Michael Pollan – the Science of eating well

from the podcast site Enquiring Minds: https://soundcloud.com/inquiringminds

This is an unusually intelligent food discussion.

He also explains – again unusually well – what happens with proper (sourdough) bread. He also mentions the Italian research that suggests that those eating slow fermented sourdough (20+ hours) (such as mine), even some celiacs can tolerate it.

In any case, he talks about the beneficial effects of cooking, the paleo diet issues (including the problem with factory-farmed meats vs true wild meats of yore), and the value of fermentation. Also the epidemiological studies indicating plant-based diets are best, but he qualifies that very intelligently.

Towards the end of the bread discussion he speculates that perhaps the reason people nowadays are having problems with bread/gluten is that we (our gut systems) have changed due to modern diets and lifestyles, and ‘that may be at the root of a great many of the allergies we see because gluten intolerance is …. and auto-immune disorders that has to do with our relationship with bacteria.” But the growth in gluten free is far in excess of any change in our microbial cultures.

He has written a book which emphasises the importance of microbes. So I guess I’ll have to get that book!

Not sure which book, but this guy has an interesting selection starting with ‘The Botany of Desire’ to the most recent in 2013 ‘Cooked – a natural history of transformation’ and ‘Food Politics: How the Food industry influences Nutrition and Health.’

(I am still listening to this whilst writing this entry:) Ha! He is the guy whose body-bacteria was used for some experimental cheese recently (from belly-button, between the toes etc!). This playful experiment was based on noticing that stinky cheeses have similar bacteria to those we find on our bodies. I read years ago, for example, that the only place they have found the sanfrancisco yeasts naturally is in the human mouth, not in the fair fields of California.

Then he is discussing a recent article of his in the New Yorker about the behavioural and strategic intelligence of plants. Sensory sophistication. Plants have 15-20 distinct senses – smell, taste, sound – they can recognise the sound of caterpillars chomping on leaves and then prepare chemical defense against them! – also can sense chemicals in the soil, soil, volume, hardness, touch obviously, they can move towards a pole.

To demonstrate plants ability to demonstrate intention and consciousness, in a video a friend showed him a bean-plant in time-lapse photography over several days, looking nowhere except at a pole 18″ away and it throws itself over and over again until it finally makes contact, and after it has made one revolution around, it relaxes and starts to grow on it happily, so it seems they make a noise and are using some sort of radar to sense the pole, or maybe there is some other basis. The main point is that they have incredible sensory acuteness, brilliant defenses, and have kin recognition – they don’t compete with others of the same family. Also: trees in a forest are linked by fungi, so all fir trees in a forest, for example, are linked and they use the fungal network to send both messages and food. ‘The wood-wide web’ it has been called! (and why our internal flora have to do with brain function, I am thinking.) Can plants learn? Can they remember? ( I would say yes), Even though they don’t have brains. But how can you do these things without neurons? There must be other ways. (I think most of our theories about brain function are totally wrong so this is a promising direction.)

Amazing stuff!

Amazon.ca search page on him:



By the way, I came to the above interview from one previous with Deborah Blum about poisons in modern industrial/commercial practices etc.

Michael Pollan’s Plant article in the New Yorker:


The Greatest Hits of in NY Times:


Also in NYTimes:  http://topics.nytimes.com/top/reference/timestopics/people/p/michael_pollan/




Lacto-Fermented Electrolyte Drinks

When the temperatures begin to rise, our first inclination is to drink as much water as possible. This is good, in fact it is necessary, but there is something else our body needs as well.

When we sweat a great deal, due to physical exertion or extreme heat, we lose electrolytes through that sweat. Those electrolytes are common minerals that we all need – sodium, potassium, magnesium and more.

If we are depleting these minerals through sweating and we continue to drink a lot of water we only exacerbate the problem by flushing our system of the minerals it needs to maintain the all-important electrolyte balance in which we can retain enough fluid for functioning while continuing to flush out toxins through our urine.

Now, one can reach for one of the many sports drinks on the market labeled as “electrolyte drinks”. They do contain various added minerals to help support that electrolyte balance when you need it most, but what they also contain is loads of sugar.

There is a beverage, however, that contains ionic minerals, small amounts of (needed) sugar, and lactic acid – all of which can perfectly maintain that electrolyte balance naturally.

The beverage I speak of is the lacto-fermented beverage. These beverages are naturally fermented through a process of lactic acid bacteria fermentation. The acids naturally present plus the sugars used in the ingredients produce a drink more hydrating than water because of its mineral content.

The General Lacto-Fermented Beverage Formula

There are various lacto-fermented beverages that one can consume on those hot summer days, which we will get to in a moment, but there is a basic formula for a homemade cultured beverage you can make in your home kitchen.

