Category Archives: Health

Reasons to Get to Know your Local Farms

#ShopLocal represents a bit of a movement for many reasons…  supporting local economies, helping small businesses and entrepreneurs, and enjoying specific, regional options are a few of those.  When it comes to nutrition, it can also equate to greater transparency, produce picked at peak ripeness, reducing an urban footprint, and some regional health benefit, such as honey that is more likely to support a reduction in allergy symptoms related to a local area.

It’s also a personalized experience! 

A recent trip to a local grower, Wauka Meadows Farm, near the area my mother retired to introduced a new food (for my knowledge) that carries a nutritional punch, the muscadine grape (pictured above).  It also led to a healthful discussion with one of the owners with regards to local produce, the growing environment and regional climate, and some barn kittens running around the property.  Having the ability to speak directly with the owners is a fantastic opportunity for places such as this.  It also allows us to vote with our consumer dollar which for transitional farming areas may be quite impactful.  Finally, you may just meet a local billy goat who relishes the idea of your attention!

*Livestrong.com provides a write up on muscadine grapes HERE.

*Find sustainable and organic farms in the North and Central Georgia area via Northeast Georgia Locally Grown CSA (community supported agriculture) program.

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A segway into glyphosate and engineered plants for food

I am someone who grew up in a farming family from the Midwestern part of the US.  For me, it was times two.  Both grandfathers operated commercial farms.  One of these eventually closed up when I was in middle school while the other still exists today.  However, my paternal grandfather’s story was a bit of an interesting one.

In late middle school, we were given an assignment to interview someone living during World War II.  I interviewed him.  Little had I known that he hadn’t gone to war.  He was, in fact, in chemistry for the Department of Agriculture and it was determined that his work was relevant enough to avoid the draft.  He later left due to a disconnect with some of what that they were doing.  It wasn’t until many years later that I came to further understand the significance of this.

I wish I could tell my late grandfather that it got better.  Unfortunately, we have a silent war occurring over chemical based applications in farming and glyphosate (a predominant agent in Round Up) is one of the most controversial headliners involved.  The US is one of the battle grounds.

It is no doubt that even adding a post of this nature will raise some eye brows.  However, despite this, I feel it is imperative to provide information that may be relevant to health.

Recently, I attended a community sponsored presentation delivered in a “state of” format.  The lead presenter, a retired chemist who worked on genetic engineering of food, began following literature centered on glyphosate and engineered foods post-career.  As a result, he became concerned and shifted into information based advocacy.  This blog post synthesizes what was provided.

The History

Glyphosate, a molecule, is one of the most successful chemicals in terms of global distribution.  It was developed and patented in the early 1970’s, then formulated as the herbicide “Round Up” in 1974.  Later, it was patented as an antibiotic.  (Remember this fact as it will come up again).

Initially it served to be a weeding agent which could reduce time and costs related to plowing fields.  In theory this could impact yield, but concrete and clear, non-biased* data suggesting benefit to yield may not be available.

Over time, additional applications of the substrate have emerged.  This includes topical applications to GMO (genetically modified organisms) and a process called “chemical ripening” which includes another spray application just before harvest.  The intent of chemical ripening is to even out the harvest across the land.

…Are you counting?

This is now three layers onto the soil in which the plants grow and, if the plants are GMO, one layer directly on to plants themselves (in which you may consume).

In countries such as the US, we have also observed a shift in the approved MRL (maximum residue limits), ie the trace amount of the pesticide legally allowed to be left over from the application.  At this point in time, more residue is allowed to remain on the food or feed as compared to years past.  The presentation did not address if there is a MRL for the soil in which the plants are grown.

…That’s right, you are now legally allowed to be exposed to more in the US.

It is also used “everywhere”.  Beyond farms, there is distribution direct to consumers for around homes, landscape applications, and other commercial ones such as along train routes and highways.

To not be exposed at all to this agent in industrialized countries such as the US would be literally impossible.

Professionally, I can tell you that we have only recently started taking “collective burden” seriously for exposures to chemical agents across the board vs LOAEL’s and NOAEL’s** on a per substrate basis.  Dr’s  Walter Crinnion and Joseph Pizzorno are two leading environmental medicine professionals who can share a wealth of information covering this topic.

What is Controversial?

As I would hope readers will understand, a commercialized chemical agent with this large of market share will have its share of study data, some of which will be funded for and directed by the company of manufacturer (it is likely you have heard of them…), while others will be independent in nature, ie external to the company of manufacture.

Although not an absolute safe guard against biases, independent, peer reviewed studies are considered gold standard.  Funding sources for external studies can vary.  There may be incentives for findings in industrial studies, but this will not be the case for university based trials.

