Thursday, August 20, 2009

Blend and Ferment

Some people have buffet style religious beliefs I have buffet style detox beliefs! Or so it seems to be the case this summer. I started with an herbal colon and liver cleanse without altering diet; the herbs didn’t agree with my colon though it still was detoxifying (see post from June). Since I knew that 3 weeks wasn’t enough to cleanse as deeply as I needed, I met with Gina Laverde. Gina is raw 99% vegan, body ecology proponent, reiki master, consultant, mom/wife/greenie and so much more. She offered guidance and suggestions for cleansing the gut. Fermented foods. Yeah, that’s the stuff! We aren’t talking good ol’ german sauerkraut and pickles; we’re talking make-it-yourself kefir.

Gina offers a six week rejuvenation program during which she emailed daily mantras, encouragement, tips and recipes on weekdays. My first 10 days was ordering all the necessary items, getting a colonic, slowly incorporating detox spa treatments, and concocting vegetable smoothies. She continued to check in and ask where I was in the process and what I experienced. She is definitely a partner in your rejuvenation. She offers her program ongoing, so you can also try what I am experiencing.

I haven’t been a smoothie person. I like them when they are in front of me; I just think making them takes extra effort and cleaning. As I add chopped veggies and fruit to a bowl to blend I think, “why don’t I just eat these as a salad?” But I make the smoothies as directed. I assume blending them makes the nutrients more bioavailable on a cellular level as well as conserving digestive energy by breaking it down for the stomach. After a couple weeks, I begin adding veggies to the blender I generally have no interest in eating so I know my body is asking for what it needs – celery, red pepper, or carrots. Every once in a while for a little variety I add in some guanabana or tamarind pulp (no sugar slightly sour fruits).

Also in those initial ten day, I buy a loofah for dry skin exfoliation – stimulates the lymphatic system and opens up the skin to eliminate toxins. I buy more castor oil since I will be applying castor oil packs (also in a previous post) a few days weekly, not monthly as usual. I admit I had difficulty fitting this in to my day and sometimes I would just massage castor oil onto my abdomen. The heated castor oil packs will stimulate the Liver and Gallbladder detoxification. I buy some green clay which will absorb toxins as they move down and out through the intestines. These are considered spa treatments if you didn’t catch that.

I visited Wendy Beyer in Lincoln Park for my first colonic. Our phone exchange was calming, we connected about biking. I was a little nervous because my previous at-home DIY experience elicited vomiting so I wasn’t sure what would happen in a professional setting. All went well. She took extra time and slowly began the process as well as challenged and guided me. If you are in Chicago, I highly recommend scheduling colon hydrotherapy with Wendy. The little neighborhood she works in is home to at least 2 other hydrotherapists and each practice has its own style, so if you are looking for just the colon cleanse without all the hulabaloo about nutrition, supplements, raw food, or disease, Wendy could be for you.

My kefir starter arrived from Body Ecology within a couple weeks of meeting with Gina. The Coco-biotic was on backorder. Coco-biotic is a naturally effervescent fermented coconut water drink. I purchased chlorella from Mercola. I chose chlorella over other algae because it nourishes the yin and I definitely needed that. My lungs were dry from biking and in general, my yin is a little depleted. Gina offers great resources for algae and probiotic brands she has seen success with in her own healing process.

I biked over to a Thai grocer and picked up a case of young coconuts. The young ones are the white cone top shaped ones. Now I know. I am making coconut kefir which consists of the kefir starter and the water/juice from 9 coconuts! The kefir contains significant number of strains of good bacteria. The fermented drink is cleansing and aids in digestion. I sterilized my mason jars, cracked open a few coconuts, and made kefir. It’s a good five day process for the entire case. And the mason jars multiply. Unfortunately my first attempt did not create good kefir and I was off to the grocer for another case! When it works, your fridge is full of fermented goodness (unless you live with someone who raises their eyebrows, then it is just crazy stuff). At first I had three large containers of kefir just sitting out fermenting and still fermenting when it dawned on me this kefir was going to be too powerful and I ran out to get another case of coconuts to keep making more. I had to get used to the ongoing process of buying a case of coconuts, whacking them open and making more kefir. It is a new thing to add to my life. I also scraped the meat out of half the coconuts and added some of the liquid kefir and made a tasty treat. I guess you could add more liquid to the fat rich coconut meat and make a thick kefir similar to a dairy version! You can add probiotic capsules to the coconut meat and have raw coconut yogurt, too.

