How to Make Kefir & Sauerkraut – It’s Easier than You Think

kefir

Homemade kefir is extremely easy to make, in a mason jar on your kitchen counter overnight. The key ingredient is a starter culture, known as “kefir grains”. They look like popcorn, and expand as you make batches. In a few months you’ll have enough to share with your friends. They have a chewy texture and are loaded with probiotic power, so if you love your kefir, eat some grains for an added boost.

The only other thing you need is a plastic strainer, to separate the grains from your milk, and collect them for a new batch — in the same jar where you made the first. Just add more milk (or almond, soy and coconut milk, if you’re not a fan of dairy), and park it in a spot on your counter that stays as close to 75F (24C) as possible. I cover mine with a paper towel and rubber band, so it can breathe. No yogurt maker required.

Speaking of dairy vs. soy, and lactose intolerance, Kefir cultures are good enough at colonizing the gut, if you start slowly and drink it several days a week, you can actually rebuild your gut flora and heal lactose intolerance, by making home-brewed Kefir a daily habit.

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Whole milk will produce a much tastier and richer brew than low-fat, and you can also add whipping cream for an almost dessert-like quality. It tastes a lot like yogurt, but the longer you ferment it (usually between 1 and 2 days is best) the more tart it becomes. Tangy 2-day brews have less lactose, and a higher number of healthy gut-bugs, so keep that in mind if you’re drinking it for GI benefits.

And here’s another tip: to make long ferments yummy, or just to satisfy your sweet tooth, you can always add Stevia, which is an all-natural sweetener made from the leaves of a South American plant. A little tiny bit goes a long way — just a quarter-pinch will do. Unlike sugar, Stevia won’t feed candida in your GI tract, or raise blood glucose levels if you’re diabetic.

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Another superfood that could help you find your inner Woodrat is raw, easy-to-make sauerkraut. It’s teeming with trillions of healthy bacteria per serving, much more than any probiotic, and it’s delicious, too. Purists make a good-sized batch (10 or so cabbages-worth) in stone crocks. This one I have at home, made in Poland. All it takes is a heavy-duty food processor or old-school shredder to chop the cabbage very finely, sprinkle some sea salt throughout, pack it into your crock tightly, and three weeks later it’s done.

Here’s a short video by fermentation guru Sandor Katz that shows how easy it is to make this delicious superfood, full of active enzymes.

Hooray for ‘kraut! 🙂

If you’re good at making cultured foods, GHN Forums is offering you a 100% free place to set up your own group, and tell the world how to create these healing foods.

All you have to do is sign up, with a single click, via FB-Connect. Inside, you’ll find a growing community of health-conscious people using natural approaches to wellness. Hope to see you there. 🙂

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Sauerkraut: Anti-cancer Fermented Food that Restores Gut Flora

by John P. Thomas
Health Impact News

Sauerkraut can be an important part of diets designed for healing cancer. Sauerkraut is a German word that simply means sour white cabbage. Lacto-fermented cabbage has a long history of providing benefits for many different health conditions, and now it is proving to be beneficial for cancer. Cabbage, by itself, offers a number of health benefits, but the fermentation process increases the bioavailability of nutrients rendering sauerkraut even more nutritious than the original cabbage.1

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In 2005, a team of researchers from Poland and the United states observed a substantially higher rate of breast cancer among Polish women who immigrated to the United States. They compared Polish women who were living in and near Chicago and Detroit with women who were still living in Poland. They observed that the rate of breast cancer was three times higher for the Polish immigrants. They evaluated various factors and concluded that the consumption of lacto-fermented sauerkraut was a possible factor in the different cancer rates. Women in Poland ate an average of 30 pounds of raw sauerkraut each year, while the Polish women in the US were eating approximately 10 pounds per year.2

What are the qualities of sauerkraut that would make it a super food for cancer prevention, and to be included as a part of diets designed to treat cancer? Let’s take a look at some of the science.

Sauerkraut contains high levels of glucosinolates. These compounds have been shown to have anti-cancer activity in laboratory research.

“The observed pattern of risk reduction indicates that the breakdown products of glucosinolates in cabbage may affect both the initiation phase of carcinogenesis -by decreasing the amount of DNA damage and cell mutation -and the promotion phase, by blocking the processes that inhibit programmed cell death and stimulate unregulated cell growth,” said Dorothy Rybaczyk-Pathak from the University of New Mexico.3

Pathak, along with colleagues from Michigan State University and the National Food and Nutrition Institute of Warsaw, Poland, found that “Women who ate at least three servings a week of raw- or short-cooked cabbage and sauerkraut had a significantly reduced breast cancer risk compared with those who only ate one serving per week.” They discussed these findings at the American Association for Cancer Research’s Frontiers in Cancer Prevention Research meeting in Baltimore, Maryland in 2005.4

 

To read the rest of this (very in-depth) article, plus other news and information about GI topics, visit Getting Healthier Now — on Facebook.