Some findings in non-company funded and directed research has raised cause for concern.  Including, but not limited to (note, support and level of significance for each of the bullets below varies based upon the area of research);

  • animal studies suggesting vulnerability from exposure to the chemical
  • mitochondrial damage (remember, mitochondria are bacteria)
  • association to inflammation and gut lining permeability in humans (two precursors for chronic disease, particularly those related to immune dysfunction)
  • potential link to adverse cellular health and DNA damage (studies have suggested that glyphosate can enter cells in replace of an amino acid glycine, but, if so, will not fold correctly)
  • accumulation in proteins, such as animal and human milk
  • observation of “super weeds” that are resistant to glyphosate

Research reflecting possible adverse effect from current applications of glyphosate has piqued interest on a global level.  As it stands, the World Health Organization (WHO) has issued a call for concern.  In the US, the EPA has not reissued the WHO’s call (to date).  From a historical perspective, this is NOT common.

Dr. Zach Bush is one provider who maintains various information related to health concerns and pesticide exposure.

Other Cause for Concern

Although slightly outside of the scope of this presentation, countries such as the US have very high rates of obesity and chronic conditions associated to being over weight or obese.  Concern for the over consumption of refined and processed food choices providing limited to no quality nutritional value is high.  Many of these processed foods represent applications of widely produced GMO crops such as soy, corn, and rapeseed that makes canola oil.  As mentioned above, these foods are not only being refined and processed, they are the ones directly sprayed with herbicides in commercial farming.

Why a Community Presentation?

Local communities have little to no authority to regulation pesticides, yet some communities would like to do more.  Some policy driven organizations have formed and will vary by the local level.  National agencies do also exist.

In Closing

Product selection, including food, is one way to reduce risk and provide some level of a consumer voice (via purchasing decisions).  GMO based crops are herbicide resistant by design.  This includes soy, corn, canola, sugar beet, alfalfa, sorghum and cotton.  These crops are sprayed directly as plants and.  Chemical ripening is popular in grain, seed, and legume based crops.  Therefore, these plant sources for food and consumer products may have the highest application frequency.

A few other resources are listed below.

Typically I allow comments on posts.  Due to the offensive nature some take towards anyone who presents any sort of information related to this specific topic, I have turned comments off.  As I said, there is a silent war.  I believe it is a sad and disturbing one.

Other resources

Research publications

Clair, E., Mesnage, R., Travert, C. & Seralini, G.E. (2012, Mar).  A Glyphosate-based Herbicide Induces Necrosis and Apoptosis in Mature Rat Testicular Cells In Vitro, and Testosterone Decrease at Lower Levels.  Toxicology In Vitro, 26(2), 269-279.

Gasnier, C., et al. (2009, Aug 21).  Glyphosate-based Herbicides are Toxic and Endocrine Disruptors in Human Cell Lines.  Toxicology, 263(9), 184-191.

Kruger, M., et al. (2014).  Detection of Glyphosate Residues in Animals and Humans.  Environmental and Analytical Toxicology, 4(2).

Larsen, K., Najle, R., Lifschitz, A. & Virkel, G. (2012, Nov).  Effects of Sub-lethal Exposure of Rats to the Herbicide Glyphosate in Drinking Water: Glutathione Transferase Enzyme Activities, Levels of Reduced Glutathione and Lipid Peroxidation in Liver, Kidneys and Small Intestine.  Environmental Toxicology and Pharmacology, 34(3), 811-818.

Samsell, A. & Seneff, S. (2013, Dec).  Glyphosate, Pathways to Modern Diseases II: Celiac Sprue and Gluten Intolerance.  Interdisciplinary Toxicology, 6(4), 159-184.

Samsell, A. & Seneff, S. (2013, Apr 18).  Glyphosate’s Suppression of Cytochrome P450 Enzymes and Amino Acid Biosynthesis by the Gut Microbiome: Pathways to Modern Diseases.  Entropy, 15, 1416-1463.

Swanson, N.L., Leu, A., Abrahamson, J. & Wallet, B. (2014).  Genetically Engineered Crops, Glyphosate and the Deterioration of Health in the United States of America.  Journal of Organic Systems 9(2).

Notes

*Non-biased is a descriptive term commonly used in reference to scientific information.  Essentially in any form of scientific presentation (published studies, information used in white papers, citations used in verbal/visual presentations, etc), peer-reviewed, independent studies are considered the standard for "non-bias".  Some bias may still exist in how the information is presented or how the study was conducted.  Despite a scientific preference for peer-reviewed and independent, studies funded by companies, that are also self-directed and reviewed, can be published.  Some journal standards do exist, but there are many publications and media sources to date.  Academic based research institutions and the researchers involved are not compensated with incentives related to research outcomes in the same way as they could be if private industry is their workplace and/or setting of research.  Disclosure of this information is suppose to be indicated when it is published (see... ).

**LOAEL and NOAEL refer to Lowest Observed Adverse Effect Level and No Observed Adverse Effect Level.  These scientific standards are used in assessing safety and approving various products that may be produced for commercial reasons.

Medical Cannabis, oh my…

If you had asked me a few years ago my thoughts on medical marijuana (or cannabis), I would have likely half way nodded, then mumbled something about attending a public health centered presentation on it once and it’s typically a very low dose that is necessary.

