Nurturing Whole Health
The nutritional aspect of health plays an integral role in our physical and emotional health. New research is confirming the relationship between what we eat and the health of our Mind-Body. An essential piece of this connection is the relationship between gut microbes and almost every chronic disease humans are dealing with. In recent years, the results from several studies demonstrate the connection between good gut bacteria and improved immune function and decreased anxiety and depression. The gut-brain connection is showing up as an essential piece of our big picture of health.
A recent study done by William and Mary College Psychology Professors, Matthew Hilimire and Catherine Forestell and University of Maryland School of Social Work Assistant Professor, Jordan DeVylder, investigated the connection between fermented foods, which contain probiotics, and social anxiety. The results demonstrated that young adults who eat more fermented foods have fewer social anxiety symptoms. They found the strongest effect was among those subjects who had a genetic predisposition for social anxiety disorder as measured by neuroticism. The journal Psychiatry Research published the study in August 2015.
The above study is exciting as it looks at not only using isolated probiotics, but at the use of naturally fermented foods. Fermented foods, such as kefir, yogurt, tempeh and miso, kimchi, sauerkraut, pickles, sourdoughs and traditional bean dishes such as acaraje, and so many more. Fermented foods have been part of the human diet for centuries, though lost to many during the 20th Century with the introduction of refrigeration and processed foods. This is a cutting edge study regarding the mind-body connection, since previously, similar research was limited to the fields of microbiology and alternative medicine. Validating the mind-body connection through research in the area of psychology, has potential to bring the relationship between nutrition and mental health out of the closet and to the general population, which is grasping for the missing links to their chronic health issues. According to Matthew Hilimire, the above study is the first in a series planned to continue exploring the mind-gut connection. One area of planned research will include further examination of the original study data, to see if a correlation exists between fermented food consumption and autism symptoms.
What can you do on a daily basis to up the good bacteria in your gut? Fermentation is a creative, fun and delicious way to establish healthy gut bacteria.
There are some awesome fermentation educators who are sharing this long, lost art through wonderful books, blogs and workshops. My favorite book is, The Art of Fermentation by Sandor Ellix Katz. My son bought me the book a few years back and it is one of the best gifts I've ever received. Summer Bock, founder of OlyKraut in Olympia, WA. is a passionate fermentation educator. I participated in a 2-day fermentation workshop Summer taught four years ago, at The annual Breitenbush Herbal Conference at Breitenbush Hot Springs. I learned from Summer how to make amazingly delicious kraut and garlic dill pickles. Surf the web, find a book store or check out local classes on fermentation. Locally in Ashland, the Wellness Department at Ashland Food Co-op sells some great books on fermentation. Many cities now have their own fermented kraut businesses. In Ashland, Pickled Planet offers many awesome varieties of raw kraut and is available throughout Oregon, Washington and California.
Yummy Happy Tummy Ginger-Garlic Kraut
Ingredients and Tools
1 large, dense cabbage or 2 smaller dense cabbages. (about 5 pounds)
1 large bulb garlic- mince all the cloves
2 large roots of fresh ginger- peeled and grated
Himalayan Sea Salt (about 2 teaspoons)
Fat, flat-ended wood rolling pin- the end of this should fit into a wide-mouthed canning jar with ease.
Wash, core and remove any outer funky cabbage leaves. Set aside a nice leaf to use in packing process. Slice cabbage into quarters or smaller. Next, slice cabbage thin as for a slaw.
In a large bowl, combine cabbage, grated ginger, minced garlic. Gradually add salt and stop when it tastes great to you. In her class, Summer Bock described this step by saying, "It's so good that you just can't eat one bite, you need to keep tasting and eating it (like potato chips)."
Next, massage the cabbage mixture with your hands until it begins to soften and break down and its mass reduces. When you have massaged it until soft and broken-down, you pack the kraut.
Cabbage varies in size. A very large cabbage usually fills a 3 liter jar plus an extra pint or a quart jar. A couple of medium size cabbages fill my 3 liter jar. Be prepared with a variety of jar sizes before you begin to pack the kraut.
Pack the kraut into either one large wide-mouthed 3 liter glass jar or into two wide-mouthed quart jars. Or, adjust jar size as needed, based on how much kraut you have. I love my Le Parfait 3 liter glass canning jar, with its detachable glass lid and it seems like the perfect size for a batch of kraut.
Begin scooping kraut with a half cup measure into jar. After about 3 scoops of kraut, pack it down with your flat-ended rolling pin. Continue this process until you are about a 1/2 inch from the top of the jar. Make sure you are firmly pressing/pounding as needed to compact the kraut and remove air pockets inside the jar. When jar is fully packed and you press down with the rolling pin, you will notice liquid seeping to the top. That is good. Next, take the cabbage leaf you set aside earlier and cut it into circular pieces, a littler larger than the diameter of the mouth of jar. Place the cabbage on top to cover the diameter of jar opening and create a seal. Press it down over the packed cabbage and place the lid onto jar.
Place sealed jar(s) of kraut into a container with sides to prevent any messy leakage. Cover the jar(s) with a clean dish towel. Open and check the kraut in one week. You may notice bubbling or that the jar has leaked. That is fine. If there is any sign of mold on top of the kraut, do not panic. Scrape it off with a spoon and close jar, placing it back in pantry. In the summertime, I often put the jar in the fridge after 2-3 weeks. In the winter when my home is cooler, I let the kraut ferment for about 3 -4 weeks before refrigerating it. Check jars each week until refrigerated. In tropical climates, you may need to refrigerate the kraut within a week of making it. Kraut continues fermenting in the fridge.
