Every Wise Woman

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Radically Natural POV: A GAPS Testimony

My family's GAPS journey has been very educational, quite beneficial and certainly enlightening. We are currently phasing out of GAPS and testing appropriately prepared grains (a la the NT methods). I will write soon about those experiences.

Until then, I want to share the personal testimony of a good friend (kind of like a daughter to me) who decided last summer to pursue the GAPS protocol...for both she and her husband. The following is her story (yes, I'm the pushy wife she mentions, LOL):

I was raised on genetically modified food (GMOs), industrial food, and pesticide-laden "food," including but not limited to: box cereal, skim milk, Kid Cuisine frozen dinners, Easy Mac, hot dogs, nachos, McDonald's Happy Meals, and Pepsi and Dr Pepper. Growing up with a single mom, I was often left with no other choice, as she could not afford any other food...granted, she didn't KNOW there were other options.

In contrast, how many of us know of the dangers around us, disguising itself as "food," yet choose to turn our head the other way? What have we come to?

I would like to think ignorance is bliss, but unfortunately, I am becoming more convinced that we are willingly killing ourselves slowly in the name of "convenience." What is the message our culture believes? That there is nothing more convenient than driving your car up to a window and ordering packaged meals to feed the whole family for less than $20. We've convinced ourselves that we don't have time to actually prepare and cook food these days. Most people don't do it, so most people don't know how much time it takes to prepare a home-cooked, nutritious, Real Food meal. I would venture to say it is twice, if not three times, as long to prepare one meal compared with a drive-thru window.

But why would we willingly put something into our mouths...and worse, feed it to our children...if we are completely blind as to what the ingredients are? Do we trust our government and the food industry so much that we are willing to let them dictate what we can and cannot place inside our bodies? Apparently so, myself included.

This is my story. I already spoke of what I was raised eating, so fast forward to college. Broke college students can't afford Real Food, right? Right. The stereotypical "ramen noodle" college student didn't apply to me, but pasteurized cheese, Saltines, sandwich meat, white bread, pasteurized cottage cheese, corn chips and salsa, and box cereal/oatmeal did. Fried chicken and fries when going out to eat with friends, or gallons of coffee for pulling all-nighters. Birth control pills, NSAIDs, Sonic Happy Hour every day (medium cherry vanilla Dr Pepper!), and NyQuil. Stress and class deadlines. Those were my typical inputs.

And the effects on my body? Sore throats, mucus drainage every morning, flu every year, and tonsillitis. I simply believed it was the "norm" for a college student to never get enough sleep, to always be sick, and to drink coffee. Little did I know, I was killing myself slowly (trying not be TOO dramatic). Sure, I'm still alive, but not in optimum health and am diligently working to undo all of the damage I have done the last 25 years of my life - some self-inflicted, some not. Sure, I would exercise, and try to pay attention to how much food I was eating, but fundamentally, I was malnourished. I was trying to compensate for my malnourishment by exercise, while paying little attention to WHAT I put into my body. I was focused on the "how much," not the "what."

Fast forward to marriage as my husband and I were confused about nutrition and eating habits, but also wanted to save money. We ate lots and lots of tofu, and ate out a lot when it was cheap (99 cent tacos and burritos!). Four months into our marriage, a positive pregnancy test ended in a "late period" four days later. This would be our first miscarriage, but we had no thought of what we might be able to do to change anything. Two months later, we met a couple who was serious about the GAPS protocol and suggested that if we did GAPS, it could help my fertility problems.

We kept that in the back of our minds, and learned and read about it, but we were so addicted to our sugar, our convenience, and our industrial food dependence that it took us nine more months before we committed to GAPS. We slowly started weaning ourselves off soda first of all, by replacing it with Kombucha. We then stopped eating out, and I started learning to cook at home. Within a whirlwind of Nourishing Traditions, GAPS, this couple pushing us to wean ourselves from our dependence of detrimental substances, and developing a relationship with the wife who would ultimately push us off of the cliff into GAPS land, we jumped in.

We started GAPS Intro for the first time 7 months ago. I experienced die off, suffering terrible dry mouth and bouts of brain fog. My mucus production decreased significantly, and my husband's eczema flared up and cleared (in a continuous flare up pattern). For the first time in my life, I was aware of my body and what I was placing into my mouth.

I recently heard this saying: "Everything you put in your body is helping you fight disease or giving you disease." In all my 25 years of life, I had never once given thought to that concept. Now I do. I now think, what will this do to my body if I eat it? Is this meant to be inside of me? Will this nourish me? Will this make me sick?

Two weeks into GAPS Intro, a positive pregnancy test led to another miscarriage eight weeks later. This would be our second miscarriage in almost 2 years of marriage. But it was my first pregnancy in more than a year, and I take that as a positive sign.

I do not tell you about my two miscarriages for sympathy, but to explain that my carelessness in what I have fed myself (and what I was fed growing up) led me to these fertility difficulties. I have suffered two miscarriages, low thyroid, mucus drainage, adrenal fatigue, infertility, highly abnormal cycles, and who knows what else...

On the bright side, I have lost 20 pounds, and my husband has now lost 60 pounds, by simply transitioning into GAPS Intro and Full GAPS en route to a traditional nourishing diet lifestyle. We feel ourselves detoxifying. And I have learned so much! I never knew that nightshades make my nose run and my husband's eczema flare up, that beans are NOT supposed to make you gassy, that you ARE supposed to have a daily bowel movement, and that it does matter what your stools look like! I never knew that gluten could cause sinus infections, or that sugar could make my tonsils swell and mucus drain. I never knew that what I was eating and drinking, all along, was actually hindering my future to bear and raise children.

I never knew that it actually mattered what you put into your body; I just thought it was how much you put in (caloric intake). I never knew macronutrients (fat, carbohydrates, protein) were not what nourishes you, but that whole Real Foods do. And that it is saturated fat (coconut oil, palm oil, nuts, olive oil, animal fats) that nourishes your hormones, cells, brain, heart, and all bodily systems.

I never knew that it wasn't normal to be sick. I never knew that God wanted me to be healthy and well. Most of all, I never knew that I was shaving time off my lifespan, simply by being ignorant (willfully or not) of what I chose to place into my mouth.

My challenge to you is this: pay attention to what you eat. Sacrifice for yourself, your family, and your home. Desire that everyone in your family be well! Think for yourself. Learn. Read. And do what is best for your body, your loved ones, and yours and their future health. You will learn and grow more than you can ever imagine.

I don't know if I will bear children in the future, but I do know that this journey I am on is not a mistake. I will diligently pursue this course until my body is healed, and I have undone all the self-inflicted damage I can.

Radically Natural Book Giveaway: Liver and Gallbladder Miracle Cleanse

I wish you all a healthy, happy New Year and I hope you will consider dedicating this year to healing your body.  Starting with the liver flush protocol is a gift to yourself and your family.  In fact, have your entire family do the cleanse, and enjoy the fruits of detoxifying.  My gift to one of you is the The Liver and Gallbladder Miracle Cleanse book by Andreas Moritz, which I have referenced in my previous posts.  Thanks for entering the giveaway and supporting my work!  Please share this with your friends.  This post is linked at Real Food Wednesday, check out the other great posts shared there this week.  Happy healing!

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Radically Natural Remedies: Flush Your Liver for Systemic Detox

As discussed in my previous post, a liver cleanse is one of the most important steps in establishing or regaining health.  Flushing your liver and gallbladder of stones will reverse numerous maladies and aid systemic healing, including autoimmune and hormonal disorders.  It is true that health begins in the gut, which is why the GAPS protocol is so important.  But health is maintained by the liver.  To be truly well, we must address both.  The GAPS program, combined with a liver flushing program, is an effective therapy for "cleaning house," detoxifying, revitalizing immunity, repairing brain chemistry imbalances, and more.  And what better time to begin your journey of healing than the coming New Year?  I'm not one for "resolutions," but tackling important projects and turning new corners seems apropos at this time.

Whether or not you think you need GAPS (and it is highly likely that you do), a liver flush is an essential key to wellness.  If you are already on the GAPS protocol, adding a round of liver flushes will speed your healing and ensure benefits that GAPS alone cannot provide.  If you have not yet begun GAPS, but plan to do so, this is the perfect time to introduce the liver flush program.  The best news is that a liver flush is neither difficult, nor expensive.  First I will describe the flush, then I will propose a GAPS/Flush schedule.

The Liver Flush

The entire cleanse will take many months.  You do one flush at a time, but you must do enough flushes to remove all the stones currently housed in your liver.  DO NOT begin the cleanse unless you are willing to do it properly and to follow through with the entire program.  You can suffer different and worse symptoms if you do not perform the cleanse properly.  Please read Moritz's book to understand better the why and how of the cleanse.  Most adults need an average of eight flushes to remove all the stones.  

One flush requires six days, five of those being preparation days.  Plan for your sixth day (and the following seventh day) to fall on days where you can relax and be undisturbed for an evening of sleep and a morning of bathroom visits.  For example, day one would be Sunday, so that the evening of the "real flush work" lands on Friday, and Saturday morning you flush your results.  But the protocol couldn't be simpler.

*Please read Moritz's book before attempting this liver cleanse.  He reminds readers numerous times that it is imperative to do the protocol exactly as he describes, so you suffer none of the adverse affects that can occur otherwise. 

Days One through Five

  • If you cannot tolerate or do not want to drink apple juice (it made me nauseated and gave me the shakes...my body could not tolerate the sugar), use 1 teaspoon natural malic acid powder dissolved into 32 ounces water.  The L-Malic Acid is the natural, not synthetic, form.  (It is the malic acid in the juice that softens the stones, preparing them to pass.)
  • Other alternatives to the apple juice or malic acid include the herb Gold Coin Grass, cranberry juice, and apple cider vinegar.  See below for dosing.  I have not tried these methods.
  • Eat "lightly" throughout the week.  Soup is an excellent option.  And do try to cut back on fats.  That helps the olive oil drink on Day Six to be more effective.  (A large ingestion of fats prompts the gallbladder to release stones...but without the proper protocol, such as softening stones with malic acid and opening ducts with epsom salts, you can get stones stuck rather than passed, which can cause discomfort and various symptoms.)
  • During this week, it is essential that you clear out the bowels.  Even if you have regular movements, you can have impacted fecal matter lining your intestines.  You want to use this flush as an opportunity to clean your bowels, and you need to have a clear passageway for flushing out the stones.  A daily colonic (multiple enemas) is optimal.  Additionally you can use a product called Colosan (a concentrated form of magnesium combined with oxygen that acts by drawing water into the bowels...get the powder, not the capsules), or large doses of magnesium citrate (like Natural Calm...take it until you get runny bowels).  Colosan is the better choice.  But you must be sure you are having regular very soft to runny stools every day.  Doing enemas until your bowel runs clear (you have passed all dark brown and foul smelling matter) is an essential way to ensure that you are clearing your bowels.

Day Six

  • Drink 32 ounces of the apple juice or malic acid solution in the morning before eating anything.
  • Eat lightly until 1:30 pm, after which you will fast.  Drink water generously.  
  • Important:  The fasting, combined with the enemas, ensures that you do not create feces and that when you flush you will be passing only water, bile and stones.  If you have feces in your intestines, this can impede the passing of stones; stones can become lodged in your tract and can cause pain (perhaps even pancreatitis) in the next days or weeks.  Make sure you have flushed your colon...home or professional colonic therapy is essential to this cleanse.

At 6 p.m.

  • Dissolve 4 tablespoons of epsom salts (magnesium sulfate) in 24 ounces water.  You are making four 6 oz. servings.  (The epsom salts dilate the bile ducts, making the stones easier to pass.)
  • Drink your first serving (6 oz.) now.
  • Do not drink fresh water for 20 minutes before or after consuming the epsom salts.
  • You may add a squeeze of fresh lemon to the salt water to make it more palatable, and drinking with a straw helps to bypass taste buds.  You may rinse your mouth with fresh water after drinking.

At 8 p.m., drink your second serving (6 oz.) of epsom salts.

At 9:30 p.m., do an enema (or two or three or four...) to clean out the bowels.

At 9:45 p.m.

  • Juice three or more room temperature grapefruits.  You need 3/4 cup grapefruit juice.  (Alternatively, you may combine orange and lemon juice.)
  • Combine this with 1/2 cup cold pressed extra virgin olive oil.  
  • Add to a pint or quart jar and shake vigorously to mix, about 20 times, or until mixture is watery. (The oil in this mixture prompts the liver to release the stones, the grapefruit juice increases the production of bile secretions.)

At 10 p.m.

  • Stand by your bed and drink the entirety of the concoction without stopping (consume within five minutes).  After an afternoon of fasting, I found this juice mixture to be delicious.  Anyone used to a high fat diet will have no trouble...my son and I agreed that the mixture was like a delicious citrus smoothie.
  • Immediately lie down in bed, propping your head up on pillows so that your head is higher than your abdomen.  (You may also lie down on your right side with knees pulled up to abdomen.)
  • Lie still for the first 20 minutes, no talking, no moving, just resting.  Think happy thoughts about how many stones will leave your body.
  • Go to sleep.  (Don't worry if in your sleep you don't keep your head propped up.)
  • Additionally, you may use a castor oil pack over the liver area to help reduce congestion.  Wet a flannel cloth with a few spoonfuls of castor oil and lay it over your liver (located under your right lower ribs), cover it with a towel.  Have this ready to go by your bed before you drink your grapefruit oil.

Be prepared

to feel nauseated, perhaps even to vomit.  You have begun releasing toxins from your liver and it could make you feel ill.  Be prepared to begin passing watery stools in the evening, though most people do not pass anything until the morning.

In the morning

Between 6 to 6:30 a.m.

(not before 6 a.m.)

  • Drink the third portion (6 oz.) of your epsom salt water.  If you feel very thirsty, drink a glass of tepid water before drinking the epsom salts.
  • Go back to bed, but try to stay propped up; alternately, stay up and read but be restful!

Between 8 to 8:30 a.m. drink your final glass (6 oz.) of epsom salts.

At 10 a.m. you may drink freshly pressed juice (fruits, carrot).

At 10:30 a.m. you may eat a couple pieces fresh fruit.

At 11 a.m. you may eat light food.  Continue to eat lightly throughout the day, as you did the week in preparation for the cleanse.  Be sure to hydrate well.

During the morning

(most likely beginning after the final round of epsom salts) and perhaps into the afternoon, you will pass numerous watery bowel movements.  These may contain "chaff" or "foam," which is undigested bile, along with stones.  Some of your stones may be calcified; these tan or whitish stones will sink.  Some will float...these are the pea-green or greenish-black cholesterol/bile stones.  Stones may be tiny, they may be larger.  Expect anything from smaller than pea-sized to as large as an inch.  Light-colored stones are newer, the dark stones are older.  You may pass dozens, or even hundreds of stones.  (Most of mine were pea sized and blackish; I passed about 200 stones my first flush.)  Expect your stones to smell foul.  Feel free to spoon out some stones and examine them...it's a fascinating science experiment.

For three days following your cleanse, continue with the Colosan or enemas (preferably multiple enemas) to ensure bowel flushing.  You don't want gallstones to remain in your colon, causing irritation.

It is important to leave a two-week break (from the day you flush to your next "day one" of drinking the malic acid) between liver flushes, to allow the gallbladder and liver to recover.  Passing these stones is like mini surgery (without the horrifying side effects) and we want the body to recuperate.  But remember, you must continue to flush until you have passed all your stones.  You will know you have succeeded when you do two cleanses and you have passed no stones.

In the hours following your cleanse, you will likely feel better, rejuvenated, and experience reduction in your ailments' symptoms.  But in a few days, symptoms will return as more stones travel from the back of the liver forward toward the hepatic ducts.  So plan to keep cleaning your liver until you find no more stones.

A note on children

Andreas Moritz, author of The Liver and Gallbladder Miracle Cleanse, recommends that children ages 10 to 16 can do the flush, but should be given a half dose of everything and that the flush should start an hour or two earlier on Day Six.  I am comfortable having my younger children do the flush.  This protocol is noninvasive, gentle, safe and effective.  It is important to reduce the dosages for children, and not require that young children fast completely on the afternoon and evening of Day Six if they are unable to do so.  Have them eat lightly and expect that the stones will not release easily on their own on the seventh morning, because they can be caught in feces in the colon.  In this case, an enema before ingesting the grapefruit oil and again in the morning after the second dose of epsom salts should remedy the situation.

