Why Fermented Foods for Wellness

100_3964
Finished raw milk kefir, ready for the fridge.

You may or may not have heard all the fuss about fermented foods. And you may or may not have starting fermenting at your house. But either way, it’s something which you may want to follow.

Why? Because unlike many of the health fads, fermenting is…well, not a fad. It’s been around from the beginning of time, not just to break down waste into compost, but to break down FOOD into more absorbable, nutritious, and tasty eats. In every culture, you have mums intentionally fermenting foods and feeding it to young and old alike. Some may not call it fermenting, or may not know a thing about lactic acid or good bacteria, but they are doing it none-the-less: kimchi, sauerkraut, kefir, salami, pickles, kombucha, yogurt, cheese, wine, tamari, miso, tempeh, natto, sourdough.

So you probably HAVE heard of probiotics. Good bacteria, normally found in the gut of every living mammal, which keep the immune system healthy but not over-reacting, stabilize mood, keep us regular, create vitamins like folate and B12, speak to the brain in many chemical ways to keep us thinking clearly, and detoxify a lot of nasty stuff, including some of the pesticides and chemicals and heavy metals we eat (oops). This is not an exhaustive list. There’s a TON of research done on these good little microbes. Like, upwards of 29,000 studies come up on PubMed just by searching “lactobacillus.”

We know that:

You can buy probiotics in many different combinations of strains, quantities, and delivery methods. Which I have done regularly for over a decade, and I’m grateful for the availability of these specific strains (because sometimes, it’s good to troubleshoot with specifics). But, I’ve found the most help over the years by the foods that are packed with good bacteria, so I’m cranking up my ferments. Raw milk kefir is an every-week staple here, but this week I’m excited to try a watermelon juice, a Daikon radish ferment, and a Jun variety of kombucha.

I’m following a fermenting expert I’m lucky enough to know as a friend: Jane Casey of Jane Casey’s Kitchen. She’s amazing, fun, and has an amazing true story of twin sons who were profoundly autistic, but now aren’t. At all. Because of ferments.

I’m learning a ton (like: using ingestable essential oils to promote fermentation…wha??). Best tip of the week: use folded fresh grape leaves to keep the veggies all submerged (this is like the main rule of fermenting veggies: keep them under the brine so they don’t mold). I will keep you posted, because we have a special project coming for these classes, live and local.

Do you ferment? What’s on your counter now?

And for those who want to geek out with me, here are a few interesting studies on the benefits of probiotics which I stumbled across on PubMed. Not that the other 29,000 aren’t interesting too…

This study links good gut bacteria (L. Reuteri in this case), with immune regulation and folate metabolism. So all you MTHFR people (I’m one too) can go crazy about that. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/27353144

This study notes the protective effect of friendly bacteria against bladder infections in pre-and-post-menopausal women (different strains are more effective for pre- or post- menopausal). http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/27092529

Probiotics in critically ill children: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/27081478

This study showed that stressed mice had changes to their gut microflora, specifically reduced L. Reuteri. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25028050

 

Detox Lifestyle in a Nutshell

The Bathtub
I like to think of my toxic load as a bathtub: water (toxins in this analogy) are flowing in at the tap, and flowing out at the drain. If the drain is plugged, the bathtub gets fuller. If the tap is turned up very high, the bathtub may be getting fuller even if the drain is working. In terms of the toxins stored in our “toxic bathtub” the goal would be to turn down the faucet as low as possible, and to make sure the drain is wide open and draining faster than the water coming in. If this is accomplished, eventually the bathtub will empty and only the daily toxins coming in will flow right on through.

photo credit: celebrategreatermound.com

Toxins Coming In
We live in a toxic world, and it’s pretty hard to completely escape modern day toxins. Even if we could, our own metabolic processes in our bodies create toxins to be expelled daily. If we weren’t detoxing all. the. time. we would die. Like, within a day.

Nonetheless, it seems prudent to avoid the toxins of:

  • Engineered chemicals in food, medications, and cleaners
  • Hormone mimickers in personal care products
  • Potent organic toxins like mold spores
  • Heavy metals which may accumulate in tissues/bones
  • Off-gassing of chemicals from household products
  • Chemicals and metals in our water supply
  • Die-off toxins from internal bacteria/fungus/viruses
  • Electromagnetic toxins
  • Stress from emotional baggage

Much of this blog has been dedicated to these topics.

Organ Systems and Cells
The toxins in our bodies are varied, and are stored in differing areas of our bodies. For example, an imbalance of bacteria in gut flora may be creating a significant toxic load in my colon, even without symptoms I connect to that organ of my body. I may have a high level of lead, stored in my bones. I may have petrochemical chemicals stored in my skin, along with parabens, pthalates (fragrance) and sunscreens (which can all act as hormone mimickers) from years of lotion and cosmetics use. I may have formaldehyde stored in my cells, fungal/yeast toxins and mercury in my brain. My fat cells may have antibiotic residues, chemical cleaners, medications, synthetic vitamins, pesticides, rancid/hydrogenated oils, and styrofoam. (Some researchers feel that cellulite may have a larger portion of these kinds of toxins, which the body has put in “cold storage” to protect itself.) Although not the kind of chemical toxins that are stored in the body, electromagnetic fields are toxic to our bodies while we are present in them, and may inhibit our detox pathways for hours after exposure. I recommend the book Zapped by Gittleman for limiting exposure to EMFs.

