Sunday, March 29, 2020

Eat what now?

Joey says: "Australia, eat your greens!"

Thanks to those who engaged the comments, of my last post. It's incredibly valuable to read how others translate their situations, during this unprecedented time. I was going to discuss why the Medical industry, has a hard time providing answers (beyond, a cure). But was heartened to see some further advice being dispensed recently.

Doctor Tredos Adhamom Ghebreyesus, Director of The World Health Organisation, outlined 5 points in a press release, several days ago. They are:

  1. Eat healthy
  2. Drink responsibly
  3. Don't smoke
  4. Exercise
  5. Keep a healthy mind

If you want more details, see the shortened video here. This advice was released, due to the worldwide shutdown and sudden isolation of communities, in response to coronavirus.

Neighbours chickens, crossing borders. Law breakers. Red-necks
~ but I love 'em too

My concern with how medical advice was being dispensed (before this release) was a downturn in the general populations' health. Being made physically redundant and more anxious, can lead to stress eating and in some cases, increased substance abuse. Effectively, increasing the numbers in the population, compromising their immune systems. Potential for more hospitalisations than necessary.

So it was encouraging to see some advice being released, to maintain health. Some of the points relate back to strategies, I was going to share for maintaining my compromised immune system. Only, it's a little more involved. It revolves around one important (and unfortunately) overlooked factor in the medical industry.

What's growing down there?

Ask yourself this question - how is the state of your gut microbiota? Or how is your digestive process, breaking down the food you eat? There are four points I consistently review, to ensure I'm looking after my gut microbiota:

  • Food
  • Mood
  • Movement, and
  • Rest

Why is gut microbiota so important, and why is it overlooked by specialists treating autoimmune diseases? Let's begin with new research emerging around the Gut-Brain Axis. From the linked abstract:
"This interaction between microbiota and GBA [Gut-Brain Axis] appears to be bidirectional, namely through signaling from gut-microbiota to brain and from brain to gut-microbiota by means of neural, endocrine, immune, and humoral links."

In layman's terms, the various biological networks above (my bold) allow your brain to communicate, with the microbiota in your gut. Why is this important for immune compromised patients? Because food is directly how we can effect those populations, in our gut, in a beneficial or detrimental way. Clear communication, can mount rapid biological responses to foreign bodies. Meaning faster defenses, duplication of necessary cells and self-repair.

Butcher bird, looking for a meal

For 30+ years, I've been advised by treating physicians to use food for diabetes management. Yet even as the evidence continues to mount, they will not discuss gut microbiota, in relation to your autoimmune condition. Because no causal links have been established, between GBA, and autoimmune disease. They have a contractual obligation with their licence to practice medicine, to "Do no harm". Therefore, eliminating advice, which has no causal links (yet) to what they're treating.

Silence wasn't addressing growing symptoms, the longer I survived my condition. Those symptoms were:  itchy skin, acne, joint pain, fatigue, painful bloating, headaches and what I call, brain fog. Or difficulty holding your thoughts and concentrating. Lack of sleep, due to the nature of the various forms of pain I was experiencing. Constant fidgeting. Inflammation, around my fingers, feet and eyes. Finally, there was a persistent cough with low temperatures. So it was affecting my respiratory system, every winter and when the nights were cold, in other seasons.

Making sauerkraut

I was prescribed various drugs to alleviate the symptoms, and told this was "normal" for someone with diabetes. That's not true however, as I managed to reverse all these symptoms through food. Not the "healthy" food I was recommended, but specific food that would address the state of microbiota in my gut.

Food with extra beneficial bacteria, already populating them, or natural probiotics - aids in the digestion process. They also compete with harmful bacteria or substances which enter the gut. I prefer natural probiotics from food, such as kombucha, sauerkraut, yoghurt, cheese and sourdough. There are more fermented foods and beverages available, but these are the ones I indulge(d).

Second ferment, kombucha

In the same way as fermented foods, you should also be soaking grains and legumes, before consuming them. As soaking breaks down the surface of the food, and predigests it. Leaving any harmful chemicals behind, which are designed to protect those foods from being eaten, or going rancid before germination. This is why rinsing them after soaking for 24 hours, and only cooking in clean water, is important too. This process, helps treat potential irritants outside of the gut, so you only get the beneficial nutrients, inside it.

Food can be examined in a petri dish, to determine nutritional value. But it's how the digestive process breaks that food down, which determines if it becomes beneficial energy, or accumulative poison. I was specifically dealing with the poison part, in my gut. This brought even more controversial research into the equation.

Freshly baked sourdough

It's a condition known as leaky gut - where food permeates the intestinal lining and into the body. Where it's not supposed to be. Because it can disrupt those neural, endocrine, immune and humoral links. You cannot engage a healthy immune response, against a viral or bacterial crisis, when something is retarding the communication network. Just another reason to avoid processed foods too. Which contain chemicals. No matter how safe they're claimed to be, if the lining of your gut is compromised, those chemicals get access to the communication network, of your body.