Sometimes due to time constraints but wanting to stay true to the tenet of fermenting, I experimented with my own version of Gina’s recipes. I couldn’t recall the ingredients of her fermented beets so I just winged it. Not what she probably had in mind, but they were slightly fermented with coconut kefir! I was supposed to make a massive batch and use a dry package of kefir starter, not the liquid coconut kefir. O well they still ended up fermented. Fermenting helps with the digestive and the cleansing process. Raw cruciferous veggies and sweet root veggies take much energy to breakdown, fermenting those and also fermenting oils helps your body absorb the nutrients. I can ferment anything my body deems difficult to digest and it will no longer be difficult to digest after fermentation.

I realized the ordering snafus and kefir making mistakes and some really complicated weekly schedules here and there I experienced meant that this detox would fill my entire summer and that some of these changes would be integrated as a lifestyle change.

I continue with my supplements.

Maca, Peruvian gingeng, a tonic for the endocrine system. Taking one supplement for the whole shebang is a lot less stressful than taking a tonic for each endocrine organ!

Maitake mushroom will boost the immune system.


And I play with the detox herbal formula from my previous colon and liver cleanses. It has good stuff in it; I just can’t handle the heat from the habanero.

Add in the chlorella and seaweeds

I drink shots of Coco-biotic at work; I keep eating green smoothies; I slowly eliminate most, not all, carbs and sugar in the form of bakery cookies, breads, and sweet treats. I didn’t have cravings but I would allow myself the best of the best occasionally, not just any sweet wheat treat. I eliminated all fat in the second month…I had no sugar, coffee or wine cravings so I hoped the once monthly craving for cheese pizza would disappear. Early on had weeks of nineteen hour days and was unable to make meals at home other than a morning smoothie. I love breakfast food – oatmeal, granola, fruit, and nuts - and I did occasionally have oatmeal or nuts and raisins for breakfast and take the smoothie for lunch. On the busy days I would grab a salad; and in the first few weeks, I indulged in a burger and a beer; a hot dog and nachos; and a pizza! Most evenings I was so happy to chop up some veggies, lemon and garlic, cook or sprout quinoa or boil up some bean thread, mix it with a little miso paste and sit down to dinner. Surprisingly despite my normally high intake of vegetable eating prior to the smoothies, those pureed veggies in the smoothies were more filling and got the detox started. In the first few weeks, I’d get logey within a couple hours after a huge (32 oz) smoothie. Not hungry, not thirsty, just loopy and tired. Sure signs of detoxing.

I had a clear plan of my six week window of rejuvenating. The universe had other ideas and luckily I went with the flow. The nearly 2 weeks it took to receive the ordered supplies prepped me physically and mentally for the weeks to come. A month into the process, my liver kicked in. I was so aggravated and annoyed that the process wasn’t going “as planned” and complained I wanted warm, heated up food and then I had some PMS symptoms. Lisa’s got Liver qi! I laughed. Yes, the Liver is a little unruly and asserting itself, but knowing it is shedding toxins and the raw and fermented foods are also building the energy was enough for me to keep steady on the cleanse. So I would be cleansing til the end of Chicago summer. That’s ok. I’ve got a lifetime there’s no rush nothing I have to do instead.

photos: jasminesrecipebox, meghantelpnerblog,

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Food, Inc.

The movie's buzz was loud in the vegan, raw, macrobiotic communities months before it released nationwide. Links for Food Inc. were constantly popping up on my Facebook page from friends, practitioners, chefs, green activists, journalists, and businesses. If you've read or heard excerpts or synopses as I have of Michael Pollan's Omnivore's Dilemma, you will have some idea what this movie contains.

