Making Yogurt with a Probiotic 

Ah! Yogurt! Versatile and nutritious, it nourishes the body and heals the gut. It’s benefits are multiplied when it is homemade and fermented for 24 hours, which is what I recommend. Also, making your own yogurt allows you to use any type of milk and avoid dairy if you so desire.
During this experiment, I tried 4 different recipes and 4 different probiotics. The first recipe I tried was from Danielle Walker’s book, Delectable Paleo Recipes to Eat Well & Feel Great, but I halved the recipe and still used a full capsule of probiotic. The first time, I used Plexus Probio5 and found that the taste was not sour enough. In fact, it still tasted like coconut milk (despite having properly separated after the fermentation.

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Plexus Probio5


I then realized that I should have used more than one capsule since the recipe specifies that the capsule should contain 50 billion IU and the Plexus Probio5 contains 2 billion CFU per capsule. Its strains are chosen for their ability to combat yeast overgrowth and it contains the enzyme chitinase, which is known to work against candida by breaking down yeast cell walls. Great for your health, but not so great for yogurt making!

For my second experiment, I used the Ultimate Flora Critical Care. The result was amazing! Great texture and taste!

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Ultimate Flora Critical Care with Gelatin

Then I tried this recipe twice using Ultimate Flora Critical Care. I used tapioca starch as a thickener in one version and agar powder in the other. The yogurt didn’t get much thicker, I find that gelatin works a lot better.  Yes, it was more liquid than I like, but it still tasted great.

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Ultimate Flora Critical Care with Tapioca Starch

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Ultimate Flora Critical Care with Agar Powder

A few weeks later, I decided to use Danielle Walker’s recipe to try a third probiotic I had in the fridge. It is called Garden of Life Urinary Tract+ 50 billion CFU. The results were comparable to that of the Ultimate Flora Critical Care.

Lastly, we have been getting some goat’s milk, so I decided to experiment with my new Plexus Vital Biome. This probiotic is more powerful than the Probio5 with 20 billion CFU. Vital Biome is formulated to heal gut disbiosis, a bacterial imbalance in the gut causing a diversity of symptoms like mood disorders, food sensitivity and skin issues among others. When I made yogurt with Vital Biome, I used only one capsule for a litre of milk. I didn’t add any thickener, but then I strained it as pictured and the result was impressive! The taste was nicely sour and the yogurt had a good consistency.

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Plexus Vital Biome in goat’s milk

So what’s the conclusion of this experiment? You don’t need specially formulated yogurt starter to get great yogurt, all you need is a great probiotic! “All disease begins in the gut” is a very important quote attributed to Hippocrates, a Greek physician considered to be the father of medicine. If you would like to improve your gut health and are looking for excellent supplements, please comment below, I will be happy to help.


Becoming a Plexus Ambassador 

I have, over the past 10 years or so, been struggling with a variety of chronic health issues related to food allergies and sensitivities. The two most deliberating symptoms were severe headaches a few times a month and constant sneezing fits for a whole day every few months. Well, after trying diets upon diets, supplements upon supplements, I finally found something that cured me from my headaches! Too early to tell for the sneezing fits, since it’s been only 3 months, but I haven’t had any of these either. The cure comes in the form of supplements developed by a company called Plexus. I actually heard about them 5 years ago from an intriguing testimony and I was interested, so I went on the Website and found that one needs to know a distributor to order the supplements. Fast forward to 3 months ago, when a friend of mine mentionned that she was going to try Plexus. I told her I wanted to try too, so I became what they call an ambassador. By becoming an ambassador, one gets to purchase the products at wholesale pricing and becomes eligible for getting paid when purchasing more than a certain amount and signing on other ambassadors. In fact, getting only 3 people to sign on is enough to get your supplements for free (it would cost $115 a month otherwise). I haven’t done much on the business side yet, I wanted to see if the supplements work first, as I didn’t want to be talking to people about it without having experienced the benefits.