Once again though, physicians won't acknowledge leaky gut as a condition, let alone, correlate it to autoimmune disease. But there is some evidence to suggest otherwise. I had to consider it relevant, when I couldn't alleviate my growing symptoms, under my treating physicians. When I addressed the food I was consuming, my ailments disappeared. So did the extra medications they were prescribing.

Capsicum (Peppers) from the deadly nightshade family

This journey with food, didn't end there. I had to give up sourdough, when I had to give up gluten. I also had to relinquish most dairy (except fermented). Gone are the legumes too, and food from the deadly nightshade family, such as starchy potatoes, capsicum (peppers), chilli, tomato and eggplant. I can consume small amounts as part of cooking, but not consumed regularly, or the symptoms flair up again.

It may sound restrictive, but I have a wonderful assortment of delicious foods, I much prefer eating. The main benefit for giving up these sensitive foods however, was removing the compounded damage to my biology - making me weakened and susceptible every winter. It shouldn't be considered normal to be prescribed a steroid based inhaler, the older you get. That's a signal our biology is compromised. We need to understand why, rather than mask the symptoms.

Because something like coronavirus inevitably comes along, where there is no treatment and the consequences dire, in susceptible categories. It doesn't have to be that way. Food and the digestive process, can determine how rapidly our immune system responds. Which can mean the difference between life and death. But it takes time to populate, and rebuild a compromised system.

Freshly picked mulberries

Choices in fruit had to change also. While most fruit is yummy and has beneficial nutrients, hybridised fruit with minimal seeds and easily consumed flesh, makes for larger quantities being digested. Too much sugar (even in the form of fruit) can block the immune response also. So I removed things like watermelon and grapes from my plate. Although my kids aren't restricted in the same way. I will eat occasionally, when a communal platter is made - but not much.

The fruits I prefer to improve immune response, is mulberries - really, any red berry will do. As red foods are high in antioxidants. Beneficial because they neutralise free radicals in the body. Too many free radicals, can cause cell damage and retard your biological system of repair. I need to do what I can, to bolster my immune response. These small choices of substitution, can add up in the gut.

So now, when I'm choosing fruit trees for the garden, I don't just consider their nutritional value, and can they survive my climate. But do they also have high medicinal qualities, over other fruits?

Greek yoghurt, berries and psyllium husks ~ 
or a gluten free substitute for wheatgerm

When I said, food be thy medicine, in my former post - it truly can cure significant, compromising ailments, in groups considered as "normal" complications. Food choices are important, as well as the strategies adopted, to predigest and inoculate food (fermentation, soaking, etc). In a pinch, you can buy probiotics from the pharmacy or health-food store. They're often recommended for people on antibiotics, or other drugs which may compromise the gut. If you need an immediate hit of probiotics, that's an option too.

I personally prefer creating probiotics naturally, from my daily food intake. Because I'm buying food anyway. While I like to keep a clean kitchen, I don't use chemicals to disinfectant surfaces - as I want those healthy bacteria to populate my fermentations. More posts are coming on Mood, Movement and Rest. Somehow I knew this one would be long! I guess it's easier to say, to eat a healthy diet. But it may not be that simple for everyone. Sometimes, more detail, provides for clearer choices.

In a nutshell, do you know how you're digesting that healthy food - and do you know what symptoms are a warning signal, to investigate further? That's what will put you on the front-foot of a healthy immune response, in a crisis. If concerned about symptoms which aren't resolving themselves - investigate further.

Are you a probiotics peddler in your pantry? Please share your concoctions.


  1. Chris, I just fed Griffin and Gertrude this morning although I haven't made sourdough for a while as I don't like my new oven. I am too lazy to experiment with the jolly thing. I should just dry the starters and be done with it. I also have dried kefir in the fridge that needs to be brought back to life and have a bottle of sauerkraut on the go all the time. People need to try things out for themselves I think as often the doctors don't seem to like to suggest taking fermented foods for example as for them so much needs to be scientifically proven first. I am sure they do eat those foods themselves at home.

    1. I love to hear how Grif and Gerty are going. I haven't baked sourdough for some time either. I was doing it for the family, although I cannot eat it myself. I use to do water kefir too, but the grains populated too quickly and I could never keep up with them. But it was fun when I tried it. You're probably right about doctors eating probiotic food at home. We all seem to have that internal instinct to do what's right. Even if we don't know scientifically what that is yet. I hope you get to use your oven soon. Maybe the cooler nights ahead, will be the encouragement you need? I love having the oven cooking, on a cold night. :)

  2. Chris, I agree so very wholeheartedly that there is much we can do to take control of our own wellness. It's a great thing that food, and it's link to a healthy microbiome is being explored. I think a good first step is listening to our own bodies. What makes us feel well, full of energy, vibrant and healthy. What doesn't? Too often, I think food gets overlooked in our hurried lives and that connection, between what we eat and how we feel, isn't made.

