alone and that there was hope and peace within him and he penned the song.
As the weeks toward Christmas advanced, I began to feel such incredible joy it was indescribable. It was by far the best Christmas I have ever had, but our circumstances had not changed, only my heart and mind and this felt like a miracle.
It was Christmas Eve, the snow was flying, and our power went out. For lack of anything else to do and with no lights, I picked up a library book to read to my daughter by candlelight. This is what I read that Christmas Eve night.
The Ominous Dragoon Of Dothdura
- Tis so good to be a hero or a master, when in these times there are none.
- Tis so good to be a leader who conquers fear when no one else will.
- You see you were such a prince in such a place. But it was not a dragon that you conquered, it was the fear that gripped the land.
- You were one entity who exposed the fear. And all who lived in their peaceful villages truly did live in what is termed "happier ever after."
- You see dreams - they do come true. You were such an entity and conquered fear you did!
- You are pleased?
- Am I not a good spinner of tales? Wondrous entity you will be one who will grow up and become a justly entity.
- Of all the good you shall deliver to this plane, the greatest good of all, master, is that you live your truth in your life in spite of others' fears and fallacies.
- And you will not know fear for you will learn to look fear in the eye.
- For when you look fear in the eye, precious entity, the fear that you feel will disappear.
It was four months later that our life began to turn around. We did not lose our house and my husband's business had the best financial year it ever had. So much that my husband calls it miraculous. But I know that this was all for me. To teach me what I wanted to know. That finding peace and faith is only a thought away. That it all abides within me.
It was because of all of these events that happened that I started my blog in April 2010. This series of events caused me to do things I would never have done - start a blog, publish a cookbook, and begin teaching classes on cultured foods. When I began these things, our lives began to change. Everything that had been going in the wrong direction reversed, and doors began to open that had been formerly closed. A year later, I self published my book and nine months after that I was picked up by a major publishing company, Hay House, and my book became a bestseller. Then I went on to write two more books and from deep within me a strong desire arose to help others, which led to the life I lead now. I'm so very thankful for the fear that changed me so dramatically, for in all of this process I discovered who I truly was. Stronger than I ever thought possible but knowing that I was being guided and loved. I could hear the bells ringing when things looked horrible, I could hear them ringing hope just for me. I tuned my heart to those bells and hung on. Never, ever give up - and believe in miracles . . . they are waiting for you.
Do you hear the bells? Open up your heart and you'll hear them. They are ringing just for you.
Merry Christmas, my sweet friends.Donna
Did You Eat And Drink Too Much Over The Holidays?
Let Cultured Foods Help You
One of the most important things I've learned about health and wellness is that overeating can be just as stressful on your hardworking liver as drinking too much, but most people don’t know this. Overeating or having too much fatty food on your plate can make it difficult for the liver to function smoothly; this leads to a toxic build-up in the body, making you feel sluggish. The good news is that there are things you can do to make it easier on your liver and entire body.
You can still eat all your favorite foods, but do yourself a favor and have a glass of kombucha or some cultured foods. Kombucha has the powerful ability to assist your liver in detoxification. Kombucha contains antioxidants that help fight molecules in the body that can damage cells. Researchers from India’s Jadavpur University have discovered that kombucha protects the liver’s cells against damage from toxicity.1
The researchers tested liver cells by exposing them to tertiary butyl hydroperoxide, a potent toxin that damages liver cells in a manner similar to other environmental toxins such as paracetamol and carbon tetrachloride. In the study, the toxin exposure caused the liver cells to die or become damaged – primarily from the cell membranes becoming damaged and porous.
However, those cells that were exposed to the toxin along with treatment with kombucha tea avoided much of this damage from the toxin exposure as their protective cell membrane integrity increased. The kombucha-treated liver cells had significantly less damage - the kombucha protected the cells from damage from the toxin’s free radical oxidation.
I have seen kombucha be of assistance after too much alcohol consumption. I don’t really drink but many of our friends did. We used to spend our weekends on our boat at the Lake of the Ozarks and most of the people on the dock would drink all weekend. I remember telling them about kombucha and before too long many of them were making it and drinking it. One friend said that after the weekend was over and he drank too much he would start drinking kombucha and his body would start detoxing him. The drinking would have added a lot of water weight on him. (Water protects your organs from damage and is why you may retain a lot of fluids when you drink or eat too much.) Then, he would start drinking kombucha and urinate like crazy losing all the extra water weight. But if he didn’t have kombucha he wouldn’t do this. He would stay inflamed and carry around the extra water weight making him feel sluggish and pretty horrible. Now, this isn’t a license to drink too much; but if you do, at least drink a kombucha and help your liver do its job.
Cultured veggies and kefir with its 50+ probiotic strains can help too. Remember, 50% of your body's detoxification occurs in your gut. It will make you feel better and your body will be grateful for the extra help.
I love my microbes and all they do for me. Not a week goes by that I don’t discover something new that my 100 trillion microbes are doing just for me. I used to think that my liver was mostly responsible for filtering and removing compounds from within my body including hundreds of toxic chemicals and extra hormones (such as estrogen) that can damage cells and weaken my immune system, but this is only half of the story. The bacteria in your gut are responsible for 50% of the detoxification that your body undergoes, but if you don’t have the right microbes, and a lot of them, they can’t do their job.
So, how do bacteria detoxify you? It’s a very cool thing and something that everybody needs to understand so they can harness the information and use it.
The chemical Bisphenol A (BPA) is found in plastics, paper money, and thermal printer receipts. BPA is a powerful endocrine disruptor and has been linked to forty different diseases. But interestingly, animal research has shown that the proper bacteria in your gut can help detoxify this chemical by reducing the intestinal absorption of BPA and speeding it out of your body.2 What's really exciting is that many of the strains of bacteria you need are found in cultured foods. Eat them, and they become a part of you!
When you make cultured vegetables, specific strains of bacteria go to work that have been shown to degrade many different pesticides in your vegetables such as chlorpyrifos, coumaphos, diazinon, methyl parathion, and parathion. They do this while fermenting on your counter, and the pesticides will be degraded by 83.3 percent in as little as three days. Give it a few more days and they remove them completely. 3 The really cool part is that these microbes actually use these hard-to-break-down chemicals as sources of carbon and phosphorous food!
Sodium nitrate and heavy metals
The chemical sodium nitrate is used as a food preservative in cured meats because it contains powerful anti-microbial properties which prevent food spoilage, but it is also used in fertilizer, explosives, rocket fuel, and for enamels made for pottery or glass. Sadly, it's even found in organic food. We can't seem to hide from it and it's been linked to a variety of chronic degenerative diseases, including cancer. However, Mr. lactobacillus and his many friends are capable of breaking down this toxic chemical 3 as well as breaking down heavy metals 5 and heterocylic amines 6 which are compounds formed when meat is cooked at high temperatures.
Probiotics found in so many cultured foods, and even in my sourdough bread, possess the ability to reduce the toxicity of foods and help me assimilate many foods I otherwise would struggle to digest. Just as they call in special forces of microbes to degrade and remove oil spills in the ocean, our microbes will do the same inside of you and me. But you have to take care of them and feed them, then watch them grow in strength and numbers to do their jobs. We have just scratched the surface of all they can do, but I encourage you to make some cultured vegetables and keep them on hand. I hope you make kefir daily, and as you drink it you’ll feel the wonderful improvement you’re bringing to your microbiome. If you consume bread, make it sourdough that has the help of lactobacillus microbes to transform it. And last, but not least, have some kombucha when you’re feeling you need a pick-me-up. Let them do the work for you and you just take care of them. You’ll start speaking of yourself in third person . . . “Would Donna’s microbes like this cultured food? I think they would – time to eat!”