The organs and glands of the body may all be holding any of the toxins in the list above; often certain toxins have an affinity for specific organ systems.

There are 5 mains paths of detoxification: Colon, kidneys, liver (and thus through colon), skin, and lungs.

Where do we start?
I know, it can be overwhelming. First, congratulations that you’ve made it this far, even without much planned detoxing support! Next, make a plan.

[Remember: I’m not a licensed health care provider, and I can’t diagnose, treat or cure any disease. Nothing you read on my blog is a substitute for advice from your doctor.]

1. Turn down the faucet. Start to remove as many toxic sources as possible. No, you can’t do it all this week, but START. Food always seems to be an obvious one to most people, but don’t forget that everything that touches your skin gets absorbed, without the benefit of stomach acid and your liver as a filter. So think laundry detergent, any lotions or creams put on skin, deodorant. Your lungs absorb so much of what you breathe in; so open your windows each night to air out your house. See, you’ve already made huge progress!

I recommend the book Homes that Heal as a good resource for reducing toxins in your immediate environment.

2. Flush. Drink all your water every day. Even if you can’t buy a really good water purifier this month, get a Brita which takes out some of the bad stuff. Everyone (unless your Dr. has you restricted) should be drinking half their body weight in ounces, every day (that means, if you weigh 150lbs, you are drinking 75oz water). Herbal tea counts as water, but add 8oz water for 8oz coffee or black tea consumed. Juice, milk, etc. don’t count for anything. Don’t drink soda. Just don’t.

3. Begin to cleanse the detox pathways, colon, kidneys, liver, skin, lungs, in roughly that order. I have read a lot of detox books/methods over the years, and done several types of cleanses. I recommend the book Inner Transformations by Deardueff as one book with several suggestions on cleansing each of these pathways, and even further into non-pathway systems. The author recommends some tried and true methods like Master Cleanse, veggie juicing, Candida diet, coffee enemas, Epsom Salt baths, skin brushing, as well as specific products to try.

4. Food. Yes, this is important. Not just to get clean sources (organic, grass-fed, etc.), but to have a broad spectrum of foods in fruit, veggie, proteins, and fats categories (dairy and grains not required for cleansing, and often inhibit cleansing). My experience has been that a Paleo type diet is a great jump start for food cleansing, but I recognize that Vegan diets are good cleanses too (think veggie juicing!). However, I don’t think that long term the Vegan approach supplies enough quality proteins/amino acids for some crucial metabolic detox processes. The book It Starts With Food is a good read if you feel helpless to change your diet.

Some foods that are super cleansers are fermented foods (homemade sauerkraut, kefir, kombucha, etc.), dark leafy greens, the whole cabbage/broccoli family, the artichoke family, citrus, berries, and fresh fats/oils like coconut, cod liver oil, flaxseed, and avocado. But really, the fermented ones top the list.

5. Exercise/Sweat. I don’t love to exercise, but I feel more energetic and happier when I do. I use the T-Tapp 15 minute workout because it is very lymphatic; focuses on opening up the lymph channels and pumping lymph fluid (clear fluid in our bodies that does not have a pump like the heart pumps the blood). Any “pressing” type movement such as walking, running, or trampoline moves lymph, and this is very important for daily detox. In addition, when we sweat, we release toxins through the skin; terry-towel off that sweat if you’re not showering immediately.

6. Essential Oils. In the past year I have begun to study therapeutic vs. fragrance use of essential oils, and have begun to introduce them into our family as therapies. We have seen a few mild detox reactions, but I have heard and seen more dramatic reactions from others beginning EO therapy. Many EOs do have the ability to cleanse cells of petrochemicals and even do some chelation of heavy metals. Because EOs are absorbed directly into the cells, and can be within every cell in the body (even brain cells) in about 20 minutes, they carry huge potential for detoxification. Lemon juice squeezed in water has long been a detox standby, but a drop of lemon essential oil is far more potent and powerful than the juice; best to start very slowly before ramping up to one drop per glass of water (glass only, no plastic!).

Because of their ability to penetrate every cell in the body, it is very important to have absolutely pure essential oils, from a distillery which preserves every naturally occurring (balancing) chemical constituent. At this time I only recommend Young Living brand EOs (see my Essential Oils tab above).