As it stands now, I live in a state piloting a medical cannabis program. In the last few months I have seen it presented to an area health professionals networking group I am a part of, observed the launch of a docu-series, The Sacred Plant, and met some representatives from a local dispensary who were set up at a farmer’s market. Therefore, a few weeks ago, I made a point to attend an informational session presented by the dispensary. I also asked my integrative physician (M.D.) about it.

Now, I am one of the many patients who skirts a fine line. I have diagnosis’ (multiple autoimmune conditions) that are similar to those on my state’s list of “approved conditions”, but am not an exact match to the program as it currently stands. Based on some of the information presented in the docu-series, this could be an unfortunate disadvantage. However, the list is apparently evolving and hopefully expanding to be more inclusive for those who could be better served if access to the program were available.

I learned a few key points from an information session on medical cannabis.

Dose and consumption options for medical cannabis are vast and dependent on bio-individual factors. Some trial and error may be required to arrive at appropriate dose (amount, frequency, and compounding proportions). Therefore, a program directed by medical regulation can be beneficial.

Essentially, the two main compounds of interest for medical dose/compounding are CBD and THC. Again, proportioning is very, very personal.

There are oils, tinctures, topical applications, edibles, and hash (which would need to be smoked). Pricing will vary across a somewhat wide range. Again, bio-individuality and specific circumstances will play a role (despite how policy is written).

The Illinois program is designed, in part, to support local growers and be beneficial to job growth/creation within the state. (*No mention of farming methods was provided, such as organic, sustainable, or conventional).

At this point, for my particular state, ONLY medical cannabis is approved. A list of medical conditions will likely be available from your state health department. Some states have approved a recreational dose. Including a recreational provision is thought to support sustainability of the growers and operators within the industry.

The Illinois program is riddled with fees for those seeking a medical card and approval is for a limited duration. So far, no aid based program exists for those who may have need, but cannot shell out the several hundred dollars just to apply for the medical card. A finger print (think forensics) is also required and this represents another fee.

There are also no guarantees of approval and, if denied, there is no refund of the fees. Therefore, it is critical, before applying, to meet with an appropriate representative 100% knowledgeable on the regulatory aspects of the program.

A physician directive is required and, at this point, ONLY the M.D. designation counts (no D.O., P.A., etc). Also, not all physicians are on board. Dispensaries have lists of those open and willing to work with their specific centers if your preferred physician is not comfortable providing a directive. The dispensaries are also aggressively working on outreach at both consumer and professional levels.

Care takers can be designated in order to help facilitate purchasing/pick up from dispensaries and specific approval processes exist for them.

So what?

As you can see, there are definitely enhanced options available to those with medical conditions that could benefit from medical cannabis in specific states and/or for those who simply wish to use these therapies in their treatment protocols. However, there are caveats to be considered. It will also take support in planning the financial aspect. Some centers have employed health educators and coaches to help patients in the lifestyle planning facets.

Information sessions and workshops are now being offered by both dispensaries and advocacy groups, but offerings will vary based on where you live. Some groups have been able to line up time and space at local libraries.

A brief overview of possible health benefits of medical cannabis is provided in this Harvard Health Letter published in early 2018.

A broader lens on advocacy, legal information, industrial applications, and synthesis of medical use can be found from NORML.

Further information on costs are synthesized by another dispensary; http://sevenpoint.org/blog/

I would also throw a word of caution that the business aspect of this has become a HUGE topic in both media and on the black market. Due to this frenzy, misinforming media could be out there.

Recently in Illinois, “tainted synthetic pot” led to several hospitalizations and a few deaths. It was eventually linked back to a man in the Peoria area. A Chicago Tribune article provides further details here.

If I use affiliate links, small monetary compensation may be received.

What is “functional” and how does this apply to YOUR health?

Photo credit: Jan Kahánek, @honza_kahanek.

“Functional” is a bit of a buzzword these days with respect to health and healthcare.  There are applications across physical fitness and movement, food and nutrition, and healthcare practice.  For the purposes of this post, I am focusing on the application for professionals operating in healthcare and health service specialties.  My aim is to provide you a brief synthesis to support you when seeking out someone working with functional healthcare frameworks.

The term “functional” in healthcare emerged over 25 years ago as the field of integrative health practitioners and scientists was working to standardize processes into systematized approaches.  This was not just in the practice of care, but in the teaching of up and coming health professionals.  The movement is largely credited to Dr. Jeffrey Bland who still takes on national speaking roles and will leave his audiences with no shortage of relevant information.  More on this history can be found here.

Regardless, the key take-away is that the term “integrative” represents a broader application of approaches and methodologies while “functional” indicates specific training in systematized frameworks for these approaches, ie “functional” is a module within “integrative” health.