This is the year that the holidays are going to make you healthy. Add some probiotic foods to your meals and everything you eat with them will be digested easier, availing you of more nutrients as the powerful microbes assist you in everything you eat. These foods are fun to make and delicious. Make it a habit of having one probiotic food with each holiday meal and watch how much better it makes you feel.
Check out all the recipes we have!
Listen To My Podcast
Do you overeat on Thanksgiving and Christmas? Overeating is as stressful to the liver as drinking too much alcohol. But there are ways to help your liver and your body, and also get more nutrients from your food. I'll share what I do and the foods we eat and drink. Let this be the year that Thanksgiving makes you healthy!
- Kenji Oishi, Tadashi Sato, Wakae Yokoi, Yasuto Yoshida, Masahiko Ito, Haruji Sawada. Biosci Biotechnol Biochem. 2008 Jun;72(6):1409-15. Epub 2008 Jun 7. PMID:
- Shah Md Asraful Islam, Renukaradhya K Math, Kye Man Cho, Woo Jin Lim, Su Young Hong, Jong Min Kim, Myoung Geun Yun, Ji Joong Cho, Han Dae Yun. J Agric Food Chem. 2010 May 12;58(9):5380-6. PMID
- Chang-Kyung Oh, Myung-Chul Oh, Soo-Hyun Kim. J Med Food. 2004;7(1):38-44. PMID:
- Marc Monachese, Jeremy P Burton, Gregor Reid. Appl Environ Microbiol. 2012 Sep ;78(18):6397-404. Epub 2012 Jul 13. PMID:
- Adriana Nowak, Zdzislawa Libudzisz. Eur J Nutr. 2009 Oct ;48(7):419-27. Epub 2009 May 16. PMID:
Fermented Foods For The Holidays
Your Body Will Thank You
"Before you heal someone, ask him if he is willing to give up the things that made him sick." Hippocrates
As the holiday season hits, we spend more time with friends and family. One thing I have noticed is that there is more and more talk about the health issues that so many are struggling with. Extended family whom I don't talk with often mostly talk about how sick they are and all the medications they're on. They see me as an anomaly and will say, "Well, Donna can eat like that, but that's not me." A few listen and I watch them as they quietly go about eating healthy and including their cultured foods, and I continue to quietly pray for those who are struggling. If people aren't seeking answers, they won't be able to hear me even if I did offer help. I've always had a deep desire to be well and I will seek it with all my heart, my actions, and turn my mind to thoughts of the things I seek. But it wasn't always this way. I had to get really sick and scared before I was ready to change, and then the answers rushed to me. I never, ever want to feel that way again; and with a grateful heart, I've never looked back.
It's not an easy thing to change and usually people have to experience a crisis to actually change some of their habits. But I'm here to tell you it's not as hard as you think. The cells of your body want to be well but they can't override the harmful habits that most people engage in every day. Here is what I do know. If you decide to change, even just a little bit, your body will help you. It wants to be well! If you start to feed your body what it needs and change your thoughts about it being hard, you'll begin to move it in the direction of health. I see this every day - people find wellness when they never thought they could.
I've had one such email from a woman and I could go on and on about this, but I think you should read it in her own words.
Four to five years ago I stumbled upon your website and followed you by receiving your email updates. I had previously read about cultured and fermented foods in Nourishing Traditions but at the time I wasn't sure what direction to go with regard to diet (more raw, Paleo, less fat, etc.). Unfortunately, my putting the culturing and fermenting on the back burner turned into a long 2-year lesson.
At that time, it seemed like I caught anything that was blowing in the wind. Horrible and worsening seasonal allergies, colds, flu, and for the first time in my life a 3-week sinus infection. The worst part for me was how this season of sickness eroded my self-confidence when it came to my health. I grew up in California with a health nut mother (I say this with all due respect) who gave me an alternative perspective on the body's ability to heal itself. During this time I started to second guess myself and wonder if I should start seeing a traditional MD.
Fast forward a couple of years and a number of failed diets when I saw your recipe for Fermented Vegetables for Flu Prevention. I ordered some supplies, your video, and your first book. Within just a few short weeks I had no allergies. Zero, zilch, nada! It was truly amazing and exciting. Knowing that you teach, I checked your site to see if you would be teaching anywhere nearby but saw nothing posted. When I placed my supply order, I asked if you would be coming to Tampa Bay, Florida anytime soon and your office responded saying you were going to be in Clearwater, FL in February! I bought my ticket and invited a couple of friends but shortly after found out my father wasn't doing well and I would need to take a trip to California. Something made me think to ask my husband to attend and although he gave me a bit of a look, he agreed.
You taught the class attended by my husband, Rob, and my friends, Yvette and Lisa. Rob was so excited that he kept texting me during the class saying, "We have to do this, this is so awesome." And the rest is history. We have been making fermented vegetables, Kefir and Kombucha ever since. I can't believe the change in my health, and health confidence and only wish I had started making these foods earlier. Now I know why you speak of them with such fondness!
Thank you for being an inspiration and for all that you do!
If you’re new to cultured foods, then let me help you understand how epic these foods are and especially during the holidays. Cultured foods are foods such as kefir, kombucha, and cultured vegetables, water kefir, and sourdough bread. These foods are loaded with probiotics, extra vitamins, and enzymes. They help your body heal by adding billions of probiotics to your gut. They rebuild your microbiome and this helps you digest your food, reduces inflammation, helps your blood sugar, and boosts your immune system. They even help add the bacteria your body needs to heal the digestive issues and even food allergies. These microbes help reduce cholesterol by using it as a food source and also do this in the kidneys as well. They do so many things that I've dedicated my life to helping others understand how crucial it is to feed and take care of our 10 trillion microbes. It's important!
Probiotics contained in cultured foods consume sugars
One of the wonderful things about cultured probiotic foods is how fun it is to make them a part of your everyday life, and especially around the holidays. The good microbes contained in cultured foods consume sugars, and when you ingest them they help bring balance to the body. For instance, let's say you have them as a condiment at your holiday table, be it a glass of kombucha, a spoonful of cranberry kefir relish, or some cultured veggies such as Christmas Kraut. These foods will help you digest all the food you eat with them. They can keep you from overeating since they are so nutrient dense, and they also keep your blood sugar more balanced. I just love them and appreciate how they work in my body when I need them to. I wish I could tell you how often I reach for these foods when I need extra help. Let's say you eat too much. One of the best things you can do is to drink some kombucha. The liver gets stressed when we overeat, and kombucha help bring it back into balance. Kefir will soothe the gut, help remove harmful pathogens, and calm your central nervous system. A glass loads you with extra vitamin B12, minerals such as zinc, and lots of vitamin C. These are just a few of the many nutrients you will receive. They will flood your gut with billions of helpers that know exactly what to do to help you stay healthy. So take a look at some of the cultured recipes (see below) you can serve around the holidays. They’re all fun and easy to make. If you haven’t jumped in and started making these foods yet, at least grab a bottle of kombucha, kefir, or some cultured veggies at your health food store and eat them as a condiment. Cold and flu season is a comin' and these foods can help you navigate through it with ease. Your immune system will thank you!
Listen To My Podcast
If you're not eating cultured foods during the holidays, you're missing out! It's the new, old way to take care of your body when decadent food is everywhere. You don't have to give up your favorite foods, just include some of these options and watch what happens.