So for children, the doses would be:

  • 1/2 tsp. malic acid in 16 to 32 oz. water for days one through six (alternatively 16 oz. apple juice)
  • 2 Tb. epsom salts in 24 oz. water on evening six (start at 4 p.m., rather than 6)
  • 1/2 cup grapefruit juice mixed with 1/4 cup olive oil

[Children can have stones who have not been fed a toxic diet or given antibiotics and vaccines.  My children are not in that category and my children flushed dozens of stones in their first cleanses.  Various factors can contribute to stones, including environmental toxins, stress, propensity to autoimmune disorders (in our case, allergies), gut dysbiosis, and consumption of foods to which one is allergic or sensitive.  But past consumption of less-than-stellar foods could have contributed to the formation of stones.  Even once you switched to a nourishing diet, the stones are likely still housed in the liver and need to be removed.]

My 4-yr-old's stones

My 4-yr-old's stones

My four-year-old daughter passed the largest, but newest, stones of our family. (The photo doesn't show the color accurately...her stones were lighter and brighter green, not the dark brownish green that I, my husband, and my sons had.)  I did need to administer an enema the morning of her stone release (the morning after Day 6), because she did not fast on Day 6.  I don't expect young children to be able to fast.  The body will produce feces from that afternoon and evening meal, so the stones can get "caught" in the feces.  She did not easily pass the water and bile with stones that the rest of us did.  But I administered a water enema, and her stones came right out with the feces from the previous evening's meal.  So if you feed your young children the afternoon of Day 6, be prepared to administer an enema the next morning to help release the stones, as well as follow-up enemas after the flush.

I want to emphasize that my daughter was exclusively breastfed for her first year, after which she never ate processed foods, nor refined sugars.  As with all my children, she has never been vaccinated, and she has never received any drugs (even OTC).  She is the healthiest of my children, but still had some food sensitivities.  Her stones smelled of petroleum, as did all of ours.  I share this to emphasize that even young, healthy children raised on a WAPF diet are subject to environmental toxins that can affect their organs.

Alternatives to apple juice/malic acid powder

  • Gold Coin Grass tincture:  1 tablespoon on an empty stomach 30 minutes before breakfast.  This method must be used for eight days before the day of the actual flush.
  • Cranberry juice:  4 ounces of juice + 4 ounces of water, four times a day for six days.
  • Apple Cider Vinegar:  2 tablespoons in a glass of water, four times a day for six days.

The GAPS/Flush Schedule

The first schedule is for those of you who have not yet begun the GAPS protocol.  You will be gearing up to begin Intro, hopefully by using the excellent preparation schedule laid out by Baden Lashkov in the GAPS Guide.  (See below for purchase options.  As with the other links on this page, if you purchase through one of these links, I could accumulate a small commission.  Thank you!)

[Yes, technically citrus fruits are GAPS illegal during Intro.  So test yourself on a bit of grapefruit juice before doing the cleanse.  A mixture of orange and lemon juices can be substituted for the grapefruit juice.  If you are highly reactive to these fruits, don't use this protocol until you move to Full GAPS and can tolerate them.]

  • Before beginning Intro, do one round of the liver cleanse.
  • Begin Intro.
  • When you have reached Stage Five of Intro, do a liver cleanse using the L-Malic Acid powder.
  • Continue finishing Intro.
  • When you have begun to merge onto Full GAPS (or three weeks after your previous cleanse), do another flush.
  • Continue the flush protocol every two to three weeks until you no longer pass stones.
  • Finish GAPS.
  • Enjoy greater success and renewed health!
  • Do a liver flush every six months for the next few years, then move to once a year.
  • Go back and do the liver flush protocol from start to finish if you experience major illness or "flubs" in your diet and your health becomes impaired.  Also go back to GAPS Intro for a few weeks in this case.

If you are already on the GAPS protocol, doing Intro, just begin your liver flush program once you reach Stage Five.

If you are already on the GAPS protocol, doing Full GAPS, begin your flush program now and follow it to completion.

In a future post I will address herbs and nutrients that help to regain and maintain liver health, which you can add to this protocol.  For now, keep it simple and just begin to flush out those stones.

For More Information

Liver Flush Q&A with Andreas Moritz

 GAPS Guide 2nd ed. paperback

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 GAPS Guide 2nd ed. epub file (most versatile file type) 

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 GAPS Guide 2nd ed. mobi file (Kindle)

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You Must Flush Your Liver...GAPS Alone Isn't Enough

After years of experimenting and working through various healing protocols, I have found that certain approaches are more efficacious than others.  But I have also learned that we need to combine important aspects of varying approaches.  In my struggles to heal myself and my children from significant allergies, gut dysbiosis and hormonal disruptions, I have discovered what I believe to be effective healing strategies.  As I have shared regularly on this blog, GAPS is an integral part of recovering health.  Numerous ways to modify and enhance GAPS exist, and the program will help you to achieve gut healing.  But to be truly well, most of us need more.  GAPS alone isn't enough, so I have designed what I call GAPS Plus.

GAPS tackles one of the most deleterious health scourges that modern Americans face:  gut dysbiosis.  Health begins in the gut, where 80% of our immune system is housed.  When we suffer from leaky gut and an overgrowth of pathogenic flora, we cannot maintain good health.  We fall prey to numerous auto-immune disorders and brain chemistry imbalances.  GAPS can help you heal your gut, repopulate your body with necessary beneficial flora, and detoxify your system.

But in my opinion, GAPS is missing a key element.  To overcome toxicity and heal liver stagnation and malfunction, we must flush the liver of "stones."  The liver is a crucial organ, second only to the brain in its mechanics of regulating life systems.  Your liver controls the growth and function of every cell in your body.  Additionally, the liver is the largest gland in your body, part of the endocrine system that regulates hormonal functions.

Blockages and obstructions in the body restrict nutrient and oxygen flow to cells, beginning the cascade toward disease, such as autoimmune disorders, even cancer.  Waste matter can accumulate and build up in the organs and ducts of our body.  We see this affecting our health negatively throughout bodily systems, as in constipation (a build up of fecal matter in the intestines) or kidney stones (calcifications obstructing the flow of the kidneys), even "glue ear" or ear infections (sticky mucus combined with toxins and bacteria builds up in eustachian tubes).  The liver can suffer restricted performance through similar obstructions, particularly gallstones in the liver and gallbladder.

These stones...the result of hardened bile salts combining with trapped substances, like undigested cholesterol and toxins...can congest the gallbladder, the liver, and their ducts.  This congestion interferes with crucial health functions like digestion, blood detoxification and elimination of waste, not to mention cellular function and communication within the nervous and endocrine systems.

While about 20% of stones in the gallbladder consist of minerals (bile and calcium salts), the majority of the gallstones that become trapped in the liver are not calcified, and will not show up with imaging technology.  Only when an excessive amount of cholesterol-based stones are housed in the liver, will they appear in an ultrasound...prompting the diagnosis of fatty liver.  When the liver accumulates thousands of these stones (up to 20,000), it can suffocate and cease to function.

Just as modern Americans suffer from gut dysbiosis due to lifestyle and dietary factors, we suffer from these liver and gallbladder stones.  The most common causes of stones are the result of diet (lowfat diets, overeating, industrial foods, commercial salt, dehydration), pharmaceutical use (particularly hormone therapy and birth control pills, cholesterol-lowering drugs), fluoride ingestion, sleep disruptions (ignoring natural sleep/wake cycles) and emotional stress.  

Chronic illnesses and autoimmune disorders are directly related to liver function.  And liver function is impaired by hundreds or thousands of stones that you didn't even know you had, that developed over many years...likely starting in childhood.  When the gallbladder fills with stones, surgical removal is often recommended.  How could it not be better to avoid such procedures?!  And gallstones may not house in your gallbladder, but rather move into the liver and accumulate.

This is where a liver and gallbladder flush comes into play, and my tweaking of the GAPS protocol.  As much as I, Herbalistmama, hate to admit it, herbs are not enough.  Juicing isn't enough.  Dietary protocols and nourishing real foods are not enough.  You must move out the stones.  This can be done through a noninvasive, relatively simple process at home.

Conventional medicine is behind the curve yet again in its refusal to acknowledge the simple approach to ridding the liver of these troublesome stones.  In fact, liver stones are not even widely acknowledged in the conventional approach.  While Johns Hopkins at least acknowledges the reality of "intrahepatic gallstones," the myopic approach to their widespread existence and ease of eradication points us once again to self care.

Symptoms of liver stones include:
  • Every symptom of any ailment that you suffer
LOL!  Seriously, the list is rather long, as to be expected.  Remember, stones inhibit the work of the liver.  A malfunctioning liver does cause myriad ailments, minor and major, acute and chronic.  The stones can be the root cause of diseases of the mouth, stomach, pancreas, liver, gallbladder and bile ducts, intestines, circulatory system, respiratory system, urinary system, nervous system, reproductive system, bones, joints, skin.  Much crossover exists between ailments caused by gut dysbiosis and liver congestion; disease-producing culprits in both cases include toxicity, intestinal disturbances, inefficient nutrient absorption, and impaired metabolism and brain chemistry.  Additionally, gallstones impair bile production, causing a host of digestive issues.

Stone-related disorders include eczema, acne, psoriasis, poor lymphatic drainage leading to numerous reproductive ailments and inflammation, thyroid disorders, other hormonal imbalances, lymphatic obstruction and its varying effects, arthritis, hemorrhagic disease, stroke, multiple sclerosis, osteoporosis, rickets, tumors, back pain, hypertension, edema, kidney infection, allergies, respiratory ailments, "high" cholesterol, all gastrointestinal disorders, impaired saliva production leading to tooth and gum disease, chronic headaches, and more.  If you suffer from any such ailments, consider flushing your liver.  If you do not feel vibrant, thriving and robust, consider flushing your liver.  If you are currently breathing, consider flushing your liver.  (LOL...but I am serious...I can't imagine anyone who would not benefit from a liver flush.)

Here is a quick self test for liver congestion:  Stand up and relax, breathe deeply a few times.  Place the fingers of your right hand along your lowest right rib and try to insert your fingers up under the ribs.  (This is where your liver lives.)  You should be able to have enough wiggle room to get your fingers in upwards to the second knuckle.  If you cannot, or if you feel pain upon moving your fingers up under your rib, you are probably congested.  Although, being able to get your fingers up under your ribs doesn't guarantee lack of stones, so assess your physical and health symptoms for your overall picture. 

According to Andreas Moritz, naturopathic physician and author of The Liver and Gallbladder Miracle Cleanse, additional physical signs of gallstones in the liver and gallbladder include:
  • Brown patches on skin ("liver" spots)
  • Pimples or hair growth between eyebrows
  • Oily forehead, excess perspiration on forehead
  • Yellow tinge to facial skin
  • Premature graying hair, hair loss in center of the head
  • Yellowish or dark circles under the eyes ("allergy shiners"), puffy bags under eyes
  • Redness in whites of eyes, eyes appear "dull"
  • Red nose, indentation in tip of nose
  • White- or yellow-coated tongue, pimples or cracks on tongue
  • Bad breath, frequent burping, mucus discharge into throat and mouth
  • Crust formations at corners of mouth, ulcers in mouth
  • Swollen or bleeding gums
  • Tonsillitis
  • Yellowish teeth, especially canines
  • Vertical ridges on fingernails, white spots on nails
  • Yellow color of feet
  • Dry, hard stools
  • Sharp, sour odor of stools
  • Pale colored stools, floating stools
  • Difficulty digesting fats (feeling nauseated after a high-fat meal)
I first learned about liver flushing many moons ago when I read Hulda Clark's The Cure for All Diseases.  Since then, I have read various similar recommendations.  Somehow I kept pushing the flush to the back corners of my "to do" list, thinking that juicing and herbs would adequately clean my liver.  After struggling with my most sensitive child's plateau on the GAPS protocol, and praying for clarity on how to better heal him, I turned again to the liver flush material.  I saw that my symptoms for the last decade pointed heavily to a stone-congested liver, as did my son's.  I decided to hesitate and procrastinate no longer, and to do my first round of liver flushing.

The bad news is that we can be riddled with thousands of stones and that it can take many months to rid ourselves of these stones.  And we must be diligent to finish the course once we begin, because if we start to move toxins out of our organs and body but do not finish the job, we can feel quite icky...not to mention remain miserably in our ailments.  But the good news, the most excellent news, is that this process works and it is not expensive, time consuming, nor painful!  (OK, there is some nausea potentially involved for one evening, and some runny stools...but what is that compared to being freed from real health maladies?!)  For my first cleanse, I passed about 150 small stones, most pea-sized, some smaller, a few a bit larger.  For anyone who doesn't think this stuff is really cool (like I do), forgive the "graphic" photo showing a sample of my stones.  The most interesting part to me was the stones' odor...it was quite unpleasant and had a strong tone of tar/motor oil/burnt rubber, which I attribute to trapped environmental toxins.

I want to emphasize that I believe the GAPS protocol is still essential to regaining health.  A liver flush complements this healing.  With GAPS, you will seal your impaired intestinal lining and eliminate your malevolent pathogenic flora.  You will begin to rebuild your necessary beneficial flora and detoxify.  A liver flush cannot accomplish the necessary goals of gut repair.  But the flush will remove the stones from your gallbladder, liver, and ducts, achieving an even greater and fuller systemic healing.  The two protocols work in concert.

I will continue next post by describing the flush and my GAPS Plus protocol.  After that, I will be giving away a copy of Andreas Moritz's guide, The Liver and Gallbladder Miracle Cleanse.  In the meantime, I recommend that you read his book and become familiar with why you need to flush your liver and how to do it.  (Disclaimer:  I do not agree with Moritz's recommendation to vegetarianism/veganism.  It is not necessary to avoid gallstones, but a diet of nourishing Real Food is.  For the cleanse, however, it is important to avoid dairy and many heavy fats.  But more on that soon...)

For More Information

The Importance of Liver Flushing
Hulda Clark Information Center
Healing Your Gall Bladder

Radically Natural Recipe: (GAPS Friendly) Chocolate Mousse Super Snack

For an easy, delicious, nourishing treat, what could be more desirable than chocolate?  If you follow my blog, you undoubtedly have observed my little love affair with raw cacao and pastured butter.  My kids know what a butter pusher I am, LOL, and my middle son tells people that he values butter higher than money.  They echo my mantra, "More butter for everyone!"  And, "Butter builds brains!" Ah, how children make a mother proud!

And I lately find myself competing for the cacao stash, once the sole domain of mama.  But how can I deprive my wee ones (and big one) from the anti-oxidant-, magnesium-rich food that puts us in a good mood?  So chocolate mousse, puddings and "bites" have become a staple in our Real Food nourishing traditions.  And it's all guilt-free pleasure!

Treat yourself and your children to buttery chocolate goodness, and relax in the knowledge that you are building their bodies and feeding into their happiness!

Raw Cacao Cashew Mousse

This quick and easy "throw it together" concoction is similar to my fudge, but the ratios and temperature make it a mousse.  You can make this with any nut butter, but cashew is so creamy and mild that it makes this mousse melt-in-your-mouth amazing.  Be good to your health and spend the money on a high quality cashew butter, preferably raw (preferably sprouted, but that's really hard to find).  I use Artisana Raw Organic Nut Butters.  If you are doing GAPS, make sure you can: A) tolerate cacao (for advanced Full GAPS when regular bowels are being passed daily), and B) tolerate cashews (they are a legume, so could cause GI distress).

Mix by hand or with a hand mixer (for large batches) equal parts:
With proportionally smaller equal parts of (I always eyeball...my general ratio is 1 to 4 herbs/spices to butter/cacao.  Add to your taste!):
And raw organic honey to taste.  Start small and add more to avoid the cloyingly sweet honey flavor overpowering your chocolate.  You shouldn't taste the honey, you should taste chocolate.  (I think my ratio is 1 generous teaspoon honey to 1/4 cup cacao powder).