As I have found both in practice and personal experiences, taking the comprehensive lens that “Functional Medicine/Healthcare” provides leads to greater clarity and understanding for the full picture.  This is sometimes referred to as “whole health”.  Furthermore, this creates greater efficiencies and helps reduce decision fatigue.  We set better, more realistic goals for ourselves and engage better in our professional relationships with healthcare providers.

Andrea Nakayama, founder of the Functional Nutrition Lab training institute (in which I have trained), describes this further in a blog post (click here).  Furthermore, she also defines Functional Nutrition as “a therapeutic focus on restoring the optimum function of the body and its organs, that works with systems and frameworks towards resolving the root causes of any sign, symptom, or diagnosis, with a highlight on the importance of diet and lifestyle modification as part of its approach” (n.d.).

In healthcare practice and continued education, there are applications of systematized approaches and there are certification programs.  Ideally, these two components will be combined.  More realistically, neither provide an absolute for the quality of care you will receive and problem solving ability of the practitioner.  However, relying on professionals who have had some validation by way of structured training in functional approaches can help steer you in the correct direction.  Secondary to that, professional development training can speak wonders to how the professional operates (communications, utilization of time, how they run their business, expressions of empathy, etc).

In healthcare, specific licensed practitioners can become certified by the Institute of Functional Medicine.  These practitioners will likely be more involved in the community facets around functional medicine (learning modules, events, etc) and they will be included on the IFM directory.  Essentially, these providers will likely have earlier access to information and updates related to the practice.  Other practitioners select training modules leveraging the approaches, but, for a variety of reasons, may not pursue IFM certification or they may be representative of professional categories in which certification is not an option.

Over the last 10-15 years, we have observed a boom in other supportive allied health professionals, such as health coaches, herbalists, essential oil experts, etc.  Much of this is associated to our current landscape of chronic disease and conditions.  Certification and licensing of professionals in these categories is evolving and varies by state.  There has been work to standardize health coaching certification in the last 1-3 years.  However, training programs in which organizations such as the International Consortium for Health & Wellness Coaching recognize continue to evolve.

Therefore, my suggestion is to always ask questions.  Don’t be shy.  You are the health consumer and we are working to empower you to make better decisions for you and your family’s health.

I am always happy to receive and respond to questions!  More information about my background and training can be found on the “about” page within my website.

What did I learn from Deanna Minich, leading nutrition professional?

“DNA is like a canvas, food is like the paint…”  – Dr. Deanna Minich

The art of nutrition (and the science) is a practice that has captivated me.  Starting as early as my adolescent years, it has carried me from a passionate interest and professional focus through, more recently, a healing journey with autoimmune conditions.

Someone who has masterfully crafted this “art” is a nutrition professional introduced to me a few years ago while I was studying public health and the University of Illinois, Chicago.  As you can imagine, the opportunity to see her speak live was something not to be missed!

Deanna Minich is an educator, scientist, author, and sought after speaker.  She seeks to focus on health and vitality through healing protocols that are both scientific and creative.

Throughout her career, she has sought to “unite people to talk about food in a cohesive way.”  In doing so, she relies on colors of the rainbow as a primary teaching aid.  Her newest book, The Rainbow Diet: A Holistic Approach to Radiant Health Through Foods and Supplements, encourages a nourishing relationship with food and includes recipes, activities, and a wealth of information.

As she explained in her live talk, food is both information (the scientific lens) and connection (part of the art).

One illustration is from a look at “healing spices”.  Flavor brought about from specific spice and herb combinations can be definitive to styles of cuisine.  As it turns out, there are also certain healing properties of these plant compounds (otherwise, informative).  However, they can also warm the heart, so to speak, and bring about larger concepts, such as social connection.  Across the various profiles from turmeric and paprika to parsley or cilantro, we see the colors of the rainbow begin to emerge.

Shifting into a larger edibles, we can look at whole foods, such as strawberries, carrots, potatoes, cabbage, and kale (to name just a few).  Not only are these foods power houses for various phytonutrients related to skin and flesh colors (information), they can elicit specific moods and feelings (connection).

Digging deeper into color, there is an emotional spectrum associated to various colors of the rainbow, such as red commonly associated to energy.  That being said, as an educator, connecting food options can become just as much creative as it is scientific or routine.

Synthesizing her work and the related science could result in a much longer blog post!  However, a few key take away points and resources are as follows:

Take Away Points

Embrace small bites & sampling – Avoid falling into the phytonutrient gap.  Across all color groups, eat a wide variety of foods in smaller doses of each to optimize micro-level nutrition.

Consider the possibilities – Don’t like tomatoes and worry you may be missing lycopene?  Guess what, nature figured that out.  There are other foods in nature that will deliver the same compounds.  Try watermelon, guava, or cooked sweet red peppers.

Aim for ripeness – Foods picked when they are ripe, generally deliver more optimal nutrient profiles.  Therefore, buying direct from the source and eating seasonally becomes quite relevant.  For scenarios in which this can not occur, there are a few sensory tips and tricks to follow OR we even have newer technologies to guide us.