For many years, and way before I found cultured foods, we would travel to my mom's house in Virginia for Christmas. It was a twenty-hour car ride from my home in Kansas City and we would often drive all night to get there so the kids would sleep. We would always be exhausted by the time we arrived at my mom's home. In anticipation of our arrival, my family would make buckets - and I mean buckets! - of sugar cookies. It was my grandma's sugar cookie recipe and it was a Christmas tradition. We would eat them the whole time we were there. Inevitably, someone in the house would get sick and then it would spread through the grandkids and adults.
It happened every year, and so much so that we would always say, "Well, we always get sick at Christmas," and we just thought it was because we were all in close proximity to each other and spreading germs. Those cookies were so addictive that we couldn’t stop eating them. My husband told me that one night he was tired and sleepy and not hungry but he still dragged himself to the kitchen and had another sugar cookie. These cookies were covered in sprinkles and they would fall off, so he ate them over the trash can as to not get them on the carpet. Good lord, it was crazy.
The Immune System Connection
Sugar, Microbes, And Vitamin C
Fast forward many years, and I now know why we got sick. As humans, we naturally crave a sweet taste. It is an essential part of balancing the other tastes found in nature such as salty, bitter, and sour flavors. But it felt like we were crazy addicts at Christmas time. So, what happens when we consume a lot of sugar? First and foremost, our bacteria shifts dramatically and makes more sugar-loving microbes that make us crave sugar like crazy. This, along with the key player in the reward system of our brain, set us up for control problems. That feeling of pleasure we get from food and other substances is made by dopamine. Dopamine receptors are all over our brain, and indulging in any addictive substance, such as sugar, brings on a deluge of dopamine. Guess what happens when we eat a lot of sugar? Yep, those levels also surge and then we need more to stay satisfied. Neurotransmitters - namely epinephrine, norepinephrine, serotonin, and dopamine - have been shown to play a major role in controlling and maintaining homeostasis within the gut system in terms of nutrient absorption, blood flow, gut microbiome, local immune system, and overall gut motility and cravings. Hang on — I'm not saying you have to give it all up, but I'm going to tell you what to do to help yourself and bring the balance back. But first, let me tell you what goes on inside of your body.
Sugar drops your immune system by 75%
One of the things that can affect your immune system is eating sugar. This is the reason my family always got sick at Christmas. We had way too much sugar during the holidays and it lowered our immune system’s ability to keep us well. Let’s talk about this in regards to vitamin C. In the 1970’s, Dr. Linus Pauling (one of the greatest researchers in the field of microbiology) discovered that vitamin C helps the body combat the common cold. But what he also found was how sugar can do the opposite.
Your cells think sugar is vitamin C
Vitamin C is used by white blood cells to engulf and absorb viruses and harmful bacteria. White blood cells need to contain 50 times the concentration of vitamin C as would normally be found in the blood around it. Sugar or glucose has a very similar chemical structure to vitamin C; so when you eat sugar, your cells hungrily take in the sugar thinking it is vitamin C. The 50% concentration of vitamin C in your cells starts to drop and your immune system’s ability to fight a virus is reduced by 75%. It can take four to six hours for the vitamin C concentration in the white blood cells to go back to the normal concentration and to be able to function at the highest level again. So it’s not a great idea, and especially if you’re sick, to eat any kind of sugar, because the white blood cells can’t get past the sugar to do their job. So this is why we all got sick every Christmas. Our bodies lost their superpower strength to keep us healthy because we were eating so much sugar and crashing our immune system again and again.
Inner Ecosystem Help
Here’s another thing - too much sugar or a high-stress lifestyle can create an environment inside you that encourages the growth of disease-causing bacteria and Candida yeast. Candida takes up a very small portion in your body, doing an important job of helping you digest things like heavy metals that your normal digestion cannot handle. If your gut flora is killed by antibiotics or a unhealthy diet, this leaves more room for candida to spread out and take over larger areas when you don’t have enough good microbes to keep it in check.Then you get a slew of other problems to deal with.
Inside your body is a thriving inner ecosystem of microflora (good bacteria and yeasts) that keep you healthy and strong. These healthy bacteria and yeasts help you digest food, absorb nutrients, regulate your blood sugar, control food cravings, and manufacture vitamins and minerals. The secret to helping them is feeding them with probiotic-rich foods and lots of prebiotics in the form of fruits and veggies as well as lots of soluble fiber. I'm not saying you can never have sugar again, but you won’t be craving it like before and your body will balance this for you. I have so many recipes that you can make on my site and in my books that not only satisfy your sweet craving but replenish your microbes. Then if you do eat sugar, those busy microbes will help reduce the effect on your immune system and you won’t be like an addict craving sugar. It took a little bit of time to grow into this new lifestyle, but now it feels effortless. Let me give you a few things that will really help you.
What You Can Do
I consume kefir for breakfast! Kefir is my number one thing I consume every day. It sets my day off right. It balances hormones and blood sugar and, goodness, I don’t know what I would do without it.
There are fifty bacteria in kefir. It will be a mighty force in your life and slowly change this whole world inside of you. Lately, I've been making Easy Kefir in little pots and we are all enjoying it so much. You just make a jar of Easy Kefir, which only takes 24 hours to make. Then when it's done, add a few spoonfuls of this to small jars and fill them with milk. Let this ferment for 24 hours or until it's thick and creamy, and then place in the fridge. You can even make chocolate milk kefir and boy, is it yummy. It's such an easy way to make kefir and since it's made from actual kefir grains, you get all the benefits of kefir without worrying about straining out the grains. Kefir is so nutrient dense that it will give your gut and brain what it needs and calm your body down while strengthening your immune system too! Have it every day and just watch how you'll change and sail through cold and flu season.
If you do overindulge in sugary treats, drink some kombucha! Kombucha is a powerful detoxifier and will stop those craving for sugar quite effectively. Sugar is hard on your liver and kombucha will help support liver function. Kombucha will also supply you with a very powerful probiotic yeast that fights Candida and keeps not only the good bacteria in your body healthy, but the good yeasts too! When I have overwhelming cravings for food I know won't be good for me, I always drink a kombucha first; and then if I still want it, I can have it but I never do. Kombucha works and it's super delicious too. Try my Candy Cane Kombucha and let the microbes eat the sugar out of the tea. Then you'll receive a holiday treat with tons of Christmas flavor and lots of bubbliness too!
Veggies — just a spoonful is such a big deal, and I’m not kidding about this. It's time everyone knows about these wonderful veggies, and let me tell you about one that can really help you. Researchers in Missouri found fermented veggies can decrease anxiety and stress-related behavior in people who consume them. It works on boosting the adrenals and strengthening the immune system due to the high vitamin C content. Fermented veggies can protect against food poisoning and toxicity and help you digest all the foods you eat with these powerful veggies. One of my favorite ways to help reduce sugar cravings and keep my immune system strong is to eat fermented garlic and honey. Now, don't knock it till you've tried it, but this is delicious and tastes like candy! It will cure your sweet cravings fast.
An interesting thing about garlic is it works incredibly well with probiotics. Since garlic is a prebiotic, that is no surprise. A British research team looked at using garlic (an-antifungal) and probiotics together in an effort to respond to the increasing resistance of Candida to prescription medication. The researchers found that when garlic and the probiotic were used together, “a synergistic effect on the inhibition of candidal attachment occurred.” They concluded that “the combination of Lactobacillus and garlic should provide a preventative/treatment regime to address the growing problem with candidal infections.” Honey is a prebiotic which feeds good bacteria and garlic is an antifungal and also a prebiotic, so it's a wonderful bonus for your microbiome.