Essential oils can also assist with emotional detox by opening up hormone pathways, and stimulating the lymbic area of the brain which stores memories and emotions (and is the area which receives signals from scents). I believe that Jesus is the true answer to the needs of our souls/emotions, and that Scripture which reveals Him is cleansing to our minds. I have found that repeating Scriptures to myself which relate to my emotional needs, within a personal relationship with Jesus Christ, have helped me to heal past hurts, depression, and unload emotional baggage.

Detox Reactions
Detoxing is good, but too much, too fast can create some uncomfortable detox side effects: rash, itching, headache, sinus drainage, feeling hot, feeling grumpy, restlessness, loose bowel, nausea, tiredness. It’s likely that the longer a person has been pursuing a detox lifestyle (has a less-full bathtub) the less they will experience these reactions. When these symptoms do strike, here are some things I have done to ease them:

  • Rest/sleep (it takes a lot of internal work to detox!)
  • Epsom salt baths (pull toxins out through the skin so it doesn’t all have to flow through liver/colon/kidneys)
  • Coffee enemas (no more than once a week, and only done in a safe way with electrolytes in the enema)
  • Cease heavy exercise; stretch instead
  • Go back over the list of toxins to find ways to “turn the faucet down” more
  • Consider backing off the detox of the moment, then ramp it up again more slowly.

Special Help
Although we should discuss diet/exercise/detox plans with our doctor anyway, there are some situations which require a doctor’s help for detox. These would include chelation for heavy metal poisoning, heavy industrial chemical poisoning, and advanced cardiovascular disease chelation. A doctor knowledgeable in environmental medicine would be worth enlisting in these cases; it’s likely that he/she will be recommending at least some of the ideas above, so the more educated a person is about home therapies for detox, the faster their progress will be.

Additionally, some people have genetically faulty metabolic processes for detoxification; MTHFR gene defect, inability to methylate B vitamins, insufficient amino acid production, anemia of many types, thyroid and other hormone insufficiency, etc. A knowledgeable integrative doctor will be able to test for these types of disorders and recommend simple solutions to underlying causes. Sometimes it’s as simple as taking the right form of a B vitamin.

Detox for Life
I’m not going to sugar coat this: if you are new to detoxing, it will likely be a year of intentional detoxing before you feel really clean, and then an ebb and flow of maintenance detoxing thereafter. But, the benefit of having more energy and joy, and feeling lighter (if not actually BEING lighter) will make it worth it. You may never know the health crises you’ve dodged by keeping your toxic bathtub empty.

 

Dental Health and Nutrition

Have you ever read a book that sort of pulls together a lot of loose questions for you? I mean, you have been told a basic theory about a topic, and yet you know of personal situations that don’t fit into the basic theory. And then you are presented with a new paradigm that makes so much sense on a diverse clinical level.

Such was my experience with the book Cure Tooth Decay: Heal & Prevent Cavities with Nutrition by Ramiel Nagel. Although I knew, like most moms, that a proper diet which included calcium was essential to making healthy teeth, I didn’t know that an excellent diet can actually prevent tooth decay. Even without brushing. Whaaat?

I’m not advocating not brushing one’s teeth (neither is the book’s author), however, there is extensive documentation of hundreds of people in cultures across the globe with excellent, carie-free, dental health. And they were armed with excellent diets (which varied across the globe, naturally) rather than with toothbrushes. (This documentation was the work of Dr. Weston A. Price, a dentist who traveled the globe to find people with traditional diets and to observe their dental health. He became so impressed with their overall health, and longevity, that his life work became titled Nutrition and Physical Degeneration.)

How can people have excellent dental health without brushing (and flossing, and swishing, and getting dental cleanings every 6 months)? This is what I wondered, as my paradigm for dental health was that the things that we put on our teeth (food, especially sugar) and then failing to brush it off soon enough, will cause acids and/or feed bacteria that eat away at our tooth enamel. This book debunks the “sugar on teeth” theory, in that white sugar does not feed bacteria, it actually kills it. But we all know some kid that’s addicted to sugar, and has a mouth full of fillings to prove it, right? This is where the nutrition factor comes in: it’s not the sugar on the teeth that wear away at the enamel, it’s the sugar inside the body. White sugar (and white flour, and a bunch of other nutrition negatives) cause the body to swing towards an acid pH, and the body must compensate by pulling an alkaline substance (like calcium) from storage to keep the pH balanced, or to send to a more important part of the body, like the brain or heart. The body may decide in this crisis situation that losing a tooth is better than losing an organ, and so a living tooth slowly loses it’s health from the inside out.

This explains why one tooth may be in decay, while the one next to it is fine (one would think that all teeth in the mouth would decay at the same rate if it were the foods present in the mouth affecting them, as sugar would be distributed everywhere). The body may prioritize one tooth as a source for pulling calcium over another tooth. This also explains why breast-fed babies tend to have more excellent dental health than their bottle-fed counterparts. Dental caries in infants have long been blamed on formula pooling in the cheek from bottle feeding, yet breastfed babies can also sleep with pooled milk and yet have better teeth. It is the better nutrition in the breastmilk that is the basis for better dentition, rather than the absence of milk on the teeth themselves.