(Until December 1, enjoy 10% off cacao and vanilla products at LiveSuperfoods.com.    10% off cacao and vanilla category page: Use code CACAOSWEETS)

Avocado Chocolate Mousse

For a nut-free variation, use avocados and make a slightly fruity flavored mousse with an even fluffier texture.

With a hand mixer or in your blender, whip three or four very ripe avocados (not gross and moldy and stringy, but very soft with some brown spots).

Add and whip:
  • 1/2 cup cacao powder
  • 1/4 cup butter
  • 1 teaspoon each of vanilla powder and cinnamon
  • 1/3 cup honey
In either recipe you can substitute high quality coconut oil (raw, virgin, cold-pressed, never chemically extruded...the best you can afford).  It will change the flavor and the texture slightly.  Coconut oil is another excellent nourishing food, which I enjoy and use regularly...it's just not butter.  LOL


For More Information

Oh, pastured butter...why do I love thee?  Let me count the ways...
The Benefits of Grass-Fed Butter
Why Butter Is Better
Vitamin K2: Grass-Fed Butter's X-Factor
X-Factor of Pastured Dairy
Fat Is Your Friend!!

Life without cacao? No thank you...  Just make it the real thing!
Cacao Nutrients
Properties of Chocolate and Raw Cacao
The Health Miracle of Cacao
Cacao: Amazing Superfood

Why stop here?  Let the nourishing chocolate flow...
Real Food Forager's Raw Cacao Bites
Radically Natural Fruity Fudge
GAPS Chocolate Pudding (we all need more gelatin!)

(If you purchase from links in this post, I may earn a small commission...and I thank you for your support!)

Radically Natural Recipe: GAPS Vanilla Fig Birthday Cake

The first week of October was my birthday, and my wonderful, number one son created this beautiful and delicious cake as a surprise gift.  It was scrumptious, and not just because my son baked it for me.  Here to share his recipe is my guest blogger, Caleb, 13:

The morning of my mother's birthday, I realized that I had not made a gift, gotten a card, or even baked a cake.  There was an idea!  Baking a cake was right there on the list of things I could do without help.  I got out the KitchenAid mixer, found a recipe, and started to bake.

Caleb's Gaps Vanilla Fig Cake

Preheat oven to 350º F
Melt 1/3 cup of butter.
Add 1/2 cup of raw honey to the melted butter.
Stir the melted honey and Butter well.

In the mixer, Beat 6 eggs.
Add in the honey/butter mixture.
Then add 1/4 tsp of salt and 1 Tbsp of pure vanilla extract.
Mix all ingredients well.

Add 1/2 cup of coconut flour and mix thoroughly.
Gently fold about 1 to 1 1/2 cups of chopped fresh (or dried) figs into the batter.
If the batter is too thin, add a little more coconut flour; it can't be too thin, it can't be too thick.

Pour batter into your muffin tins or cake pans.  (I use silicone muffin and cake pans. If you don't have silicone, I would suggest putting parchment paper in, or greasing with a lot of coconut oil or butter.)

Bake for 20 to 30 minutes or until a knife blade or toothpick comes out clean.

Vanilla Icing
Beat three room-temperature egg whites until foamy, or until soft peaks form.
Boil 1/2 cup of honey until it reaches the hard ball stage.
While beating the egg whites, add the boiling honey.

I really love this recipe.  I encourage you to play around with the spices.  Add some ginger, or cinnamon, or go for a spice cake with all the above and allspice and cloves!  The fun of baking never really ends.  When I was done with the cake, I cleaned up the whole kitchen so that it looked the same as before.  (I even faked some dirty dishes in the sink to make it really authentic!)  My little sister was so eager to eat the cake, she spilled the beans.  Mom was delighted nonetheless.  I love being in the kitchen, and am eager to get other kids cooking real food. 

Original recipe came from the Internal Bliss cookbook.  I added the figs.  Enjoy!

Radically Natural Recipe: Raw Cheesecake with Coconut Cacao Mousse

My family is still healing on the GAPS protocol; we each have different sensitivities, which makes baking quite a challenge.  One child does poorly with coconut, seeds and nuts, another with eggs, another with dairy.  As we have continued the protocol without cheating, however, we find issues steadily resolving.  That's real healing...slow and steady.

My challenge this week was to create a birthday cake for little princess that everyone could eat without too many flare ups.  We are all doing fairly well with small amounts of our raw goats' milk yogurt and raw cacao, so this delicacy was the winner!  (Because of our sensitivities, we do the cheesecake without crust.)

I always joke with my family about how it takes three days to make the cheesecake, but only three minutes for them to devour it.  I adapted the raw cheesecake recipe from Nourishing Traditions; the mousse is my own creation.  I often don't measure when creating in the kitchen, so bear with me.  LOL

Before making the raw cheesecake, you need to make raw cream cheese, which requires that you've previously made raw yogurt.  I make raw yogurt with our goat milk using Culture's for Health Villi yogurt culture. We love our yogurt...it is so mild and creamy.  Once you have yogurt, strain it to make cream cheese. 

I strain my yogurt in a reusable, washable nut milk bag suspended over a bowl.  In the past, I have used a cheesecloth lined strainer sitting on a bowl, and I have also used the hanging flour sack towel method.  I found both of those to be messier than the nut milk bags (particularly the towel method).  You can find the fine mesh nut milk bags on Amazon or ebay and other places online.  They are easy to use, easy to clean.  

To make your cream cheese, just pour your yogurt into the bag, secure the top with a rubber band and hang the bag (by the rubber band) on a cabinet pull.  (If using a towel, place yogurt in middle and gather ends up, securing with a couple rubber bands and hang.)  Place a bowl under the suspended bag.  The whey drips into the bowl and the yogurt becomes cream cheese.  Your straining time will vary depending upon relative humidity in your home; you want all the whey to drip from the cheese.  I find the process takes anywhere from four to eight hours, depending upon how thick or runny my yogurt is.  See photos below.

Empty yogurt into nut milk bag
Secure top of bag with rubber band and hang from cabinet 

Allow whey to drip out completely

Raw Cheesecake (crust-free)

(Adapted from NT's Raw Cheesecake, page 566)

4 cups soft raw cream cheese (see above LOL)

4 pastured eggs, separated
1 cup raw milk
2 Tb. gelatin (I like Jensen's)
1/2 cup raw honey
1 Tb. raw Vanilla Powder
pinch sea salt
dash fresh organic lemon juice 
  • Gently heat milk and egg yolks, stir in gelatin until dissolved, remove mixture from heat.
  • In food processor (or blender), combine cream cheese with honey, vanilla, lemon.
  • Add egg yolk mixture, blend until smooth.  Transfer to bowl, put in fridge.
  • Beat egg whites until stiff (add pinch of salt, it helps firm up the whites), gently fold into cheese mixture.
  • Pour cheesecake filling into ramekins.  Refrigerate for a few hours.
  • Before serving, top with cacao mousse!

Coconut Cacao Mousse

Super easy, super delicious!  I warned you, though, I don't measure here...so I'll give you my best guess measurements based on eyeballing what I do.  Play with it, taste as you go...you can't fail with these ingredients!  When making a large batch, I use a handheld beater; smaller batches, I whisk.

In a bowl, mix together 1/2 cup each:

With 1 heaping tablespoon each:
  • Cinnamon
  • Vanilla Bean Powder
And 1/4 cup raw honey (certainly measure and add honey to taste), plus a dash of sea salt to enhance the chocolate flavor.  Optionally, add a small spoonful of maca root powder, an adaptogenic herb/superfood rich in calcium, magnesium and B vitamins, that helps to balance hormones and increase energy

Keep the mousse at room temperature and top your cheesecake ramekins just before serving.  Enjoy!

This post is part of Kelly's Real Food Wednesday.  Check out the other wonderful treats featured at her carnival.

More about Maca Root and Adaptogenic Herbs

Skipping Intro Will Hamper Your Success with GAPS

If you don't do GAPS Intro, you aren't really doing GAPS...you're basically just eating paleo.  Believe me, I know Intro is a challenge.  But if you skip the "I eat, sleep, breathe, dream homemade soup from meat stock and bone broth" part of GAPS, you won't experience the complete healing that you seek.  The Intro portion of the GAPS protocol is where the lion's share of the gut healing work takes place.  The goal of the GAPS program is to heal the gut lining, destroy the malevolent pathogens living in your body, repopulate your beneficial flora, and detoxify your entire system.

GAPS Intro was designed to not only jump start the gut healing process and pinpoint food sensitivities, but to achieve particular healing actions that cannot be successfully accomplished otherwise.  McBride recommends that all GAPS participants complete Intro before moving to the "Full" portion of the protocol, but you can move through the stages of Intro at the pace you determine depending on your body's needs.  Full GAPS alone does not offer the intense detoxifying, healing processes of Intro.  

One of the cornerstones of the GAPS program is the diet of highly and easily digestible foods that will not further irritate an already compromised gut (the best of these is the mineral and collagen rich homemade stocks/broths).  Some foods allowed on the Full GAPS portion of the program are not highly digestible, such as greens, fried meats, coconut flour, dairy (even fermented), and are only appropriate for the person who has attained a good level of healing through the program.  Fibrous foods must be avoided during the initial healing stages.  Another extremely important component of GAPS Intro is the elimination of sugars (in the first few stages of Intro).  This aspect of the protocol allows your body to suffer (sorry, but anything worth doing is hard) the withdrawal necessary to begin massive pathogen die off (you're starving the nasty things) and to cleanse your body of sugar cravings/addictions.  The amazing part is how aware you will become of just how addicted to sugars you were.  

To begin the program of gut healing, we eat only the most digestible foods, which is why the Intro portion is composed of quickly and highly digestible, gentle healing foods.  Intro is an excellent elimination diet, which is essential to healing food allergies.  Intro also works to reseal the injured gut lining, repairing the leaky gut dilemma contributing to food allergies.  Intro is a highly detoxifying diet, allowing your body to shed toxins in stored fat and the liver and colon, etc., and flush them from your system.  To understand more about GAPS Intro, why you need it and what to expect, please read the summary I wrote on the topic.

Intro is incredibly healing, so much so that it is an effective treatment for cold and flu.  We've all heard by now that homemade broth and soup is potent natural medicine.  [Anytime a GAPS participant (or anyone, for that matter) suffers a physiological trauma or a nasty viral bug, etc, a return to Intro for a week will strengthen the body, bringing about systemic healing and homeostasis, returning one to wellness.]

The Intro portion of GAPS does work that cannot be achieved by simply following the Full GAPS diet or by eating paleo or "no carb."  The methodical steps of the Intro stages help your compromised body to shed toxins, to experience a great deal of pathogen die off, to begin the gut sealing process, to identify food allergens...it is an excellent colon cleanse.  Without the step-by-step process involved, your healing journey will take much longer and may not be concluded successfully.  Intro is necessary for maximum and complete healing.

As you move from Intro into Full GAPS, your body has already begun a significant amount of healing and you are avoiding the foods that you have identified to be problematic.  You have learned to be keenly body aware.  If you remain dedicated to the program as it is designed, you will continue to experience healing day by day.  Foods you may not be able to consume in the beginning of your GAPS journey should become available to you as you continue the work.  During your time in Full GAPS, you will likely still have some die off as you correctly balance your flora, and you will continue to seal your gut lining, allowing you to heal from food sensitivities.  This only happens, though, if you continue with the homemade stocks/broths/soups full of healing gelatin and minerals, and if you eat homemade fermented foods (like sauerkraut).  The soup is the lifeblood of the GAPS program, and the genuine fermented foods are crucial to re-establishing flora balance.

I know many bloggers have been talking about GAPS, explaining it, sharing experiences with the program.  I think that's wonderful; the more people sharing, the better.  But if you want to successfully heal through the GAPS program, you really should read McBride's book for yourself, and The GAPS Guide (I believe there is an updated version available on her blog).  Even on Full GAPS, you are supposed to be eating homemade soup and homemade fermented foods daily.  Otherwise, you're not doing GAPS.  

Healing sensitivities and allergies...sealing and healing the gut, obliterating malevolent pathogens, is an important process.  Healing neurological maladies caused by toxic overload and gut pathogens is an important process.  Resolving toxicity and achieving lifelong wellness is an important process.  We need to be sure we are performing the process correctly so we don't continue to drag out our healing journey or continue to suffer needlessly.  Believe me, I empathize completely with how difficult the process can be.  But the end results are so worthwhile!

To learn more:
Natasha McBride's site
GAPS Guide site
GAPS Diet site
Simple GAPS Intro Summary
GAPS Protocol Summary

Radically Natural Recipe: Indulgent, Nourishing, Healing (GAPS-friendly) Cacao Bites (aka Chocolates!)

I have the best husband in the world.  I'm sure many of you ladies would say the same (that you have the best husband in the world, not that mine is, LOL), but I need to sing the praises of my man.  I happen to be 13 weeks pregnant.  I suffered a miscarriage in September, but to my shock found myself pregnant again soon after.  I have a history of infertility (my stint with veganism didn't help), miscarriages and rather uncomfortable pregnancies.  So while we are ecstatic about this newest child, we are being cautiously optimistic at this point.  My pregnancy this time is typical of my other successful pregnancies, though, meaning I'm sick, sick, sick (9 month stomach flu, anyone?)...but on the bright side, I'm keeping most of my food down, which is an improvement over past pregnancies (thanks to GAPS).  

Anyway, lllooOOOonnnngGGgg intro here, sorry...the point is that dear hubby asked last week what he could do to help lift my spirits amongst all my tummy misery.  I jokingly told him that if he could find me some raw cacao truffles made only with pure Real Food ingredients of cacao, honey, herbs, spices and salt, he'd be my hero.  Well, he already was, but the man never fails to amaze me.  My sweetie surprised me this week with a box of nothing less than the finest, most delicious, healthy, Real Food raw cacao truffles!

If you are in the mood to splurge, please check out Zorba's raw chocolates and order some nourishing cacao goodness for yourself!  Oregon chocolatier Todd Bjornson is as passionate about the health benefits of raw cacao as he is about crafting delicious, beautiful and nutritious Real Food chocolates.  The coconut and rose truffles are amazing.  I'm sure they are all fabulous, but those are the ones I nibbled and instantly fell in love with!

But if you're like me, and you want to be able to make your own Real Food chocolates, any time of the day or night, I've got a recipe for you.  OK, these are not soft-centered flavor-nuanced truffles, but they are pretty good little chocolate bites (if I do say so myself).  Similar recipes abound on the web, and the following is my version.

Who doesn't like chocolate, right? (OK, I'm sure you're out there, but don't rain on my parade, LOL.)  This simple recipe guarantees guilt-free, healthy, even medicinal chocolate that will delight the palette of any family member.  (If you are in the advanced stages of healing on the full GAPS diet, this recipe should work for you; test a small amount on yourself and see how you respond.)

Full of good fats, nutrient-rich raw cacao, potassium-rich raw honey, gut-friendly cinnamon and the optional healing/nutrient herb or berry powders, these homemade dark chocolates are indulgent and comforting, as well as rich...a little bit goes a long way!  Hubby and I have an affinity for "Mexican chocolate," hence the cinnamon and cayenne.  But, as always, I encourage you to experiment with this recipe and its ratios...make it your own!  

Raw Cacao Bites

[I use a digital scale to measure ounce ingredients]

5 oz. organic cacao butter 

3 oz. raw cacao powder 
2 tsp. organic cinnamon powder
1 tsp. organic vanilla extract (make your own)
2 Tb. + raw honey (add more to taste...I like fairly dark chocolate)

Flavor and nutrient options (add to above):

Coarse mineral rich salt (such as Alaea or pink Himalayan)
pinch (I'm not kidding) of high heat unit organic cayenne powder
1-2 Tb. butter (this adds a creamy carmel taste/texture...melt with cacao butter)

*The addition of an herbal powder will add botanical medicine and increased nutrients to your chocolates.  You can add more than the amount I suggested, but beware that the addition of too much powder will make your chocolates grainy.  Also, some herbal powders are quite bitter, so you may need to add more honey to taste.  I like to use camu camu for its vitamin C content, or bilberry for its vascular healing properties.  The choices are endless.  Check Mountain Rose Herbs or Live Superfoods for herbal powder ideas.  (Live Superfoods also carries raw cacao powder and cacao butter.)


