To B or Not to B: Micronutrient Deficiencies and Supplementation

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I was so caught up in the Real Food Summit last week that I hardly had time to post about it.  If you didn’t get a chance to check it out, you can purchase all 27 lectures plus a boatload of bonus materials for what I think is a steal considering the wealth of information that was covered over those nine days.  Anyway, one of the most interesting presentations, in my opinion, was given by Mira & Jayson Calton and was about micronutrient deficiency.  This is something that I’ve been thinking about a lot lately as I’ve had some personal experience with deficiencies despite my real food diet.  It happens…to most of us in fact.  And whether we realize it or not our cells pay the price.  Never forget, we live and die at the cellular level.

Kombucha: The Other Magic Mushroom

Kombucha is an effervescent tea-based beverage that is has been enjoyed for over 2000 years due to its reported health benefits.  It was worshiped in ancient China as a remedy for immortality. In Japan, Russia, Germany and India it was known as a healing tonic and given to those who were ill.  Today it is making a comeback!  You’ve probably seen it on the shelves at your local Whole Foods and maybe you are even among the many home brewers out there.  If so, you know it’s pretty powerful stuff.  Full of antioxidants and probiotics, just a few ounces a day can have an amazingly detoxifying effect and improve both digestion and energy.  But here’s the rub…it costs about $4 for a 16oz. bottle at most health food stores.  Is it really worth it?  It is, but there’s a much less expensive way to get these health benefits…make your own Kombucha!  It’s easy to do and is a another great project in which to involve your mad little scientists!

Kombucha can be easily made at home by fermenting tea using a visible, solid mass of yeast and bacteria which forms the kombucha culture,  referred to as a SCOBY (symbiotic colony of bacteria and yeast) or “the mother.”  Sounds weird I know…looks even weirder.  But if you can get your (sterile) hands on one, you’re ready to brew.  

Finding a SCOBY may be much simpler than you think.  Every time you brew a batch of kombucha, the mother produces a baby.  Home brewers are often trying to find homes for their little darlings so ask around at the local farmer’s market or health food store and maybe you will find someone who has a SCOBY for you.  Another option is to contact your local WAPF chapter.  I guarantee you at least one member has a home brew set up and can help you out.  Of course you can always purchase a starter kit online, and if that turns out to be necessary, two reputable sources are:

Once you have your SCOBY, you will need a few other supplies before you get started.

A piece of a SCOBY
  • large glass jar (1 -2 gallon), preferably with a spigot
  • no rinse sanitizer
  • cheese cloth or coffee filter
  • rubber band
  • sugar
  • filtered water
  • organic tea bags
  • 2 cups of kombucha

BREWING KOMBUCHA BY THE BATCH:

Decide how big a batch you want to make.  I’ll give all directions for a gallon size batch and then you can just multiply or divide for your batch.  (FYI there are 4 quarts in a gallon)
  1. Bring 1 QT of water to a boil and add 1C of sugar.  
  2. Stir until sugar is just dissolved and remove from heat. 
  3. Add about organic 10 tea bags (any kind will do, I use a mixture of black and herbal).
  4. Cover and let it sit until the water cools to room temperature then remove and discard tea bags.
  5. Meanwhile sanitize your glass jar with the no rinse sanitizer according to package directions.
  6. Pour the tea solution and remaining 3 quarts of water into your large glass container.
  7. Add 2C kombucha.  Whoever you got your SCOBY from should be able to provide this. 
  8. Gently place your SCOBY on top and cover with a coffee filter and rubber band.
  9. Label the container with today’s date!
  10. Place the container in a warm, dark place where it will not be disturbed for a couple of weeks.
See how the new SCOBY has formed on the top

On the 9th or 10th day, you can check your kombucha to see if it’s ready.  You will notice that a new SCOBY has formed on the top and has gotten thicker throughout the process.  Usually this will be about 1/4″ thick when the kombucha is ready, but you can go by taste to be sure.  If your jug has a spigot, simply draw off a sip or two and taste test it.  If you have no spigot, use a straw with your finger held over the top to suction out a small amount.  Kombucha will become less sweet and more vinegary the longer it ferments (as the sugar is “eaten” in the fermentation process).  You want to stop the fermentation process before the kombucha becomes undrinkable.  This will differ depending on your preference.  Usually 14 – 16 days is good for me…not too sweet, not too sour.