Of course, breast-milk is not always excellent nutrition; the health-giving properties of breastmilk are tied to the excellence of the mother’s diet. Ramiel Nagel’s own daughter was being exclusively breastfed when she began to develop tooth decay. The whole family was vegetarian, so they thought they were very health conscious in their diet, yet the lack of essential animal fats and proteins had actually thrown them into a state of malnutrition. As Mr. Nagel research Dr. Price’s writings, he became convinced that they must change their diet dramatically, or all suffer physical and dental degeneration.

Dr. Price found that the people groups he studied with the most excellent dental health, some with nearly 100 percent immunity to dental caries across the entire population, ate liberally and daily from the following 3 food sources:

  1. Dairy products from grassfed animals
  2. Organs and muscle meat from fish and shellfish
  3. Organs of land animals

Mr. Nagel’s book goes into fascinating detail on the whole diets of several groups of people (some peoples ate hardly any dairy, etc. but had larger doses of the other special foods, etc.). He also explores the minerals and fat-soluble vitamins (namely calcium, phosphorus, Vitamins A and D from natural sources) which are the reason (or part of the reason) that these foods build healthy teeth (and bodies).

At the end of this article are some lists of Eat Daily/Weekly/Rarely/Never which are Ramiel Nagel’s suggestions. This list is overwhelming to me, as it would seem like a full time job to make sure each of my children ate all the recommended foods daily and weekly. However, I have to remember that we are doing a decent job on the 3 important foods categories: particularly eating lots of raw milk, yellow butter, and cod liver oil. And considering that the rest of our diet is very whole-foods centered, and that I have had this good nutrition while pregnant and breastfeeding, it isn’t surprising that my children all have beautiful strong teeth (so far!). For those that are already realizing poor dental health as a result of poor nutrition, it may be wise to go drastic and follow Mr. Nagel’s diet to reverse tooth decay, as he was able to accomplish for his daughter.

Brushing

Of course, many factors are likely present in decay situations, and tooth surfaces that allow for compacted food to be left on them, like molar chewing surfaces, and the baby’s teeth which are in the pool of milk, do tend to be the first to decay. Brushing seems to be a reasonable and helpful habit for minimizing these factors, especially if the toothpaste does not have toxic fluoride but instead a healthy dose of Xylitol, a natural bacteria-fighting sugar with re-enamalizing properties. (Ramiel Nagel has a negative opinion of Xylitol based on one study on its safety; my research leads me to believe it is safe and effective. Read Xylitol: Alternative to Fluoride.)

However, brushing should be seen as the secondary dental habit, with excellent nutrition being the first and most important.

Diet Lists

Ramiel Nagel outlines a diet that has allowed 90% of those who follow it to stop tooth decay. If you already have teeth decaying in the mouth, consider a strict adherence to this diet.

Foods to Eat Daily:

  • 1/8-1/2 tsp. fermented Cod Liver Oil 3x daily with meals, or 1/2-4 T. organic/wild liver
    and
  • 1/8-1/4 tsp. of high vitamin butter oil 3x daily with meals, or 1-2 T. yellow butter per meal
  • 2-6 cups raw grassfed whole milk
  • 2 cups bone broth
  • 1-4 T. grassfed bone marrow
  • 2 fermented foods, such as sauerkraut, kefir, yogurt
  • Substantial quantities of vegetables, such as carrots, beet greens, kale, chard, zucchini, broccoli, celery, sting beans, including soups and juices
  • Seaweed or kelp

Eat Several Times Weekly:

  • Raw, rare cooked, or marinated/fermented wild caught fish
  • Raw, rare cooked, or marinated/fermented grassfed beef or lamb
  • Raw fresh oysters or clams
  • Raw, rare cooked, or marinated/fermented liver of grassfed beef, lamb, chicken, fish, turkey, etc.
  • Raw or soft cooked eggs from grass-fed poultry

Eat Only Rarely/Avoid If Dental Health is Poor:

  • Dried Fruit, and any very sweet fruits, such as orange, grapes, peaches, banana and pineapple
  • Natural Sweeteners, such as unheated honey, organic maple syrup, agave nectar, fruit juice, and rapadura

Foods to Completely Avoid:

  • Sugar, in all processed forms
  • Flour and grain products, unless soaked or sprouted
  • Hydrogenated Oils, and low quality oils, such as soybean, canola, safflower. Replace with organic coconut, olive, or palm oils, butter, suet, or tallow.
  • Any junk food
  • Coffee, soft drinks, nutrasweet, and anything artificial
  • Soymilk, protein powder, and excess Tofu (my note: protein powder which is unheated raw whey is OK as it is still raw milk)
  • Pasteurized milk, even organic
  • Non-grassfed meat and eggs, and farmed fish
  • Alcohol and cigarettes
  • Drugs, whether recreational or prescription, and vaccines

What To Feed The Baby

20120830-160240.jpg

Question, via email:

I’m the one with Lucky baby that had such a hard time with formula [after a forced wean from breastmilk]. So he’s eating pretty much everything under the sun, except I don’t do any dairy. I tried some goats milk on him and he didn’t really seem to like it so just havent again. I’m confused on how to eat myself let alone make sure I’m giving him what his body needs at 13 months. Some sites say low protein high healthy fats, some say paleo for babies is best, etc. So I really like how healthy you and your family are, love following your blog and wondering if you could tell my what type of foods you fed your babies? I don’t know if they should be having coconut pancakes, rice flour, barely those type of grains. It seems like since I don’t know I feed him a lot of fruit and veggies.