Viewing Food Inc. will literally open your mind's eye to the politics and corporate monopoly of the American food industry and to the abuse to animals and detriment of it all to your body. It is difficult to stomach, but what you are actually eating is even more difficult.

According to Food, Inc., "Our nation's food supply is now controlled by a handful of corporations that often put profit ahead of consumer health, the livelihood of the American farmer, the safety of workers and our own environment" ...and it's happening with our government's consent.

Here are some highlights from the movie Food, Inc.:

  • Monsanto has patented "Roundup Ready" genetically engineered seeds that are made to do well with the herbicide, Roundup. If farmers save seed, a long-held farming practice of putting seeds aside from every crop to use again, Monsanto can sue them for violating the seed patents. Monsanto has won millions of dollars in lawsuits, literally changing the way farmers are allowed to farm.

  • Meat and poultry manufacturers have stringent regulations that require farmers to squeeze poultry or cattle into dark, cramped warehouses so that the animals can grow fat quickly. These animals are sick and can barely walk. They lie in their own feces and need antibiotics to make them healthy. Antibiotics that are now part of our meal when we eat non-organic meats.

  • Government regulations and farm subsidies have shifted our food supply from good calories to bad calories, like a proliferation of corn and soy. If you've ever wondered why fruits and vegetables are so much more expensive than processed foods, this is why. Subsidized crops like corn, wheat and soy are finding their way into so many foods as main ingredients, fillers or damaging sweeteners, like high fructose corn syrup. Subsidies make them much cheaper and poor families diets tend to suffer the most.

  • Cows are fed diets of corn, which is harmful to their natural digestive systems. The corn creates an acidic condition, when they require a neutral pH. This has caused harmful bacteria to thrive, particularly E. coli.
    An added tidbit : 95% of a McDonald's meal is corn products from the meat to the bun to the condiments to the corn syrup to the shake.

Food Inc. does offer great suggestions and hope for what you can do to change the way you eat AND the way our nation eats.

What are some changes that don't include creating a farm in your home?

  1. Educate yourself on the dangers of processed food and sugar. Make small changes to a whole food, processed- and sugar-free diet.

  2. Strengthen your immune system and therefore your digestion with probiotics. Processed food destroys the gut health creating an imbalance of healthy to unhealthy bacteria. Taking probiotic supplements and drinks, eating fermented foods and drinks will all replenish the healthy gut flora

  3. Eat healthy fats. Learn which are and which aren't. Avoid any in the clear plastic bottles at the supermarket, they are processed rancid oils. Choose olive oil, coconut oil, hemp and flaxseed oils, walnut and almond oils, evening primrose, among others.

  4. Choose organic wherever possible. Certain fruits and vegetables absorb more toxins than others. Definitely choose organic meats.

  5. Take time to detoxify. Take your time and add healthy choices individually and remove the unhealthy ones at the same pace. Allow three months of your Spring or Summer to cleanse your system of all it has accumulated, and continue to make healthy choices thereafter.

34 Billion American Dollars

A 2007 survey on the use of complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) over a 12 month period showed American spent $33.9 billion out-of-pocket on products and services. CAM encompasses the array of medical and health care systems, practices and products including herbal supplements, meditation, yoga, chiropractic, massage and acupuncture that are not part of conventional allopathic medicine. 38 percent of U.S. adults treat existing conditions and diseases or maintain overall health and wellness with CAM.

From the study:

To put these figures in context, the $14.8 billion spent on nonvitamin, nonmineral, natural products is equivalent to approximately one-third of total out-of-pocket spending on prescription drugs, and the $11.9 billion spent on CAM practitioner visits is equivalent to approximately one-quarter of total out-of-pocket spending on physician visits.

"These data indicate that the U.S. public makes millions of visits to CAM providers each year and spends billions of dollars for these services, as well as for self-care forms of CAM," said Richard L. Nahin, Ph.D., MPH, acting director of NCCAM's Division of Extramural Research and lead author of the cost of complementary and alternative medicine analysis. "While these expenditures represent just a small fraction of total health care spending in the United States, they constitute a substantial part of out-of-pocket health care costs."

Media note: For the full report and downloadable graphics visit—