Water kefir has helped so many people bring healthy microbes into their gut. Replace the harmful sugary and alcoholic drinks that most people drink around the holidays. It's been said that water kefir originated in close vicinity to where milk kefir grains originated in the Caucasus Mountains. Water kefir grains, at the time, were a natural occurrence in mountain springs that are above 7000 feet in elevation. Texts and scrolls dating back thousands of years document the use of water kefir and milk kefir during those times and since then. I do know that they are a wonderful addition to the diet of anyone who is looking to add more healthy flora to their microbiome. I hear stories all the time that those who included water kefir in their diets have received so many health benefits that they'll never go back to unhealthy sodas or alcoholic drinks that wreak havoc on their bodies and especially their liver. It's just so delicious and easy to make. It will reset those cravings and help your body detox and you will feel it!
Listen To My Podcast
There are certain times of the year when you need to strengthen your inner micro-biome and the holidays is one of those times. Find out how in this upcoming show. 'Tis the season to be happy! It's easy, fun, and delicious!
I’m going to introduce you to your microbiome. These trillions of microbial organisms, which normally inhabit a healthy small and large intestine, are your friends. They’ve been co-creating with humans since the beginning of time, but it is likely you know very little about them. We depend on these microbes for our health and well being, and they depend on us for their survival. I love them with all my heart because they made me well, and they gave me a life beyond my wildest dreams and continue to do so. So, I am their voice and messenger so you can understand all they do for you and then harness their power to make your body feel better than ever before.
Trillions Of Bacteria
How Do They Help Us?
Our bodies house trillions of bacteria. If we feed them properly, they will keep our immune system running strong. These bacteria digest foods that are indigestible to us, such as fiber, and they make this food into vitamins and compounds that we need but can't make for ourselves. But what are you feeding your microbes? They multiply and do their job based on how you take care of them; and when you do it properly, they make you shine in ways like never before. It's a partnership and we need to pay attention to what our trillions of bacteria do each and every day. This large microbiome will change with disease and many experts are now linking autoimmune diseases to this shift in the gut.
What is autoimmune disease?
With more than 80 different types of autoimmune disease, they're difficult to understand; but basically, the immune system finds proteins and tries to destroy them as if they were harmful foreign invaders. The immune system is quite an interesting system. It will go after a pathogen, such as a virus, and create inflammation to clear that pathogen from the body. However, an autoimmune disease causes the immune system to continue attacking these proteins and keeps us at an elevated state of inflammation.
Let’s talk about inflammation. We do want to get rid of inflammation if it's chronic. Inflammation is our body's normal response as it destroys pathogens and moves them out of the body; but when inflammation is chronic, you get into trouble and can wind up with an autoimmune disease.
Most doctors tell you to treat inflammation with anti-inflammatory medication (Advil, Motrin, steroids, etc.) but they're not addressing why the inflammation is there in the first place. The real causes of these inflammatory conditions include a microbiome that has diminished in numbers, hidden allergens, infections, environmental toxins, an inflammatory diet, and stress. If you want to cool off inflammation in the body, you must find the source. Treat the fire, not the smoke. Most physicians are taught to diagnose disease by symptoms, NOT by their underlying cause.
Toxins can accumulate in your tissues and autoimmune disease is a sign that your body is on high alert and needs your help. Your immune system is your defense against invaders. It is your army that lives inside of you and works on your behalf. It has to clearly distinguish friend from foe — and then your body has to be your brother-in-arms and fight to keep you well. This is its job 24/7. But you are not usually conscious of this, so you don't assist your body in becoming well because you don't know what to do.
Autoimmunity occurs when your immune system gets confused and your own tissues get caught in friendly crossfire. Your body is fighting something — an infection, a toxin, an allergen, a food, or the stress response — and somehow it redirects its hostile attack on your joints, your brain, your thyroid, your gut, your skin, or sometimes your whole body.
Dr. Alessio Fasano, a world-renowned gastroenterologist and expert in autoimmune disease, describes one of the components that must be present for an autoimmune disease as "leaky gut." Intestinal permeability (also referred to as “leaky gut”) means that the (normally) tightly knit cells of the intestines are weakened and “leaky.” This allows large compounds, such as proteins from food or bacteria, to enter our bloodstream. Leaky gut can occur due to any number of reasons including food sensitivities, gut infections, or chronic stress. More and more research is coming through that the microbiome plays a role in autoimmune disease. More doctors are starting to prescribe probiotics for autoimmune diseases and certain strains seem to be most effective.
Lactobacillus and its many strains can be found naturally in kefir and other cultured foods that I teach you how to make and enjoy. They found that these strains work very well for autoimmune diseases. Many patients and clinicians now believe that probiotics may be helpful in mitigating the signs and symptoms of disease by restoring the balance and function of microbes in the gut (where an imbalance is believed to cause or contribute to the disorder).
I've seen this again and again with people who have IBS and also Rheumatoid Arthritis. Once they start fixing their gut and paying attention, their symptoms get better or go away. Just today a woman posted on my Facebook page saying this:
Donna, since I've been on a rich probiotic diet I have managed my Hashimoto thyroid disease. Gone are my digestive issues unless I eat something I'm sensitive to. You made me discover probiotics Donna Schwenk's Cultured Food Life and I'm very grateful to you, thank you for being you 🙂
Autoimmune conditions are multifaceted and there is no quick fix, but this is where we really need to talk. We all want a quick fix and a pill that will fix what ails us, but this doesn’t work long term. Any disease is our body’s cry for help and listening will change your life dramatically. Many have found autoimmunity a thing of the past.
What To Do
Dr. Mark Hyman. MD, a functional medicine doctor, works with many patients fixing all manner of autoimmune diseases. He has helped many people discover what is causing their chronic inflammation and keeping their immune system in the "stuck" mode.
He’s not only cured himself from chronic disease but he has helped thousands of others. Here are some of his recommendations.
- Fixing your gut is crucial in detoxing from heavy metals. I have done this quite effectively by eating tons of probiotic foods and lots of prebiotic foods. These foods allow my body to clear and eliminate debris along with re-establishing a newly balanced system.
- Check for hidden infections — yeast, viruses, bacteria, Lyme, etc. — with the help of a doctor, and treat them. Candida is a sign that your gut bacteria are out of whack from too many antibiotics and unhealthy lifestyle choices.
- Get checked for heavy metal toxicity. Mercury and other metals can cause autoimmunity. This is a common problem these days and one that often goes unnoticed until we get symptoms. It’s a very real problem and I have witnessed how the body can clear out these metals and heal. Symptoms vanish and you feel better than ever before.
- Use nutrients such as fish oil, vitamin C, and vitamin D. Help calm your immune response naturally and experience healing in so many regards. It's important to include these nutrients in your diet.
- Exercise regularly — it’s a natural anti-inflammatory.
- Practice deep relaxation like yoga, deep breathing, biofeedback, or massage, because stress worsens the immune response.
Do not underestimate the healing crisis (the medical term is "Herxheimer reaction") that can occur when you start to heal. As the body releases these toxins to be eliminated, you may feel worse. As pathogens die, they leave toxic chemicals that can feel like disease. We take for granted how our bodies heal us and we think it happens instantly, but it doesn’t. We need time to heal and for our microbiome to change and grow. Once this happens, you won’t believe how good your body is designed to feel. It’s amazing, and you deserve to feel good. And when you do, hang on to your hat - you're gonna fly like never before.