Also, interestingly enough, I was pretty skeptical and I didn’t feel that the supplements were doing much for me. It wasn’t an obvious change. After 2 months, I  was ready to give up, so I stopped taking the supplements. Two weeks later, I had a series of days with bad headaches. That’s when I realized that I hadn’t had any headaches during the last 2 months! I had forgotten I used to get headaches! I am now excited to see what Plexus will do for me over the coming months.


What does it mean to activate your nuts and seeds and should you do it?

Grains, legumes, nuts and seeds contain enzyme inhibitors to keep them from sprouting. They contain phytic acid (storage form of phosphorus, also known as phytates) which can block the absorption of minerals (particularly zinc, iron and calcium) by binding to them (for an extensive list of studies on the topic and for a more in-depth article, please read this). A moderate intake of phytic acid has been shown to reduce your risks of cancer, but too much of it can impede the body’s ability to absorb nutrients. Phytates play an important role in plants; they give seeds the energy needed to sprout since the enzyme phytase will break down the stored phytates during the sprouting process. Everyone who eats plants consumes phytic acid.

Several methods have been developed to reduce the phytic acid content in food:

1- The most common one is milling. Unfortunately, it also removes an important a major part of minerals and fibre and it should be done at low temperature to preserve the phytase.

2- Pretreatment methods such as soaking and germinating are also widely applied and have shown some effectiveness. Soaking them starts the germination process and causes the protease inhibitors (molecules that inhibit digestion) to leach into the water. The soaking process is accomplished with enough room temperature water to cover the nuts, seeds or grains and about 1 tablespoon of lemon juice or vinegar or salt in the case of nuts. The soaking time varies depending on the type of nut, seed or grain, but is generally between 8 and 12 hours.

3- Fermentating grains increases the bioavailability of minerals by providing the right pH for the enzymatic degradation of phytates. Natural fermentation of millet and rice has shown to reduce the amount of phytic acid. Fermentation is a step further than soaking. The soaked grains are left at room temperature for days in liquid and a starter (liquid from a previously fermented batch).

4- Germinating has been shown to reduce the phytic acid content by up to 40%. To germinate, drain the water after the soaking and let the grains sit at room temperature for a few days, rinsing them twice a day.

5- Roasting and cooking disactivates the protease inhibitors.
A combination of methods involving particularly fermentation seems most effective. Germinating or fermenting AND cooking will yield the best results.

All that being said, these ideas about the preparation of beans, grains and legumes are largely propagated through the work of the Weston Price Foundation and the claim that traditional cultures prepare them in some way before consuming them. I was wondering if the care taken by traditional cultures to process their grains was overstated. I did some research and found that it is quite real. This page was particularly interesting.

However, some people argue that:

1- Uness one lives in a Third World country, worrying about mineral deficiencies is a waste of time. Only zinc might be low in vegetarian diets and a good supplement will cure that problem.

2- Phytate is actually beneficial to the body as a powerful antioxidant and should not be avoided.

Studies and scientific data are often misleading and used to support different conclusions. The purpose of this blog is to look at the information available and test it through practical means. In this case, this would mean ingesting grains and nuts without preparing them and after preparing them to find out if it makes a difference. I read about people who had noticed a difference, so I know in some cases it is helpful. I believe for me, a combination of both will be optimal.


Healing the Gut

The “gut”. The beginning and the end, the source of all chronic health problems. If you have been researching the topic, you know about the incredible role played by your gut bacteria and the impact of a leaky gut on your health. Studies have described the structure and functional capacity of the bacterial microbiome in the healthy state and in a variety of disease states. Gut dysbiosis is blamed for problems like food sensitivities, bloating, thyroid conditions, fatigue, joint pain, headaches, skin issues, digestive problems, weight changes and food cravings. Programs to heal the gut are popping all over the Internet. Most of them have great merit and many people have seen drastic changes in their health by following them. This blog post is not meant to be a step by step approach to healing the gut, but rather a general outline to get you started on your healing journey.

1- The most important step anyone could take to improve any health problem is to eliminate processed foods and replace them with colorful whole foods. Cruciferous vegetables, leafy greens and bone broth are particularly beneficial to the gut.

2- Eating consciously (smelling the food causes the stomach to produce hydrochloride acid and chewing well prepares the food) will improve your digestion and facilitate mineral absorption.

