Archive for October, 2011

Breast Cancer Awareness Month

October 25, 2011

When I was 50 years old (ten years ago in 2001), I asked my mother (who was 73 at the time), “when you were 50, (back in 1978) how many friends did you know who had breast cancer or had died from breast cancer? Her answer was “none.” And my mom was a very active member of her church, Girl Scouts, and other circles in her community; ie, she knew a lot of women. I, at that time, already knew over a dozen woman who had breast cancer, and now 10 years later, several of those friends have died, and the number diagnosed just keeps growing.

If you look at most of the hype surrounding Breast Cancer Awareness Month, it is NOT about the possible toxic causes of breast cancer, or even that we may be experiencing a higher rate of cancer. So much of the focus is on mammograms, and if you go HERE  you can read some cutting edge research by Sayer Gi of www.GreenMedInfo, including these 2 critical pieces of information:

A recent study and editorial published in the New England Journal of Medicine indicated that x-ray mammography screening may “save” only 1 person for every 2,500 screened. Among the 2,500 screened at least 1,000 will have a false alarm, 500 would undergo an unnecessary biopsy and 5 or more would become treated for abnormal finds that would never become fatal, i.e. their lives will be shortened due to medication/surgical/stress-induced adverse effects. 

Given these findings X-ray mammography may be far more effective at generating increased numbers of breast cancer diagnoses than in “preventing” malignancy and mortality associated with the disease. To the contrary, a growing body of clinical evidence indicates that the “low energy” x-rays used in breast screenings are up to 500% more carcinogenic than previously assumed and upon which current radiation risk models that favor mass breast screenings with ionizing diagnostic technologies find justification.

This is NOT an indictment of any woman’s choice to get a mammogram, or do whatever treatment she deems necessary if she has breast cancer. What I am bringing into the light is the possibility we may have been “misled.”

Fermented Foods Aid Digestion

October 22, 2011

The following article says it so well.

If you’d like some great recipes and info about how to make your own fermented (and dried) foods, check out My friend Lee Lee started this blog prior to our Lama Foundation Fermentation/Preservation/Traditional Food Prep day, where we taste tested and loved all of them.

Dr. Rubman on the Power of Pickles

Something is inherently funny about the word “pickle”… but the truth is, foods that are pickled (fermented) actually dish up serious health benefits. Specifically, they are really good for soothing digestive discomfort of all kinds. Counterintuitive as it may be, eating fermented foods — not only pickled cucumbers, but also peppers, tomatoes, chutney and sauerkraut, to name a few — is a simple and tasty way to resolve heartburn, bellyache and other intestinal distress.

In fact, Daily Health News contributing editor Andrew L. Rubman, ND, told me that in addition to being a way to create deliciously tart, appealing foods, pickling is an ancient preservation technique. British seamen ate sauerkraut to ward off scurvy… Bulgarians were believed to live longer because they drank fermented milk… and Koreans today eat more than 40 pounds per year of kimchi (a blend of cabbage, garlic, chilis and other ingredients) both for taste and to ease  digestion. Interesting, isn’t it?


The fermentation of foods takes place through the breakdown of carbohydrates by live microorganisms such as bacteria (for instance, Lactobacillus acidophilus or Lactobacillus bulgaricus), yeasts and molds. Kimchi, pickles, sauerkraut and the like act as probiotics, encouraging the growth of positive intestinal microbes. These fermented foods promote efficient digestion, support immune  function and boost good nutrition overall. They support availability of B vitamins in certain foods and essential amino acids. They also serve to counteract the ill effects of antibiotics.

According to Dr. Rubman, fermented foods are far better than the over-the-counter antacids or the proton pump inhibitors (PPIs) people routinely swallow to relieve heartburn and stomach upset, which end up causing more harm than good. While they may provide temporary relief, use of antacids or PPIs can  backfire because you need acid to efficiently digest foods… and insufficient stomach acid can upset the proper environmental balance of intestinal flora. In contrast, fermented foods encourage the growth of good gut flora while also helping to neutralize the small amounts of stomach acid left in the system between meals, which is a common problem for people with gastritis and GERD.


Eating fermented foods a few times a week  can make a real difference in how well your digestive system functions. It’s easy enough to do — you can spice up stews with a dollop of chutney or a ¼ cup of kimchi, enjoy a bowl of miso soup, slice pickled cucumbers or peppers on sandwiches or spoon yogurt over fresh fruit. To find fermented foods, visit your local health or gourmet store or shop online…

  • Order fermented foods from farms such as Wills Valley Farm Products ( in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, which offers fermented vegetables including kimchi, red cabbage, red beets and ginger carrots. Other American picklers include ADAMAH in Falls Village, Connecticut… and Alexander Valley Gourmet in Healdsburg, California — and you can find many more online.
  • Go international. Explore fermented foods from around the world, such as the pickled Asian plums known as umeboshi. In Japan, these have been used for thousands of years for their purported ability to counter nausea, stimulate the digestive system and promote the elimination of toxins. Find them in Asian and gourmet markets and on Web sites such as To explore the extensive world of Indian chutney, check out recipes at Web sites such as and
  • Choose carefully. Read labels and buy fermented products that are low in sugar and contain live or active cultures. Dr. Rubman warns that most brands of yogurt, in particular, are loaded with sugar and artificial flavoring, but he notes that Stonyfield Farm and Nancy’s are two brands that do contain live bacterial cultures.