Gently melt cacao butter over very low heat in double boiler.  Add powders, vanilla and honey, and whisk smooth.  When everything is well incorporated and liquefied, pour into silicone molds (at the bottom of which you have sprinkled a bit of the coarse salt), allow to cool at room temperature or place in refrigerator.  Do not place in freezer, as you will cause undesirable bloom to develop on your chocolates.  

When heating your ingredients, stay under 118º to keep it raw and maintain optimum nutrients (you can check with an instant thermometer).  Why raw cacao?  Well check out its nutrient profile: Raw cacao is high in magnesium, anti-oxidants(!!!), and wonderfully healing hormone enhancers.

Rather than cacao butter, you can use coconut oil, but I've tried both and prefer the cacao butter for taste and texture.  I find that my coconut oil is rich in coconut flavor, sometimes overwhelming the chocolate essence, and coconut oil does melt in your hands faster than cacao butter.  Coconut oil also has a slightly greasier, and less pleasant "toothsome" texture than does cacao butter.  But you can try either fat, or mix them...your preference.  I also don't use carob powder because it is a starchy legume (GAPS illegal), lacks the true flavor of chocolate, and is deficient in those powerful raw cacao anti-oxidants.

Yes, cacao contains theobromine, an alkaloid that has stimulating properties similar to but milder than caffeine.  But theobromine has beneficial effects, such as enhancing circulation, and does not contain the adrenal-draining and addictive properties of caffeine.  In my opinion, moderate amounts of raw cacao are nourishing and medicinally beneficial.  I don't let my kids overdo it, just as I limit their intake of raw honey.  These Real Foods are nutrient-rich, but can be stimulating and should be monitored as a minimal part of the diet.  But we all need a treat, and if we're going to treat ourselves we should do it with delicious, nutritious, body beneficial Real Foods!

[Linked at Kelly's Real Food Wednesday carnival...check out the other great posts!]

Fat Is Your Friend!

I have had so many titles for this long-in-the-works article swimming about in my brain...
  • Lean Meat: The Scourge of the American Diet
  • Embrace Fat: Cholesterol Is Not the Enemy
  • Real Fat: The Essential Human Nutrient
  • When Bad "Science" Won't Die: The Lipid Lie
  • Fabulous Fat: The Beautiful Truth about a Fabulous Nutrient, Starring Cholesterol, Your Hormones' Best Friend!
(That last one seemed just a tad long, LOL!)

I desire to say so many things about fat. I want to share highlights from every book I have on the topic, but I know I cannot, lest this article be 20 feet long.  So let's see where this takes us.  I dedicate this article to the numerous people who have been on the receiving end of my gushing, "I love fat...everything you have been told is a lie" raves.  And it's true...everything we have been told about fat since the 1950s IS a lie.  Many honorable nutritionists and scientists have worked to reverse our fear of fat indoctrination.  I am grateful for their tireless efforts.

 I know many people have neither the time nor the resources to read all the books I recommend, so I will borrow from a couple of my current favorites to expound upon this necessary topic (my comments, peppered throughout the quotes, will appear in purple).

Fat is your friend.  Once again, with a little spin...Real Fat (from clean food sources) is your Best Friend...your body's most essential nutrient. Every system of your body needs good fat, and lots of it...from your hormones to your brain, your skin and joints to your heart. Fat never has been and never will be bad for you. An absence of this essential nutrient, however, will cripple and kill.  The message that fat is dangerous and should be avoided is based neither on science, nor history.  In fact, saturated fat is vital to your body's development and functioning...to your overall vitality and quality of life.

At this time of year, especially, I become frustrated by the holiday recipes vilifying fat: the "how to make low-fat versions of your holiday favorites" messages make me cringe.  Low-fat cookbooks and nutritional advice make me want to pull out my hair.  It's all so senseless and never was based on good science.  Like a dog with a bone, the government and modern health "experts" just won't let go of the public-duping, dishonest "fat is bad" message.

Let’s begin by first taking a look at how fat got such a bad rap. Then we’ll examine fat as the most essential, beneficial human nutrient.

Some fat myths:
  • Eating (real) fat makes you fat.
  • A low-fat diet protects your heart and helps you lose weight.
  • Fat (and its partner, cholesterol) clogs your arteries and causes heart disease.
  • Saturated fat is bad for you.
  • "Vegetable" fats are real fats, and they are good for you.

Debunking the Lipid Hypothesis

“The diet-heart hypothesis is the greatest scientific deception of this century, perhaps of any century.”  -- George Mann, American physician and scientist 

Medical and food politics are the enemies of Real Medicine and legitimate health care.  
Numerous authors, scientists, nutritionists and honest doctors have for years raised their voices in protest of the flawed “diet-heart hypothesis” (also called the lipid hypothesis) first proposed in 1953 by Ancel Keys.  Simply put, the lipid hypothesis is junk science, and it has been debunked.  We must put the final nail in the coffin of this erroneous but profitable lipid legend.

In her book, Put Your Heart in Your Mouth, neurologist and creator of the GAPS healing protocol Dr. Natasha Campbell McBride writes:

“Everybody has heard about cholesterol and dietary fats “clogging up your arteries” and “causing heart disease.” Even children have been told that cholesterol and fats are “bad.” For decades we have been “educated” in that direction by the popular media, advertisements and labels on our food. Doctors are also convinced: the prescription of cholesterol-lowering medication has steadily grown by more than 20% every year in the UK. The pharmaceutical powers are now working very hard on an ultimate goal: to put everybody, including our children, on “preventative” cholesterol-lowering medication."

McBride then poses the obligatory question:  How did we get here?

The answer is the lipid hypothesis put forth by Keys, who set out to prove that dietary fats cause heart disease. To support his hypothesis, Keys designed a diagram, showing the correlation of fat consumption and heart disease mortality in only six countries, selected out of the 22 countries for which data existed at that time. Keys’ diagram showed that heart disease deaths rose with increased fat consumption.

McBride:  “However, when all the remaining countries are added back to the diagram this correlation disappears. In fact, the diagram now shows that there is no correlation between fat consumption and dying from heart disease. Using Ancel Keys’ method, one can prove anything one likes. … It is completely baffling as to why on earth the scientific community at the time accepted this kind of “scientific evidence!” For whatever reason, it did! That is how the diet-heart hypothesis started its long life--from a deception.”

Despite its deceptive “built on air” science, Ancel Keys’ hypothesis was seized eagerly by politicians and the medical industry, and the dollars followed.

McBride:  “Institutions and laboratories were set up around the diet-heart hypothesis, thousands of people were employed and scientific grants were awarded to “prove” the hypothesis. The popular media followed by trumpeting the new “breakthrough.” Once politicians and the public had bought the idea, the researchers had to come up with science to fit the bill. … no other medical hypothesis has been researched so much! Hundreds of studies have been conducted around the world to prove that dietary fat and cholesterol are the causes of heart disease. The Chinese have an old saying: “Cut the feet to fit the shoes.” Proponents used their data selectively: they ignored the data that did not support the hypothesis and inflated and advertised the data that did. [Welcome to the medical industry’s version of the scientific method.] In the meantime, for every study that attempted to support the idea, honest studies were coming in from different countries proving it to be wrong. However the political and commercial machine was in motion, and it was not prepared to stop. [The birth of the vegetable fat industry, including heavy hitters soy, corn and canola, along with the boom to the pharmaceutical industry, was just too profitable to allow truth to get in the way.] As all this was going on, many renowned doctors and honest scientists, who had the training to analyze the accumulated scientific data for themselves, opposed and criticized the diet-heart hypothesis and the “science” conducted to support it.”

These truth crusaders included (you all know I'm no fan of the elitist view of the "expert MD," and the conventional medical establishment, but I share this list as proof of professional peer opposition to the lipid hypothesis):
  • Dr. Raymond Reiser (retired biochemistry professor at Texas Univ.)
  • Professor George Mann (retired professor of medicine and biochemistry at Vanderbilt Univ.)
  • Dr. Paul Rosch (president of American Institute of Stress, clinical professor of medicine and psychiatry at New York Medical College)
  • Dr. Mary Enig (international expert in lipid biochemistry, president of Maryland Nutritionists Association, consulting editor to Journal of the American College of Nutrition)
  • Dr. William Stehbens (professor at Department of Pathology, Wellington School of Medicine and director of Malaghan Institute of Medical Research in Wellington, New Zealand)
  • Dr. Ray Rosenman (cardiologist, retired director of cardiovascular research in the Health Sciences Program at SRI International in Menlo Park, CA and associate chief of medicine at Mt. Zion Hospital in San Francisco)
  • Dr. Russell Smith (American experimental psychologist, publisher of two reviews on scientific data of lipid hypothesis)
  • Professor Lars Werko (retired professor medicine at Sahlgren’s Hospital, Gothenburg, Sweden and head of the Swedish Council on Technology Assessment in Health Care)
  • Dr. Edward Pinckney (former co-editor of the Journal of the American Medical Association and author of The Cholesterol Controversy)
  • Dr. Uffe Ravnskov (most comprehensive professional review of lipid hypothesis published in The Cholesterol Myths)

In her excellent treatise and cookbook, Fat: An Appreciation of a Misunderstood Ingredient, native Aussie chef Jennifer McLagan shares her perspective on the lipid hypothesis history:

"(In the 1950s) a theory was advanced suggesting that increased consumption of animal fat raised our cholesterol levels and resulted in heart disease. The link between cholesterol, saturated fat, and heart disease was only associative, not causal, and it did not account for the fact that some populations that eat diets high in animals fats don’t have high rates of heart disease. During the following two decades science failed to prove conclusively that there was any direct connection between eating saturated fats and developing heart disease, but the theory persisted. [Because it was PROFITABLE.] Then, in 1977, the theory gained widespread credence when the U.S. Congress endorsed it. Americans were urged by their government to reduce their fat intake...Thousands of years of human history showing the importance of animal fat in our diet were overlooked, and instead it was labeled the greasy killer. While many experts still promoted a diet including eggs, meat, and animal fat, their voices were drowned out by industry and science. “Low-fat” and “nonfat” became the new mantras...we obediently replaced the cholesterol-containing animal fats in our diet with new, manmade ones."

“oops! Everything I said about saturated fat was really about margarine.” — (Cate Shanahan) paraphrasing Ancel Keys

In her chapter on the lipid hypothesis (Good Fats and Bad: How the Cholesterol Theory Created a Sickness Epidemic), author of Deep Nutrition: Why Your Genes Need Traditional Food, (unconventional) Dr. Cate Shanahan shares her summary of the birth of Ancel Keys’ lipid hypothesis:

“The father of the “diet-heart hypothesis” was not a cardiologist or even an MD. [Not that MDs or cardiologists are the only ones who can possess nutritional and pathophysiological wisdom...but she’s building up to a good point.] Keys had earned his PhD in the 1930s studying salt-water eels. His nutritional credentialing originated in the fact that, during WWII, the military assigned him to create the ready-to-eat meal that could be stored for years and shipped to millions of soldiers. Dr. Keys named his pocket-sized meal the K-ration, after himself. [And we’re supposed to take food advice from the father of mega-processed freeze-dried food?!] When the war was over, the Minnesota public health department hired Keys to study the problem of rising rates of heart attacks. [Maybe it had something to do with the rising use of environmental chemicals during and post-WWII? Maybe it was the proliferation of processed foods...including all those soldiers’ freeze-dried meals?  In fact, the assumption of a growing epidemic of heart disease is itself subject to criticism.  Was coronary heart disease rare before the 1920s?  Or were doctors and public health officials simply observing heart disease more often due to improving diagnostic technology?]

“At his first scientific meeting, he presented the idea that, in countries where people ate more animal fat, people died of heart disease more often, suggesting a possible causal relationship. But his statistical work was so sloppy that he was lambasted by his peers. Rather than cleaning up his act, Keys vowed vengeance: “I’ll show those guys.” More than anything else, it seems, Keys wanted everyone to think he single-handedly discovered the cause of heart disease. And so did the country’s margarine producers, who now had the perfect spokesperson. Though Keys‘ work failed to convince professional scientists (at least for the first decade or two), the margarine industry knew he still had a shot at convincing the man on the street. If the public thought butter and other animal fats would “clog their arteries,” they might buy margarine instead.

"A few years after the embarrassing performance in front of an audience capable of sniffing out misleading statistics, Keys was on TV laying out those same misleading statistics to a trusting public. The American Heart Association, which depends on large donations from the vegetable oil industry, jumped on the bandwagon with Keys. They took his sloppy statistics and ran, eventually convincing most doctors that “steak is a heart attack on a plate” and that margarine made from hydrogenated vegetable oils (full of trans fat) was healthy. Within a decade, grocery store shelves were loaded with ready-to-eat foods, and Americans were buying.

“By 1961, under increasing scientific scrutiny, Keys began to waver in his support for his own (now publicly accepted) diet-heart hypothesis. Scientists had pointed out Dr. Keys’ misleading use of scientific terms. In public, he denounced animal fat as the culprit behind the rising rates of heart attacks. But in his laboratory and human experiments, he didn’t use animal fat. His subjects were fed margarine made from partially hydrogenated vegetable oil. And what was in the margarine? Trans fat--a full 48%! To conclude from studies that used hydrogenated vegetable oil that animal fat causes heart disease is utterly nonsensical. Unfortunately, the public never heard the straight story."

And we are surprised?! So it goes…the never-ending story of how "scientists," the "medical" establishment, and the "food" industry amasses profits while shaping our food and health destinies. And the consequences of the perpetuation of the ridiculous lipid hypothesis?

Shanahan: “Prior to Keys’ campaign, people ate far more saturated fat and cholesterol-rich foods than we do today, but heart attacks were so rare they were almost unheard of. Over the past century, as butter consumption dropped to less than one quarter of what it was, vegetable oil consumption went up five-fold. …. Natural fat consumption: down. Processed fat consumption: up. Heart disease: up — way up. … At the dawn of the second millennium, heart disease is the number one cause of death in both men and women. Forget for a moment what the “experts” are saying and ask yourself what these trends suggest to your inner statistician. [yes...we are being asked to think for ourselves!]… What’s been dropping us like flies is not any upsurge in saturated fat consumption, but an upsurge in consumption of two major categories of pro-inflammatory foods: vegetable oils (a.k.a unnatural fats) and sugar. Cutting both from your diet will not only protect your heart, it will help protect you from all chronic diseases.”

I heartily echo Shanahan’s message: Nature doesn’t make bad fats. Laboratories do.

In his heavily researched, detailed tome dissecting the controversial politics of fat, carbs, obesity and chronic disease, Good Calories, Bad Calories, science journalist Gary Taubes shares the enlightening tale of President Dwight D. Eisenhower and his heart attacks.

"Eisenhower was assuredly among the best-chronicled heart attack survivors in history.  We know that he had no family history of heart disease, and no obvious risk factors after he quit smoking in 1949.  He exercised regularly; his weight remained close to the 172 pounds considered optimal for his height.  His blood pressure was only occasionally elevated.  His cholesterol was below normal: his last measurement before the attack...was 165 mg/dl, a level that heart-disease specialists today consider safe."

After his first heart attack, Eisenhower changed his diet...to a low-fat, low-cholesterol regimen.  His meals were cooked in soybean oil and margarine.  His weight began to creep up, so Eisenhower switched his breakfast fare from oatmeal and skim milk to melba toast and fruit.  Still frustrated with his weight, Eisenhower nixed breakfast and eschewed all fats, replacing them with corn oil.  His cholesterol continued to rise; Eisenhower's doctor regularly lied to him about his increasing cholesterol numbers.

Taubes:  "Eisenhower's cholesterol hit 259 just six days after University of Minnesota physiologist Ancel Keys made the cover of Time magazine, championing precisely the kind of supposedly heart-healthy diet on which Eisenhower had been losing his battle with cholesterol for five years.  It was two weeks later that the American Heart Association--prompted by Keys' force of will--published its first official endorsement of low-fat, low-cholesterol diets as a means to prevent heart disease. ... Eisenhower died of heart disease in 1969, age 78.  By then, he'd had another half-dozen heart attacks.

"From the inception of the diet-heart hypothesis in the early 1950s, those who argued that dietary fat caused heart disease accumulated the evidential equivalent of a mythology to support their belief.  These myths are still passed on faithfully to the present day."