Couple up – Some micro-level nutrients absorb better in the presence of macro-level compounds such as healthful fat or complete protein (ie “food synergy”).

Get creative – Buy yourself a box of crayons and mark yourself up a colorful canvas each week representing different foods you intake by color.  Are any of the colors missing from your canvas?

Resources

www.drdeannaminich.com

Food and Spirit health professional training – explore creative ways to illustrate scientific concepts associated to food and receive various tools for support

2 1/2 min video on finding fresh produce in the super market – also, check out Jo Robinson’s book Eating on the Wild Side: The Missing Link to Optimum Health

SCiO The World’s First Handheld Moelcular Sensor – Development Kit (1) – digital sensory tool that can assess molecular aspects of substrates such as macro-nutrient profiling of food or lab results for skin care (see demo here)

Self monitor through options such as Berkeley Test Nitric Oxide Saliva Test Strips, 10 Count or Ph Test Strips 200 Count – Great for Alkaline diet and overall ph balance – Free Alkaline Food Chart (Sent Via Email) and also ask your practitioner to provide you a Nutrition-focused Physical Assessment/Exam

***Thank you to the Chicago Functional Forum chapter including Dr. Amy Weiler and Anne Gnuechtel for organizing and hosting this impressive presentation.

In need of formalized support to make healthful lifestyle changes?  Contact me through my business site.

Affiliate links may result in a small amount of monetary income.

Composting 101 – What I Learned

Did you know…

  • Food waste contributes to 8% global emissions (methane).
  • In urban areas, such as Chicago, approximately 30% (sometimes higher) of total waste sent to landfills consists of organic matter that is compostable!

I don’t know about you, but I find this sort of data less than acceptable.  Composting is an organic like process that represents cyclical dynamics by natural design.  Different than recycling that requires man-power input, the process relies on basic principles of organic chemistry.  However, we have culturally escaped so far away from the notion that we need to attend or teach “how to” classes on the subject.

So what the heck can you do about it?

  1. Find your local players.  In my area, we have some fantastic organizations, such as Zero Waste Chicago, working hard to educate, advocate, and implement solutions within systems, such as restaurant waste or municipal waste services.  Some compost services will be commercial focused only while others will also work with residential.  Some of these will be integrated within your municipality.  In some cases, even animal protein, bones, and/or cooking oils will be accepted, but not all are set up to intake these substrates.  Even better, some of them operate by bicycle further reducing eco-footprint.
  2. Learn the different ways to compost.  Worm composting, for example, presents a nice solution for certain urban dwellers that don’t have yards.  Other options for urban settings are pick-up and drop-off services that provide a tightly sealed bucket that is rotated out for an empty bucket either on a schedule or as requested.  These can be nice for anyone because there is less planning on the balance between brown matter (think paper bags, sticks/twigs, leaves, stems, etc) and other food scraps.  Those with a yard can also take a go at creating their own compost through a variety of outdoor designs.  Finished compost is great for gardens, but can also be spread like a mulch.
  3. Start doing it!  Figure out what works best for you, come up with a plan, and implement.  Even if a portion of your food waste goes to compost, you are making a difference.  Also, pay attention to whom you shop from or purchase prepared food.  Restaurants that are doing their part are often decreasing their adverse impacts in other ways as well.

In addition, commercial services often provide data that illustrate impact and allows for monitoring individual contribution (or foot print).

Some municipalities offer incentives, so be sure to check into this.  Also, farmer’s markets may be drop off sites (which could be cheaper and easier for your life planning).

Finally, please don’t forget about “precycle“…  fewer waste purchased = less to be attended to by you, municipal systems, OR natural environments.  In terms of food waste, the application would be only purchasing what you will actually use.  Additionally, some food scraps can be saved to make broth before they are composted extending their life and purpose even further.

Admittedly, I had started composting via a small bucket and had surrendered after my outdoor plant season ended.  However, now, thanks to a presentation from Zero Waste Chicago, I have additional resources to implement a new and better fit game plan.  Be sure to check out their site for additional resources AND, best of all, meet ups around eco-conscious living.  #ConscientiousHealthfulLiving

Thank you to Freehand Chicago for hosting this relevant community education.

Additional resources mentioned;

In need of a little humor, insert “food waste” into a Google Images search and find the many 50’s(ish) pictorials attempting to persuade avoiding it.  One of them is included below;

FightFoodWaste1

In need of formalized support to make healthful lifestyle changes?  Contact me through my business site.

Kombucha 101 – What I Learned

Last month I attended a presentation at one of Chicago’s newest hot spots; The Kombucha Room.  Nestled in the Logan Square neighborhood, the venue strives to support regional brewers and community wellness education.

For those absolutely new to the term, we are talking about fermented tea infused with flavors and, as the presenter (Kombuchade) advised, “good for the performance athlete and your grandmother”.  The making of which is as much art as it is science, but definitely realistic to do at home.  (Although supporting your local, organic focused businesses is definitely a great way to “‘buch on” as well).