In cases of active intestinal disturbances such as irritable bowel syndrome or gastritis, Dr. Rubman sometimes  prescribes fermented foods and/or probiotics (supplements that you can take if you don’t enjoy the taste of fermented foods), but he does not recommend that you try this on your own. See a qualified and experienced naturopathic physician who can assess your condition and prescribe an appropriate dosage. But if you’re in good health, pile pickles on your plate… pucker up… and enjoy.


Andrew L. Rubman, ND, medical director, Southbury Clinic for Traditional Medicines, Southbury, Connecticut.

Fermented Milk: Yogurt and Kefir Made Easy

October 15, 2011

There are a variety of micro-organisms that make their home in milk. Different ones (and there are several from around the world) prefer different temperatures. Most of them are very beneficial, and when a large enough number of them are introduced into milk of their preferred temperature range, they will “culture” that milk and become dominant.

If you want to make yogurt, for example, you can buy a yogurt machine, boil your already pasteurized milk, and follow their directions…OR, you can go the home-made route, with no two batches quite the same, and all delicious. If you can procure raw fresh milk, so much the better; if not, whole organic milk that is not homogenized is second best. Many folks can only find  whole organic milk: still cheaper and more rewarding than store-bought.

Making yogurt: bring one quart of whatever milk you have (goat, sheep, cow, some folks are even trying coconut) to 100 degrees F in a glass or stainless steel saucepan. Use a thermometer that is accurate and able to be dunked into the milk. Pour the warm milk into a clean glass jar (mason works great) and add 2 tablespoons of your favorite store-bought yogurt (but make sure there is NO sugar added, and that the yogurt is guaranteed live). Be sure to leave a good inch or so at the top for expansion. Close the lid tightly and shake well to disperse the culture throughout the milk. Do not shake again ! Yogurt likes to be “left alone.”

Now here it gets interesting….Almost everything I’ve read about yogurt claims that you must culture at fairly high temperatures: not in my experience! Yogurt seems to develop just fine in the 100 to 105 degree temp range, which can be in an oven with a pilot light, a super sunny window in a greenhouse, or a cooler with a heating pad…this is where you get to play Junior Chemistry Set and discover how to keep your culture in that temperature zone for approx. 6 to 8 hours….and yes you can go higher, but if you are using raw milk, your enzyme potential will drop every degree until you hit 118 at which point the enzymes present in raw milk are destroyed. The amount of time it takes can vary, and so the first few batches are experiments: watch for the tell-tale thickening of the milk as you GENTLY tip the bottle to see if it has coagulated yet. Commercial yogurt is often full of gums and powdered milk to make it thicker. When done, put into the fridge, and in a few hours it will be “set” and ready to use. Do NOT shake! You will lose the natural structure of the yogurt, and it will get “runnier” if you do.

Making kefir: bring one quart of milk to between 75 and 80 degrees F (and continue as above for yogurt).  You can either get the kefir grains (which I’ve never done) and follow their directions or you can get a packet of kefir starter and follow their instructions as to how much to use for one quart. I started with a packet of kefir starter about 12 years ago, and have kept it going by using 2 Tablespoons of the previous batch to start the next batch (which is how you do yogurt once you get it going). Most commercial kefir has sugar in it (and gums, etc.) and I’ve never used it as a starter.

Kefir is actually easier than yogurt because it likes “room temperature.” That ideally means between 75 and 78 degrees F (don’t go below 70 or above 80 degrees). Find a spot that stays that temp for 24 hours…yes, 24 hours. In the winter I put wrap my kefir in wool or down and put into a cooler at night. The kefir is done when it “coagulates” but it will always be a bit “runnier” than yogurt. If you get the culture a little too hot, it may separate into “curds and whey.” No problem! The curds are like cheese and the whey can be used to make sauerkraut and kim chi, which is next week’s blog. Sometimes ny kefir is “sparkling” and very tangy, and sometimes it is smooth and creamy. Part of the fun is that each batch is a wee bit different.

This is a great activity for children of all ages: the alchemy of micro-organisms, and the vagaries of each day. hope you enjoy!

October is Non-GMO Month

October 6, 2011

We’re taking a brief hiatus from fermentation to report on the latest political action and scientific studies regarding GMO food, and the fight to at least label the stuff.

For studies on animals that show GMO food is detrimental to their health (and oh by the way, we are animals also!) please go HERE for an excellent article by Jeffery Smith, author of Seeds of Deception.

For info on what natural foods may be contaminated with GMO, please read  HERE 

More  HERE  from Jeffery Smith about the current political fight to control/label GMO’s, and how we really need grassroots action.

The Institute for Responsible Technology has filed a legal petition asking the FDA to demand labeling of GMO foods. If you go HERE  you can sign the petition as well as see a video. Then you can pass this along to your network of friends.

The Global Justice Ecology Project has a petition to try to stop a huge planting of GE trees in the southeast. You can go  HERE to read more about this spectacularly bad idea and sign a petition.

Citizen’s For Health, a consumer watchdog organization, has info  HERE about the Right2Know March on Washington to demand the labeling of GMO foods.

And last but never least, you can go to the Organic Consumer’s Association homepage  HERE for lots of current info on everything happening to slow/stop/label GMO foods internationally.

I am reminded  of various campaigns I have participated in over the years: our actions really do matter. The more we are told they do not, the more we realize we are making an impact.