My Answer: (I am not a licensed health care professional, and this is not health advice. Just my opinion.)

Hi friend! It can be confusing with so many opinions out there on diet and nutrition. I think coconut pancakes and fruits and veggies sound great, although you want to make sure he gets enough of the animal proteins/fats too since they are super-foods! He may disdain goats milk, but if you offered him raw cheese he may just love it!

There’s a lot to say on this subject; here are some principles I’ve used as guides for feeding my babies 10 months and up.

What’s good for you, is good for baby.

If you are pursuing a whole food, nutrient dense diet, then the foods which you haul in from the farmer, cook up in your crockpot, ferment on your counters, or bake in your oven are going to be excellent, nutrient dense choices for your child.

I don’t subscribe to the idea that baby food is something to be bought in small containers, have no resemblance to adult food, and be fed to a child at a different time of day than adults eat (although of course this happens occasionally). Someday (soon!) this tiny person will sit at the table with us and eat what we are eating, so why not get them used to the routine and the food while they are still in their high chair? Plus, the idea of cooking two different menus makes me want to cry.

Breastmilk is Best, as long as you can

I like to wait as long as possible before introducing food at all, and even water unless the weather turns hot. My babies have waited for their first bite of any food until between 8 and 10 months. I look for their cues on hunger/lip smacking/saliva. My last baby, a girl, was quite interested at 8 months, but my largest boy was barely interested at 10 months. Their hunger for food usually arrives about the time their first teeth do. There is some thought that waiting until this time to give foods can reduce allergic responses to food.

The first foods I give my babies are: egg yolk from a soft boiled/over easy egg, butter, liver pate (it’s cooked), cod liver oil, banana, avocado, as these are all soft and nutrient dense. After a few weeks of these foods, they are usually ready to try more flavors, so I begin to offer what we are eating.

IMG_9420
Egg yolk!

Waiting for molars. . . think soft foods

Dinner is our main meal, and there is nearly always something that baby can eat, and often she can eat all of it. I invested in a small baby food grinder years ago, the hand crank kind (portable!), which can be used to blend up soft foods like spaghetti with meat marinara, roasted chicken and broccoli, anything made in a crockpot, the chunky parts of soup (add back to broth), beans, rice, and most cooked veggies. It only takes a minute, and the child gets to experience those flavors which he has been smelling while dinner was cooking. He’s eating what mom and dad eat. He’s eating it fresh, and not frozen or canned. He’s eating food that tastes good, and if he rejects it on first or fifth try, you can be pretty confident that at some point he will love it like you do.

Some foods are hard for a baby to eat: salad, anything really chewy or crunchy. However, these foods are innately difficult to digest as well, so your diet should be filled with lots of other foods he is able to eat. That said, I will sometimes give baby a teeny tiny piece of lettuce with a homemade dressing on it. . . or the cranberry in the salad. . . or a feta crumble. I stick it right in their mouth and wait for the face. These are strong flavors, and I want the baby to experience them, along with some psychological coaching: “yum, yum, yum!” They are shocked, they spit, we all laugh.

If we are eating steak, I try to cook it medium rare, and then shave off very small pieces (no need for chewing) and feed them to baby. Yes, steak! My babies have loved this. I have also heard that indigenous mothers chew food for their babies, which begins to break down the foods with mom’s saliva enzymes, before transferring it to baby’s mouth.

We love taco salad; baby can eat the ground beef, beans, avocado, sour cream (if no reaction), tomatoes (if no reaction), cilantro, and lime.

Soups are messy, but we eat a lot of them in the winter, and if they have a bone broth base it’s awesome nutrition. We have a plastic pocket type bib which really helps contain the mess when spoon feeding baby, or the IKEA toddler smock which is full coverage for when baby feeds herself.

Good Fats = Good Brain

Brains, especially growing brains, need fat. Healthy, saturated fats. Besides water, that is what the brain is mostly comprised of, so it only makes sense that babies need a healthy dose of saturated fats daily for the significant growth of their gray matter.

Butter (grassfed/naturally yellow is best), avocado, egg yolk (soft boiled or over easy), coconut oil, nut butters, animal fats found with the meat, liver (organic animals) olive oil (cold pressed and uncooked), and heavy cream with or without the milk (raw from grassfed cows is best) are all great ways to feed baby’s developing brain, and keep baby satisfied for longer between meals (or at night!). Some of these are a meal or snack by themselves: egg yolk, liver, nut butter, avocado, ground meat. Others can be toppings for other foods: butter, coconut oil, olive oil.