However unjust, however detrimental the results to the generations that followed, fat was forever vilified by the lipid hypothesis: the flawed, falsified and debunked study that refuses to die. “Vegetable” oils and margarine (both fake foods linked to hormonal disruptions, obesity, heart disease and cancer) took the place of butter and saturated fat became a bogey man.

And we must ask and answer the crucial, yet simple question:  In the recent decades following the establishment of the lipid hypothesis, during a time when Americans eat less real fat than ever before...and more carbohydrates, are we healthier?  Are we experiencing significantly reduced rates of heart disease and other chronic maladies?  


Taubes: "Indeed, if the last few decades were considered a test of the fat-cholesterol hypothesis of heart disease, [which they of course should be, because that would be true science at work] the observation that the incidence of heart disease has not noticeably decreased could serve in any functioning scientific environment as compelling evidence that the hypothesis is wrong.  Throughout the world, on the other hand, the incidence of obesity and diabetes is increasing at an alarming rate."

Taubes' book is an intelligent, deeply researched study into the abuses of science that have created and perpetuated dietary myths, including the lipid hypothesis.  It is not an "easy" read, but it is a worthwhile one.  To get an overview of Taubes' work, listen to his conversations with Russ Roberts, host of EconTalk, a podcast produced by the Library of Economics and Liberty.

“And take you father and your households, and come unto me: and I will give you the good of the land of Egypt, and ye shall eat the fat of the land.”  Genesis 45:18

I love McLagan's Fat book.  In fact, I love her trio, which includes Fat; Bones: Recipes, History, and Lore; and Odd Bits: How to Cook the Rest of the Animal.  I fully intended last year to write a review of Fat, but (surprise, surprise) it never materialized.  I'll just work it in here, by sharing the highlights of her fabulous primer on fat.  Oh, and the recipes are wonderful, too!

McLagan's Fat chapters:

  • Butter: worth it
  • Pork fat: the king
  • Poultry fat: versatile and good for you
  • Beef and Lamb: overlooked but tasty

She covers each animal fat extensively, with instructions on how to make butter, render lard and duck fat, create confit and much more.  Her recipes cover the spectrum from sweet to savory, from biscuits to cassoulet.  No stone is left unturned.  The pages are lavish with beautiful photos and historical, culinary and nutritional tidbits.  

In her Introduction, A Matter of Fat, McLagan reminds us that:
  • All animal fats are not saturated.
  • Eating fat does not make us fat.
  • A low-fat diet is not good for us.
Types of fat

All fats are lipids (they don’t dissolve in water), and all fats are a combination of both saturated and unsaturated fatty acids.
  • Essential Fatty Acids (omega fatty acids) = not made by body, must be ingested
  • Saturated fatty acids = less vulnerable to heat and oxygen, don’t turn rancid easily
  • Monounsaturated fatty acids = softer than saturated fats at room temperature, almost as stable and slow to turn rancid. Most common MFA is oleic acid, found in pork and beef.
  • Polyunsaturated fatty acids = liquid at room temperature; very fragile, turn rancid quickly.
  • Trans fatty acids = except for naturally occurring conjugated linoleic acid (CLA), these are manmade solidified “fat,” created by adding hydrogen to polyunsaturated fat. CLA is a healthy nutrient that protects against cancer, heart disease, inflammation, high blood pressure, insulin resistance.  All other trans fats are manmade health scourges.
Cholesterol is NOT a fat; rather, it is a sterol (type of alcohol) found in animal protein. Our cell membranes and much of our brains are made of cholesterol. Cholesterol is the “mother hormone” and our vital organs need it to work; our bodies use cholesterol to repair themselves. Low cholesterol is linked with various diseases, depression, and increased risk of infection.  But we'll dig more into this wonderful sterol below.

McLagan:  “Every cell in our body needs fat, our brain and hormones rely on fat to function, and fat supports our immune system, fights disease, and protects our liver. Fat promotes good skin and healthy hair, and it regulates our digestive system and leaves us feeling sated. Yet after more than 30 years of reducing our intake of animal fats, we are not healthier, but only heavier. Diets low in fat leave people hungry, depressed, and prone to weight gain and illness. We reduced the animal fat in our diet but increased our intake of sugars and other refined carbohydrates, then were surprised when we got fat. We shouldn’t have been.”

Traditional, accepted wisdom was that fat and protein were satisfying, nourishing, filling foods and that starches and sugar made people fat. Animals are fattened by grain feeding...the same applies to humans.

McLagan:  “Fat is the body’s preferred fuel, providing us with more than twice the amount of energy as the same quantity of carbohydrates and protein. It helps the body to absorb nutrients, calcium, and the fat-soluble vitamins A, D, E, and K. Fat and protein are found together in nature because it’s the fat that helps us digest the protein, so it makes good sense to eat a well-marbled steak, or a roast chicken with crispy skin. Because fat is digested slowly, eating it leaves us feeling sated, and we’re less likely to snack between meals. Eat the right fats and you’ll probably lose weight! And, as we all know, fat tastes good.”

“For millennia people have known how to make their food. They have understood animals and what to do with them, have cooked with the seasons and had a farmer’s knowledge of the way the planet works. They have preserved traditions of preparing food, handed down through generations, and have come to know them as expressions of their families. People don’t have this kind of knowledge today, even though it seems as fundamental as the earth.” -- Bill Buford, author and journalist

Fat is critical to the flavor of our food, because the flavor of meat is in the fat. As McLagan reminds us, “Many aromas and flavors are soluble only in fat, so unless you use fat in your cooking, they are not released.”  Without marbling, meat has little flavor and becomes dry and tough when cooked.  And, honestly, who doesn't adore slathering warm bread with real butter?  Mmmmmm.....

After the educational introduction, McLagan's book is broken down into four sections, regaling the qualities of and sharing recipes starring: butter, pork fat, poultry fat, and beef and lamb fat.

Aside from its wonderful flavor and delightfully creamy texture, butter is an incredibly healthy food. A saturated fat, butter is composed of short- and medium-chain fatty acids, which are easy to process by our body...they are not stored as fat (unlike long-chain fatty acids), but used for energy. Butter contains lauric and butyric acids, which boost immunity; stearic and palmitic acids, which lower LDL cholesterol; fat-soluble vitamins A, D, E, and K (especially in pastured butter), copper, zinc, chromium, selenium, iodine, and lecithin.  Butter’s complex flavor and its texture are influenced by the breed of cow, its diet, and the season. For pastured butter, spring and early summer will produce a deeper yellow butter (carotenes in the grass) that has a stronger flavor. Winter butter is paler and milder in taste because the cows are supplemented with silage.

Pork fat (including lard) is useful in the kitchen and incredibly nourishing. Pork fat, like all fats, is a mixture of saturated, polyunsatruated, and monounsaturated fatty acids. While the fat forms vary by breed and diet of the pig, the majority of pork fat is monounsaturated, specifically oleic acid in addition to palmitoleic fatty acid (which has antimicrobial properties).  Pork fat’s saturated fatty acids are stearic acid, which converts to oleic acid in our body, and palmitic acid...both lower “bad” cholesterol. Pork fat does not oxidize or become rancid easily, and remains stable when heated. Additionally, pastured lard is an excellent source of vitamin D.

McLagan similarly sings the praises of poultry fat and beef and lamb fat, which contain similar nutrient profiles to butter and lard. Foie gras, french for “fat liver,” is made from the enlarged liver of duck or geese. Well-prepared foie gras is smooth and silky, and contains the beneficial nutrients of liver: it is rich in B vitamins, copper, iron and iodine.  Grass-fed beef and lamb are particularly rich in both CLA and omega-3 fatty acids. Beef bone marrow is of particular nutritional interest, as it contains body-building collagen, iron, phosphorous, vitamin A, thiamin and niacin.

I highly recommend McLagan's book(s) and encourage you to add them, especially Fat, to your collection.

"If you're afraid of butter, use cream."  -- Julia Child, American culinary icon

Good fats vs. Bad fats

As a result of the diet-heart hypothesis takeover, people reduced their intake of animal fats and vastly increased their consumption of manmade fats, particularly hydrogenated trans fats. These substances are not easily processed by the body and are stored as fat, rather than used as energy. These manmade fats increase “bad” LDL cholesterol and decrease “good” HDL cholesterol, as well as interfere with insulin production.  There is no such thing as a safe manmade trans fat...nor a safe "vegetable" fat.

Polyunsaturated fats, another popular “anti-animal fat” option, are highly unstable, oxidizing quickly. Oxidized fat damages our DNA.  Polyunsaturated fats suppress our immune system, and severely imbalance our omega-6 to omega-3 ratio, causing an excess of omega-6 in our bodies (which inhibits absorption of omega-3). High levels of omega-6 lead to cancer, heart disease, liver damage, brain chemistry disorders, weight gain, immune malfunction, digestive malfunction, and reproductive malfunction. Grain-fed animals are higher in omega-6, while pastured animals are a good source of omega-3.

Good fats are Real Fats, and they include all animal fat (especially saturated fats), nuts, and fruit oils:
  • Egg yolks
  • Avocados
  • Olives
  • Nuts
  • Grass-fed, raw milk (with its cream)
  • Coconut
  • Palm
  • Butter
  • Lard
  • Fatty fish (especially cold-water species like salmon and sardines)
  • Red meat
  • Pork (especially bacon)
  • Poultry (especially duck and goose)

Bad fats are everything else, which leaves "vegetable" fats...all the commercial, laboratory-produced, manmade fats, liquid or hydrogenated (especially corn, canola, and soy). These “fats” do not exist naturally; they are neither nutritious nor stable. They are chemically processed and easily oxidize and become rancid, producing ravaging, inflammatory, carcinogenic free radicals.

“Fat” that requires heavy technical processing is not good fat. “Fat” that is designed and created in a laboratory is not good fat (nor is it Real Food).

A diet deficient in the regular consumption of good fats, particularly animal fats, leads to:
  • Brain chemistry disorders (OCD, depression, anxiety, bipolar, schizophrenia, memory loss, etc.)
  • Multiple Sclerosis (a disintegration of the myelin sheath, which requires fat/cholesterol)
  • Leaky gut syndrome (your intestinal lining requires fat for stability)
  • Malnourishment (from poor vitamin absorption)
  • Infertility (and other hormonal imbalance maladies)
  • Increased cancer risk (omega-3 can slow tumor and cancer cell growth)
  • Heart disease and high cholesterol (low-fat diets reduce HDL)
  • Etc.....
On the other hand, real fats (principally saturated fats):
  • Protect your heart (reduces lipoprotein, which increases heart attack risk)
  • Build your cell membranes
  • Build your hormones
  • Act as a carrier for vitamins A, D, E, K
  • Build your bones (calcium requires saturated fat to be incorporated into bone)
  • Protect your liver from toxins
  • Improve lung function (lung lining is composed of saturated fat)
  • Improve gut function (intestinal lining is composed of saturated fat)
  • Strengthen white blood cells

Cholesterol Is Not the Enemy
"The idea that too much animal fat and high cholesterol are dangerous to your heart and vessels is nothing but a myth."  -- Uffe Ravnskov

Dr. Uffe Ravnskov, in his ground-breaking comprehensive critique of the lipid hypothesis, The Cholesterol Myths, tears down the myriad myths produced by Keys’ outrageously popular bad science, including:
  • High-fat foods cause heart disease.
  • High cholesterol causes heart disease.
  • High-fat foods raise blood cholesterol.
  • Cholesterol blocks arteries.
  • Animal studies prove the diet-heart idea.
  • Lowering your cholesterol will lengthen your life.
  • Polyunsaturated oils are good for you.
  • The cholesterol campaign is based on good science.
  • All scientists support the diet-heart idea.

Alzheimer’s? Infertility? Heart disease? Auto-immune disorders? Immunity malfunctions? Brain chemistry disorders? You can thank your fear of fat and cholesterol-lowering diet and drugs. In fact, dreading and disparaging food sources of cholesterol is rather imprudent, considering that the body produces about 85% of its own blood cholesterol.

Not only is cholesterol NOT the villain we have been led to believe, it is a vital nutrient, essential to the proper and vibrant functioning of our bodies. Every cell of every organ in our bodies has cholesterol in its structure. Cholesterol is a vital part of cell membrane composition and it helps our cells communicate.

Our brains simply cannot develop or function properly without regular consumption of brain-building fats, including cholesterol (not technically a fat, but a sterol), lecithin, choline, and especially saturated fats. Our brain and nervous system is cholesterol-rich; 25% of our bodies’ cholesterol stores go to the brain. The fatty substance, myelin, which is a primary material in our brain and nervous system, is 20% cholesterol. The myelin sheath coats every nerve cell and nerve fiber. The breakdown of the myelin sheath results in the devastating illness, multiple sclerosis. Synapse formation in the brain, affecting brain cell communication and memory centers, depends heavily on cholesterol (memory loss is a side effect of cholesterol-lowering drugs). A developing baby’s brain and eyes require large amounts of cholesterol.

Our hormones will not function without cholesterol. Known as the “mother hormone,” cholesterol is crucial to the endocrine system...particularly our adrenals and sex glands, which produce our steroid hormones. All steroid hormones are made from cholesterol. Steroid hormones regulate vital bodily functions, including metabolism, energy production, mineral assimilation, brain, muscle and bone formation, fertility, and brain chemistry. Adrenal fatigue is a common problem in our modern, multitasking, over-stressed society. [A typical “side effect” for men on cholesterol-lowering drugs is decreased testosterone (and other steroid hormone) production.]

The human liver regulates blood cholesterol and uses cholesterol to create bile, which is the substance that allows us to digest and absorb fats and fat-soluble vitamins. Without good bile production, we cannot properly absorb and assimilate vitamins A, D, E, and K. In fact, cholesterol-rich foods and sunlight are our best sources of vitamin D. Because of our desperate need for this fat-soluble vitamin, we can thank cholesterol for helping us to build and maintain healthy bones, as well as protecting us from cancer, inflammatory disorders, brain chemistry imbalances, heart disease, osteoarthritis, auto-immune diseases, poor immunity, obesity, and diabetes.

So why do cholesterol levels vary from person to person and season or time of day? Why do cholesterol levels soar after surgery or when we have an infection? The answer is simple: cholesterol is one of the body’s healing agents. When healing needs to occur, the liver produces cholesterol and sends it to the site of damage.

Let’s look a bit at the myth that cholesterol cause arterial and heart disease. McBride explains by examining blood vessel structure and physiology. The inside of the vessel walls are covered by a layer of endothelium cells, which are attacked by any damaging agent to which we are exposed. 

McBride:  “Whether it is a toxic chemical, an infectious organism, a free radical or anting else, once it is in the blood, what is it going to attack first? The endothelium, of course. The endothelium immediately sends a message to the liver. Whenever our liver receives a signal that a wound has been inflicted upon the endothelium somewhere in our vascular system, it gets into gear and sends cholesterol to the site of the damage in a shuttle, called LDL (low-density lipoprotein). Because this cholesterol travels from the liver to the wound in the form of LDL, our “science, in its wisdom, called LDL a “bad” cholesterol. When the wound heals and the cholesterol is removed, it travels back to the liver in the form of HDL (high-density lipoprotein) cholesterol. Because this cholesterol travels away from the artery back to the liver, our misguided “science” called it “good” cholesterol. This is like calling an ambulance traveling from the base to the patient, a “bad ambulance,” and the one traveling from the patient back to the base, a “good ambulance.

“Why does the liver send cholesterol to the site of the injury? Because the body cannot clear the infection, remove toxic elements or heal the wound without cholesterol and fats. Any healing involves the birth, growth and functioning of thousands of cells: immune cells, endothelial cells and many others. As these cells, to a considerable degree, are made out of cholesterol and fats, they cannot be born and grow without a good supply of these substances. … Scar tissue in the body contains good amounts of cholesterol. … Cholesterol acts as an antioxidant in the body, dealing with the free radical damage. … When we have surgery, our tissues are cut and many small arteries, veins and capillaries get damaged. The liver receives a very strong signal from this damage, so it floods the body with LDL cholesterol to clean and heal every little wound in our blood vessels. … After dental treatment, in addition to the damage to the tissues, a lot of bacteria from the tooth and the gums finish up in the blood, attacking the inside walls of our blood vessels. The liver gets a strong signal from that damage and produces lots of healing cholesterol to deal with it, so the blood cholesterol goes up. The same thing happens when we have an infection — LDL cholesterol goes up to deal with the bacterial or viral attack. Apart from the endothelium, our immune cells need cholesterol to function and to heal themselves after the fight with the infection. Our stress hormones are made out of cholesterol … Stressful situations increase our blood cholesterol levels because cholesterol is being sent to the adrenal glands for stress hormone production. In short, when we have a high blood cholesterol level it means that the body is dealing with some damage.”