When you are happy with the taste simply drain out all of the kombucha into smaller glass containers (quart size works great!) and move it to the refrigerator to drink.  Leave about 2 – 3C of kombucha in the glass jar along with your SCOBY and mother for the next batch.  You can give the baby away or leave it in with the mother.  Leave this in the warm, dark place where you fermented your kombucha…do not refrigerate!  They should be good in there for a couple of weeks if you want to wait before starting another batch.

 
KOMBUCHA CONTINUOUS BREW:
As I mentioned above, kombucha will become increasingly sour as it ferments, but some of the health benefits do not appear until much later in the brewing cycle.

“the longer the ferment is allowed to proceed, the more beneficial acids that will have a chance to form. Some of these acids don’t even appear until 14-21 days in the typical process.  These acids are largely responsible for the detoxifying nature of Kombucha Tea and are  the catalysts we seek in kombucha mushroom tea. Glucose content maximizes around the 8th or 9th day. This implies that gluconic acid production could not peak until after that point. Gluconic acid is the biggest single contributor to the detox effect. (source)

By the 21st day,  the tea will be pretty much undrinkable.  For this reason, some people prefer to keep their kombucha in a continuous brewing cycle.  This allow you to get the benefit of the nutrients and acids that form later in the cycle as the SCOBY grows more layers, but it keeps the kombucha flavor very palatable.  In order to do this you follow the directions above for batch brewing.  When the tea reaches it’s peak flavor (around day 14) you will begin drawing off a small amount of tea everyday and replacing it with a feeder solution.  The directions below are for the 1 gallon batch as described above and you will need a 2 gallon glass jar with a spigot to do the continuous brew method.

Scoby after 1 month of continuous brew
  1. Bring 1 QT of water to a boil and add 1/4C of sugar.  
  2. Stir until sugar is just dissolved and remove from heat. 
  3. Add 2 – 3 organic tea bags.
  4. Cover and let it sit until the water cools to room temperature then remove and discard tea bags.
  5. Drain 16 oz. from the batch and replace with half of the feeder solution (save the other half for the next day).
  6. Stir the kombucha with a sterile wooden or plastic spoon and cover with a coffee filter and rubber band.

Repeat this process everyday or every other day.  If the tea becomes too sweet wait an extra day.  If it becomes too sour add some extra feeder solution.  If 16 oz. a day is not enough for your family, you can begin with a larger batch (1.5 – 2 gallons) and then draw off a quart each day.  This is a lot of kombucha though.  2 – 3 oz. per day is enough for most people to get the health benefits.  1 oz. a day is plenty for children.

If you need to stop the continuous brew for any reason (i.e. vacation), simply bottle what you have and move it to the refrigerator to drink.  Leave about 2 – 3C of kombucha in the glass jar along with your SCOBY and mother for the next batch.  Leave this in the warm, dark place where you fermented your kombucha…do not refrigerate!  They should be good in there for a couple of weeks if you want to wait before starting another batch.
FLAVORING YOUR KOMBUCHA:
You can have fun with your brew by doing a secondary ferment.  After you draw off some of the tea or move it to quart containers from your batch brew, add 2 – 3 oz. of organic fruit juice per quart of kombucha.  Now cap it and let it sit out for another 24 hours before moving it to the refrigerator.  Play around with the flavors and see what you like.  Lemonade and blueberry-pomegranate are our favorites.
Here you can see some of the brown sludge…totally normal

CARING FOR YOUR SCOBY:
Always have very clean hands and try to gently sterilize all of your utensils and containers to keep any unwanted bacteria away.  Brown sludge & slime are totally normal on your SCOBY but if it starts to turn black or get moldy it’s time to compost it and start over!

Eat Well, Be Well,
April

SOURCES:

Weston A. Price: The Man Behind the Movement

Since I often mention the Weston A. Price Foundation (WAPF) in my posts, I thought it was about time that I devote a post to the man behind the movement.  Dr. Weston A. Price was a prominent dentist of the 1920’s & 30’s who became frustrated with the dental problems and disease he saw in his patients.  Western children were suffering from frequent infections, allergies, anemia, asthma, poor vision, lack of coordination, fatigue and behavioral problems in numbers that were troubling.

At this time, it was well established that there were groups of “primitive” people throughout the world who “exhibited a high degree of physical perfection and beautiful straight white teeth” despite no dental care.   The general consensus was that these groups were genetically “pure” and that western disease was a result of “race mixing.”  Dr. Price did not believe this to be the case, however, and he decided to take his work into the field and he began traveling the globe to study dental-health in pre-industrialized populations.