20120315-112003.jpg
Butter!

Balancing Food Groups

We all need protein, and carbohydrates, and fats. Babies are no exception. I try to give my baby foods from each food group during a day, with a special emphasis on protein/fat at each meal. I personally feel better when I limit my sugars/starches, so my children’s diet roughly mimics my own, but they do eat more grains and fruits than I do.

In the US, toddler fare is universally offered as grain and sweets based. Look at any kids menu and you will see breads, pastas, crackers, fruit cups, sweetened dairy products, and downright candy as the leading act. Most foods marketed to/for kids fall into this category as well. Rather than rant about the lack of protein and fat, and the sugars that push kids toward addiction, set them up for diabetes or worse (OK, I just ranted), I’ll just advise: do not copy this diet in your home.

Do you feel better, have more energy and fewer ailments, sleep and perform exercise better, and feel more satisfied on mostly protein, mostly carbs, or somewhere in between? If you have never given this any thought, The Metabolic Typing Diet may help you (gives self-test checklists) to determine this for yourself. And have your spouse take the test too, as your child will likely pattern after one or both of you. Adoptive parents will have to watch carefully for mood/behavior in their baby following different meal ratios.

Depending on your metabolic type, you may feel better on more carbohydrates than I do in your diet, and your child is likely to do well with this diet as well. In this case, your healthy diet would contain more whole grain breads and porridge (soaked grains are best), starchy veggies like potato, yam, and corn, and fruits than mine does. But you should still be fighting the “goldfish at every snack” mentality for your child, since these are just not whole foods.

Regardless of how much of each food your baby eats, it is difficult to get a child to eat much of anything if they start off a meal with fruits, since those sugars are absorbed into their bloodstream quickly and their hunger signal turns off. It usually works better for me to serve “courses” starting with the protein/fat portion of the meal, and finishing with a few fruit pieces.

Allergies and Introductions: Every One is Unique

My husband and I have few allergies, but the few things which I am sensitive to (chicken eggs, cow dairy as a toddler) I have been wary of introducing too early to my children. I am also gluten intolerant, and after two of my children have tested positive as well, we have assumed it is hereditary and have put all our children on a gluten free diet.

Since every one is unique, watch for reactions when introducing the “common allergens” and acidic foods like tomato and some fruits. I’ve found that a baby may need to avoid a food, but a few months later they will be able to eat it without reaction. The most common reactions are loose stools and rashes at mouth or bottom. Vomiting, constipation, eczema, or histamine responses (swollen eyes, sneezing, difficulty breathing) are more severe reactions to a food, in which case it may be much longer before a child can handle that food again, if ever. You should contact your child’s doctor with a severe reaction, as follow-up testing may be advised.

One largely overlooked component to allergies is imbalance of intestinal flora. Babies usually have flora similar to mom’s, since they acquired their first dose from her in the birth canal and received daily probiotics in her milk. If you question your own gut health, or you/baby have a history of yeast or antibiotics, your baby may need some supplemental probiotics. I have used the Klaire Labs brand of Infant Formula probiotics. Homemade sauerkraut juice or yogurt are other ways to support baby’s intestinal flora.

Quality is Key

Eating an organic diet is expensive . . . but so is illness. Avoiding unnecessary chemicals on our foods is always a good idea, but even more crucial for the developing bodies of our children. Choose organic and grassfed whenever you find it and can budget it. Here is my prioritized list of foods to source organically, starting with oils and fats, and all animal products. Fruits and veggies are further down the list; you can download a free guide to the “Dirty Dozen” and “Clean Fifteen” on Enviromental Working Group’s site, or download a free app to your smart phone which will allow you to look up produce item by item while at the market.

20120519-231312.jpg
Roasted Veggies!

Meal Ideas: These are all foods my babies and toddlers actually eat.

Breakfast

  • Scrambled eggs with butter (can season with homemade sauerkraut juice), blueberries (this is a meal they can feed themselves)
  • Unsweetened goat yogurt (or drizzled with honey after 12 months), or kefir smoothie, whole grain bread with almond butter
  • Soaked oatmeal/honey/butter/raisins with finely sliced natural breakfast sausage on the side
  • Sweet Oven Souffle, cut into squares, grapefruit wedges
  • Protein waffles, butter (syrup is just too messy for babies!)

Lunch

  • Veggie soup made with bone broth, avocado and/or Creme Fraiche (whipping cream cultured with yogurt starter for 24 hours) on top, can add sauerkraut juice after it has cooled a little in the bowl (home fermented or Bubbies brand are alive with probiotics)
  • Grassfed hot dog link, finely sliced, small pear pieces, cooked carrot medalions (another self-feed meal)
  • Hummus with olive oil, dabs of liver pate or avocado, applesauce or pumpkin souflee
  • Canned tuna/salmon/chicken with homemade mayo and raisins, thawed or cooked peas on the side
  • Dinner leftovers

Add a large salad to any of the above, and you’ve answered what to feed yourself for lunch as well.