Understanding the action of the cardiovascular endothelial cells and their relationship to cholesterol, as well as the functions and traveling route of LDL and HDL, begs the question: Why are some people suffering increased endothelial damage and therefore increased cholesterol activity? I think the answer is simple. Those people are introducing malevolent substances into their blood streams (such as chemical pollutants in the form of drugs or processed/industrial foods), causing the damage that spurs the healing cholesterol response. Instead of blaming LDL levels, the sufferers should stop abusing their bodies with the toxic substances ravaging their blood vessels. 

 Clearly, stress also plays a part in raising cholesterol levels, and should not be ignored as a significant culprit in health maladies.  Additionally, dehydration is a significant factor in heightened cholesterol levels. When the body becomes dehydrated, cells become dehydrated and begin to weaken. This signals the production of cholesterol to repair and hold the cell walls together. Lowering cholesterol can be as simple as increasing your daily water intake: aim for 1 oz. pure water for every pound you weigh.

In Good Calories, Bad Calories, Taubes reveals what I believe is a fascinating paradox.  Ancel Keys, the man who gave us the blight that is the lipid hypothesis, originally established that there was no link between cholesterol and heart disease.  As Taubes explains, "In 1937, two Columbia University biochemists, David Rittenberg and Rudolph Schoenheimer, demonstrated that the cholesterol we eat has very little effect on the amount of cholesterol in our blood.  When Keys fed men for months at a time on diets either high or low in cholesterol, it made no difference to their cholesterol levels.  As a result, Keys insisted that dietary cholesterol had little relevance to heart disease."  Yet Keys would go forward in his attempt to substantiate his diet-heart hypothesis, fingering fat as the culprit in cardio ailments.

Taubes:  "Ironically, some of the most reliable facts about the diet-heart hypothesis have been consistently ignored by public-health authorities because they complicated the message, and the least reliable findings were adopted because they didn't.  Dietary cholesterol, for instance, has an insignificant effect on blood cholesterol. ... Nonetheless, the advice to eat less cholesterol--avoiding egg yolks, for instance--remains gospel."

A fuller understanding of the hows and whys of cholesterol production and functions does spur various cogitations. One begins to wonder, why all the fuss over “high” cholesterol? How high is too high? And why aren't doctors asking, how low is too low?

Studying the anti-lipid hypothesis evidence makes it clear that cholesterol is not the cardio killer that we’ve been led to believe. Ravnskov points out that the coronary artery studies hoping to prove that high cholesterol levels cause atherosclerosis actually showed an increase in sclerosis in patients with low cholesterol. Repeated studies confirmed that cholesterol levels were unimportant in determining increased atherosclerosis risk.

Ravnskov: “The fact that coronary atherosclerosis gets worse just as fast or faster when cholesterol goes down as when it goes up, the opposite of exposure-response, should have led scientists to question the whole diet-heart idea. But nobody did. … Isn’t it much more likely that something else causes atherosclerosis than cholesterol? Something that may vary between the arteries, such as blood pressure. … For instance, the tension of the coronary vessels, but not necessarily of other vessels, increases significantly when we are mentally stressed. … That people with low cholesterol become just as sclerotic as people with high cholesterol is, of course, a devastating blow to the diet-heart idea. But the names of Lande, Sperry, Paterson, and Mathur (researchers) are absent in the hundreds of papers and books that the proponents publish every year.”

"We've got a drug for that."  -- (me) paraphrasing the pharmaceutical and medical industry

The dangers of cholesterol are a myth, but the dangers of cholesterol-lowering (statin) drugs are very real and include:

  • Decreased hormone production
  • Impaired male sexual function (see above)
  • Depletion of CoQ10 (a necessary cardiovascular and muscular nutrient)
  • Muscle pain (see above)
  • Memory loss
  • Depression (likely related to decreased hormone production)
  • Anemia
  • Liver dysfunction
  • Pancreatitis (inflammation of pancreas)
  • Immune depression
  • Vitamin D deficiency
  • Neuropathy (pain resulting from nerve damage in peripheral nervous system)
  • Heart failure (can you say irony? This side effect related to depleted CoQ10)
Fat and cholesterol are more than good for you...they are crucial to your physical development and well-being. Fat consumption affects brain development, vibrancy and longevity, skin development and elasticity, heart health, joint health, hormone development and regulation, intestinal lining integrity, and more.

Good Fat Does Not Make You Fat

Obesity is a plague of modern living.  The blame fingers seem constantly to be moving, pointing one way and then another.  "Fad diets" have been part of our collective conscious for decades.  The prevalent desire to lose weight drives a profitable diet and exercise industry.  The medical and food industries have a stake in this game as well.  "Low fat" and "low calorie" foods have an incredible market share of the offerings on grocery store shelves.  So it should come as no surprise that weight-loss dietary advice that would undermine profits of companies touting "conventional wisdom" will be routinely lambasted and ridiculed.  An entire food industry has grown around the proliferation of "vegetable" oils and cereal grains.  Ergo, the food politics of dietary principles are highly controversial.

But how many Americans are aware that the low-carb, high-protein weight-loss regimen is centuries old?  From the mid-1800s, French doctors identified the solution to obesity as a diet restricted in sugars and starches.  By the time the Atkins revolution was introduced in America in the 1970s, the "low-carb to lose weight" concept had been tried and proven by practitioners and people who were willing to look to nature, history and evidence-based traditions for answers to the obesity puzzle.

Until the 1970s in America, it was conventional wisdom that starches and sugars led to weight gain. But coming on the heels of the AMA and AHA fully endorsing the lipid hypothesis and advocating a low-fat diet to combat heart disease, we saw the birth of the low-fat, high-carb diet to control weight.  Despite mounds of evidence to the contrary, the low-fat diet craze was born, gained momentum, and mushroomed.  We are living with the reality today that the low-fat myth is an idea that dies hard.

Taubes: "Despite the depth and certainty of our faith that saturated fat is the nutritional bane of our lives and that obesity is caused by overeating and sedentary behavior, there has always been copious evidence to suggest that those assumptions are incorrect, and that evidence is continuing to mount.

"It is possible that obesity, diabetes, and heart disease all share a single, underlying cause.  The surge in obesity and diabetes occurred as the population was being bombarded with the message that dietary fat is dangerous and that carbohydrates are good for the heart and for weight control. ... [William Harland, former associate director of the Office of Disease Prevention at the National Institutes of Health] told me that public-health experts like himself assumed that if they advised all Americans to eat less fat, with its densely packed calories, weights would go down.  'What we see instead,' he said, 'is actually weights have gone up, the portion sizes have gone up, the amount we eat has gone up.' ... If 150 years of anecdotal evidence and observation suggest that carbohydrates are uniquely fattening, it would be unjustifiable scientifically to reject that hypothesis without compelling evidence to the contrary.  Such evidence does not exist."

In the vein of WAPF, Taubes shares that decades of evidence regarding chronic disease and obesity, collected by missionaries and doctors studying isolated populations living traditional lifestyles/diets, indicates that "diseases of civilization" were rare before the introduction of processed carbohydrates.  Taubes also points out that our society has fully accepted the non-evidence-based idea that dietary fat, calories, fiber and physical activity are the critical variables in obesity and disease.  Medical research, however, has revealed a "web of physiological mechanisms and phenomena involving the singular effect of carbohydrates on blood sugar and on insulin, and the effect of blood sugar and insulin, in turn, on cells, arteries, tissues, and other hormones."

So just to put the final nail in the "fear of fat" coffin, believe me when I tell you that consuming good fats will not make you fat; in fact, the opposite is true. Most people lose weight when increasing fat consumption (and consecutively decreasing sugar consumption).  Good fat is an excellent energy source: it is dense and easily converted by the body into energy.  

Remember pork fat (lard) and its oleic acid content?  Oleic acid is one of the reasons that fat doesn't make you fat.  Besides containing medium-chain fatty acids that are easily absorbed and converted into energy, oleic acid begins production of oleoylethanolamide (OEA), which gets absorbed into nerve endings.  Once there, the OEA tells your body that it is full.  This is one of the excellent side effects of fat consumption...satiety.  Oleic acid is found in other animal fats, as well as in olive and nut oils.

Omega-3 fatty acids assist in burning fat because they tell your body to more effectively use the hormone leptin.  Leptin helps to suppress your appetite, rev your metabolism (by increasing thyroid output), and tell your body to burn fat for energy.  Medium-chain triglycerides (a type of medium-chain fatty acid) are quickly broken down by the body and converted into energy.  Fewer MCTs are converted to fat than are long-chain fatty acids.

 An MCT, coconut oil is a particularly potent weight loss agent. Rich in those easily digested, "instant energy" medium-chain fatty acids, coconut oil increases metabolism and encourages ketosis (the process that helps to burn glycogen stores).  Other MCTs are milk fat and palm oil.

Manmade fats (especially trans fats), however, can make you fat.  Your body cannot process these fake fats and they will accumulate as toxic deposits.  These bad fats become stored fat and produce inflammation (sometimes you aren't registering "fat" on the scale, but swelling).

How you consume your fats matters, too.  As Mark at Mark's Daily Apple remind us, "Fat is very satiating, especially when paired with low-carb eating. Dietary fat in the presence of large amounts of dietary carbohydrates can make it difficult to access fat for energy, while dietary fat in the presence of low levels of dietary carbohydrates makes it easier to access fat for energy. studies have shown that low-carb, high-fat diets not only reduce weight, they also retain or even increase lean mass. That means it’s fat that’s being lost (rather than the nebulous “weight”), which is what we’re ultimately after."

It is difficult to overeat fat. Because of its dense, filling effect, fat effectively signals your body’s satiation impulse. You are more likely to become ill before you can consume enough real fat calories to actually gain weight.  Healthy fats, including saturated animal fats, are easily processed and used for energy.

I will leave you with these important mantras to memorize:

  • Fat is the most essential human nutrient.
  • Good fats are great for you.
  • Cholesterol is not your enemy...it is a magnificent ally.
  • Real Fat doesn’t make you fat...sugar and fake fat does.
Now go and enjoy some brain-building, hormone-producing, heart-protecting, gut-healing, delicious fat!  And forget the fear, banish the guilt!  To your health!

For more information

Coconut oil burns fat

The myth of the low-fat diet

WAPF examines good vs. bad fats

Seven reasons to eat more saturated fat

Why a high-fat diet is healthy and safe

A holistic approach to cancer (your body needs more fat)

Pasta, not bacon, makes you fat

Myths and truths about nutrition

EconTalk podcast archive: Gary Taubes

The last days of the low-fat diet fad

Vegatable oils: The "refining" of our health

Toxic effects of vegetable oils

Why you should never eat vegetable oil

The truth about cholesterol

WAPF Truths and Myths about cholesterol

Cholesterol Con

Ravnskov's Cholesterol Myths

Low cholesterol is NOT good for you

Statin drug dangers

WAPF Dangers of Statin Drugs

Natural News Statin drug info

Check out this great graphic from Massive Health about how carbs are killing you.

Radically Natural Recipe: Coconut Macaroons

I have always loved coconut macaroons...bite-size, chewy, golden balls of vanilla coconut goodness.  In past years, when suffering through bouts of "I'm too sick/exhausted/busy to bake," I would purchase and enjoy Jennie's Macaroons.  The original recipe was simple and healthy.  In recent years, however, I noticed that the company changed its recipe, adding cane sugar in addition to honey.  Because I don't want to feed my children cane sugar (it's not as healthy as honey), and because we have been doing GAPS anyway, I decided to finally conquer the healthy minimal-ingredient macaroon.  After a few disappointing iterations, I think I finally succeeded with a macaroon whose flavor, texture and nutrient profile is pleasing (the trick is using the blender).  I hope you enjoy them as well!

Nourishing (GAPS-friendly) Coconut Macaroons
6 egg whites
1/4 to 1/2 tsp. salt (I like pink himalayan)
1/3+ cup raw honey (may need a smidgen more "to taste" depending on strength of honey and coconut)
1 Tb. vanilla extract (make your own with vanilla beans and vodka...recipe coming soon...so easy!)
3 cups raw organic coconut flakes
  • In blender (food processor might work as well), blend the coconut until it is very fine, even "buttery."  This step alleviates the "crumble apart" texture of the finished cookies.
  • Add honey, vanilla, salt to coconut and blend.
  • Beat (in mixer or by hand) egg whites to stiff peak stage.
  • Fold coconut mixture into egg whites.
  • Place batter by small spoonful sizes (I use a small cookie scoop) onto lined baking sheet (I use a Silpat liner).
  • Bake for 30-40 minutes at 300 degrees...until cookies are golden, or very lightly browned.  I stop at dark gold because I like the chewy texture.  The beginning of light browning will give a crispier outer texture.
Experiment with the amount of coconut blending and the amount of baking time to determine your favorite cookie texture.

My Raw Butter Comparison: Jersey vs. Guernsey

I have two local sources for grass-fed raw cow's cream.  One friend has a Guernsey cow, the other friends get Jersey milk from a local Real Food farmer.  We don't drink cow's milk, but adore and devour butter (because we're doing GAPS, the gut healing protocol, we only consume our goat milk in the form of naturally fermented yogurt...I love the villi starter from Cultures for Health).  I've been making raw butter with the cream for a while now, but it only occurred to me recently to compare my results with the two creams.  What I found was interesting, so I thought I'd share.

If you read about the differences between the Guernsey and Jersey breeds, you will see that Jersey's are known for their slightly higher butterfat content.  Guernsey milk, however, is higher in beta carotene, evidenced by its brighter golden color.  To my palette, which is fairly sensitive, the milks/creams are nearly indistinguishable.  I have read (see books below) that all unadulterated, grass-fed milks of cows, goats and sheep will taste pretty much the same (sweet and fresh, yum), and at this time, I concur.  Our browse-fed goats' milk tastes just as sweet and creamy as the grass-fed Jersey and Guernsey milks.

[Side trail:  The "goaty" flavor people say they don't like about goat milk products is the result of two things.  First, keeping a buck on the premises near the milking does taints the milk through the pheromone/hormone activity.  Second, goat's milk is naturally homogenized, making it oh-so-creamy, but when kept for more than a couple days, the fat will develop a "goaty" smell/flavor.  So, don't keep bucks, and don't keep your goat milk for more than two days before consuming or turning it into yogurt.  I have never had goaty milk; even after converting the milk into yogurt, it has not developed a goaty fragrance or taste.]

OK, back to butter.  I have done this experiment twice, with very similar results.  Drumroll, please......

I used the same amount of cream: 1/2 gallon.  I only measured the buttermilk from the initial pour off; I didn't weigh any of the "washing" liquid that removed the rest of the buttermilk from the butter.  See photos below for more details.  When I made the Jersey cream into butter, I ended up with more butter and less buttermilk than with the G cream.  The Guernsey cream produced less butter and more buttermilk than did the J cream.  The Guernsey butter is slightly more yellow.  I compared the final weights of the butters in bowls weighing the same and taring my scale.  The final photo is a comparison of the butters to some Kerrygold pasteurized butter.  The color variations are difficult to see in the photos, I apologize.  I can assure you that the Guernsey was a bit more yellow, not a lot, and both Jersey and Guernsey butters out-yellowed the Kerrygold.

Jersey butter and buttermilk

Jersey buttermilk at just over 20 oz.
Guernsey butter and buttermilk
Guernsey buttermilk at just over 24 oz.
Weighing Jersey butter: 14.3 oz.
Weighing Guernsey butter: 9.10 oz.