Check out more about the Healing Crisis and Cultured Foods:
Listen To My Podcast
Are autoimmune diseases the result of an imbalanced gut/immune system? Find out why Hippocrates said, “All disease begin in the gut.” I will discuss how healing your microbiome can also help heal autoimmune disorders.
In 2017, we moved across the country from Kansas City to Southern California to be closer to our two older children. Our family - Ron, me and our three kids and our son-in-law - are thick as thieves. I've always lived far away from my mom and dad and sisters who mostly reside on the east coast. Ron's family is spread all over the country and we are mostly alone and we've all became very close. We're a strong pack and we like to be together! It was pretty tough on me moving and I knew it would be difficult, but goodness sakes it was brutal. I was also going through menopause and combined with the stress of selling our house and fixing it up, and then moving to a new universe (California is an entirely different world - but I love it!) and finding a new place to live, it was pretty hard on me. I suddenly started having problems whenever I drank coffee or ate acidic foods like tomatoes, lemons, or oranges. Since we had just purchased a house with an orchard of citrus trees, I was pretty upset I couldn't eat them without having burning and digestion problems. I didn't know what was happening and I knew my body was sending me a warning sign that I was out of balance and I wanted to know why. Our bodies are virtual chemical factories - a complex system of checks and balances. When they're out of whack we'll get a message. I'd never had this problem before, so I was surprised that I was having to give up coffee, tomato dishes, and other acidic foods. First of all, I calmed down; but when that didn't fix the problem, I went looking for another solution. When I find the answer, I know it will help you, too, if you're struggling with the same thing.
Do You Have Too Much Acid Or Too Little?
HCL – Hydrochloric Acid
Here is what I found that fixed my problems within a couple weeks. When people say they have indigestion, heartburn, or acid stomach, often these can come from having low stomach acid. That’s right, your heartburn, bloating, and indigestion may be from low, not high, stomach acid. You need to have enough HCL (hydrochloric acid or stomach acid) to properly digest your food and also for immune health. We become vitamin and mineral deficient if we don't properly digest our food so this is something you should pay attention to. When a person starts to eat, the stomach is stimulated to start producing HCL. The HCL activates the chief cells in the middle portion of the stomach to start secreting a protein-digesting enzyme known as pepsinogen. Pepsinogen needs hydrochloric acid in order to begin digesting protein. Your stomach acid is also needed to kill bacteria, parasites, and viruses that enter with the food you eat. This helps explain why cultured foods work better than probiotic supplements. The food gives the probiotic foods a protective halo to speed to the parts of the body that allow them to thrive and grow, compared to supplements which are mostly killed by the stomach acids.
If you're having these problems, even though it feels like your stomach is producing too much acid, actually the reverse is true. You need more acid!
Causes Of Low Hydrochloric Acid — Low Stomach Acid
- Stress, — hydrochloric acid (HCL) can be inhibited by stress, emotion, or worry. High amounts of stress will exhaust the body and HCL production diminishes.
- Zinc deficiency
- B vitamin deficiency
- Age – as you get older, stomach acid production tends to decrease
- Mineral deficiencies
- Eating a nutritionally-deficient diet of processed and fast foods
- Overuse of antacids
What To Do - Minerals
One of the first things I discovered was that I had a zinc deficiency. Zinc is one of the most important minerals in the production of hydrochloric acid. If you don't have enough minerals, and especially zinc, then your stomach won't make the proper amount of HCL. When I was juicing a lot, I found I got too much copper in my diet and not enough zinc. Copper and zinc balance each other out and when you have too much of one and not the other you get into problems. Zinc helps run your thyroid and it's important to make sure you get enough if you do a mostly plant-based diet. Kefir has zinc and so does meat, eggs, shellfish, nuts, legumes, and whole grains. You'll need other minerals as well. We should be getting our minerals from our foods, but with overly farmed soils, many of our minerals levels are diminishing. I take Ancient Earth Minerals by Body Ecology Diet and my problems with low stomach acid disappeared in a few weeks.
It's really helpful to test your mineral levels. I found an easy way to test for a zinc deficiency. Taking Liquid Zinc Assay, which is just zinc, and holding a spoonful in your mouth for a few seconds will reveal if you're low in zinc. If it has a taste (like metal) then your zinc levels are most likely good. But if it tastes like water, then you're low in zinc. When I first took this I didn't taste anything. Then in a few weeks, it started to taste a little metallic. When I upped my kefir and started taking zinc and other minerals (Ancient Earth Minerals) it wasn't but a week or two and I could again have coffee, lemons and oranges, and all manner of acidic foods that used to bother me. I was shocked it worked so quickly because I had been struggling for months. I really don't want to live my life without having coffee and citrus fruit - they have huge benefits, and I love them so much.
Microbes Love The Microscopic Fibers In Coffee
I'm so glad I can have my coffee again. My microbes need it too! Researchers in Germany1 found that microbes love the microscopic fibers in coffee. As these microbes grow, they cover the intestinal walls and keep harmful pathogens from colonizing. They also lower the gut’s pH to an acidity that causes most germs to die. These soluble coffee fibers are food for bacteria and make the beneficial Bacteroides microbes experience up to 60% increase in growth. Soluble fibers, which are prebiotics, do so many things. They improve insulin sensitivity, allow you to absorb more calcium, convert some plant fibers into vitamin A, and much, much more. You also have a 65% decrease of Alzheimers risk and much more.
Check out my article on why coffee is good for your microbiome and so much more. I'm so glad I can drink coffee again!
The Many Health Benefits Of Citrus!
We all need lots of vitamin C to keep our adrenals and immune system running strong. A great way to get this is through citrus fruits. We need to be able to digest them by having our stomach acids performing as they should.
The Linus Pauling Institute states that the antioxidants in oranges and lemons decrease the chance of getting colds and the flu. It does this by supplying needed vitamin C and protecting against free radical damage from body metabolism, toxins, and pollution. Citrus fruits are rich in the antioxidant vitamin A, which helps your mucus membranes control infection and phlegm. Combine this with probiotics that go after pathogens and the vitamin C keeps your immune levels high. Check out how sugar can drop your immune system by 75%!
Check out my podcast and article on why you should have lots of vitamin C every day!
Sometimes I wonder how I got here. Symptoms of disease struck my life almost two decades ago and it broke me. Those symptoms shook me to my core and I didn't know that my body was desperately trying to get my attention to help me heal. And heal I did. With a grateful heart, I'm here trying with all I know to help you too. I sometimes feel overwhelmed by the hundreds of emails I get. Some emails are of wonderful healings from these foods that healed me, and others are from those who are struggling and looking for hope. I don't hold all the answers, but I do know that what the poet Rumi said is truer than you know: "What you seek is seeking you." Here is what I have learned, lived, experienced, and continue to do each and every day. I believe in wellness, and I want an epidemic of wellness to be the norm and not the exception. I mostly speak of wellness and how to get well - you won't find me talking about scary topics to drive traffic to my blog. I'm trying to guide you to wake up to the miraculous vessels you live in. It's a magnificent design that is filled with trillions of microbes. So these symptoms of disease aren't the enemy, they're the warning signs. Heed the call and seek with all your heart. Do all you can to find wellness, change your diet, study, pray, meditate, and trust. Then watch the answers come. You're never alone - you have trillions of unseen helpers following you around and all they really care about . . . is you!
If your gut bacteria were a city, they're would be more than one-hundred trillion residents living inside you!