Snack

  • Slices of raw cheese and a few raisins or apple slices (portable)
  • Goat yogurt with honey drizzle
  • Glass of raw milk (goat best for many babies) and a homemade muffin with butter (whole grain or almond/coconut flour, can have carrots, zucchini, or fruit in it) (also somewhat portable)
  • Banana and almond butter (peanut butter if no reaction)

Dinner

  • What you are eating!

Organic Diet Step 2: Dairy

Not everyone can tolerate dairy products, but for those who can, it is a rich source of minerals, protein, and healthy saturated fats IF sourced from healthy animals. Some people groups in Africa thrive on a diet made up nearly entirely of raw milk from their herds.

Clean Starts

  • Change from conventional milk to organic milk. Skim, 1% and 2% milks have thickeners added to them; opt out by choosing whole milk. Homogenization has been linked to arterial plaque; opt out by choosing unhomogenized. Your choice to skim the cream for your coffee, or shake the whole jug before pouring. Raw milk (unpasteurized) from pastured (grassfed) animals is the BEST milk, as it is richest in minerals, enzymes and probiotics. Dungeness Valley Creamery supplies this delicious cow milk to WA state; if you prefer goat milk, search for a local source.
  • Change from conventional yogurt, cottage cheese, and kefir, to organic products, or make your own from raw/organic/pastured milk.
  • Change from conventional butter, sour cream, and cream to organic butter, sour cream, and cream. Conventional butter was listed on a recent “top ten most toxic foods” list, which is not surprising since so many of todays petrochemical toxins settle in the fats of animals. Yet organic butters and cream have been highly revered by healthy indigenous people groups for their health giving properties.
  • Change from conventional cheese to raw, organic cheese, if you can find it (see notes about raw milk below).
  • Change from “soy dairy” products (soy milk, soy protein) to almond, hemp, hazelnut, or rice milks (hemp having the best nutrition, and it’s delicious) if cow/goat dairy is not tolerated. Organic coconut oil can be used in place of butter for those with a dairy allergy. See note below on why I avoid soy.
  • If lactose intolerance is the reason you avoid dairy products, try culturing your own yogurt from organic milk. When you use a 24 hours process to culture the yogurt (or kefir if desired), nearly no lactose is present at the end of the process. Making yogurt and kefir is not difficult; find directions here. The long culturing process yields a very sour “European” flavor, which can be sweetened if you desire with jams, maple syrup, or honey. I have found that fresh goat milk loses its “goaty” aftertaste when cultured this long. The same process for 24 hour yogurt can be done with whipping cream for amazingly delicious Creme Fraiche.

Some people find that they can tolerate goat and sheep milk products if cow products bother them. Others find that raw milk (unpasturized) is tolerated as it has all the enzymes and probiotics intact to aid in digestion. In addition, high heat pasteurization appears to damage the protein molecule in milk. (The stable saturated fats in cream/butter seem to hold up better to heat than the protein in the milk, making pasteurized butter/cream still a great choice.)

Worried about contamination? Studies which purposefully introduced pathogenic bacteria into raw milk (still “living” with enzymes, probiotics, and immune factors) show that the milk protects itself by destroying pathogenic bacteria. Conversely, pasturized (“dead”) milk no longer carries this protection; hundreds are made sick on pasturized milk annually in the US. Once milk is cultured (into cheese, yogurt, cottage cheese, etc.) this risk is lowered by the competing bacteria of the culture. Certified Raw dairies undergo far stricter testing of products than conventional dairies.

Buying Tips

Trader Joes has the best prices around (by far) for a full range of organic dairy products. I buy butter, cream, sour cream, and cottage cheese there. They also have a stunning selection of cheeses, most at fabulous prices. I sometimes buy the Grassfed Cheddar (New Zealand), and sometimes the Raw Cheddar. We also love the Cotswold cheese from England (which is neither organic, or raw, but you can taste the richness of the milk which makes me confident the cows are grazing grass). The Shredded Parmesan cheese (in a bag) is a raw cheese (and high in absorbable calcium); and excellent choice.

I make my own kefir from Dungeness Valley raw milk, which we drink on occasion as well, when I’m not making it into pudding, ice cream, etc.

Goat milk is best fresh (for flavor), so I don’t really recommend buying it from Trader Joes, although if that is your only option (say for a toddler who can’t tolerate cow milk) I would certainly recommend it over any “milk substitute”. Best to find a local dairy for raw milk (as I have), or if you are inclined, buy a goat as a pet which actually contributes to the family table!

If you have to use dairy substitutes, hemp milk is cheaper when you buy a case through a co-op; this option may be available at your health food store. You can make your own rice milk really cheap (and pretty easy) using this Rice Milk Recipe.