Color comparison. Top: Jersey, Left: Guernsey, Right: Kerrygold

So, for what it's worth, there's my little raw butter comparison experiment.  Of course, results will vary depending on your cream source and that cow's diet, the time of year, and other factors of which I'm probably ignorant, LOL.  In the end, I love all grass-fed raw butter and am thankful for the cream with which I make it.  I like testing out my own questions, like, "Does Jersey cream really give more butter than other breeds?"  In my analysis, the answer is yes.  Perfect "science?"  Probably not.  Do I care?  No.  Was it fun?  Absolutely!  I was able to question and compare, and we enjoyed eating the test subjects!  Try for yourself if you can.  

For more info on dairy breeds, butter making and homesteading, check out:


Radically Natural Recipe: GAPS Fudge, Take Two (aka Fruity Fudge)

I stumbled upon a raw chocolate fudge cake recipe over at Chocolate Covered Katie's site, and it inspired another session of GAPS fudge making in my kitchen.  My kids call this creation "freezer brownies," I call it fruity fudge pie, but we all call it DeLICiOuS!!

My first attempt involved raspberries from our neighbor's garden.  The fudge was scrumptious, but grainy...I had used the mixer without first blending the berries.  So, for my second (and more successful) iteration, I used strawberries and the blender (alas, all the raspberries found their way into our bellies before concoction number two).  The results were quite pleasing, very smooth and creamy.  You can make it either way depending on your palette's preference for texture.

This recipe will fill one standard pie dish.  You can either blend or mix (by machine or hand) the following ingredients:

1 cup ripe organic berries (or thawed frozen berries with their juices)
3/4 cup raw cacao powder
6 Tb raw grass-fed butter
6 Tb coconut butter -- see Katie's recipe (I used Tropical Traditions Coconut Concentrate)
1/4 tsp. sea salt
1/2 cup raw honey
1 tsp. cinnamon

Spread mixture into pie plate and freeze until quite firm.  Non-GAPS folks could top with whipped raw cream; we will top with whipped coconut milk and extra berries.  Enjoy!

Radically Natural Recipe: Ever Just Have Fudge for Dinner?

Well, it happened. I was tired, hot and grumpy, and I fed my children nothing but fudge for dinner. BUT, before you judge me too harshly, fellow Real Food crunchy mamas, let me assure you that it was healthy, luscious raw butter fudge!

I used to make a similar recipe with coconut oil, but when I obtained access to raw organic grass-fed cream, I switched. Sorry, coconut oil, I love you, but game over! Friends of ours have a grass-fed Guernsey cow, giving me access to a half gallon of gorgeous Guernsey cream once a week. It makes great butter...butter that doesn't last long in this household of butter gobblers. We eat about 1/2 pound of butter daily, with rationing, and the half gallon currently makes about 1 lb. of butter. I can see why once upon a time, everyone had his own cow. Someday, we hope to have a butter cow. Until then, I beg cream off my friends!

[Warning...this fudge is addictive and not necessarily GAPS friendly (there is some debate about raw cacao).  We cheated and paid for it a bit, but I see a future of fudge once our systems are more stabilized.]

Thanks to Sarah, the Healthy Home Economist for the inspiration.  She uses carob and peanut butter, but carob is definitely GAPS illegal and I'm not a fan of the ubiquitous peanut (even organic) primarily because of the aflatoxins (I have other peanut doubts, but that's another story).  Because my son is allergic to tree nuts, we cannot substitute almond or cashew or another nut butter.  I make raw sunflower butter and it worked quite well in the recipe.  To make sunflower (or pumpkin seed) butter, soak the seeds overnight, drain and rinse, allow to dry a bit (half a day or so), then blend with a bit of sea salt and some organic melted coconut oil or organic EV olive oil...but beware your olive oil source, as many olive oils are fake or adulterated.

Nut-Free Raw Butter Cacao Fudge
1 cup raw grass-fed butter softened
1/2 cup raw sunflower butter
1/2 cup raw honey
1/2 cup raw cacao (I like Earth Circle Organics )
1 tsp salt
1 tsp vanilla
1 Tb. cinnamon

Just add everything to a mixing bowl and whip.  I made this fudge directly after making the butter, so it was soft and creamy.  Smooth the mousse-like mixture into a baking pan (I use a Pyrex Square Cake Pan) and place in the freezer.  Once it is hardened, you can cut the fudge.  Store the fudge in the freezer to keep it solid...that is, if you have anything left to store once your kids and husband have a nibble.  This butter fudge melts on your fingertips and in your mouth.  (Eating in a bowl with a spoon is a mess-free alternative; it's like cold, solid mousse.)  It's a nourishing indulgence...a butter (and chocolate) lover's dream.  

Butter Making Resources
Cultured Butter
Video: How to Make Raw Butter

Tomorrow it's grass-fed steaks, soup and salad for dinner.  Sometimes you just need to eat the fudge.  Enjoy!

Radically Natural Recipe: GAPS Moist, Chewy Cacao Cake

The progression through Full GAPS is a unique process depending upon your sensitivities and level of dysbiosis.  My family suffers on different levels and struggles with varying rates of healing.  But we are finally at a place where I can experiment more with baking, and we are able to occasionally enjoy this chewy chocolate treat.

This is what I consider to be a "universal" baking recipe, one that can be called cake, muffin, cupcake, even brownies.  The texture will vary depending on the amount of each ingredient used, so feel free to tweak and experiment to achieve your desired consistency.  Here's the formula we've been enjoying:

GAPS Cacao Cake
8 Tb. butter (I use 1/2 brick of Kerrygold unsalted), melted
1 cup cacao powder (I like Earth Circle Organics raw cacao)
8-10 eggs, depending on size
1 cup honey (I use raw organic honey from Azure Standard Food Co-op)
1 tsp. vanilla (I make my own with Mtn. Rose Herbs vanilla pods and brandy)
1 Tb. cinnamon (optional dashes of other spices as well, such as nutmeg, ginger, cloves...)
3/4 tsp. sea salt
3/4 cup coconut flour (I like Tropical Traditions)

Melt the butter in a small saucepan, whisk in the cacao powder and cinnamon.  Separately, whisk the eggs (I use a KitchenAid standing mixer for this recipe, but you can whisk by hand as well).  I have found that the cake is "fluffier" if you spend time whisking the eggs individually.  Add the honey, vanilla and salt, mixing well.

Add the coconut flour slowly, mixing well to avoid lumps.  Add the cacao/butter mixture and whisk thoroughly.  Pour the batter into a prepared pan (coconut-oil-greased glass or silicone) and bake for 20 to 30 minutes at 350 degrees, testing with a toothpick or butter knife.

This recipe can be used in a square or rectangular cake pan, or in muffin pan.  I love the HIC Silicone Mini Muffin Pan ...that brand actually uses pure, food-grade silicone.  [You can can tell if your silicone has plastic fillers by doing a pinch test.  Just squeeze together an inch of the silicone and see if it turns white...if so, you have fillers and I would advise against using that pan for baking.]

This recipe was inspired by one I found at The Well Fed Homestead.  Hers is different but just as delicious, so check it out as well (Fudgy Coconut Flour Brownies).  I must credit my eldest son for our latest iteration of this cake recipe; he is becoming a fantastic chef and is developing excellent kitchen instincts!

[A little culinary/food snob trivia:  You may notice the different spellings of cocoa and cacao.  The common vernacular is cocoa, as in processed cocoa powder, but the more authentic term is cacao, as in cacao pod/bean/tree or raw cacao powder, and it is pronounced cuh-cow.  Chocolate and cocoa are derived from the cacao tree.]

Another great coconut chocolate cake recipe can be found at the Tropical Traditions web site, for those of you not doing GAPS.  The video below is a good step-by-step guide; note the emphasis on beating the eggs separately.

Celebrating One Year on GAPS...Recipes and My Favorite Things

It's the end of May (wow, how did that even happen?), which brings our family to the one-year anniversary of our GAPS protocol.  From thinking that Intro would literally kill me (initial die off was severe), to having children complain 101 times about "soup AGAIN?!," we persevered, learned some tricks, and actually came to like many of our new GAPS meals.  Thus, we celebrate the end of Year One, hopefully the halfway point for our GAPS journey.  In honor of this momentous occasion, I wanted to share with you some recipes and a list of a few of my "favorite things."  [Cue Julie Andrews swirling in a lush high-mountain Alps meadow, swelling music, and.....la da da da dee dum.....ooh, look...grass-fed raw butter...run, children, run to the butter!  ahem...er...  Have I mentioned how much I adore butter?]

I think the recipes, foods and tools about to make their appearance here would appeal to anyone, GAPS or no GAPS.  In fact, only the baked goods are specific to my life with GAPS.  Actually, the recipes I'm planning to share are inhabitants of my favorites list, so let's just go directly to the list.  In no particular order, of course...

Buttered Dates
My toddler and her date
Yes, I lead with the ultimate GAPS indulgence.  At least, MY ultimate GAPS indulgence.  I know I've mentioned these goodies before, but the pleasure bears repeating.  In my life pre-GAPS, sea-salt-sprinkled dark chocolate-covered caramels were my ultimate guilty little pleasure.  Hubby would surprise me with a small box from various cities on his business travel schedule, and I would happily hoard and hide the precious loot.  Did I mention it was a guilty pleasure?  My post-baby waistline most certainly groaned about my favorite decadence.  Fast-forward to life on GAPS, post-Intro.  When I finally felt ready to introduce fruits, I yearned for medjool dates.  Perhaps this craving was instinctual, as many cravings can be, for my body desperately needs magnesium.  Because I find the sugars in dried fruit to be rather potent for my system, I began buttering the dates to increase nutrient absorption and buffer the sugar "high."  It worked, and a favorite evening treat was born.  I find medjool dates slathered with salted Kerrygold butter to impart a flavor so reminiscent of creamy caramels that I no longer feel deprived of my one-time obsession.

Coconut Flour Butter Cookies
Following the sweet trend I've begun, I wanted to share the recipe my eldest son and I concocted.  These cookies are a rare delicacy for us because my middle child is still sensitive to coconut.  We cannot use any of the other nut flours common to the GAPS protocol because of his severe (but improving) reaction to nuts.  I can get away with infrequent uses of coconut flour and cream without causing too bad a flareup for the little guy.  After a few iterations of these cookies, this final version became the family favorite.

1/2 cup butter (we're using Kerrygold most often for baking)
5 to 6 eggs (preferably pastured)
1/3 cup granulated coconut sugar (or 1/4 + cup honey)
Dash each ginger, cloves, nutmeg
1 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 cup + coconut flour
Fruit-only jam (like St. Dalfour All Natural Fruit Spread or Bionaturae Organic Fruit Spread)

Cream the butter and sugar, then add the eggs and beat on low speed until well incorporated.  Add the spices, then add the flour, mixing on low speed.  Depending upon the water content of your eggs and butter, your relative humidity and the phases of the moon (LOL), you may need to add more coconut flour to achieve a batter consistency.  This batter should not be runny...it should be thick, but not stiff like you're making play-doh; spoonable thick.  Add extra coconut flour slowly, incrementally, until all ingredients are well blended and consistency looks good.  Spoon globs of batter onto parchment or Silpat-lined cookie trays; you can flatten the cookies a bit with your finger.  Optional:  Indent the top of each cookie and add a dollop of jam into the depression.  (We make them both ways, but love the jam dots.)  Bake at 375 for 12ish minutes; the cookies should be golden brown and firm to the touch.

Raw Goat's Milk Yogurt
We currently have one milking doe in production, so our supply of browse/grass-fed raw goat milk is a precious commodity.  We get 1 quart daily, which awaits its twin from the next day and then becomes yogurt.  I use the countertop Villi starter from Cultures for Health and I always make the yogurt raw (excepting the pure starter, as per the instructions).  I know my picture reveals a food-fermenting no-no (as my yogurt cultures in the window), but in our still-chilly, winter-like house, that space above the baseboard heater is the warmest spot I have; it provides the most successful culture.  I hope to find a darker warm location as the heat increases.

Culturing the yogurt in our warmest location
Now, I exaggerate not...this yogurt is the creamiest, sweetest, tastiest yogurt I have ever eaten...it beats cow's milk yogurt any day.  Sure, I'm partial to the health advantages of goat's milk for human consumption (more easily digestible, more suitable to our human makeup), but I kid you not (see, I managed to fit in a pun), this raw goat's milk yogurt is dreamy.  One caveat...I am having trouble keeping my starter alive this spring.  We live in a very moist pacific northwest environ and I believe the natural molds in the air are competing with the flora in my culture.  The yogurt has been on the runny side.  But, this too shall pass.  Having this traditionally fermented pro-biotic food for our diet has been a culinary and gut health boon.

Savory Roaster
I credit my latest cooking tool find to my mother-in-law, who pulled out her mom's antique roaster during our visit last month.  The enameled (steel? iron? aluminum?  I honestly don't know) large oval roaster will hold a small turkey or a couple nice sized roasts.  I have used mine to cook pork and beef roasts to perfection.  The supposed secret to the Savory Roaster's success is the rounded bottom and well-fitting lid.  These roasters are out of production, but I found a great-condition roaster on ebay.  There is a Savory Jr. Roaster that is about half the size of the Daddy roaster, but they are far harder to find and much more costly.  Now don't get me wrong, I still love my crock pot...it saves me so much time and makes sure my kids get fed when I've forgotten to plan the next day's meals.  But a savory roast, well, it puts me in mind of an Old Testament story in the Bible of Isaac on his death bed requesting his favorite meal..."And make me savory meat, such as I love..."  I couldn't agree more...I love my savory meat.

Beef Roast Recipe
I grab a roast or two from the freezer (from our sumptuous Hat Creek dry-aged, grass-fed beef stash), pop it in the roaster, add a cup of stock (from whatever I have made), add a few chopped onions, some bruised garlic cloves, a few roughly chopped carrots, a couple bay leaves, a generous dousing of sea salt, a sprinkling of thyme, basil, marjoram (whatever suits my fancy that day), place it in a 400 degree oven for a couple hours (testing for doneness when prompted by smell...no worries, the longer it cooks, the more tender it becomes), and voila!  Yummy roast meat.

Nakiri-bocho handcrafted from Hitachi White steel
This is my newest favorite toy...the latest addition to my knife collection.  I love many culinary tools, but my knives are by far the most essential tools in my kitchen.  And I refuse to use inferior tools that don't get the job done, so I keep my knives scary sharp.  My husband learned years ago how to sharpen my blades (and his own hand carving woodworking tools) on Japanese waterstones.  His technique has improved dramatically since studying the work (DVDs and in person) of Murray Carter, a Japanese-trained master bladesmith who resides in Oregon.  Dear hubby gifted me with one of Carter's Japanese kitchen knives, the Nakiri-bocho vegetable knife.  The blade on this knife is amazing...very thin and Super Scary Sharp.  It cuts through vegetables like melted butter.  The cut is so smooth and clean, you can even taste the difference.  The vegetable slices are even healthier...truly...the less cellular damage you do when you cut your food, the less oxidation occurs.  That's one reason Japanese sushi chefs (some of my heroes) cut their delicacies so carefully and with such sharp blades.

Herbed Scrambled Eggs with Butter
The locally handmade pottery
makes the eggs even more delicous!
Barred Rocks roaming
Thanks to the coming of spring and the ladies who lay, we are finally getting about a dozen of our own beyond organic, pastured eggs daily (though the pasture is sorely lacking up here...that's another story). Eggs are a staple here, as in most GAPS households, and we love ours in all their forms.  A favorite breakfast is herby scrambled eggs, which we make by mixing a dozen eggs with a small amount of stock (again, from whatever is on hand), sea salt, pepper, and various herbs (basil, chives, garlic, parsley, etc).  After scrambling in generous amounts of pastured lard, we serve the eggs with butter.  Ah, healing, delicious fats, how I love thee!

Spring brings us a Rainbow
You guessed it!
Whew, I see I've created quite a page here...I imagine I should call it quits for now.  I neglected to mention our fabulous nourishing, detoxifying juice and the machine that makes it, as well as my GAPS birthday cake and the scrumptious GAPS mashed "potatoes."  Ah, well...another post for another day!  Until next time, enjoy your spring and savour some of my favorite mostly still-forbidden food for me...I'll live vicariously.