 

Lemongrass Oil for Deep Acne

Did you always have clear skin before your gut health changed? Have you noticed the more vegetables you eat, and especially when combined with carbs, like rice and potatoes, the more likely you are to get deep acne, or rosacea, especially to each side of the nose, about 24 hours after eating the offending food?

This has certainly been my experience, and the acne/rosacea/gut connection is a strong one. Sometimes, doing a probiotic retention enema will reduce the inflammation quickly enough to avoid a breakout, but if I can’t catch it in time, the next best thing I’ve found for deep acne is applying organic Lemongrass oil. Sometimes the pimple can be resolved virtually overnight.

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Rather than using it undiluted, which may burn skin, I dilute it 1:4 with a carrier oil, like Jojoba, which can also be found as an organic product. This is the strength I use as a spot treatment, overnight. It’s capable of healing even deep, adult acne. For a facial wash, try 1 drop Lemongrass oil to 50 drops 30 ppm colloidal silver, which is antibacterial and antifungal, and mist on before bed using a pump-spray bottle.

Note: anyone using these oils for the first time should apply a drop of it, diluted 1:4 as you would use on your face, to an area like the wrist, where it can be easily washed off in the event of any irritation. People with sensitive skin, be sure to ask your dermatologist. Topical use of colloidal silver is quite safe, and highly effective against yeasts and fungi, but one should pay attention to dosing guidelines for silver.

The approach outlined above is for acute flares of acne. By far the best longer term treatment, for most people, is to heal your gut. If you have symptoms of SIBO, which can often be associated with tinnitus, too, consider eating a lower carb, low FODMAP diet, and try daily “intermittent fasting” which will allow your body to sweep bacteria out of the small intestine into the colon. People with SIBO have fewer “cleansing waves” than those with healthy guts, so compressing your food intake into two larger meals, spaced further apart, will allow your upper GI tract to become less of a feeding area for these misplaced gut microbes, and encourage them to seek their food sources further down, in the colon, where they belong.

Also, consider adding cultured foods like kefir, raw, organic sauerkraut, and yogurt to your diet, to displace less-friendly bacteria with healthy flora, to protect the gut wall, and nuture other beneficial strains in your upper and lower GI tract. Contrast these approaches to most standard dermatologists who prescribe gut-damaging antibiotics, and which would you rather choose? 🙂

If any of you have your own favorite approaches to acne control, I’d enjoy hearing from you in the comments section. Thanks!

Candida, SIBO and… Silver?

A brief bit of background: my mother took lots of antibiotics, from the 1950s onward, and was on Tetracyline when pregnant. I got my gut flora from her, as anyone would, but was born prematurely and spent 2 months in an isolette. This means I acquired the rest of my microbiome in a hospital, before heading home. I think it’s safe to say I’ve have had yeast issues for most of my life. My entire family did.

The standard medical attitude about candida continues to be “it doesn’t exist in anyone unless they are immune compromised”. My gut flora was damaged pre-birth, then I had a family doctor who prescribed antibiotics for a simple cough, or the sniffles, I’ve since been hit with Cipro and Levaquin (fluoroquinolone antibiotics) at least a dozen times, so from a modern understanding of gut-immune function, I am immune-compromised!

I got toenail fungus at an early age, developed sinus trouble (more antibiotics!) and have since read reputable sources saying most sinus issues are fungal. Candida? Maybe so, but the type of fungus is moot. Next I got asthma, seasonal allergies, then ulcerative colitis, then severe food intolerance. At no point along that path did any doctor say I needed to heal my microbiome, or go on a paleo diet, so if they didn’t understood something so basic, I can’t put much stock in their wholesale dismissal of candida overgrowth.

Here’s the good part — I’ve been getting better ever since I started paying attention to gut health. It’s simple. Lower carb is healing — sugar is bad. Probiotic foods are a “yes” — antibiotics are an emphatic “no” (unless utterly essential). It’s been a wonderful road back for me, with every single health condition.

