Better choices of probiotics

Recently I spoke to a friend about a house party I briefly showed up at and how I had only had two small 330ml bottles of Stones ginger beer. Those two small bottles held almost 60g of sugar as I later discovered. Of course this wasn’t to be found anywhere on the bottle, I had to search the internet. I wouldn’t consume that amount of sugar in many days let alone one sitting! She asked me if I had watched the documentary called That Sugar Film which I hadn’t but was inspired to do so that night. So I did.

People on this planet are growing sicker every day.

It’s a story of a completely healthy guy that gave up sugar but wanted to run quite a that sugar filmridiculous medical experiment to prove to others just how bad sugar is for your health. He went from no sugar in his diet to consuming the average Australian intake of a whopping 40 teaspoons a day. The aspect of the experiment that captivated me most was that the sugars had to be hidden sugars, such as those in breakfast cereals, juices and even savoury pasta sauces.

Within two weeks he developed fatty liver, his energy levels rapidly declined, his ability to focus completely decreased and was well on his way to a pretty dangerous health situation. After all, sugar is a very modern and foreign element of our lives as compared to our evolutionary past. Unfortunately, it’s become the norm to be in just about every food item in our supermarket.

Throughout the film I noticed common food products that I include in my diet but in moderation, as I always make sure I read the ingredient panel on the rear of the packet. However, I was a bit shocked to see him guzzling a milk probiotic supplement you might know as Yakult in Australia.

yakult

Here I was thinking I was taking control of my gut health with my daily probiotic intake, but really I was consuming 9g of sugar per tiny bottle. That’s over  two unnecesarry teaspoons. If anything that’s going to upset my gut balance not keep things in balance. Here are some other alternatives I’ll be indulging in once I use up the last of my Yakult supply in my fridge:

  • Pickles-Traditionally these include pickled cucumbers but any kind of pickled vegetables will boost your intake of probiotics. An easy ingredient to add to any salad.
  • Dark chocolate coated probiotic balls– it’s hard to go past dark chocolate in this convenient form and you only need one to three small balls per day.
  • Miso soup– A tasty form of probiotics you can sip on daily. Just be aware that one cup of miso soup includes 600-900mg of sodium so if you have a lot of other high sodium foods throughout the day, it’s better to keep a watchful eye on your intake.
  • Dark chocolate in general– aim for above 80% to get the highest intake of probiotics. Other great benefits of dark choc is that it’s an antioxidant rich food, great source of manganese and of course tastes great! It’s best in moderation though as you’re trying to lower sugar intake as much as possible!
  • Sauerkraut-One of the richest sources of probiotics and also a very affordable option. I wrote about the benefits of sauerkraut here.

As you can see there’s plenty of options available for alternatives to the cleverly marketed and convenient shot size bottles of Yakult. As Eastern practices are teaching us, health begins in the gut and we have to be sure we are looking after this balance for our overall vitality. Make it a daily habit to include probiotics somewhere throughout your day.

It is becoming increasingly clear that there are untold connections between our resident microbes and many aspects of physiology…” NCBI

 

Advertisements

Kombucha- Brew your own

A friend recently told me he’d been getting into making batches of kombucha at home and excitedly told me just how easy the whole process is. I’ve wanted to try it for a while but in my mind always thought it was a lengthy task and pretty risky messing around with different types of bacteria. After a recent catch up he sent me on my way with a kombucha recipe and a “scoby” in a little snaplock bag with starter tea, which to me resembled something between a mushroom and an alien!

The benefits of kombucha

Finally much knowledge from the ancient East has swept to the West and in particular the view that many diseases begin in the gut. You need a fine balance of good and bad bacteria to support the production and absorption of nutrients throughout the body, to have goodkombucha benefits digestion and strong immunity (amongst other things). Kombucha helps in all of these ways due to the beneficial probiotics contained within. The scoby stands for “symbiotic colony of bacteria and yeast” and is the “heart” of the kombucha which can be used time and time again and in fact duplicates upon almost every batch. This allows you to spread the love amongst any friends that are interested in brewing their own batch! Kombucha is a refreshing and bubbly alternative to synthetic soft drinks packed with sugar and artificial flavours.

