Currently many of us are discovering that our diet creates an environment in our bodies for health or illness to thrive. We are learning that certain foods can stress and damage our digestive systems, and that in order to fully recover we may need to change not only our diet, but also our entire dietary lifestyle. These changes can be extremely challenging on all levels and can impact our relationships and social lives. After a 20-year period of illness and learning how to successfully alter my diet, I pleased to report I am the healthiest I have ever been Kefir Grains.
Our lifelong relationship with many foods makes it difficult to permanently omit some of them from our diet. These are the foods of our cultures, our families, our peer groups and our memories that nourish us emotionally, as well as nutritionally. It takes time to create a new relationship with food. We cannot will ourselves to like, enjoy or desire unfamiliar foods. We may need time to get used to and appreciate unfamiliar tastes and textures. As we alter our diets it is essential that we are mindful, gentle and patient with ourselves throughout the entire process.
I had struggled with poor health after giving birth 25 years ago. In those early years I had continuous colds, chronic sinus and yeast infections, asthma, fatigue and symptoms involving every bodily system. It took me six years to find a naturopathic doctor who recognized that I had systemic candida. He set me on a rigorous treatment of diet change and yeast killing supplements. Progress was slow and intermittent with many setbacks. Sometimes it was hard to stay hopeful about recovering. I spent a lot of time exhausted on the couch and learned to develop new levels of patience with my slowly healing body. Deepening my capacity for patience was an unexpected and valuable gift that came out of this particular life lesson.
Over the next ten years I was able to heal most of my symptoms, however I still had to carefully monitor my activities to avoid getting exhausted or sick. Seeing how altering my diet contributed to my health, I continued to look for ways that food might take me to the next levels of wellness.
One day, I found a book claiming that old-fashioned sourdough rye bread could rebuild the entire digestive system while cleaning out the arteries! This was my first step into the world of fermented foods and traditional cooking techniques. The sourdough starter recipe included a long fermentation period: daily feedings for seven days and 12-24 hours of rising. The enhanced digestibility and healing properties were said to come from the seven days of fermentation.
With some practice I was able to make wonderfully rich and substantial bread at a cost far below retail prices. After eating it for a while I noticed a steadiness in my health, although I still had some unresolved symptoms.
Then I read that lacto-fermented sauerkraut was good for people with unresolving intestinal issues. The process of lacto-fermentation creates lactobacillus, enzymes and vitamins which, when consumed, becomes instantly available to the body. Lacto-fermenting vegetables is an ancient salt brine technique of vegetable preservation. The recipe simply called for vegetables, salt and water fermented in a container for three weeks. I decided to give it a try. After the 3 weeks I tried a bite and was startled at the taste. It was simultaneously sweet, sour and salty. I wasn’t sure if I liked it enough to eat more of it. Fifteen minutes later my body told me that I needed to eat more of that stuff and to eat it now! I listened to my body and ate some more. It was as if my intestinal system was coming alive.
In the following weeks my energy level jumped a few more notches and my digestive issues seemed to improve. Making my own sauerkraut cost much less than store bought and I could control the amount of salt. I could also experiment with different vegetables for interesting combinations.