The first priority is to start with a good scoby (Symbiotic Culture Of Bacteria and Yeast).  Like any good culture, this should come from reputable sources and those that are able to provide you data on the strains.  There is actually a Kombucha Brewers International association which can help for resources and/or direction.  Best yet, scoby can eventually be shared with other fellow ‘buch makers.

*I have seen other recipe bloggers, such as The Kitchn, demonstrate how to make your own with a pre-purchased kombucha as part of the recipe.  However, this was not discussed in the presentation I attended.  Again, it’s best to know your sources and go with the good stuff.

Next, is to think about and determine flavor profiles.  This step has a part A & B.

  • A) Determine your base tea leaves.  These are needed for scoby growth.
  • B) Additives, such as spices, should align with your health and wellness priorities.
    • A “2nd level” fermentation, could have whole substrates like fruit or shaved ginger root.  (Whole substrates will increase “fizz” effect, experimentation with them will likely have best outcomes after you have become a more savvy brew master playing with your base teas and other, more simple flavor additives).

Experimentation with infusions are seemingly endless, but you will always want to keep a “base” scoby (ie not infused with any additives).  15-20% saved should be sufficient, but up to 50% set aside for future batches could generate “aged textures”.

After determining what flavor combinations you want to tackle, stock up on appropriate supplies and derive a strategic game plan for the brewing process.  Although some rules apply, this can be customized and fit to your lifestyle.  Figure out personal logistics.  Once a system is set up, input time could be, for example, an hour or two per week (keeping in mind, time put in will give back to you in more ways that one).

Pay attention to temperature in which you are storing your batch.  Some brew masters like to place them in proximity to a heated cooking source or on top of a refrigerator.  Colder temperatures will slow the ferment.  This is where trial and error + personal circumstances will come into play.  However, over time, you will get the hang of it and can tailor the plan accordingly.  Think of this as nurturing.

Once the kombucha has cultivated to your desired taste and consistency, it an be poured directly from the container it was fermented in to enjoy OR into smaller, individual containers to be refrigerated.

Additional resource material is below;

Supply Suggestions

  • Sterilized jar (glass preferred).  Can wipe with white vinegar wipe before use.
    • Growlers, mason jars, etc.
  • Large tea ball (metal strainer).
  • Filtered water, such as reverse osmosis.
  • Flip tops for jars (for example from Mason Jars Company).

Points for Processing

  • Don’t burn your culture, ie overheat.  Watch for little bubbles at bottom of the liquid (typically 150°).
  • Keep liquid moving in pot.
  • After pour onto scoby, stir up (can be with hand).
  • Don’t move jar around too much.
  • Don’t over seal the bottle or it could explode.  (Also, don’t use cheap wine corker, etc.  Be sure to buy something rated for kombucha pressurizing).
  • To limit the primary fermentation, refrigerate.  Otherwise, it will continue to culture/age.

Other Tips/Tricks of the Trade

  • Keep tea portion to at least 50% and consider avoiding anti-bacterial varieties or additives, such as an earl gray tea or certain essential oils.  (These might work for small batch, but it will definitely be trial and error).
  • Don’t attempt to reduce sugar.  The ‘buch needs this for energy.
  • Scoby can be stored in a mason jar.  Vinegar will preserve it (only warning is if there is a big black or green fuzz ball).
  • Infuse flavors when kombucha is warm (vs after refrigeration).
  • Your first batch may be a little thin.  Taste the scoby as you go along through the batching (play with it).
  • Individual bottles can be used to create more fizz.
    • Note:  different herbs have different fizz results.
  • The bottles can be “burbed”.
  • Although more advanced in technique, nitrogen can force carbonate.
  • Secondary infusions, such as whole fruit, may be best when wrapped with cheese cloth (think of this as similar to a tea bag).

If excess scoby (as it will continue to grow);

  • Recipes to convert into food
  • Can feed to animals
  • You can eat it directly
  • Compost it

Other Lessons/Words of Wisdom

  • Organic process ties into the energy/natural processes, ie ingredients don’t have to be organic, but quality of ingredients = quality of kombucha.
  • Buying commercial brands will vary with regards to the level of kombucha.  Translation; read labels.
  • If asked about alcohol content, it is hard to measure b/c alcoholic measures pick up on organic acids in the profile and includes those.  The short answer, is this shouldn’t be of too much concern and is likely gossiped about due to hype vs actuality.

In closing…  enjoy the opportunity to learn a new skill, practice mindfulness while doing, and reap the rewards of your custom creations!

If in Chicago, be sure to check out The Kombucha Room.  Social media shot outs are below:

@thekombucharoomchi

@TheKombuchaRoom

 

In need of formalized support to make healthful lifestyle changes?  Contact me through my business site.

Disclosure – Links to Mason Jars Company may generate very small amounts of monetary income.