I’ve recently discovered antibiotics very likely destroyed the fragile, butyrate-producing bacteria in my gut, and butyrate heals inflammation  — while also being anti-fungal. No wonder homemade sodium butyrate enemas have been so helpful for my ulcerative colitis flares. I believe butyrate could certainly help others with IBD, including Crohn’s disease. It may even play a role in protecting the upper gut (small intestine) from development of SIBO. Speaking of…

Early this week, a Monday, I’d just started a new job. I didn’t have time to fix my own lunch from home, so I had to fend for myself in the usual higher-carb, sugary restaurants. I found a beef roast with sides. The meat portion was tiny, covered with a sweet gravy. Roasted potatoes and green beans rounded it out, but that same sauce was all over the veggies. I was so hungry I ate every potato. Normally only eat about 3 oz of them a day. I’d been in good shape, gut-wise, for so long, I could afford to cheat, right? Wrong! By morning, I could tell I had yeast overgrowth. My gut had zero peristalsis, I had bad tinnitus, which for me is usually a sign of SIBO returning, my breathing was restricted, sinuses were inflamed, and energy was in the tank.

I’d had had such luck with yogurt, in recent weeks, I decided to eat two pints, the following day at work. Apparently the candida had done such a job slowing down my gut, the yogurt just sat there. Candida has been slowly digesting us since day one. I believe it uses “host manipulation“, which is what many successful parasites do. People with yeast overgrowth often crave sweets and alcohol. I know I have in the past, and I didn’t lose that until I started removing yeast from my body.

Hyphal Form Candida

It makes sense: if candida creates sweet tooths to feed itself, why wouldn’t it also emit chemicals to slow down gut transport, to more effectively eat our food? This may explain why so many of us are underweight, or constipated, and could be a strong hypothesis for alcoholism. Here’s a very interesting thread exploring a connection between SIBO and candida. Normally benign, its invasive (hyphal) form is thought to just be a symptom of dysbiosis. A healthy array of commensal bacteria should curb overgrowth. However, for those who’ve had hyphal form for decades, we need to deal with it.

I am hosting hookworm right now, for food intolerance, asthma, IBD, so I can’t take oregano oil, olive leaf, berberine, even peppermint, without killing them. Colloidal silver is an antibiotic, but it will just stun them for a few days.  Numerous articles discuss a rare condition called agyria, where people who consumed massive amounts of silver turned their skin a bluish tint. I have taken only 3 courses, a few weeks at a time, in the last 4 years. I’m not worried about changing color!

So back to the problem at hand, by the end of day 2 my entire back was sore, where it was nearly impossible to walk. I have a specific pull-pattern where one rib gets dislocated, and it happens most often when my gut is unhealthy. Lipopolysaccharide, a bacterial endotoxin, may be the root of this inflammation. That night, I simply couldn’t find any position to lie in, and insomnia made everything worse. I spiked a fever from the SIBO, which is rare for me, and my lungs felt like bronchitis was developing.

Most people would have gone to the doctor at this point, and been prescribed antibiotics, but I don’t tolerate most of them, and would rather use an antimicrobial that kills both bacteria and yeast.

The morning of day 3, I still had a fever, and started with 1 ounce of 500 ppm (parts per million) colloidal silver in a pint of distilled water, which makes it about 33 ppm. This is a safe level, in my opinion, especially since I take it very rarely. It has had a long history as an antibiotic before the modern pharma-industry developed conventional antibiotics. Here’s a study showing silver’s effectiveness against antibiotic-resistant strains. I’ve read other sources claiming it “smothers” both good and bad bugs. Its effect on candida is confirmed by several studies.

To deal with my lungs I used 30 ppm silver in a miniature glass spray bottle. 5 puffs every two hours. So how did it all go? Interestingly, the oral silver seemed to get my gut moving, and my stools were soft but formed. I’m thinking this relates to a lower yeast population in the gut. A few hours after starting inhalation, my lungs were clear, the fever broke, and I’m still feeling pretty good. I’ve read articles where doctors used CS in a nebulizer to treat people with AIDS-related lung infections, so this seems like a solid approach. It protects weak patients like me (who are immune compromised) from gut-damaging systemic antibiotics.

What’s my takeaway? Buying silver is expensive, and I normally make my own, using a cheap generator, that tests out about 17 ppm. The cost of home-brewed is pennies per pint. I plan to use the silver orally and as a spray mist only if needed, for the next few days, then I’ll go back to cultured foods like homemade kefir, raw sauerkraut. Silver is best used sparingly. I prefer adding healthy flora to my gut, not killing friend and foe alike. I also take Prescript Assist, VSL #3, and LifeStart powder now, as probiotics, plus an occasional butyrate enema. This is what works, and I’ll keep it up, but perhaps the moral to this story is, the next time I’m late for work, I’ll stop and cook my own, sugar-free, lower-carb lunch!