3- Listening to your body and noticing how it reacts to certain foods through journaling will allow you to adapt your diet to your needs.

4- Dealing with stress by controlling your thoughts, eliminating stressors when possible and ensuring you get time to wind down is one of the most crucial points that will help improve your health.

5- Making sure you maintain a sense of purpose will increase your overall well being. The mind gut connection is well accepted and having a purpose in life is essential to happiness. This doesn’t mean that you have to find a grand reason to be alive, but finding meaning in the little things will foster a sense of purpose.

6- Keeping hydrated will help detoxing and ensuring your bowels are moving. Just one caveat: I have seen health professionals advise that urine should be clear when one is properly hydrated. That is simply not true. Light yellow is what you are aiming for and just pay attention to your body signals and be aware that thirst can be confused for hunger.

7- Various supplements and herbs are promoted for gut health, but I will keep it simple: probiotics in the form of fermented foods and a reliable supplement as well as aloe vera juice. This is why Plexus offers a multivitamin that includes Aloe Vera , among other beneficial minerals and vitamins. 


How to Let the Body Heal Itself

When sickness occurs, most of us underestimate the power of the body to heal itself and we make things worse by treating the symptoms and attacking the disease (effectively attacking the body since the body and the disease are one). The mandate of this blog is to explore the best methods to allow the body to heal itself and I believe cancer patients survival stories are a great place to start. Why? If such a deadly disease as cancer can be healed through dietary changes, there is much to learn for all of us from these practices. It’s time to stop feeding our bodies junk every day while fearing disease so much that we are willing to inject toxic chemicals into them. We cannot be our body’s friend and foe at the same time.

My favourite Web site to learn about cancer survival stories is Chris Beat Cancer. What a wealth of information! I also love the Whals Protocol because it not only focuses on which foods need to be taken out, but also which foods need to be added back in (it advises specific quantities of fruits and vegetables, and a lot of it!). There’s a lot of healing diet protocols out there and to be honest, I am a bit confused about which are the most effective, but they have points in common and we will look at what they are. But first, I would like to discuss the main difference between the anti-cancer approach and most other healing diets (GAPS, SCD, Whals, Whole 30, autoimmune protocol for example). As a side note, the ketogenic diet is being promoted for cancer patients, but it doesn’t have the success stories to back it up yet. That being said, if you want to add it to the list of healing protocols, go ahead. All the cancer success stories I have read about are based on eliminating animal products (including dairy and eggs), sugar and refined grains and feeding the body a huge amount of fresh living greens in the form of salads and juices. The other protocols eliminate grains (including the non refined and non gluten ones) and base most meals around animal flesh; this is what I call the meat versus grains conundrum. I have been wrestling with it for a while now, but I recently came to a surprising conclusion. I had a tendency to think that grains should be temporarily avoided and meat should be included on a healing journey since the vast majority of protocols advise we do so. I was struggling with that idea a bit because meat is such an expensive commodity and it goes against all the cancer miracle stories. So what happened? My family got sick with gastroenteritis. In fact, it was the worst case of it I ever had. I slept for 3 days straight and I couldn’t eat very much for about a week. And I then knew that if meat was a healing, easy to digest food, my body would crave it during this sickness. But what I really wanted was smoothies, vegetable soups and juices and some starches like rice and oatmeal. This also made me think about the fact that the exact same thing happens during the first trimester of each of my pregnancies when I feel nauseous. During the most recent of my pregnancies, I also had indigestions during the whole nine months. When I felt really uncomfortable, I also craved veggies, some starches and no meat. That is not to say that meat is bad for you and should always be avoided, but I do think that its consumption should be strictly limited for healing purposes.

Now, back to finding common ground between the various healing protocols:

1- No sugar: That is number one and that’s it. Cancer cells feed on sugar and sugar depresses the immune system.

2- No processed foods and fats: processed fats, like vegetable oils and processed foods with all their additives are unrecognizable by the body and cause inflammation.

3- No refined grains: refined grains bring very little nutrition and provide sugar to your body.