The Why

Conventional dairy products in the US come from “factory farmed” cows, which may or may not ever see a pasture, but most certainly dine on soy and corn based feed laced with pesticides, antibiotics, and by-products from slaughter houses. In some states, farms are allowed to inject the cows with growth hormones with cause them to produce more milk, which wears out the cow and results in fewer productive years (but at heavier production) before going to the slaughterhouse herself. (This is not allowed in OR or WA.) Since the food she receives (grain based) is such a poor diet for her, she is likely to be sick often, and treated with antibiotics. You can bet that all the toxins going into her make their way into her milk, and the butter, cheese, yogurt, and other products made from it.

Conventional soy is one of the most pesticide laden crops in the US, and even organic soy can hardly boast a health claim as soy is an endocrine disruptor (mimics estrogen in the body). There are tons of “studies” done to show the “health benefits” of soy. Guess who pays for these studies, and their publicity? The Soy Industry. Lesser known studies link soy formulas to early puberty in girls, delayed or decreased fertility in boys, and doubling of diabetes risk for all children. I avoid it like the plague (except fermented soy products used in traditionally small amounts, such as Tamari).

Is Organic Certification Necessary?

Although USDA Organic certification brings with it peace of mind for the consumer, there is a cost to the farmer (passed on to the consumer) for this rubber stamp. You may be able to find a local dairy which can demonstrate to you the health and humane treatment of their animals, and quality of their product so that you don’t need the label to feel good about using their products. Especially important is to inquire about the feed of their animals; even a cow fed 100% organic grain but kept in the feedlot will not be as healthy as the cow allowed to graze on green grasses.

How To Make Ginger Kombucha

What is it? A fermented tea drink, sweet and with a kick (though non-alcoholic).

Why make it? Taste’s yummy, and it’s good for you. Here are some of the benefits:

  • full of probiotics: good bacteria and good yeasts
  • the amino acids created by the fermentation process help with liver/body detox
  • reported to prevent cancer in peoples from a polluted area of Russia where it was widely consumed (probably a result of the first 2 benefits)

How To Make Ginger Kombucha

Kombucha is made by fermenting sweet tea for several days or weeks. I have been making it off and on for about 2 years, and our favorite is Ginger Kombucha. My children love it; since it is strong I only give about 1/4 cup to them at a time.

Ingredients

1 Scoby with some starter Kombucha
3 qts. purified water
2 Tbs. organic black tea
1 cup organic sugar
candied ginger
Equipment

large stainless kettle
gallon size glass jar
cloth cover (tea towel or handkerchief)
rubber band
strainer
large knife
funnel
1 qt. glass bottles for bottling

 

Boil about 3 qts of water in the large kettle. Remove from the heat, and add 2 Tbs. black tea* (see note below) and 1 cup sugar.

Stir to dissolve the sugar. Allow to cool on the counter for several hours. If scalding tea is added to a scoby, it will kill the yeast.

Here is a scoby in finished Kombucha. You can see there are three pancake-like pieces (2 are floating sideways). The three can be separated to start three new batches. The newest one always forms on the top of the Kombucha.

When starting out, you will place 1 scoby and about a cup of Kombucha in a clean gallon glass jar, and then add the tepid sweetened tea to it. Use a strainer to catch the loose tea leaves.

Then place a clean towel over the jar, fasten with a rubber band. Leave on the kitchen counter, or another clean warm place, for 7-14 days. You can go longer if you like, but it will taste like vinegar. The warmer the room (or season), the faster the Kombucha will ferment, so begin to check it after 7 days. When it is fermented to your liking, it is ready to strain into bottles.

To flavor it with ginger, I chop up candied ginger to place in each bottle; just a few pieces for each bottle.

Chop it finely so that it doesn’t get stuck in the bottle after the Kombucha is gone and you want to wash the bottle.

Then put the ginger in the bottles.

 

Then pour or ladle the fermented Kombucha into the bottle; leave a few inches at the top. I use a funnel with a strainer piece fitted inside it.

Close the bottles of Kombucha, and leave them on the counter for 2 more days. This allows the Kombucha to continue fermenting the sugar in the candied ginger. Carbon will be formed and trapped in the sealed bottle, which will give the drink a nice bubble when it is opened. After 2 days, place the bottles in the refrigerator to halt the fermentation. Drink chilled, using a tea strainer to strain ginger pieces as you pour.

*Organic tea is preferred to conventional, as conventional often has aluminum residues from processing. Any black tea will work; English Breakfast and Oolong are both delicious varieties I have tried.

Although some people use green tea, I found that there wasn’t nearly enough flavor.

For this batch I used Hampstead Tea and Now Foods Ginger, which can both be ordered from iherb.com. If this is  your first order with iherb, use my coupon code: RON268 and receive $5 off your order.

You can order and scoby from Cultures For Health. Or, if you live near me (Portland area) email me and I’ll give you one!