I enjoy my kraut every day, whether it's my morning forkful of probiotic yum, topping my lunch salad or as a condiment to any meal.
Many Blessings, Sari
When was the last time you felt and consciously expressed gratitude? An awareness of giving thanks often slips through the cracks as precious moments fly by throughout the business of the day. A nod or smile of acknowledgement or a quick "thank you" is what most seem to have time for throughout the day.
Gratitude is deeply rooted in the spiritual aspect of life as well as being an essential source of our spiritual health. Numerous research studies, now demonstrate that gratitude is connected to physical and emotional health. When gratitude and appreciation are expressed, it is often understood that the good that comes our way is not always within one's power, but connected to something greater. The simple act of taking the time to offer deep thanks and appreciation, helps pull us out of our limited sense of self. Gratitude may allow for a sense of peace; an increased connection to others; a higher power; the universe or to nature. The point is that this intentional work of gratitude, has the potential to pull us into our higher self.
According to a 2011 article in The Harvard Mental Health Letter, there is good news in the results of several evidence-based studies, by positive psychology researchers on the benefits of gratitude. Research on gratitude is showing a consistent correlation between gratitude and greater happiness in one's life. Some of the studies show increased happiness, positive mood, the ability to deal with hardship, improved health and more solid relationships.
According to research, gratitude is more powerful than other positive psychology interventions for increasing happiness and mood. A Harvard article refers to a study of 411 subjects, done by Dr. Martin E.P. Seligman. In the study, the first group wrote about early memories while the second group wrote about and delivered a letter of gratitude to someone who had never been properly thanked for their kindness. According to the research, the participants in the second group demonstrated an immediate rise in their happiness scores which stayed elevated for a month.
The Harvard Newsletter also referred to a study by psychologists, Dr. Robert A. Emmons of the University of California, Davis, and Dr. Michael E. McCullough of the University of Miami. In the study, "One group wrote about things they were grateful for that had occurred that week. A second group wrote about daily irritations or things that had displeased them and the third wrote about events that had affected them (with no emphasis on them being positive or negative). according to the research, after 10 weeks, those who wrote about gratitude were more optimistic and felt better about their lives. Surprisingly, they also exercised more and had fewer visits to physicians than those who focused on sources of aggravation."
Finding Myself Through Gratitude
I began a gratitude practice close to four years ago. At the time, I was going through great distress in a rocky relationship. My longtime friend and teacher, Rabbi David Zaslow, recommended the book, "Help, Thanks, Wow" by Anne Lamott. I bought the book and before I even began reading it, I started a daily practice of, "Help and Thanks". I found that the piece that Anne Lamott refers to as "Wow", magically appeared for me throughout the whole practice and trickled into my everyday world as a sense of deep wonder and love.
I follow my meditation practice each day with my now, strongly established gratitude practice. It has opened my heart and helped me find peace with the tumultuous nature of life. Soon after beginning this daily practice, I experienced the deepest connection I have ever felt to spirit. I felt as if my higher self was driving the car and I was in the back seat being guided by a new trustworthy "driver of my life". Gratitude practice has allowed me to dive deep into my feelings and has powerfully allowed for me to express my truth from the core of my being. The doors to my true self have opened and closing them is no longer an option.
Doing The Practice
My gratitude practice developed from the recommendation of a book and organically took on its own unique flow and style. It is natural for each person to discover their own way of offering thanks. Mine goes like this:
1) I invoke the presence of a higher being. In my practice, I call on, "Ribono shel Olam", Hebrew for, Master of the World . One can invoke the presence of who or what they feel spiritually connected to. I say, "Ribono shel Olam, Master of The World, dear God, hear my prayers, accept my gratitude". Some days I offer other variations and don't always know what will come out of my mouth.
2) I begin offering thanks for whoever or whatever comes to mind. I go into great detail with it here and once I start, the words and feelings begin to flow from my lips. I thank and thank and thank and more keeps coming. (You may feel to offer the same thanks each day, over and over, as well as thanks for all the new and relevant issues arising in your life)
3) Next, I ask for help for family members, friends, current planetary issues and for my own personal needs. In asking for help, I get extremely specific. This is not the time for "vague".
4) I allow my tears to flow during both the "thanks" and the "help"- serious, full-on, let it all out tears, sighs and sobs. (Keep a box of tissues nearby.)
As my practice has developed, it has tended to take on a life of its own. My "thank you's" and "help me's" now typically flow and spill from my lips, like a waterfall; a whoosh of energy. My gratitude practice has given me a deep sense of my inner strength and has allowed me to experience the gentle power of something big moving through my small self. This simple but potent practice has been a powerful catalyst for daily wonderment and healing, offering me a new map of reality.
Other Forms of Gratitude Practice
For those who want to begin your gratitude practice more gradually, you might try:
♥ Writing your thanks daily in a "Gratitude Journal".
♥ Sending thank you letters.
♥ Mentally offering thanks and asking for help throughout the day.
♥ Creating a special way to bless and offer thanks for your food.
♥ My very favorite way to practice gratitude in the midst of life is incredibly powerful and can be done at any time or place: ♥Look into the eyes of a another person you are communicating with and think to yourself, "I am so grateful you are here, right now. You have so much to teach me".
Many blessings to you and so much gratitude.- Sari