Archive for the ‘Fermentation, Culturing & Curing’ Category

Continuous-Brew Kombucha

Sunday, December 11th, 2016

Kombucha SCOBY

By Catherine Haug, December 11, 2016 (Image, right, from Wikimedia Commons)

Kombucha is one of my favorite fermented beverages, and a great way to add more fermented foods to your diet, to support your microbiome and immune system. But making serial batches can get old and tiresome. What if you could just make one batch and add to it regularly for a continuous brew?

Kombucha has many health benefits. It contains high levels of antioxidants, b-vitamins, probiotics and glucaric acid in addition to the beneficial microbes. It has been reported to have a variety of health benefits including (1):

  • liver detoxification
  • improved pancreas function
  • increased energy
  • better digestion
  • improved mood (helps with anxiety/depression)
  • keeps Candida (yeast) under control
  • helps nutrient assimilation

See also Continuous Brewing: Tastier, Easier and Superior Kombucha, by John Moody (2) for the Weston A. Price Foundation (WAPF) website for more about the benefits of Kombucha and the continuous brewing method. Read on for a review of what is needed, and for references.

Fermented vs unfermented soy: friend vs foe

Tuesday, September 9th, 2014

Silk vanilla soy milkBy Catherine Haug, Sept 9, 2014 (photo, right, from (3))

The vegetarian, vegan and veggie-juicing communities all promote the consumption of soy and soy products as good for you. Many site that Asians consider soy to be a sacred crop as proof of its goodness. But is this really true? What are the facts and history of soy consumption?

It is true that many Asians consider soy to be a sacred crop, but this is primarily because of the nitrogen-fixing benefit it provides, as a legume, to the soil for growing other crops, not because of any dietary healthfulness. It is also true that many Asians include soy products in their daily diet, but not the same soy products sold in Western countries.

May people site the isoflavones present in soy as being beneficial for health, especially women’s health because of their estrogen-like (phytoestrogen) activity. However, one of soy’s isoflavones – genistein – is believed to have toxicity issues, though more research is needed as various studies report conflicting results (see Fact Sheet: Phytoestrogen Genistein, from Breast Cancer and Environment Research Centers, or BCERC (1). Genistein is present in other foods, including mothers’ milk, but in much lesser quantities than in soy.

What is one to believe? The answer lies in the differences between fermented and non-fermented soy. (more…)

The importance of the microbiome (essential microbes in and on our bodies)

Thursday, May 15th, 2014

By Catherine Haug, May 15, 2014

Are you wondering what a “micro-biome”  is? Here’s an entertaining, animated video that explains what it is and why it is important for your health. Even your kids and grandkids would enjoy this – and learn something at the same time. It’s a short video, about 5.5 minutes, titled “Exploring The Invisible Universe That Lives On Us — And In Us”

In our 21st century American culture, we have become afraid of microbes, believing all of them to be deadly germs. But did you know that the bacteria inside our bodies outnumber our own cells by 10 to 1, and that we would live a miserable, short life without them?

This article includes discussions about gut health and antibiotics, and a link to view the video: Exploring the invisible universe that lives on us and in us.

More  videos on the topic:

  1. TEDx: The gut flora: You and your 100 trillion friends on YouTube (9 min)
  2. From Gut to Brain and Back Again on You Tube (4 min)
  3. How to heal leaky gut syndrome on You Tube (34 min)

See also my 2016 post: What is a microbiome and why it is important

Our microbiome

Put simply, the microbiome is the great variety of microbial fauna and flora that inhabit out bodies, within and without. Our gut probiotics are only a part of the microbiome – albeit a very important part. Our microbiome is our protective shield, inside and outside our bodies. It protects us from harmful bugs by training our immune system to function properly, and by producing effective and natural antibiotics, anti-virals and anti-fungals as needed to subdue invading threats to our health.

Scientists are only beginning to explore this vast topic, but we humans have known since the dawn of our creation how to keep our microbiome happy – eat the right foods, including fermented foods. Unfortunately, the advent of processed and junk foods – especially GMO foods – has done great damage to our microbiome, so that with each generation, it becomes more and more impaired..

More about your body’s microbes

The following is paraphrased from AARP, with a few notes of my own, in brackets [ ].

More than 100 trillion microbes, from over 500 different species, live in our gut – digestive system, from mouth to anus – and provide our first line of defense against disease. Changes in our gut bacteria may lead to constipation or diarrhea, or worse problems in the gut and throughout our bodies. We have a friendly relationship with out native microbes; in exchange for providing them ‘room and board,’ they return that favor in may ways, including:

  1. Producing enzymes we need to digest food [these enzymes may also perform cellular functions elsewhere in our bodies];
  2. Maintaining the right level of acidity in the gut [which impacts body pH elsewhere as well]. Each part of the gut requires a different pH for optimum performance in breaking down and foods and absorbing their nutrients.
  3. Turning food into nutrients we wouldn’t get otherwise. For example, vitamin K, important for blood clotting [and many other functions];
  4. Protecting the lining of our intestines so that harmful germs in our food cannot escape the gut and make us sick;
  5. Working with our immune system to control allergies and fight disease.

As unique as a fingerprint

Did you know that each person’s microbiome is as unique to that person as a fingerprint?  [Your mix of microbes is a very delicate balance between probiotic (support life), putrefactive (decay life), and pathogenic (dangerous to life)]. Any shift in that balance will lead to health issues. For example:

  • Digestive issues such as diarrhea, constipation, ulcers, and gut inflammation;
  • Chronic inflammation, affecting organs beyond your digestive tract, such as blood vessels and kidneys;
  • Cancers;
  • Anxiety and depression.