Traveling GAPS

Well, I've finally returned to finish the GAPS post I started before the happy arrival of our first goat kid of spring.  Our second pregnant doe is due this week, so we are in eager anticipation for more babies.  But I digress.....back to the GAPS travelogue:

If I had begun my preparations for our three-week journey a month before departure, I may not have felt fully equipped.  Of course, real life intruded and my intended two-week prep dwindled to four days.  My goal was to produce GAPS food provisions for our three-week-long, 3,800-mile driving/camping journey.  [Hubby corrected my teaser headline of two weeks ago..."It wasn't 3,400 miles, it was 3,800."  I suggested the difference was inconsequential, to which he replied, "No way...I drove it, it counts!"  And so it does!]  Despite a few miscalculations and short cuts, the dietary aspects of our journey proved to be successful.

Our trek involved traveling across multiple states to visit family and friends.  We drove our beast of a pickup truck, pulling our camper...our home on the road.  The food plan was based upon the assumption that we would need to cook/provide all our own meals.  [It was a serendipitous blessing, however, to find family and friends had made provision to feed our GAPS family, which alleviated the burden of my need to cook every meal from scratch while on the road.]  This was our first trip in the camper, and its existence  made this road trip much easier, especially for the numerous bathroom and meal stops required by our crew.  I had outfitted the camper with (almost) all the food necessary to keep us on protocol while away from home; the convenience factor of pulling over and firing up a cookstove was invaluable.

The camper is equipped with two small refrigerators and freezers, but they are inoperable while the camper is moving.  They work well as coolers, though, providing ample cold storage space when packed with frozen items.  The week before our departure, I roasted a turkey and a ham (both harvested from our organic pasture-based "homestead" this past fall).  I cut off all the meat and froze it, then used the carcasses for stock, which I bottled and froze in half gallon canning jars.  I made a batch of turkey soup and included it with the jarred stock supply.  I packed six stock and soup jars, hoping they would sustain our minimal daily stock needs while away from home (they did, thanks to loved ones who prepared soups for us along the way).  Once I had our stock supply squared away, I turned my attention to the other critical GAPS staple...our probiotic foods.  I had prepared two half gallon jars of sauerkraut and four half gallon jars of raw goat-milk yogurt (the BEST yogurt I have ever eaten, let alone made, in my life...a future Radically Natural rave).

Other principal foods included eggs, olive oil, butter, sea salt and pepper (and other herbs/spices), coconut milk, raisins, dates, and a jar of raw honey (how could we live without our high-carb indulgences? LOL).  The week before we left, I purchased multiple dozens of eggs to supplement the small stash I had saved from our laying hens (the ladies have been slacking here).  Numerous packages of grass-fed beef (roasts, ground), salmon and pastured bacon accompanied the aforementioned frozen turkey and ham.  I threw in a few cans of tuna, bottled a batch of mayonnaise, and packed a bag of onions and garlic heads.  Some carrots, apples, cucumbers and frozen peas rounded out the stash.  We weren't intending to leave civilization for three weeks, thus planned to procure organic produce as necessary.

In all, my endeavour to keep us on GAPS while traveling bore good fruit.  The kitchen-on-the-go made all the difference, not to mention the kitchens made available to us through generous hospitality.  Unlike hotel vacations or tent camping, house stays and campers provide real food facilities and the opportunity to pursue nourishment rather than off-protocol cheating.  Next post, I plan to share recipes and rave about some new favorite culinary prep items.  Until next time, be well and enjoy spring!

GAPS is NOT a "no-carb lifestyle"

Yes, I'm piggybacking on a recent Cheeseslave post regarding GAPS myths...with no intention of being unoriginal, of course!  But AnnMarie has highlighted some important misconceptions that seem to exists about the GAPS diet, and I wanted to further vocalize some important points.  In fact, it was not until I read a few of her recent posts and the resulting comments that I fully understood that such confusion exists.  A careful reading of McBride's GAPS book, as well as the GAPS website and GAPS Guide site, will reveal the following truths, so I will be brief.

Let's examine a couple key points:

GAPS is a temporary healing protocol, not a lifestyle diet or a weight-loss diet.  The GAPS protocol is designed to heal our guts by repairing and resealing the intestinal lining, detoxifying our bodies, and repopulating our beneficial flora.  The dietary protocol is the means to achieving this healing.  Because certain foods are problematic both for leaky guts and for feeding malevolent flora, those foods must be avoided while pursuing the protocol.  In addition, the protocol involves increased consumption of healing saturated fats.  This is the cornerstone of the protocol.  The fats, gelatin, marrow, etc. repair our intestinal lining.  

[Fat is crucial, not just in the GAPS protocol, but also to achieve lifelong wellness.  Fat makes your hormones.  Fat is essential to heart health, brain health, joint health, and more.  I will be posting a detailed article on the benefits and necessity of fat in the near future.]

McBride is a vocal supporter of the WAPF lifestyle, and GAPS is a "pre-Nourishing Traditions" program for the multitude of Americans who cannot digest "troublesome" foods, such as grains and dairy.  Even organic real milk and whole grains don't play nicely in a dysbiotic system.  The hope is that post-GAPS, your healed body will tolerate and thrive on NT-style foods.

It is important to understand the "temporary" nature of GAPS...temporary is subjectively defined based upon the level of dysbiosis being healed.  Some people will heal more quickly than others.  We cannot assume our journey will mimic anyone else's, and we must allow our bodies time to heal.  McBride gives two years as a general timeframe for the GAPS program, but variation will exist.

The desired result of GAPS is healing, and the goal is a healthy digestive system that will process all real foods, including properly prepared grains.  This brings us to the second key point:

GAPS is not a no-carb diet.  (It isn't even tremendously low-carb once you're on Full GAPS.)  GAPS is grain-free, but not zero carb.  The allowed foods on the GAPS protocol include myriad healthy carbs that are chosen to provide a balanced, varied diet while also preventing the feeding of pathogens.  A cursory reading of the allowed foods list will reveal numerous carbs.  These foods...including fruits, honey, squashes, carrots, lentils, peas, navy beans, coconut, beets, etc....are to be introduced slowly and methodically during the protocol, but they are allowed and recommended during the healing process.  Some of us will be more sugar sensitive than others, and may need to avoid or delay certain carbs for a period of time on the program.  But that does not mean that these foods are to be avoided FOREVER.  Again, the goal of GAPS is permanent healing and the creation of a body that can process the entire spectrum of healthy real foods.

My family daily consumes allowed carbs on the GAPS protocol, such as butternut and acorn squashes, carrots, coconut, beets, dates, raisins, peas, honey, and more.  My most sensitive child and I struggle with more severe dysbiosis, so we cannot consume these foods at the same level as the rest of the family members.  But as we continue our healing journey, I believe our bodies will accept all these foods successfully.  And I can tell you that my favorite little "pleasure" is currently dates stuffed with butter and shredded coconut...delicious!!  And I never would have experimented with this guilt-less pleasure had we not started GAPS.  Thinking outside the food box while on a healing regimen can be fun.

And that's something we all should remember.  Food is fun.  Food is life.  Food is nourishment, it is healing.  We should eat to live, and enjoy doing so, but we should not live miserably for the sake of food religion.  Committing to clean food or being a "real foodie" is not a life of misery and drudgery!  Real food is delicous!  The pleasures we desire to tickle our palates and nourish our bodies are available in the real food realm.  We need to relearn food wisdom and apply that knowledge to the way we eat and live.  We should choose wisely, and we should know when we need to tackle a more "drastic" healing regimen so that we can live the rest of our lives enjoying the full bounty of real food.  That is how I see GAPS...it is a fully nourishing protocol designed to bring systemic healing to our compromised bodies.  When we have achieved healing, we will enjoy exploring foods that we heretofore could not consume without pain or trouble.

The enemy is not real food, it is the "scientific" manipulation, the adulteration and pollution of our once-pure food supply.  The enemy is industrial food, pharma, and environmental toxins.  The solution is simple, even if it requires time and energy to achieve the desired healing.  Grains are not evil, they just need to be understood; and we need to lay the proper foundation in our guts so we can enjoy traditional grains.  Personally, I'm looking forward to once again consuming one of my family's favorite staple foods...sweet potatoes.  Knowing that the "bad buggies," as my little ones call them, are dead--no more to wreak havoc on our guts--will have made this temporary restriction worthwhile!

A common concern/complaint we all hear is how easily (and how much) people gain weight when they begin adding carbs/grains into their diets after practicing a high-protein, no-carb lifestyle.  Without delving into the involved science on the topic, I want to highlight a few reasons for this weight gain.  The weight gain puzzle is certainly more complex than this, but the following are common possibilities:

  • You have a food sensitivity (such as wheat) and are suffering from gut dysbiosis.  When we have dysbiosis, we easily put on weight because of inflammation and toxicity.  Healing the gut (a la GAPS) is an important step in properly digesting and utilizing grains without the toxic weight gain.
  • Your weight gain coming off a no-carb lifestyle is due to your body's "starvation response."  During your no-carb diet, your body did not receive the correct balance of essential nutrients.  You lost weight, but your body believed you were starving.  When you commenced eating a fuller spectrum of foods once again (ie, adding grains and starchy carbs), your body immediately began to build up fat stores to prepare for another cycle of starvation. 
  • You have a hormonal imbalance.  Hormones regulate every system in our bodies and are intricately linked with our weight.  Any hormone malfunction (thyroid, adrenals, sex hormones, etc) can tip the scales.  One notable culprit is high estrogen levels, because estrogen is housed in fat cells.  Excess estrogen can cause an increase in fat tissue.  Our polluted environment, with its abundance of xenoestrogens, leads to excess estrogenic imbalances in both women and men.

It is important to remember that we are unique individuals and we have varying food needs; additionally, our personal food needs will shift through the seasons of our lives.  I see validity in understanding metabolic typing, blood sugar issues, food sensitivities, etc.  We will not all thrive on the same exact diet, and that's OK.  As the old maxim tells us, one man's meat may be another's poison...  (But always and forever?  I hope not.)  I believe we all can have healed guts and should be able to process the variety of real food available to us.  But that is a theory in progress, and I certainly believe in individual food choice freedom.  Yet, if you want to enjoy the cornucopia of real food, make sure you have a strong foundation (healed gut) and that you learn traditional food preparation.  Again, there is no exact time limit on healing.  And in the end, some bodies will not process all the same foods in the same quantities to the same level of success.  "Individual results may vary."   LOL  

Well, I'm off to render some lard, so until next time, be well and enjoy real food!

Radically Natural Recipe: Sublime Sauerkraut...Probiotic Superfood

Cabbage could be in medical science what bread is in nutrition; cabbage is the physician of the poor. -- Dr. Blanc, Parisian physician, 1881
Long before adopting a "nourishing traditions" lifestyle, and prior to beginning GAPS, I loved sauerkraut. I remember the biannual meals featuring sauerkraut in my family home...I longed for more, never suspecting a future regimen of fermenting awaited me.  My love for sauerkraut has only grown since I began eating the genuine stuff...no more canned, processed kraut for me.  Home-fermented kraut is culinary and wellness ambrosia.

So for anyone attempting GAPS, or newly exploring the WAPF life, or even just desiring to increase delicious nutritional healing in your daily diet, adding sauerkraut to your repertoire is a real boon.

Before sharing my simple recipe for sauerkraut, let's look at some fast facts about this fantastic superfood.  In our discussion, we are assuming a traditionally fermented (also termed "cultured") raw food that is literally alive.  Inferior versions won't supply the vast health benefits.
  • Traditionally fermented raw foods like sauerkraut are teeming with friendly bacteria (hence the term "probiotic food") and live enzymes that significantly aid your body in food digestion and nutrient absorption, especially foods that are typically harder for your body to break down.
  • Beneficial bacteria (such as Lactobacillus plantarum) boost your immune system by increasing antibody production.  Lactobacillus also creates omega-3 fatty acids (a nutrient crucial to cell/brain/immune function).
  • Fermenting food can reduce toxins present in the food, as well as neutralize phytic acid (a compound found in grains that blocks absorption of minerals...which is why soaking grains before consumption is a good practice).
  • Historically, fermentation was used as a food preservation method, and ancient cultures (such as the Chinese in 200 BC) have records of sauerkraut juice being prescribed for various ailments.
  • Lactic acid is a metabolic byproduct produced by bacteria as they consume sugars.
  • Lactic acid prevents decay not only in foods, but in your gut as well.  Lactic acid fermented foods increase bowel blood circulation, promote pancreatic function, help to maintain proper acid/alkaline balance and harmonize stomach acids.
  • Sauerkraut is especially high in vitamin C; turning cabbage into kraut increases its B vitamin content.
To learn more about lactic acid fermentation and sauerkraut, check out the following sites:
Sauerkraut, original probiotic superfood

Now let's get down to business.  The following is my simple sauerkraut-making method.  I'm going to share my cabbage kraut recipe, but you really can ferment a plethora of vegetables; you can combine them, too.  I enjoy adding radishes, onions and carrots to my cabbage.  (In the photo below you may notice sliced radishes with the cabbage.)  The world of fermentation is vast and varied.  Check out the resources I've listed here and use your imagination.

  • Gallon glass jar with lid
  • Large bowl
  • Two to four heads organic cabbage (green and/or red)
  • Sea salt, dill seeds/weed, caraway seeds 
  • Raw whey (from raw grass-fed milk made into kefir or yogurt)
  • Wooden dowel for tamping (I use my tapered dowel-style rolling pin), at least 2 inches in diameter
  • Gallon ziploc bag

  • Chop one head of cabbage, place in bowl and sprinkle with about 1 Tb. sea salt.
  • Let sit for 10-20 minutes as cabbage releases liquid.
  • Scoop/pour cabbage and liquid into glass jar.
  • Sprinkle in some dill and caraway (caraway assists in the fermentation process and both herbs just taste so good in the kraut); about 1 tsp. each.
  • Draining whey from kefir
  • Add 1 Tb. whey.  
  • Pound (not too quickly or firmly...I did once break a jar using too much vigor) the cabbage into the jar with your dowel; you are breaking down the cabbage further and getting it to release more juices.  
  • Repeat process with the rest of your cabbages (I find that four small cabbages fit into the gallon jar...just do as much or as little as you desire).
  • Tamping down cabbage
  • You will need to leave a couple inches of head room at the top of your jar; gasses will be released during the fermentation process and head room helps to avoid leaks from built-up pressure.
  • Submerged cabbage and head room
  • As you are pounding with your tamper, you will begin to feel a "sucking" pressure on the upstroke as the liquids release and begin to fill the jar.  You want the cabbage to be submerged in liquid.
  • If your cabbage is on the dry side, it could be difficult to get it to release enough liquid to cover itself in the jar.  In this case, just add enough pure water so all the cabbage is covered.
  • When your jar is full (but with three to four inches of headroom), put the ziploc bag inside the jar on top of the cabbage/liquid.  Fill the bag slowly with water until the bag is weighting down the cabbage.  Close bag.  You want to leave just enough room at top of jar to fit the bag inside and put on the jar's lid.  This bag of water is acting as a weight to keep the cabbage submerged below its liquid, and also as an air seal.
  • Insert empty bag...
    ...fill it with water, close it, and seal jar with lid
  • Keeping the cabbage submerged and air out of the jar prevents any molding during the process.
  • Put the jar in a place where it is relatively dark but not cold (room temperature is desired).  You may want to place a kitchen towel under the jar in case it leaks...I check my jar in the first couple days to "burp" it if necessary.
  • Let the cabbage ferment for up to three weeks (time frames vary by recipe/author...I've read anywhere from three days to a month or more).
  • When you are satisfied with the amount of time the kraut has fermented, open the jar, remove the water bag, make sure there is no mold inside the jar (I have never experienced mold but have read that mold or scum can sometimes form on the top of the cabbage/liquid...if this is the case, just scoop it out...the kraut underneath is supposed to be fine).  If the cabbage stayed below the juice level and your water bag acted as an air barrier and the jar lid remained on during the fermenting process, you should not experience mold.
  • Put the lid back on the jar and place the jar in the fridge (this "stops" the fermenting process...or at least significantly slows it).  
  • Keep the kraut refrigerated now that you've stopped fermenting and begun eating.
  • Enjoy!!!

Recommendations from my bookshelf:

EWWHerbals                                                                              "Every wise woman builds her house..."  Proverbs 14:1

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