Key benefits

  • Detoxifying
  • Immunity boosting
  • Increased energy
  • Supported digestion
  • Supports a healthy nervous system
  • Decreases sugar cravings
  • Antioxidant rich

Rather than buying expensive probiotic supplements or milk drinks (you’ve seen the ads!) why not try make your own kombucha! It really is so easy and I can almost do it with my eyes closed only after making a few batches.

How to make kombucha

Ingredients

  • 2L water
  • 100ml white vinegar
  • 1x kombucha scoby (you can purchase online)
  • 125ml starter tea (comes in package you buy online)
  • 4 bags of tea of your choice (I use rosehip & black tea)
  • 1/2 cup of raw sugar

Equipment needed

  • 1 x small funnel
  • 1x pot (to hold 2L water)
  • 1x 2.5L glass jar with sealed top
  • Swing top glass bottles for keeping final product in fridge
  1. Bring 2L water to the boil then remove from heat and stir in sugar and tea bags. Then leave to cool to room temperature (I leave mine out overnight). The mixture needs to be cooled otherwise it will kill the important bacteria in the scoby.
  1. Once cooled remove tea bags and stir in your 100ml of vinegar then pour the liquid into a sterilized glass jar (use boiling water to sterilize). Now pour in your starter tea and either allow the scoby to slide out on its own or rinse your hands in vinegar and carefully place the scoby into the jar. Rinsing your hands with vinegar disallows any unwanted bacteria to enter the batch. You want to make sure the scoby is sitting flat on top and not folded in half.
  1. Seal off the glass jar and use a label to mark the date of brewing. Store the jar at room temperature somewhere out of direct sunlight and leave to ferment the kombucha for 7-14 days. Around the 7 day mark I use a straw to slide in under the scoby and taste test- it’s up to you how long you want to leave it to ferment and all comes down to taste.

There you have it! It’s as simple as that! You will find you need to experiment a little with the balance of vinegar and sugar, I found myself using slightly less vinegar than the recipe and slightly more sugar due to my batch tasting too vinegary. It’s completely normal for floaty or stringy bits to hang off the scoby and even turn up in your final product. You will often find the scoby grows a second layer, which can be separated and given to a friend (see below notes) or simply thrown out into the compost.

To continue making further batches places the original scoby in a small seal bag with 125ml of the final kombucha (this becomes the starter tea). It’s important to inspect the scoby and make sure there is no green or black mold and no rotten or unpleasant odours before using it for a fresh batch. Happy brewing!

Image courtesy of Dr Axe (www.draxe.com)

The wonders of burdock root

What I love about the Japanese culture is just how health and beauty conscious they are. We could certainly learn a thing or two from them in our modern Western world and I’ve recently stuck my head in to the traditional remedies that they and other cultures have natural healthbeen depending on for thousands of years direct from mother nature. Burdock root holds some incredible properties and is great to drop a few roots into a cup of tasty miso soup. 

After a bad blood infection and reoccurring large and painful boils on my legs while on an extended trip in remote Mentawai Islands, I decided to look into having a tonic made up from a naturopath that focused on purifying the blood.

This was with the intention to provide my body with relief after the purchase of cheap and nasty penicillin out of immense pain and desperation while in Malaysia on that same trip. The tonic had a noticeable effect on clearing up the boils and it was years until I had only a small outburst of them again (only after coming into direct contact with someone that had them).

I was pretty impressed given my GP had told me boils once contracted can stay in the blood stream for a lifetime and can reoccur at any point.

One of those many ingredients found in the tincture was “burdock root” and while curiously browsing the aisles of an Asian supermarket I found some dried burdock and decided to look at ways to implement it into my diet.