Easy to Make & “Not So Fried” Green Tomatoes

In attempts to squeeze out the last remaining days of summer, I have been reflecting on some of the ultimate yummies of summer produce.  One of these is, of course, tomatoes!

As a child, I remember watching the movie Fried Green Tomatoes and being fascinated with the concept.  Despite growing up in the lower Midwest (U.S.) where both southern and northern cuisines influence what is customary to eat, I didn’t hear of fried green tomatoes until Hollywood re-popularized the concept via a movie title.

Being naturally inquisitive about food from an early age, I was eager to try them.  Although I can’t remember when or where my first taste occurred, I do remember my response to them was not favorable.  In fact, I thought they were terrible!  We didn’t fry a lot of food in my family, but it wasn’t as though the concept was completely foreign.

Later on in life while living in Atlanta, I finally had a taste of what fried green tomatoes are most likely suppose to taste like.  Usually made with cornmeal or a mixture of it with flour and often with buttermilk and/or butter, a well made fried green tomato is a savory addition to a meal or as an appetizer.

However, implications related to consumption of fried foods, likely ones I don’t need to ramble on about, and potential challenges to those with certain dietary restrictions may put these savory little slices off limits.

Therefore, I sought out to play around with these boogers to see what I could come up with.  Turns out, pan-seared in coconut oil is not half bad.  It’s certainly not the rich, savory flavor that a battered and fried option might provide, however, it’s much better with regards to the smoke point and nutritional quality for the oil.  Using this method also presents a great time to play with spices, such as a little smoked paprika, black pepper, and quality salt.

Regardless of seasoning (or not), something about the green tomato and it’s slight tart consistency paired with the richness of coconut oil really works.  I definitely recommend it.  I know some have sensitivities to coconut oil or just want to use a variety of options in food preparation and, therefore, I would also like to try other options with higher smoke points.  (See note below about oil quality and smoke points).

Most likely a garden, farmer, or farmers market will have the best organic green tomatoes.  I’m definitely an advocate of food sourcing from these options when possible and seasonal shopping usually saves $$$.  Although mid-summer months are typically the primo range for tomatoes, the later days of the season should still provide some viable options.

green tomates on pan 3983191110_7e8a6a454b_b (2)

To recap,

  1. Find some great organically sourced green tomatoes, local if you can.
  2. Play with spices/seasoning and oil options.
  3. Slice and pan sear until lightly browned on a low-medium quality pan, such as cast iron (pictured).  I also recommend heartier slices of approximately 1/2″ wide.

In the spirit of “Live Healthful”, I welcome any other tips for using green tomatoes in a “not so fried” way.

***Essentially, hydrogenated oil use should be avoided and good oils should be used in cooking according to their appropriate smoke point.  Typically coconut oil or certain tree nut options, such as macadamia or walnut have higher smoke points.  Rotating out options is a great idea for balance of related nutrient intake and variety of flavors.

In need of formalized support to make healthful lifestyle changes?  Contact me through my business site.

 

Bug Off…

It’s summer in the US and I definitely do not blog as much between June and September.  However, a news alert caught my eye this past weekend; Scientists say record floods could brew bad batch of mosquitoes (Chicago Tribune).  This on top of reports of the first case of West Nile virus in the state of Illinois this year…  Eeek.  Southern regions may be seeing even greater batches of the little buggers.

Unfortunately most commercialized insect repellents are higher dose chemical concoctions.  Considering the alternative of an invasive virus, the choice may be simple.  However, lower toxicity options do exist in the essential oil (EO) spectrum and, bonus(!), some of these EO’s may assist in overall immune health.

Lara Adler, a reputable and resourceful expert educator on environmental toxins reminds us that “a number of essential oils have clinically been shown to have antibacterial, antiviral, and anti-fungal properties, including clove oil, tea tree oil, thyme oil, oregano oil, rosemary oil, eucalyptus, lemon-grass, and cinnamon oils.  Some oils are more effective against bacteria, while others are more effective against viruses, so combinations can be more effective than just using one oil on it’s own” (nd).

Furthermore, certain EO’s are particularly effective for insect repellent.  In this area, I’ve seen several blends usually including options such as lemon-grass, peppermint, and/or citronella.

My amazing friend and camping expert shared the following insect repellent recipe (for a 2 oz bottle):

  • 1 tablespoon witch hazel
  • 8 drops citronella
  • 8 drops cedarwood
  • 6 drops lemon-grass
  • 5 drops rosemary
  • 5 drops peppermint
  • 5 drops rose geranium
  • 3 drops thyme

*Fill the remainder of the bottle with distilled water.

Check out Cricket Camping blog for more outdoor living tips and some cool narratives.

This summer, further support conscientious healthful living by getting outside and active, but with consideration for the option of lower toxicity “bug off” approaches.

In need of formalized support to make healthful lifestyle changes?  Contact me through my business site.

