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90 percent of the cells on and in your body aren’t actually you – they are the trillions of microscopic bacteria and viruses that make up the human biome. Approximately 100 million (3-13 lbs worth) of these live in your digestive system. Eating fermented foods could improve the quality of those bacteria and in turn help improve digestion, and your body’s immune function.

When you eat lacto-fermented foods you ingest some of the good bacteria contained in those foods. These bacteria help repopulate a healthy microbiome, which can be wiped out by a course of antibiotics, or a diet that’s heavy in refined sugars and fatty meats.

Fermentation was traditionally used as a way of preserving foods. Depending on what you ferment, the bi-product of fermentation will be some kind of bio-preservative that retains nutrients and prevents spoilage.

Whether that preservative is alcohol, lactic acid or acetic acid (Katz, 2003), fermentation will not only preserve nutrients but break them down into more easily digestible forms. For example, milk is hard for a lot of people to digest, but lactobacilli the bacteria that makes its appearance in almost all fermented dairy products transforms lactose into lactic acid, which is much more easily tolerated (Katz, 2003). sauerkraut-574170_1280

Fermented foods help to improve digestion, as it is that microbiome — or that colony of bacteria living within us — that is most responsible for aiding with the absorption of nutrients from food.

You may have made a decision recently because you had a gut instinct about something… well, there is a lot of evidence that the gut really is our second brain. One of the amazing things that gut bacteria does for us is to train the immune system to function properly. It’s that bacteria living in us that helps to identify allergens and other substances that might cause an adverse reaction.

Perhaps now you are curious and asking yourself — what are the best fermented foods and where do I find them? Some popular foods that are easily accessible are kimchi, some brands of yogurt and some brands of sauerkraut. You can easily (and more economically) make many of these kinds of food at home. If you’d like to learn how, please join me at Center Point Healing on Thursday, October 22 for a workshop on fermentation where we will be making some sauerkraut and kvass (a fermented beverage). Go to CenterPointHealing.com for details and registration!

Katz, S.E. (2003). Wild fermentation: The flavor, nutrition and craft of live culture foods. White River Junction, VT: Chelsea Green Publishing.

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Many of us have had the experience of suffering through a miserable cold only to be brought back to life by someone’s version of grandma’s chicken soup. Grandmothers all over the world make wonderful soups from scratch, and almost all of them start with bone broth, an often forgotten, not-so-secret-formula for supporting optimal health.

chicken bone broth, photo: Kathy McNeely

chicken bone broth, photo: Kathy McNeely

The bones used to make bone broth are the cartilage-containing joints from feet and necks, as well as the large bones (legs, shoulders, etc) that contain marrow. The cartilage we ingest in bone broth activates natural killer cells and macrophages, some of the first lines of defense in the human immune system. The marrow provides the fatty acids needed for to support brain function, growth and to boost immunity (Fallon Morell, 2014, p. 26). Adding spices to bone broth will also help trigger the release of fluid in the mouth, throat, and lungs, helping to thin respiratory mucus making it easier to expel.

Bone broths are packed with nutrition in the form of amino acids and minerals. One of bone broth’s abundant amino acids, glycine, supports the body’s detoxification processes, and is used to synthesize hemoglobin to build blood and bile salts, needed to digest fats. Another amino acid, proline, promotes good skin health, especially when the body’s vitamin C intake is high. While the marrow and cartilage cook, minerals like calcium, magnesium and phosphate and nutrients like glucosamine and chondroitin sulfate are released into the broth. These nutrients help to maintain strong bones and to fight inflammation in the body.

Because bone broth is made with connective tissues laden with collagen, when it cools, it congeals into gelatin (McGee, 2007). While most cooked foods are a little harder to digest than raw foods, gelatin is a liquid-attracting colloid; it facilitates digestion by attracting digestive juices to food in the small intestine. Gelatin is also healing for the digestive tract because it contains glutamine, an amino acid that serves as the preferred fuel for the small intestine.

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Gelatin from Chicken bone stock. Photo by Kathy McNeely

In her book, Nourishing Broth, Sally Fallon Morell details a long history of research on the healing properties of gelatin going back to the Napoleonic Wars. This research came to a screeching halt in the mid-1900’s when interest shifted toward individual vitamins and minerals. The shift also coincided with a time in history when commercially produced MSG became much more widespread in packaged bouillon cubes and canned soups.

If you are still not convinced of the value of bone broth, consider this, you can make a gallon of super-nutritious bone broth for as little as $5.00. Traditionally, grandma’s great soup recipe began with a bone broth made from bits and scraps because she never let anything go to waste. She would ask the butcher for feet, knuckles, necks and backs because she knew these extras were inexpensive. She saved chicken and turkey carcasses, from making that big Sunday spread and she spent the better part of a day whipping up a huge batch of bone broth to freeze and reuse as a base ingredient for future sauces, gravies and soups.

In the coming weeks I will be exploring why it’s best to make rather than buy broth, how to make it and where in DC you can get good bones! If you are interested in this topic, join me at Center Point Healing February 19 at 7 pm for a Bone Broth Workshop.

Read more about the benefits of bone broth:

Fallon Morell, S. (2014). Nourishing broth: An old-fashioned remedy for the modern world (p. 9). Grand Central Publishing. Kindle Edition.

Fallon Morell, S. (2000). Broth is beautiful. The Weston Price Foundation. Retrieved January 25, 2015: http://www.westonaprice.org/health-topics/broth-is-beautiful/

McGee, H. (2007). On food and cooking: The science and lore of the kitchen. Scribner. Kindle Edition. (Kindle Locations 3635-3641).

Nourished Kitchen blog (2014). Traditional foods 101: Bone broth, broth & stocks. Retrieved January 25, 2015: http://nourishedkitchen.com/bone-broth/

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