Symptoms And Signs Of An Unbalanced Gut
Some Of The Obvious Signs
Are your gut bacteria out of whack? Your bacteria can be one of your strongest allies in being healthy, or they can be one of your worst enemies. The symptoms of an unbalanced gut are broad and wide. It's staggering how many things are affected by your bacteria. So, here are some scenarios for you. After you eat, does your stomach hurt? How about gas? Are you struggling with perimenopause or menopause or PMS? Did you know that your body regulates hormones and detoxes extra estrogen largely through your gut? If your gut is messed up, those extra hormones are going to be circulating through your system. They make you feel tired and exhausted and they can lead to excess estrogen which can cause all kinds of problems. Your gut holds all kinds of answers to many dilemmas in your life. We think that we control so much of what’s happening in our daily life through our habits and daily rituals. You'll be surprised to know that your 100 trillion microbes control so much more. You might be shocked what happens to you when you harness their power.
Do you have any of these symptoms?
- Excess intestinal gas
- Chronic diarrhea
- Hormonal disruptions
- Anxiety or depression
- Digestion problems
- Food cravings and addictions
Symptoms, Cravings, And Addictions
We all have particular foods that we crave and eat on a daily basis. We think that we crave certain foods and we just can’t help it, but that’s not true. It's your microbes that are causing these cravings and preferences. You’re going to crave different things depending on what you feed your microbes. If you reset this, your microbes make you crave different foods and it can make it effortless to eat healthily. I'm not kidding about this! If you're craving unhealthy food and can't stop, then you need to reset the microbes in your gut. They're making you crave foods that you feed them, and this is a signal that something is amiss.
Penn Jillette, a famous magician, talks about this in his book and video. He was dangerously overweight and he reset his microbes by eating a mono diet (nothing but potatoes) Potatoes have a resistant starch in them that feeds the microbiome. He added potatoes so he could lose his detachment to food and then slowly started adding a lot of soups and greens, too. By doing this, he reset his microbes. There are different ways to do this, but he says now he doesn’t want any of those foods he used to love. Every two weeks he’ll eat whatever he wants and he just doesn’t want those foods he used to love anymore. He said it shocks him that it was so easy once he cleared out his microbiome.
I’ve found the same thing - you can change your microbes and after a little bit of time, you start craving the healthy foods in a powerful way.
Check out this article for more info.
Emotions are powerfully affected by our microbes. We have a nervous system in our gut that has between 50 million and 100 million nerve cells. It’s about the same size as our spinal cord if you pushed it all together. It has its own intelligence. They call it the "second brain," and for good reason. It wants to get rid of things that don’t belong there — either bacteria, bad bugs, or toxins from rotten foods. If you ingest something wrong, it gives the signal to expel it; and if you have a bad bug in your large intestine, it generates diarrhea or vomiting. For example, certain microbes can influence the production of the serotonin molecule, which plays a role in appetite regulation, food intake, well-being, and sleep. This gives the microbes a tremendous ability to influence your overall state of health. Some microbe signals can activate the vagus nerve endings in the gut, which are like an information superhighway to the brain. Every emotional state has a reflection on the gut level. For instance, anger makes the stomach contract, so it secretes more acid and produces an increase in blood flow to allow the stomach to do this extra work.
When we experience stress and anxiety, there is a release of stress hormones like adrenaline and norepinephrine. They circulate in the blood, make your heart beat faster, and cause sweaty palms. We are learning now that they also influence the behavior of the microbes in your gut because they have receptors for these chemicals. Psychology Professors Matthew Hilimire and Catherine Forestell recently joined with the University of Maryland to investigate a possible connection between fermented foods, which contain probiotics, and social anxiety. The researchers' gut feeling was right when they found that young adults who eat more fermented foods have fewer social anxiety symptoms with the effect being greatest among those at genetic risk for social anxiety disorder as measured by neuroticism. The journal Psychiatry Research accepted the study in April for publication in August.
I was reading a letter that was recently in the news from Robin Williams' wife talking about his struggle with dementia, and in it she said she traced the first signs of trouble to a celebration of their wedding anniversary, about ten months before her husband died, when “gut discomfort” made him fearful and anxious. That set off months of escalating problems. Gut discomfort is my first sign that something's wrong in my life. Too often, we don’t heed this nor connect it to our emotions, but caring for your gut and its microbes should be one of the first things you do when you sense your emotions are out of control. If you have begun to be more irritable, feel more anxious, or if it seems like you can’t concentrate, it could very well be an imbalance in your gut flora. Try making some minor adjustments to your diet and then note if your condition improves.
Check out this article for more info:
Constipation Or Diarrhea
Signs of constipation, diarrhea, stomach upset, or pain when you eat is always a sign that your gut is struggling and needs your help. These symptoms can develop after you take antibiotics and is always a sign that your gut is out of whack. Having cultured foods can greatly help bring balance to these symptoms. Many people have gotten off their medications for constipation after consuming kefir. One of the first people I met at one of my classes was a man in his late seventies who was on medication for chronic constipation for years. One week on kefir and he didn't need it anymore. One way kefir may help is by lowering the pH in the colon via short-chain fatty acids (butyric acid, propionic acid, and lactic acid). A lower pH or more acidic colon enhances movement.
A study was done in Japan with mentally and physically handicapped residents of a nursing home who struggled with constipation. Glycerol Enema (GE) is used to treat constipation in these patients. The administration of GE not only causes mental and physical stresses to handicapped people but also causes physical damage to nurses. Kefir-fermented milk was ingested three times per day (total 6 g per day) for three months to see if it could prevent constipation. They found that four of the eleven participants showed improvement in bowel movements without the administration of GE. Although this study was carried out with a highly limited number of subjects, the results implicated that adding kefir to the daily diet of handicapped people might have benefit for constipation. Even though further studies are required, this study suggests that the oral intake of kefir would contribute to the reduction of the physical labor of nurses spending much time and effort in the administration of GE, and also contribute to an increase in the quality of life for handicapped people.1,2
A study in the Turkish Journal of Gastroenterology in 20143 studied two groups of patients. The first group of ten had “normal transit” and the second had “slow transit" (constipation). The patients themselves kept daily records.
- Stool frequency increased
- Stool consistency improved
- Colonic transit time improved
- Bowel satisfaction scores improved
- Laxative use decreased
I have found kombucha, with its special probiotic yeast Saccharomyces boulardii, to be especially good for diarrhea. S. boulardii is one of the most thoroughly researched of all probiotic supplements.4 It is now used to treat Clostridium difficile (C. diff.), acute diarrhea, antibiotic-associated diarrhea, some parasitic forms of diarrhea, and other gastrointestinal disorders.5 S. boulardii can also act as a decoy to harmful pathogens. It attracts and binds with the pathogens, keeping them from attaching to the intestinal wall and doing damage. Many people have expressed how much kombucha has helped them with chronic diarrhea. It seems to be the only thing that really works for them, and it's simply a delicious fermented tea - not a drug that can have side effects.
The Healing Crisis
Now, something that can occur when you first start consuming kefir is called a Healing Crisis. This can sometimes be accompanied by constipation or diarrhea that is usually short-lived. When you first start ingesting cultured foods, the body is flooded with probiotics which want to kill pathogens. A lot of extra debris can accumulate in the colon as the body tries to shed all the waste of the die off. You'll need to have lots of water and fiber which will also help remove the unwanted debris.