References:

Adler, L. (nd). Tools for Teaching Toxicity. Essential Oils as Cleaners.

5 ways to “pretty up” your beauty routine

The beauty industry is a big business!  This spring, I kicked off with a blog The ‘Real’ Spring Clean detailing a few ways to clean up lifestyle approaches and living environments with regards to harmful exposures.  Personal care is a huge area within this topic, partially attributable to lack of adequate evaluation (see a 2004 Environmental Working Group report).

5 faucets to consider within this focus area include the following;

  1.  Upgrade your products for more bang for the buck.  One thing that blows people away is that well formulated, low-toxin beauty care products often require a lower amount for adequate application.  What does this mean in simple terms?  Investment in this sort of product will stretch, ie “less is more”.
  2. Pay attention to substrate when color is involved.  Essentially, liquids involving color have a greater chance of causing harm when applied to the skin.  Therefore, paying attention to chemicals, particularly those relating to endocrine disruption*, and carcinogens in products such as gels and creams may take higher significance as compared to a dry powder.  Definitely pay close attention to that lip color and be sure yours does not include lead.
  3. Avoid synthetic scents.  “Fragrance” is not well regulated in the U.S. and can consist of many proprietary chemical concoctions unclear to the end consumer.  The frustrating thing is even with “good” options, it can be hard to avoid.  The Environmental Working Group (EWG) maintains a guide called Skin Deep to help assess this.  A good habit is to check whether labels have the word “fragrance” OR if a natural, plant-based substrate, such as a specific essential oil, is indicated.  Also, consider swapping out chemical based perfumes for essential oil blends!
  4. Take a break.  Find opportunities to avoid or reduce applications, for example there are ways to reduce how often we wash hair with shampoo and conditioner which, as it turns out, often leads to better hair quality.  Not only will making these reductions help lower the risk of cumulative low-dose exposures from personal care, it will save money over time.
  5. Remember internal health.  Finally, and most importantly, the real “skin deep” starts from within.  Cellular health is impacted by nutrition, toxicity, and emotional health.  Proper care for your internal systems will illuminate in better skin and hair quality leading to less need for external applications.

Although, admittedly, I’m still figuring this out myself, there are a couple options that I have come to favorable resolution on (for now);

Annmarie Skin Care multi-purpose foundation relies on a mineral powder, which can be used dry, or combined with facial oil, cream, or serum.  Blend a small amount of the mineral powder with oil, cream or serum in the palm of your hand to create the liquid consistency for foundation.

Typically I blend with their signature herb-infused oil (also available in unscented), but it has surprised me how nicely it also applies as a direct powder application.  In consideration of point 1 above, this product stretches well.  I hardly use any of it to make for full coverage.

Neal’s Yard Remedies is a product line was introduced to me by the lovely Lara Adler.  Based in the UK, it is distributed through retail channels throughout Great Britain and via independent consultants in other countries.  An unexpected bonus is I found that a friend from grade school had become a rep so I was able to reconnect with her through the process (see her page).

I have been absolutely amazed at how happy I have been when using Lush Ultrabland Facial Cleanser.  The formula cleanses and moisturizes simultaneously and can be used simply as an under eye make up remover or as a total facial cleanse.  Their Full of Grace solid serum is also a great multi-purpose staple.

Mineral Fusion products, although not perfect (mostly due to fragrance), rank pretty favorable across EWG’s list, come at a reasonable price point, and are available through a variety of accessible channels, including Whole Foods.  In addition, they have hair care formulas for color treated hair which is less commonly found within natural/organic centered personal care products.

One discouraging thing about being a Hashi’s patient is that I have experienced a fair share of eye brow thinning.  ZuZu Luxe pencil comes in a tobacco color that I love and their products rank pretty well on EWG’s list as well.

A company that I have not tried yet, but am considering for future use is 100% Pure.  The company relies on natural, plant-derived pigments and avoids iron oxides which have to be tested for lead.

Many also turn to Beauty Counter which is positioned at the fore front of education in the US beauty market and centered on reduction of substrates that are harmful in personal care products including their coined “Never List”.  Link to the page for one consultant in my network.

Finally, I have noticed several small, craft based options picking up momentum.  A few favorites in the Chicago area include Bonnie and Biba Lips.  Lip applications have not had the best track record, such as testing for lead.  Especially with consideration to point 2 above, lip color is a key area to pay attention to when assessing for potential toxicity.

Additional resources can be found via the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics.

*Chemical-based substrates associated to endocrine disruption include phthalates (a class of chemicals related to “fragrance”, softeners, solvents, and stabilizers in personal and household related products), parabens (used as preservatives), and phenoxyethanol.  Endocrine disruptors refer to substrates that mimic or block hormone signals which, in addition to gland and organ health, have been studied for their role obesity.

In need of formalized support to make healthful lifestyle changes?  Contact me through my business site.

Disclosure - Annmarie Gianni & 100% Pure links direct to my affiliate pages which may generate very small amounts of monetary income.