PS: for those interested in learning more about colloidal silver, here’s a great group on Facebook: Colloidal Silver, Pro & Con, where all points of view are appreciated. And keep in mind all the usual caveats apply: ask your doctor before trying any new therapy.

Help Build a Fecal Microbiota Donor Registry

Many of us who suffer from overprescription of antibiotics, and adverse drug reactions (ADRs) from fluoroquinolone antibiotics like Levaquin and Cipro, realize our microbiota has been badly damaged, and eating cultured foods, or taking probiotic pills, is likely not going to be enough to restore complete gut flora, proper immune function, and mental health.

FMT has already proven its effectiveness in many cases of C. Diff Infections. Recent studies indicate FMT may also be curative in CFS/ME, diabetes, MS, ulcerative colitis, crohn’s disease, rheumatoid arthritis, and other inflammatory conditions. I feel it can also be an important supportive therapy for those coping with Lyme Disease, as it rebuilds the flora lost from frequent antimicrobial treatments. Far from this being fringe science, Psychology Today acknowledges how FMT could play a role in treating anxiety. Here’s another article, in the New York Times, from a fecal transplant donor.

Here’s the good news: we already have a registry for FMT donors, and people can SIGN UP, at thepowerofpoop.com! This will be a huge step in giving thousands of people the full spectrum of probiotics they need. If you’re on Twitter, please re-tweet this post (instead of favoriting), or just use the Twitter link at the bottom of this blog entry.

Thanks for helping to spread the word!

Hookworm Only — Starting Over.

It’s been ages since I updated this blog. Basically, I was doing very well on the first round of helminthic therapy, then wounded my finger tip when I was cooking dinner one night. A one week course of Levaquin antibiotics (early August, 2011) sterilized my gut, and what grew back was a horrible mix of bacteria. This triggered a flare of ulcerative colitis. I probably already had SIBO, too, from years of antibiotics from childhood to young adult years, but the constipation from this last round of antibiotic “therapy” made it all much worse. I then decided to add a 1500 whipworm top off dose, to stop the bleeding in my colon, but this just made my bowels more sluggish and I started to feel allergic to just about everything.

Eventually, enough was indeed enough. Due to a growing intolerance to foods, I had to kill off my 2000 whipworm and 55 hookworm combination with a three day course of Mebendazole (late October, 2011) and start over. On November 22nd I reinoculated with 50 Necator Americanus hookworm and decided to avoid the whipworm this time, since they appeared to contribute to an increased allergic response and most likely compounded the constipation from antibiotics. I feel I can now control my ulcerative colitis with probiotic implants and as long as hookworm reduce my allergies, this will also help my IBD improve.

So far, so good. I’m really feeling better this time around. Tomorrow (Tuesday) will be 6 weeks since I inoculated with 50 Necator Americanus hookworm. Last time, when I did the 55 hookworm/500 whipworm combination, by week 7 my asthma disappeared, so that’s a potential benchmark. If anything, I feel like I’m having earlier symptom relief on round two, and am reacting less allergically in general.

My nose started clearing around Thanksgiving, due to the “bounce”, which is an early symptom relief some of us get from hookworm, then this upper respiratory relief became a longer term benefit about a week or so ago. I hardly ever react to things like house dust anymore, and if I do it’s a more typical reaction like a sneeze, something I never could manage when my immune system was a deer in the headlights.

In October I was experiencing incredible food intolerance — reacting to nearly every protein I tried to eat — with a stuffy nose, tinnitus, and throat tightening sensation. The last week or so I’ve noticed my appetite increasing, and seeing that as a signal, I’ve since been testing and enjoying normal portions of pork and lamb, plus smaller amounts of beef. I’ll try things like chicken and fish at a later date when it’s more obvious the hookworm are providing benefits. Vegetable fats and proteins, like avocado and coconut, have also been fairly problematic in the past, so I’ll wait a while to test those, too.

Should anyone ever wonder if hookworm can help with salicylate sensitivity, in my case I think it’s doing exactly that. In early October I reacted to an over the counter product with salicylates (acne cream and a skin wash) when I used it on my face, and since then foods higher in salicylates would trigger a similar reaction — nasal congestion, tinnitus, increased heart rate and anxiety, asthma and throat tightening. It was no fun at all! Last night I tried eating a boiled carrot, since they are high in salicylates, and barely reacted. This morning I’m sipping a cup of organic coffee (also pretty high on the scale) and enjoying it. None of this would have been possible a month ago!

One of the best benefits now is relief from anxiety and muscular tension. I’m waking up feeling rested, with a very relaxed back and legs, and am drowsy enough to take naps, which creates a virtuous cycle.