Check out this article for more info:
I have noted quite frequently that women who have a lot of problems with hot flashes and menopause (or perimenopause) symptoms almost always have a messed up gut. They harbor parasites, harmful bacteria and viruses, and candida. Here’s how it works. Your body cannot regulate your hormones if your gut is messed up and doesn’t allow it to detoxify those excess hormones. Fifty percent of your excess hormones are going to be eliminated through your gut. During these phases of your life, you’ll need extra help detoxifying.
Hormones are broken down and detoxified in two ways in the body: first in the liver, and then in the colon. When the digestive tract is out of balance, your estrogens, especially, are not detoxed properly, leading to symptoms of estrogen dominance. The most important step you can take to support gastrointestinal function is to rebalance your gut flora – especially clearing out yeast. I have found this step to be the most profound in dealing with any hormonal imbalance – especially PMS.
Eating probiotic foods will help keep out pathogens, parasites, bacteria, and viruses, especially Gardnerella, Proteus, Chlamydia, Campylobacter, Neisseria, Treponema, and Salmonella. These are also the urinary tract bacteria that cause yeast infections and bladder infections. These infections are common when you are experiencing hormonal imbalance!
Check out this article for more info:
So How Do We Fix All Of This?
I started with kefir. Actually, it was powder packages of kefir that were pretty foolproof. Years later, I produced my own powder packages from flash-frozen kefir grains and called it Easy Kefir. I made my first batch of kefir in 24 hours and that's where I started. But you should pick the cultured food that most interests you. Is it kombucha? You can start with just buying it. There are a lot of good brands in the stores. If you'd like, I can teach you to make it and it's super fun. Maybe cultured veggies look good to you? You can buy some good lacto-fermented brands at most health food stores, but they're a cinch to make. A lot of people love water kefir and it's such a fun place to start if you want a bubbly, refreshing drink. All in all, you pick what most interests you and start with that. You have your own guidance, and your body knows what it needs, you just need to start checking in with it. I see this all the time and I watch people become believers in their body's ability to heal and make them well. When it happens to you, then you'll want to tell others. This is how it was always meant to be. I'm believing in your wellness - the journey is worth the effort. Just you wait and see.
Listen To My Podcast
Your gut bacteria can be one of your strongest allies in being healthy or it can be one of your worst enemies. It can send you signals through your emotions, food cravings, and stomach distress. Find out if your bacteria are out of balance and what you can do about it today!
- Czerucka, T. Piche, and P. Rampal, “Review Article: Yeast as Probiotics—Saccharomyces boulardii,” Alimentary Pharmacology & Therapeutics 26, no. 6 (September 15, 2007): 767–78: abstract at www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17767461.
- H. Choi et al., “A Randomized, Double-blind, Placebo-controlled Multicenter Trial of Saccharomyces boulardii in Irritable Bowel Syndrome: Effect on Quality of Life,” Journal of Clinical Gastroenterology 45, no. 8 (September 2011): 679–83: abstract at www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21301358; S. Uhlen, F. Toursel, and F. Gottrand, Association Française de Pédiatrie Ambulatoire, “Treatment of Acute Diarrhea: Prescription Patterns by Private Practice Pediatricians,” Archives de Pédiatrie 11, no. 8 (August 2004): 903–7: abstract at http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15288079.
Female hormones are complex and beautifully made. But take those hormones and ignore them, and they will get your attention through symptoms of discomfort that can lead to disease and believe you me, they can wreak havoc on your life.
There is no giant step that accomplishes this, just a lot of little steps that can make all the difference.
Imbalances In Your Gut Flora
A woman’s ovaries are responsible for making the hormones progesterone and estrogen. If the bacteria in your system that live near your reproductive organs change to harmful pathogenic types of bacteria, your ovaries are likely to become hindered and may under-produce or over-produce a certain hormone causing all kinds of hormonal imbalances. Your blood sugar, sex hormones, and adrenals are a three-legged stool and when one struggles, so do the other two. They all work together and you need all of them in sync to feel good.1
So, let's say you have some imbalances in your gut flora. You are 100 trillion bacteria and when they become unbalanced by not having enough of the "good guy" bacteria, then harmful pathogenic bacteria and yeasts (such as candida) start to spread and grow in your gut. The good bacteria are diminished and then your body's detoxification system becomes hindered. Hormones that are normally eliminated via the gut and liver stay circulating in your system, and then you end up with hormonal imbalances that make you miserable.
Hormones are broken down and detoxified in two ways in the body: first in the liver, and then in the colon. When the digestive tract is out of balance, your estrogens, especially, are not detoxed properly, leading to symptoms of estrogen dominance. The most important step you can take to support gastrointestinal function is to rebalance your gut flora - especially clearing out yeast. I have found this step to be the most profound in dealing with any hormonal imbalance - especially PMS.
Eating probiotic foods will help keep out pathogens, parasites, bacteria and viruses, especially Gardnerella, Proteus, Chlamydia, Campylobacter, Neisseria, Treponema, and Salmonella.2 These are also the urinary tract bacteria that cause yeast infections and bladder infections. These infections are common when you have hormonal imbalance!
Let's Talk About Stress And Your Hormones.
It's really important to eat properly in order to help bring your body into balance. Think of this as a science project. Your body will give you feedback and let you know how you're doing, so pay attention. I encourage you to make this a lifelong way of living. Your body is a reflection of what you're thinking, what food you're putting into your body, and how you're handling stress on a daily basis in your life. It talks to you every day and I love this so much. For instance, when I start focusing on something that upsets me and I do it long enough, I will send a signal to my vagus nerve to create stress hormones and then I start creating disease in my body.
The vagus nerve is the longest cranial nerve. It travels down the neck and then passes around the digestive system, liver, spleen, pancreas, heart, and lungs. This nerve is a major player in the parasympathetic nervous system - the "rest and digest" part of the nervous system. Opposite to this is the sympathetic nervous system - the "fight or flight" part of the system. One of the most interesting roles of the vagus nerve is that it essentially reads the gut microbiome and initiates a response to modulate inflammation based on whether or not it detects pathogenic versus non-pathogenic organisms. In this way, the gut microbiome can have an effect on your mood, stress levels, and overall inflammation.
Perimenopause And Menopause
After your body starts to slow down and you start to go into perimenopause or menopause and the ovaries are done with their cycles of estrogen and progesterone production, the adrenal glands' hormone production is meant to “kick in” and make up any deficit. After this ends, your adrenals can still keep your hormone levels regulated. So your adrenals work harder and if you have worn them out, you're going to have a hard time.
I have noted quite frequently that women who have a lot of problems with hot flashes and menopause (or perimenopause) symptoms almost always have a messed up gut. They harbor parasites, harmful bacteria and viruses, and candida. Here’s how it works. Your body cannot regulate your hormones if your gut is messed up and doesn’t allow it to detoxify those excess hormones. Fifty percent of your excess hormones are going to be eliminated through your gut. During these phases of your life, you'll need extra help detoxifying. Kefir, kombucha, and cultured veggies have been a lifesaver for me. I just up my doses of these foods when I have symptoms and my microbes do the rest.
I consume kefir every day. It usually consists of a cup of kefir for breakfast and I change it up all the time. Lately I've been enjoying a raspberry smoothie with protein powder that tastes like a milkshake. Recipe below!
I take sixteen ounces of kombucha every day. I consume it at different times of the day and this greatly assists my liver in detoxification. I especially notice that it's helped me through menopause. Pumpkin kombucha has been my favorite lately. Recipe below!
And I always make sure to consume (daily) my yummy cultured veggies. I have them by the spoonful or mixed into kefir cheese. Cultured celery filled with nut butter is my current afternoon snack. Recipe below!