4- More and more veggies and organic as much as possible: You cannot eat too much veggies. In fact try to get even more of their wonderful benefits by juicing them daily and throwing them into smoothies.

5- No eggs  for the more severe cases.

6- As far as grains and legumes go, I would suggest to take them out for a few weeks in case they aggravate the body, but to reintroduce them and see how things go.

I have a paradigm shift to suggest: next time you get sick, instead of reaching for a prescription, which will weaken your body and cause unwanted side effects, why not allow your body to get better on its own? The changes I outlined above should be followed all the time, but during times of sickness, it is important to be even stricter and give the body as much nutrients as possible to facilitate its healing. And lastly, please keep in mind that healing through diet takes time and effort, but the results are worth it.


Paleo? Plant Based? Who is Right?

Last week, I ended the Bone Broth Diet by eating some Einkorn flour pancakes. I have been feeling unwell ever since. It made me wonder if all grains should be out for me. During the week, I watched the Tyroid Secret series and lots of interviews were pointing to a paleo approach to healing. There are no doubt that grains can be inflammatory (a little more on this here) and should be avoided by some people. But, at the same time, I have been learning from Chris Beat Cancer (his Website is truly a wealth of information) and a lot of what he says makes sense. He promotes a cup of beans a day, very little meat, oatmeal for breakfast and potatoes as a health food. Not quite paleo, right? In some of his videos, he talks about the fact that, traditionally, people didn’t eat as much meat as we do because they saved it for special occasions. Only the rich could eat as much as we do and their overeating (meat, sugar, processed grains and dairy products) would cause them to suffer from diseases of affluence (like our Western culture today). In an interview with Dan Buettner, author of the Blue Zones, he explains that a huge factor in the cultures that enjoy longevity is that they eat at least a cup of beans a day. He promotes a plant based diet for optimal health and that is how he helped a lot of cancer patients get healthy. His goal is to nourish the body enough to allow it to heal. I may not have cancer, but that is also how I think I should be able to get better. The problem is, I think I might be sensitive to grains. I have been unwell ever since I reintroduced them in my diet and every time I eat them, my weight goes up a few pounds (a sign of inflammation?). I am not sure about legumes though, I haven’t tested them without grains.

I am still trying some new supplements I purchased last week, but if I don’t see any improvements this month, I think I might have to go paleo again. I might also look at other gut healing diets (like the GAPS diet or I was also considering the WHALS protocol).


Taking a Step Back to Evaluate the Effects of Increased Nutrients on General Well Being

First, I want to emphasis how good I felt on the Bone Broth Diet even though I was not following it a 100%. I was having more fruit and sugars that the plan allows for (I know, I am weak!). Still, I felt better than I had in a long time. For this reason, I figured it would be a good time to test Einkorn flour. If you don’t know what Einkorn is, it is the only non hybridized wheat available today. It is dated back as far as 5000 years ago. Its protein, vitamin and mineral content is higher than any other grain. It won’t rise your glycemic index nearly as much as regular wheat and it bakes amazingly well! I have experimented with breads, cookies, pasta, pie crust, etc. It is just lovely all around! Unfortunately, I finally came to the conclusion that even Einkorn is off limit for me now. I tested it 3 days ago by eating only one small pancake and I have been suffering the consequence ever since. I have been feeling fatigued, and the brain fog won’t lift. I used to suffer for 2 days only after cheating with gluten, it looks like I am getting worse. No more gluten for me for at least a year! I have not decided completely swear off gluten because I believe gluten sensitivity is not natural, just like any other food sensitivity. Therefore it may be possible to heal it. I know gliadin is involved causing intestinal permeability (leaky gut) for everyone, even those who don’t seem gluten sensitive, but I think that there must be a reason for this. I mean, Jesus himself ate wheat! If it is as deadly as some make it sound, I don’t think he would have fed himself and his disciples using wheat (Luke 6:1). He is the Creator of the universe, he knows the human body more than anyone else.