Another thing I’m noticing — my face is clearing up. When my gut flora is out of balance, I often get acne to each side of my nose.

By the way, I have a new GI doctor who knows Joel Weinstock at Tufts University, is a major proponent of helminthic therapy, and (as I understand it) has sat on panel discussions with Weinstock. This doctor of mine also does fecal transplants for quite a few of their patients and has told me FT can be really helpful in the right applications, including my own condition. Right now the course of treatment we’re following is to keep things simple and allow the hookworm to get established.

Regarding acne relief, my GI says hookworm appear to literally change the human biome for the better, influencing which of the good bacteria survive and which of the more pathogenic ones don’t, and how large or small each population is allowed to grow. New (and old) research suggests a strong link between SIBO, acne and neuropsychological issues. Note the Stokes and Pillsbury study here, done 70 years ago, and leading edge research is just now catching on to their same hypothesis today.

The possibility of SIBO for me is very real, but I haven’t been tested to confirm it. Diagnosis can involve drinking sugar water to create gases that are then measured in the upper GI tract, but too much carbohydrate can cause flare ups of ulcerative colitis, and I don’t want to take the risk. The best approach in my opinion was to act as if I have SIBO and treat it with diet and probiotics, not antibiotics (which is a more conventional approach). For now, this has meant adding even more soft-cooked vegetables to an already high fiber diet. I’m literally sweeping the bacteria out of my small bowel and into the colon with a “broom” of large plates of veggies, mixed with modest amounts of animal protein. Too much fiber can create problems of its own, like undigested material that continues to feed bacteria, but this mechanical approach to addressing SIBO is short term and focused. As soon as possible I’ll want to eat a lower residue diet.

Meanwhile, I’m feeling well enough to go back into the world and work again, which is great, but in the interest of stabilizing as soon as possible, and cementing my progress, I would like to get up to a full dose of hookworm at the 3 month mark. I’m anticipating doing another 50 hookworm 6 weeks from now, or perhaps even 70, to get up to a 120 hookworm population. Given how minimal the side effects have been for me, I do think I can now handle 70 at once, especially with the 50 in me already, which should ease the immune response.

I’ve also ordered a microscope so I can keep track of my hookworm egg count. I don’t plan on being too precise about this. I don’t care how many eggs per gram of stool they are laying. I just want to make sure they are alive and well, so the plan is to check for ova every few months, and base most of my population maintenance on inoculation timing and overall symptom relief. If things are going well, my instinct is to just let things be and enjoy the ride!

Neurofeedback Helps!

I had my second session with the LENS neurofeedback system yesterday and my subjective opinion is it’s really helping, all the way around. I feel more energetic, my mind is sharper, and I’m more at ease. I’m not quite back to where I was between weeks 7 and 9 of my worm therapy, but if the trend continues, I’ll be there.

One bump in the road was a 7 day course of the antibiotic Levaquin. Some who take it suffer from anxiety and insomnia, and this was me. Fortunately the infection resolved early, and I am now off it, so I can begin the process of rebuilding my gut flora. I’m taking three types of probiotics, several times a day, and eating lots of soft-cooked vegetables to bulk up my stool and combat any yeast overgrowth. I’m also taking digestive enzymes to aid absorption of vitamins and minerals, plus much-needed fats, from my food. Vitamin B complex, a mineral complex, and 5K units of vitamin D3 round out my daily regimen.

Coffee has been forbidden now, since the episodes of increased blood pressure, which are pleasantly absent since the Levaquin was stopped two days ago. I don’t miss caffeine at all, even decaf coffee, so chances are I will bid it farewell, at least for the foreseeable future. Sugar and any complex carbs are also off the menu, and have been for years. Many who do worm therapy discover they can re-indulge in these foods once they are getting longer term benefits, but I’m so keen on healing up I may never even test those waters.

Symptoms of POTS have been a real eye-opener for me, and strong motivation to get back to what works. My primary focus now is to reprogram my circadian rhythm, to get regular, restful sleep, and continue repairing my nervous system as best I can. Progress has been made on that front already, considering I now have no trouble typing or walking, and the paresthesias in my face, forehead, hands and feet are now practically gone. I want to make sure systemic candida is kept to a minimum, too, as it may play a role in autoimmune reactions related to POTS/dysautonomia, in my opinion. Anything that stresses the immune system, be gone!

As for my hookworms and whipworms, I’m hoping the antibiotics I took for a week did them no harm. An egg count, in another month or so, is probably the best way I have to confirm they’re still with me. Chances are they survived just fine, as I can find no reports of mass die-offs when helminths encounter those types of medications.