A shift in your microbiome

When you are beset with disease, that could be a sign of a shift in your microbiome. Such a shift can be caused by many factors including, but not limited to:

  • genetics;
  • improper diet, such as fast foods, processed foods, GMO foods;
  • shift in your body’s pH;
  • bad environment;
  • unusual weight gain or weight loss;
  • improper- or over-use of antibiotics.

While restoring proper balance can be accomplished by transferring a healthy person’s intestinal microbes into a sick person’s system, there are other effective means as well. Making changes in your diet such as:

  • eliminating fast foods and processed foods, and
  • replacing them with fresh fruits and vegetables, raw dairy, meats and eggs from pasture-fed livestock, healthful fats [such as butter, lard, coconut oil, and olive oil] and fermented/cultured foods [such as sauerkraut, laacto-fermented pickles and chutneys, beet kvass, yogurt, kefir and so on].

will go a long way to restoring health and balance to your microbiome, and to your system as a whole.

About antibiotics

AARP advises:

Use antibiotics wisely. In some cases, your doctor may prescribe them for digestive conditions. Always take them as directed.

But taking antibiotics for other illnesses can accidentally kill good bacteria too, and their side effects include diarrhea and other stomach issues.

Don’t demand [or accept] antibiotics for viral infections such as colds and flu. And never take someone else’s prescription.

Why do antibiotics “accidentally” kill good bacteria too?

The following is by Cat:

Unlike the first penicillin, today’s antibiotics are synthetic, in whole or part, and cannot distinguish friend from foe.

  • Some start as natural antibiotics from good bugs like penicillin molds, but are then chemically altered so they can be patented; this altering removes the ability of the antibiotic to distinguish friend from foe. They will kill any bug they encounter – good or bad.
  • Others are synthetic from the beginning, although they may copy part of a natural antibiotic. They do not come with the ability to distinguish friend from foe, because science does not (yet) know how that functionality works in natural antibiotics.

I personally have had good luck treating serious bacterial infections (such as staph and strep) with antibacterial herbal tinctures (like goldenseal and barberry), steamed and dried mushrooms (like reishi), raw coconut oil, and acupuncture. None of these methods kill the good bugs. However, I advise seeking expert advice from a certified health care practitioner, if you choose to follow this route, as I do.

If you must take a prescription antibiotic, take probiotic supplements and consume fermented/cultured foods such as sauerkraut, beet kvass, yogurt, cottage cheese and kefir. However, take them at least 2 hours before/after taking the antibiotic to minimize the “accidental” killing of the good bugs in the probiotics and fermented foods.

In fact, it’s a good idea to eat a bit of fermented/cultured food every day, for optimum gut health. The microbes in these foods may not actually colonize in your gut, but they work to establish the appropriate pH and environment so that your own microbiome can thrive.


Your primitive brain – your gut

Thursday, July 25th, 2013

by Catherine Haug, July 25, 2013, updated July 29,2013

In college I took a class on comparative vertebrate anatomy – we studied the anatomy of many vertebrates as a way of better understanding our own anatomy. This study began with the tiny fertilized egg of each species studied, and progressed through the development of the adult. One of the things I took home from this class is that the first organ to form is the gut, and it serves as the brain for the developing individual while the heart and circulatory systems form, and finally the central nervous system (CNS) and the brain. But we also learned that the primitive brain in the gut continues to function in intimate contact with the actual brain, throughout the life of the individual.

What does this mean for us humans? It means that while modern medicine has pretty much ignored the effect of the gut on human health and happiness, the gut deserves more study and respect. We need to ensure that our gut has healthy colonies of gut flora (probiotics), and that it is not overburdened with toxins in our food.

It is important to remember that diet and gut health are not the only factors that influence the overall health and longevity of a human individual, but it may well be one of the most important. Other factors include (but are not limited to) genetics, lifestyle and stressors (7), medical care, gender, accident, and environment.


What to do with beets – a nutritional powerhouse

Saturday, April 20th, 2013
Beets at market

Beets at market

by Catherine Haug, April 20, 2013

(beetroot photo from Wikimedia commons)

At our April Gathering last Wednesday, on Nutritional Value of Herbs, our presenter Linda Peterson suggested that beets – yes, that common red root with dark green leaves – are a powerhouse of nutritional value. And that inspired me to write this article.

How do you eat this colorful veggie; how do you maximize their nutritional value?

Beets have the most nutritional value when eaten raw or fermented, but cooked beets are tasty and nutritious, too, especially if not overcooked. How do you eat your beets? Send me your ideas as Kitchen Hints.

You can eat both the greens and the root. Read on for lots of ideas, and more on the nutritional value of beets. (more…)

Learning from your grandparents could save your life

Sunday, February 3rd, 2013

by Catherine Haug, February 3, 2013

As a kid, I used to follow my Dad around the house and yard, watching (and little did I know, learning) what he did. My Dad was in his 60s; when he retired, he became the homemaker and my Mom became the provider, managing our bar. Having been a bachelor until 1946 (he was 55),  he only knew homemaking the old-fashioned way that he had learned from his Victorian-era parents.

It turns out, these were things that made for a rich and healthful life, and if we would return to at least some of these old-fashioned ways, our lives would be richer and more healthful, according to Dr. Alexandra Carrasco. Read on for more. (more…)