  And that leads me to the second point of this post: I decided to take a step back. I have been testing various diets non stop since January and I am running out of motivation. What I would like to do now is to stick to a whole foods gluten free diet and focus on my nutrient intake. I became an ambassador for an organization called Plexus last week, and I purchased a package calle Tri-Plex after listening to a series of amazing testimonies by people who cured all kinds of health problems with these products. I thought it would be worth a try. An update will be coming soon on that, but in the meantime, I also plan to post more on general health and lifestyle topics.


Next experiment: Ketogenic or Bone Broth Diet ?

It’s been almost a week since I finished the Autoimmune Protocol and I have been wondering about what my next experiment should be. I have been eating following mostly Dr. Fuhrman Lose 10 in 20 plan. I like his Nutritarian approach, nutrient dense and plant rich, small amounts of animal products and no processed foods, flour and sugars. Here is the source for Dr. Fuhrman’s great food pyramid:

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The problem is, although I like that each meal contains lots of veggies, I tend to get bored with the recipes, as most of them seem to revolve around black beans and tomatoes or mushrooms and kale. It seems to me that they also use a lot of corn. Besides that, I need to get my blood sugar under control and this plan doesn’t keep me satisfied for long periods. I crave sweets all the time and I frequently feel hungry. I want to loose weight (between 5 and 10 lbs would be great), but not by starving myself. I want to find the right diet that will help me reach my ideal weight and maintain it effortlessly (or almost) by conquering my cravings. For this reason, I feel that plans with a reduced sugar load might be the answer for me. I have recently been learning about the Ketogenic diet and I am intrigued. A ketogenic diet is high fat, moderate protein and low carbs. My Keto Kitchen presents a clear food pyramid for the keto diet:

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Studies are being done to demonstrate its effectiveness as an anti cancer diet, since cancer cells need sugar to survive. However, I would try to keep meat protein consumption at 20% because of the possible link between meat protein and some forms of cancer. Also, I have seen meal plans that involve dairy and processed foods like low carb tortillas. I think a dairy free whole food plan would be preferable. I found the plan in the Keto Beginning particularly appetizing. After about a week of low carb intake, the body will be in ketosis and start using fat and ketones for energy instead of glucose. After about a month, the body will reliably use fat/ketones as a source of energy, this state is called keto adapted. The benefits of using fat and ketones rather than glucose for energy are, for example, stabilized insulin levels and reduced inflammation in the body. It reduces hunger and contributes to overall wellbeing. Once one has reached this state, carb consumption can be increased while maintaining ketosis. Also, one will usually go back to eating more carbs at some point following a certain pattern (like carb cycling).

The third option I was considering was Dr. Kellyann’s Bone Broth Diet. It is similar to the Ketogenic diet, in that it works mainly by stabilizing blood sugar and reducing inflammation, but it includes more carbs and does not aim at maintaining a ketogenic state. Basically, all grains and legumes are eliminated as well as all forms of sugar. Bone broth is consumed daily for its anti-inflammatory and healing properties. An other cornerstone of the Diet are its fast days. Have you heard of fasting mimicking? It offers all the benefits of fasting, but still allows for some food intake (this post is particularly informative). Fast days offer tremendous healing and detoxing benefits on top of aiding weight loss by reducing caloric intake. During these days, one should consume 5 cups of bone broth and a light meal or 6 cups of bone broth. I am leaning towards trying this one, as it seems more attainable and sustainable. Plus, I have read that ketosis might not be appropriate for nursing mothers. My plan would be to keep it safe by following the Bone Broth Diet without fasting days. Nursing mothers are always advised to steer clear of helpful supplements, herbs and diets. I know this is to ensure they produce enough milk and that their milk is safe for the baby (as free of toxins as possible), but I suspect part of it might be a liability issue. I might decide to try fasting, I will simply listen to my body. Also, my baby is approaching one year of age, so maintaining milk supply is not as much of a concern. I am giving myself another week to decide what the next step is, since I have to wait till next Friday to go grocery shopping. More on that next week.

 


US News & World Report Best Diets Rankings 2017

Looking for the Ultimate diet? Look no further, the US News & World Report has done all the leg work and came up with its 2017 rankings. This is now its seventh such list, asserting to cut through the clutter of claims. Coming from such a trustworthy source of information and a panel of nationally recognized health experts, we can assume the rankings give a realistic overview of the best types of foods that can foster human health. But is it really the case?