Einkorn and sourdough bread are everyday staples. I love toasted lemon sourdough bread with kefir cheese - topped with kimchi. It's a family favorite. Recipe below!
All of this will flush extra estrogen and help regulate your hormones. It is important to eat a lot of prebiotic foods (veggies, fruits, legumes, nuts, and seeds) to feed your microbes and make them grow, crowding out pathogens and allowing your body to do what it normally does every day of your life. Don't eat processed foods. Eat real, whole foods. Here is something I do that has really helped me. I buy a lot of produce and I make sure I have 6-8 ounces of veggies at lunch and dinner. I have fruit with breakfast and lunch and I try to eat up the produce before everything else so I don't waste it. What's pretty amazing is your microbiome completely resets. All the fiber feeds the good microbes and they go to work eliminating the pathogenic bacteria and yeasts. This can cause a healing crisis to occur in the beginning, but you want this! Don't despair. It's your body's way of resetting itself and then the most amazing thing happens. You will only desire these types of food. Your microbes shift and you naturally crave the foods your body loves. Probiotic foods and prebiotic foods will do the work for you and you will reap the benefits!
I’ve had my share of tears, sickness, and disease; and with a thankful heart, I’ve found incredible wellness. I’ve struggled to find answers to health problems that perplexed my family and me. Then I tuned my mind and actions to wellness and watched the answers I was seeking come to me. Those answers came to me in the most surprising way. As a woman who feels too much (and as my dad told me constantly, ” You're too sensitive for your own good!”) I think it is this sensitivity that has helped me find the secrets that live inside of me that hold the answers to wellness. Wellness is such a blessing and one that I will spend the rest of my life helping people obtain. I’m addicted to feeling good and helping you find that too. Make it a way of life — and watch what happens.
Listen To My Podcast
Hormones can rule the day! Help your hormones out when things get out of whack by keeping your gut in check. Learn how to keep things in balance with the help of your microbes.
- Hawrelak J. Giardiasis: pathophysiology and management. Alternative Medicine Review. 2003;8(2):129–142.
- Singer SM, Nash TE. The role of normal flora in Giardia lamblia infections in mice. The Journal of Infectious Diseases. 2000;181(4):1510–1512.
- Perez PF, Minnaard J, Rouvet M, et al. Inhibition of Giardia intestinalis by extracellular factors from Lactobacilli: an in vitro study. Applied and Environmental Microbiology. 2001;67(3–12):5037–5042.
- Humen MA, De Antoni GL, Benyacoub J, et al. Lactobacillus johnsonii La1 antagonizes Giardia intestinalis in vivo. Infection and Immunity. 2005;73(2):1265–1269.
- Shukla G, Devi P, Sehgal R. Effect of Lactobacillus casei as a probiotic on modulation of giardiasis. Digestive Diseases and Sciences. 2008;53(10):2671–2679.
- Benyacoub J, Pérez PF, Rochat F, et al. Enterococcus faecium SF68 enhances the immune response to Giardia intestinalis in mice. Journal of Nutrition. 2005;135(5):1171–1176.
- Shukla G, Sidhu RK. Lactobacillus casei as a probiotic in malnourished Giardia lamblia-infected mice: a biochemical and histopathological study. Canadian Journal of Microbiology. 2011;57(2):127–135.
- Guillot CC, Bacallao EG, Dominguez MSC, Garcia MF, Gutierrez PM. Effects of Saccharomyces boullardii in children with chronic diarrhea, especially cases due to giardiasis. Revista Mexicana de Puericultura y Pediatria. 1995;2:1–11.
- Besirbellioglu B, Ulcay A, Can M, et al. Saccharomyces boulardii and infection due to Giardia lamblia . Scandinavian Journal of Infectious Diseases. 2006;38(6-7):479–481.
- Lee SH, Lillehoj HS, Dalloul RA, Park DW, Hong YH, Lin JJ. Influence of Pediococcus-based probiotic on coccidiosis in broiler chickens. Poultry Science. 2007;86(1):63–66.
- Ankarklev J, Jerlströ-Hultqvist J, Ringqvist E, Troell K, Svärd SG. Behind the smile: cell biology and disease mechanisms of Giardia species. Nature Reviews Microbiology. 2010;8(6):413–422.
- Shirley MW, Smith AL, Tomley FM. The biology of avian Eimeria with an emphasis on their control by vaccination. Advances in Parasitology. 2005;60:285–330.
- McDonald V, Shirley MW. Past and future: vaccination against Eimeria . Parasitology. 2009;136(12):1477–1489.
- Allen PC, Fetterer RH. Recent advances in biology and immunobiology of Eimeria species and in diagnosis and control of infection with these coccidian parasites of poultry. Clinical Microbiology Reviews. 2002;15(1):58–65.
- Dalloul RA, Lillehoj HS, Tamim NM, Shellem TA, Doerr JA. Induction of local protective immunity to Eimeria acervulina by a Lactobacillus-based probiotic. Comparative Immunology, Microbiology and Infectious Diseases. 2005;28(5-6):351–361.
- Basualdo J, Sparo M, Chiodo P, Ciarmela M, Minvielle M. Oral treatment with a potential probiotic (Enterococcus faecalis CECT 7121) appears to reduce the parasite burden of mice infected with Toxocara canis . Annals of Tropical Medicine and Parasitology. 2007;101(6):559–562.
Probiotics have become an exciting frontier in health and wellness. Most people only think about probiotic supplements in a bottle, but today we're talking about foods that have probiotics in them. These probiotic foods have billions more probiotics than supplements. I think supplements are very good, but so often they are killed by stomach acid and never make it all the way to the parts of the body where they can do the job. Probiotic foods are different. They have a protective halo around them that speeds them to the parts of the body quickly because they're attached to food. We researched and found that one spoonful of cultured vegetables has more probiotics than a whole supplement bottle. And this, my friends, is far less expensive, works better, and will teach you so much about food and how it can work like medicine. I reach for these foods every day when I have symptoms that crop up that I need help with. These could be symptoms such as a headache, sinus pressure, seasonal allergies, virus, anxiety, hormonal imbalances, high blood pressure, diabetes, or even adrenal fatigue. These foods work like medicine and help me through the daunting struggles of my everyday life. I see these cultured foods fermenting on my counter and I feel a well of emotion that I found them and they keep me well. Like friends that call to me and say, "We’re here to help you. Please eat us." These living microbes in a jar have been placed right within your reach. Hippocrates said, “All disease begins in the gut.” And I have seen this to be true. As we think about our health and future it can be scary, but it doesn’t have to be. There is help for us all.
How Do Probiotics Keep Us Healthy?
Doctors Prescribing Probiotics
Imagine that you go to the doctor and instead of handing you a prescription, he gives you a probiotic recommendation that will help your illness. Then he tells you that this probiotic has an 86% success rate in several randomized placebo studies and there are no side effects.
This is actually starting to happen with many open-minded health providers and it’s exciting to see probiotics make their way into the health care system. This is what I’ve been teaching for years, but I have found that probiotic foods are much stronger than probiotic supplements. So, how do probiotics keep us healthy?
When you have a healthy amount of good bacteria in your gut, they crowd out pathogens that are looking to multiply into large numbers. When you have lots of good bacteria, the harmful bacteria diminish and clear the space for the healthier strains of bacteria. They protect the mucosal lining, or barrier, that keeps out viruses and pathogens. These good bacteria protect us from harmful bacteria that would otherwise make us sick. It is really a strong army inside of us that fights on our behalf every day.