Recipe: Simple and Versatile Sauerkraut

Sauerkraut

 

I have recently been browsing a wonderful book called  The Art of Fermentation: An In-Depth Exploration of Essential Concepts and Processes From Around the World, by Sandor Ellix Katz. It is a beautifully written book, and Katz’s expertise and passion for the subject are easy to see. One of the things I like about it is the relaxed, exploratory attitude he has towards the subject– for example there are no exact recipes, but rather general descriptions of the processes, with lots of detailed explanations and many possible variations. It is the “art” of fermentation, not the science, and it reflects the amazing variety of fermented foods around the world.

What is fermentation? Katz describes it as “The transformation of food by various bacteria, fungi, and the enzymes they produce.” Some of the most recognizable ones in the US are alchohol, vinegar, pickles, sauerkraut, kimchi, yogurt, certain cheeses, and salami. One of the primary functions of fermentation is to preserve foods, and another is to increase health benefits.

Fermented foods have been highly valued in traditional cuisines throughout history and in every culture. Fermented foods that still have live bacteria are known as probiotics, and they are very important for our digestive health, immune function, and more. The importance of our microbiomes (the friendly bacteria that live on and in us) is a huge area of research right now, and we are only beginning to understand how very important they are. One amazing fact is that the bacteria cells living in our body outnumber our own cells about 10 to 1. (The bacterial cells are much smaller.)

The health benefits don’t only come from probiotic content, however. The fermentation of foods is essentially their “pre-digestion” by bacteria and fungi. As Katz explains, this breaks down compounds to make them easier for us to digest, and makes minerals and nutrients more available to our bodies. Fermentation can also break down substances that would otherwise be toxic. It can also actually increase the nutrients in foods; for example, it can increase levels of B vitamins and create helpful enzymes and other compounds. Continue reading

Book Review: The Wahls Protocol

TerryWahlsKale

The Wahls Protocol: How I Beat Progressive MS Using Paleo Principles and Functional Medicine.
By Terry Wahls, M.D.

This is an extraordinary book. More specifically, what Dr. Wahls has done is extraordinary. She has confronted a degenerative, incurable disease and discovered a way to reverse its course, first for herself, and now for her patients and research participants. She went from being confined to a reclining wheelchair, to being able to go on long bike rides with her family, and she has helped her patients make similar recoveries. I would highly recommend The Wahls Protocol, especially to people affected by multiple sclerosis, other autoimmune diseases, or indeed any chronic condition.

Early on in the book Dr. Wahls makes a guiding point: “What your cells use to fuel the chemistry of life comes directly from what you feed yourself.” She points out that the designation of “healthy” foods is not an abstract idea, rather, what makes something healthy is that it contains the substances that your cells literally need for the chemical reactions that make up life. If your cells cannot function properly, your body cannot function properly, which means that it cannot resist nor recover from disease.

Another related insight that Dr. Wahls describes is that our conventional medical system is much more focused on fighting symptoms than on actually getting to the root cause of disease. Diseases are described not based on the unseen biochemical workings that have gone awry, but rather on symptoms, which are readily apparent. Billions are spent on medical research to find drugs that control symptoms, but very little money or attention is paid to how to actually restore the underlying biochemistry, which is the actual foundation of health. In an autoimmune disease, the immune system, whose role is to attack invading dangers such as viruses, begins to attack the body itself instead. Conventional Western medicine deals with this by prescribing drugs which weaken the immune system, so it cannot attack the body as aggressively. However, in doing so the drugs weaken or harm other parts of the body as well, leading to often severe side effects. In addition, blocking the immune system does nothing to address WHY it is attacking the body in the first place, and so it cannot truly solve the problem. As Dr. Wahls’s MS continued to worsen, even as she pursued the best conventional medical care, she realized that she needed a better solution. Continue reading