Before we evaluate these findings, we need to ask: Who are the dietitians who created the rankings? What was their methodology? According to the US News & Report Website, there are twenty of them, all with very impressive credentials. They represent a sampling of nationally recognized experts in diet, nutrition, obesity, food psychology, diabetes and heart disease. They rated each diet in seven categories: how easy it is to follow, its ability to produce short-term and long-term weight loss, its nutritional completeness, its safety and its potential for preventing and managing diabetes and heart disease. The Website does not say much else about their methodology and somehow, looking at the diets they ranked among the best, allow me to be skeptical. Hey, I don’t pretend to know it all and I am certainly not always objective, but when I see names like Weight Watchers and Jenny Craig come up on a list of best diets, I get suspicious! Classically trained dietitians tend to operate on the calories in calories out dogma. A dogma dating back to the 1950s, time when the sugar industry, having to protect its profitability, released an add campaign claiming that all foods supply calories and there is no difference between the calories that come from sugar or steak or grapefruit or ice cream. That was only the beginning of a campaign to exonerate sugar of any ill effects. Today, the average dietitian will advise people to follow the food pyramid:

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It might not look so bad at first glance, but this low fat high starch diet has not been serving us well. One just has to look at the increase in rates of obesity, cancer and chronic diseases to figure this out. This is also the same paradigm that allows sugar laden foods to be promoted by some national organizations (look for the check marks from the Canadian Heart and Stroke Foundation or at the sugary dairy products served in schools because, you know, dairy is essential to good health and granola bars are healthy since they contain whole grains). Looking at the information available out there, one has to wonder how much of it is ultimately propaganda from the food industry and how much is sincere lack of understanding of the human body by well meaning professionals.

I may not have found the Ultimate diet, but I know enough to surmise that a more effective food pyramid should include veggies as the basis and healthy fats as a second element in importance. Here is a summary of what most health experts would agree on. The number of medical practitioners rejecting the old model is increasing constantly and for good reasons. Time has come to stop promoting unhealthy foods and eating patterns. Instead, let’s embrace what research and clinical evidence have been teaching us, even if it means abandoning some long held belief systems!

 

 

 

 

 

 


The Benefits of Eating Meat

Is meat a second rate food or is it not? Do we need to consume meat for optimal health? Here are some points to consider:

1- Eating meat may help stabilize blood sugar. A meal based on meat and veggies will satisfy and keep full longer than a meal based on carbohydrates and veggies.

2- Meat provides the easiest way to get all four amino acids, iron and vitamin B12. It is rich in zinc and selenium as well. Studies show vegetarians tend to be deficient in certain nutrients like vitamin B12, vitamin D, omega 3 fatty acids, calcium, iron and zinc.

3- Although vegetarians are concerned about toxins stored in the fat of animals, animal fats can play an important role in vitamin absorption. For example, one study showed that absorption of beta-carotene from a salad with no added fat was close to zero. Other studies have shown that beta carotene consumed with beef tallow rather than sunflower oil increases its absorption by 11 to 17 percent.

4- Most meat eaters who participate in the anti-meat studies also consume high amounts of sugar, refined carbs in their highly processed, inflammatory diet, which could explain some of the results obtained by these studies.

5- One study did screen subjects to ensure they were health conscious.  The overall death rates were cut in half for both health conscious meat eaters and for vegetarians as compared to the average persons. The study concluded that for the vegetarians, there was no benefit found, and for the meat eaters, there was no increased risk for heart disease, cancer or death.

6- Vegetarian diets typically contain large amounts of legumes and grains and low in bioavailable nutrients. Organ meats, however, are among the most nutrient dense foods.

7- Fat soluble vitamins A and D are critical to human health. They are concentrated and almost exclusively found in animal food.

The key is eating small to moderate amounts of grass-fed or organic meat along with a pile of colorful fruits and veggies. Is it essential though? Each person needs to listen to his or her own body. Many different factors could influence how much meat a person can or should eat.