Burdock root health benefits

Other than being popular throughout Japanese culture, burdock has a long history throughout the American Indians and Europeans for its healing properties. It is also very well used throughout Indian and Chinese Medicine for the treatment of various ailments

Blood purifier

Exactly what I was after when suffering from boils. Burdock root is a great detoxifier and has been found to remove heavy metals from the blood stream which develops through poor diet and lifestyle choices. These toxins are effectively removed from the body due to the active compounds of the burdock.

Clean and pure blood means proper organ function, improved circulation and overall health and vitality. I am assuming that the cleansing properties and improved circulation means more blood is able to be pumped to the surface of the skin, therefore having a positive effect on cleansing skin infections such as the boils I had.

Naturopaths will often prescribe tinctures including burdock root extract to patients suffering from psoriasis and eczema with positive effect. Burdock root tea is also applied topically to acne ridden skin and other conditions to improve skin quality. Burdock root also assists in the drainage of the lymphatic system which is commonly full of toxins and waste, and which can easily block the proper function of the lymph nodes which are vital for a strong immune system.

Youthful skin

Again due to the great detoxifying properties found within burdock root, the quality and pexels-photo-112327appearance of skin is improved through its regular consumption. Perhaps this is one of the secrets to Japanese appearing much younger than they actually are (other than their good genes).

Clinical trials find that burdock root also helps to reduce the common signs of ageing such as wrinkly skin. All that time in the sun surfing over a lifetime surely will add up! It’s nice to know there are natural ways to combat the leather skin look.

Anti-Cancer Properties

The removal of heavy metals from the body and consuming foods that are high in antioxidants are both positive steps towards reducing your risk cancer developing in the body. Burdock root is extremely high in antioxidants meaning it is a great scavenger for free-radicals and harmful metals that you simply don’t want in your system.

As with most natural cures for widespread diseases, not enough studies have been “officially” carried out by professionals, but many naturopaths have continually been amazed by the positive effect burdock (in combination with other natural treatments) has on patients suffering from chronic tumors. They put this down to the anti-mutagenic and anti-tumor properties which inhibit the cancer cell growth, disallowing it to reproduce and spread throughout the body.

Burdock root tea

I found the easiest way to introduce burdock root into my diet is a simple tea made fromburdock root tea the dried burdock root. I found a packet of the dried root at my local Asian supermarket for around $4.60. Simply place a few of the dried roots into the bottom of a cup and pour hot water over top, allowing to steep for a few minutes.

Alternatively you can make up a tea pot but I didn’t have one on hand at the time. The taste I can only compare to miso or a slight mushroom taste and I found it quite pleasant to drink. You can experiment with adding honey or sugar if you like, however I saw it as more of a savory tea.

You can also use the leftover softened burdock root perhaps in stifrys as it has a soft mushroom texture or pour more hot water over the top and use the tea topically for any skin ailments. You can also use as a shower cleanser to really take advantage of the wonderful properties of this plant.

Conclusion

Other than those listed above there are what appears to be an endless list of positive properties of the burdock root and I’m sure many more that we are not aware of. Some of those properties include:

  • Anti-inflammatory properties which is great for the reduction of painful types of arthritis
  • Assisting with those suffering with diabetes
  • There are around 26 known minerals and vitamins contained within burdock root including iron, selenium, zinc, vitamin A, B6 and C
  • Improves digestive issues
  • Assists in the treatment of an enlarged spleen (due to a poor immune system)
  • Boosts memory
  • Antiseptic properties
  • Lowers blood pressure
  • Increases metabolism

There are certainly enough articles to be found throughout the internet and herbal handbooks reporting on the great effects of the burdock root and I’m pretty happy to have stumbled across it and have it so readily available.

Read more from Dr Axe here

Resources:

Clinical trials: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21429215

Clinical trials anti-aging properties: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19146605

Dr Christopher’s herbal legacy: http://www.herballegacy.com/Light_Medicinal.html

http://umm.edu/health/medical/altmed/herb/burdock

http://www.naturalnews.com/031390_blood_cleansing.html