In his travels, Price found 14 traditional cultures that experienced little to no tooth decay or dental deformity.  These groups, he discovered, were also relatively free from disease (both physical and mental) and reproductive problems.  As he continued his study, Price realized that members of these traditional groups who had moved away and adopted the western diet began to experience health problems.  Despite having the same genetic inheritance, those who became westernized exhibited dental decay in the first generation removed, and in the second generation, the children were born with narrowed facial structure and subsequently experienced orthodontic problems.  This generation also began experiencing degenerative health problems and disease that was previously not seen within the culture.  Meanwhile, “mixed race children whose parents had consumed traditional foods were born with wide handsome faces and straight teeth” thereby discrediting the “racial purity” theory.

Melanesians who began eating a Western diet
Melanesians of Fiji still eating a traditional diet

Following this realization, Dr. Price began to examine the native diets of these groups more closely and he found that their diets were quite different from one another.   The Swiss mountain villagers  subsisted primarily on unpasteurized and cultured dairy products, butter and cheese as well as whole-rye bread. The Dinkas of the Sudan ate a combination of fermented whole-grains with fish, along with smaller amounts of red meat, vegetables, and fruit.   The Bantu tribe of Africa were primarily farmers whose diet consisted mostly of fruits, vegetables, grains and legumes along with small amounts of meat and dairy.  The Masai, another African tribe, consumed virtually no plant foods, but lived on beef, organ meats & raw milk, and were well known for drinking cow’s blood.  Despite the many dietary differences, Price found that these diets had several things in common.

  • These diets contained no white flour products, refined sugar, polished rice, jams, canned goods or vegetable fats
  • These diets contained some animal foods:  meat with its fat, organ meats, whole milk products, fish and insects
  • These diets had high nutrient density:  they were very rich in vitamins in minerals, especially fat soluble vitamins A, D & K2

When Dr. Price put these diets under a microscope (literally) he found that they contained four times the water soluble vitamins and 10 times the fat soluble vitamins A & D than the Western diet of the 1930’s.  Price described vitamins A & D as “activators” which allow all other nutrients (protein, minerals and vitamins) to be assimilated in the body.   Price also discovered a third fat soluble vitamin that was an even better activator or catalyst for nutrient absorption.  He called this “Activator X” and found that all of the traditional groups had this vitamin in their diet.  Many considered foods containing the X factor to be “sacred” and these foods were often eaten to promote fertility.  Activator X is now believed to be vitamin K2 and like vitamins A & D, it is “found only in animal fats–butter, lard, egg yolks, fish oils and foods with fat-rich cellular membranes like liver and other organ meats, fish eggs and shell fish.”

Sadly, Price’s work has been all but forgotten despite the fact that current scientific research continues to prove the accuracy of his findings.  It is now taken as fact that “vitamin A is essential for the prevention of birth defects, for growth and development, for the health of the immune system and the proper functioning of all the glands” and that “vitamin D is needed not only for healthy bones, and optimal growth and development, but also to prevent colon cancer, MS and reproductive problems.”  Price knew this and used foods high in vitamins A & D, such as spring butter and cod liver oil to treat a variety of degenerative diseases and failure to thrive in children.  Price always advocated the use of animal fats, which we now know is the only way for infants and children to get an adequate supply of vitamin A as they are unable to convert the precursors (such as carotenes) to true vitamin A.  Unfortunately, many nutritional “authorities” now advocate low-fat diets for children and those with degenerative disease essentially robbing them of essential vitamins and the activators necessary to absorb other nutrients.

As parents, we must sift through so much information and try to figure out what is driven by truth & evidence and what is driven by politics & money.  At times, this seems like a full time job, as it takes an enormous amount of cunning & discipline to protect our children from “those displacing products of modern commerce that prevent the optimal expression of their genetic heritage–foodstuffs made of sugar, white flour, vegetable oils and products that imitate the nourishing foods of our ancestors–margarine, shortening, egg replacements, meat extenders, fake broths, ersatz cream, processed cheese, factory farmed meats, industrially farmed plant foods, protein powders, and packets of stuff that never spoils.”

But the time has come for all of us to stand up for the purity of our food supply and to look to those who came before us…those who ate instinctually and were not influenced by all of the trappings of the modern food supply.  We owe it to ourselves and to our children to return to “traditional whole foods that are organically grown, humanely raised, minimally processed and above all not shorn of their vital lipid component.”  To quote Dr. Price, “Life in all its fullness is mother nature obeyed.”

Eat Well, Be Well,
April

All quoted text came from the article Ancient Dietary Wisdom for Tomorrow’s Children by Sally Fallon Morell.

For more information, please read Dr. Price’s book.