    I read a great book a while ago about healing the gut and I found fascinating information in it about prebiotics and resistant starch. I'd love to learn more about this. One of the things I now make, that incorporates both pro- and prebiotics is a cold potato salad. I steam little potatoes, skin on, and then when they are cold mix them up in a dressing that includes homemade yoghurt and apple cider vinegar and a little raw honey. Apparently, the cold potatoes contain resistant starches which beneficial bacteria feed on. That's my understanding anyway.

    I hope you'll write more about these kinds of topics as I'm very interested in this approach to health and wellness. Meg:)

    1. That's a wonderful sounding potato salad, Meg. Iv'e come across research on resistant starch improving gut microbiota too. It's like fermentation in the gut, when the beneficial bacteria eat the starch. I've heard it does wonders for others, unfortunately, it's something I cannot try. As potatoes seem to be a sensitive food for my gut. I'll look for a similar recipe online though, and make it for the family. I will try a little. It sounds really good though.

      There's a website that does an excellent job, explaining Resistant Starch. He links to medical studies, where it's relevant to. The article is called, The Definitive Guide to Resistant Starch. I like how Mark explains the science behind it, shares other people's experiences, then his own.

      Thanks for the feedback on what kind of topics you like to read. I thought about doing this a while ago, but wondered if it deviated too much. I guess it shouldn't though, because health and working on our property - is kind of a must. :)

  3. Chris, this is another excellent post. Not only do people eat mostly highly processed foods nowadays, but they've become increasingly germophobic. Most places that I go, stores, library, etc., all have hand sanitizer dispensers at the door and ask everyone to use them to help prevent the spread of germs. They don't realize they are crippling their immune systems.

    My daughter told me about the study you mention, so I'm pleased to have the link to the abstract now.

    Kefir is our primary probiotic food, but I always try to keep a crock of some lacto-fermented vegetable going. I need to get back to soaking my grains again. I used to faithfully but somehow got out of the habit. Now's a good time to start again!

    1. So glad you've heard of the GBA article before, Leigh. It's was a game changer for me, opening new possibilities for answers. I always knew there was something more to eating food, than just survival and satiation. It's about the mechanics of the body, and how food connects (or severs) them.

      Are you referring to milk kefir for your goat milk? I've tried water kefir before, but not the milk. I imagine it tastes somewhat like "Yakult" fermented milk - those miniature bottles you can buy from the supermarket. Maybe home made tastes better? It's great to have those kefir grains in circulation, and a ready supply of fresh milk in your backyard. I've heard the longer you have the grains, the more diverse the bacteria in them are.

      I admire your homemade cheese efforts too!

  4. Thank you Chris for a very interesting post, how do you get your kombucha so
    bubbly? I have been making it for a few years but it's never that good.
    I ferment for a week then add fresh ginger and leave for another week, not airtight.

    1. Hi again, Margaret. Great to see you. I'm going to do a post on how I make kombucha. I find the traditional way of using fruit juice and/or dried fruit, doesn't give the bubbles I need. I think it has to do with how warm it gets here in Queensland. I'm guessing it doesn't take long for the kombucha to ferment, so by the time we do the second ferment, most of the food is consumed to build the bubbles. I have a trick for that, I'll share in my post to come. It's pretty simple, and inspired by my experiments with gorge-feeding my sourdough starter too.

  5. I'm really enjoying these posts Chris. I've had decreasing faith in the medical "sickness industry" for many years and am grateful for all the information at our fingertips if we choose to take responsibility for our own wellbeing. And that's just it, it's a choice, but too many folks follow blindly what the doc says. Sally Fallon's Nourishing Traditions book is like a bible in my kitchen. I found myself nodding in agreement all the way through reading your last two posts and totally wowed by your journey of healing with food. Sally XX

    1. Thanks Sally. And that's a great way of viewing the unfortunate reality, of an increasing sickness industry. We can look to it for research and consultation, but ultimately we should be running the show on the forefront of solutions. That's why I do appreciate the work of the Western A Price Foundation, who assisted Sally Fallon's own work. They use science to explain the benefits of traditional diets, so it cannot be debunked as just folklore. Wise teachers who benefit their students through nutritional education.

  6. It's odd, but even though I have an auto-immune disease (rheumatoid arthritis) I don't have any issues with gut health. I eat what I like and never have bloating or constipation or diarrhoea. I make my own yoghurt and sometimes make sauerkraut, but that's all I do with regard to fermented foods. I've been told that I should do more for my gut bacteria, but as I seem healthy in that area, I don't want to change anything.

    1. It's great you've avoided those more severe symptoms, Bev. My mum had a friend who nearly reached a hundred, before they died. He seemed to have an iron stomach. Not much could faze him. He put it down to his experience in the war. In the trenches they were exposed to a lot of bacteria. He also said at one point, they were eating the local lizard population, for nutrition. If your gut can adapt to those bacteria filled conditions, I imagine they could probably survive anything! :)

  7. So much interesting information...thank you Chris xxx


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