A simple combination of live whey (strained from cultured yogurt or kefir), sugars (juice and or sweeteners), and flavorings (herbs, fruits, extracts, etc.) can be combined with water to make myriad flavors of lacto-fermented super hydrating beverages. Experiment by using about 1/2 cup of whey per gallon of water combined with sweeteners and flavorings to taste.

A Host of Cultured Beverages

There are more specific lacto-fermented beverage recipes you can prepare as well.

Rejuvalac. This is age-old fermented beverage is made by sprouting a grain like wheat or barley and then soaking it once more. The water from the soaking process is then consumed for its hydrating properties.

Kombucha. This fermented tea beverage is regaining popularity for its delicious and healthful benefits. Because of its detoxing properties some find it slightly dehydrating so it is best consumed in smaller quantities along with plenty of fresh water.

Water Kefir. This is popular as an electrolyte beverage because of its light, sweet, fizzy flavor. It is delicious when flavored with various fruits, which makes it especially well-suited for those hot summer days.

Orangina. This is a lacto-fermented orange beverage made popular by the book Nourishing Traditions by Sally Fallon.

Lacto-Fermented Lemonade. This fizzy, sweet, and tangy version of lemonade is lower and sugar and higher in minerals and enzymes than the lemonade you may have grown up with.

A Note on Summer Fermentation

The catch-22 of these lacto-fermented electrolyte beverages is that you will be culturing them during the hottest part of the year. Fermentation is a fluid process, with the results depending greatly on environmental factors such as temperature and time.

So, if your kitchen is above 85 degrees in the summertime you may have to watch your ferments closely. Check them every day to be sure that the gases they produce will not explode your bottles. Also, realize that they will culture faster in the warmer temperatures and the rapid process can sometimes produce off flavors. So do try to find the coolest place in your home for culturing these beverages as well as all of your other cultured foods

How to make your own Beet kvass

Beet kvass is similary to rye bread kvass. I would personally love to make and sell both of these but Canadian Health regulations make it basically impossible for a small scale producer, whilst thereby also protecting supermarkets who hate competition from real, aka alive, foods, which they cannot easily supply given they like things with extended shelf life (the real reason for pasteurization, along with making sharing milk trucks to facilitate more long-distance distribution).


Here is the lead-in article from the GreenMed website I used for a couple of earlier posts about the benefits of sourdough fermentation for celiacs.


In 2009 researchers at the University of Exeter found that beetroot juice enables people to exercise for up to 16% longer, leading athletes to experiment with its effects. A follow-up study suggested that drinking beetroot juice could help a much wider range of people.

The small study, published in the Journal of Applied Physiology, followed nine healthy young men doing low intensity exercise and found that they used less oxygen while walking, effectively reducing the effort it took to walk by 12%. The authors believe that for older people with cardiovascular issues who take in less oxygen, beetroot juice could help them do things that they wouldn’t otherwise be able to do.

The beetroot juice both widens blood vessels, reducing blood pressure and allowing more blood flow, and at the same time, it reduces the amount of oxygen needed by muscles during activity. The two effects combined have a significant impact on performing both low-intensity and high intensity physical tasks.

The study concluded that the high levels of nitrate in the beetroot juice are responsible for the effects. Nitrate in beet juice is converted by bacteria on the tongue into the chemical nitrite which eventually enters the blood stream, and lowers blood pressure. Consuming nitrate-rich vegetables, such as beets, spinach, lettuce and other leafy greens may contribute to a healthy cardiovascular system.

How can you get the benefits of beet juice in your own workout or just your everyday activities? You can always buy beets and juice them yourself.  However, if you are not up for that, you can find beet kvass at your local health food store.

Kvass is a lacto-fermented beverage from Russia made traditionally from stale sourdough rye bread. It is considered a tonic for digestion, and has been known as an antidote to a hangover. In addition to bread, various kinds of kvass are made with beets, currants, raspberries, lemons, apples, pears, cherries, bilberries and lingonberries.  When buying beet kvass, look for a raw, probiotic, organic version.

It’s also easy to make your own beet kvass; here’s how.

Now back to the main article, excerpts:

Beer – the oldest (and life saving) profession

10-02-2013 12-41-26 PM-beer yeast

A couple of nice articles about beer, the first short, the second a much longer, but well written, pdf.



This is not a huge thing to point out, but here is a very good example of a traditional craft, or way of doing things, that along with having no end of cultural subtleties (flavour, aroma, effect etc.) is not only healthy, but also harnesses microbial processes, including those including members of populations that in some cases are blamed for causing disease, even death, such that we can take questionable ‘wild water’ and purify it; not only that, but it provides quite a lift, psychologically, as we all know.

I doubt that such a drink could ever be invented in our modern world. Look what has happened to cheese! If the modern world has its way, there won’t be any real cheese available in a few years because of our desire to fully control wild microbial populations, our distrust of them. So instead we make fake cheese on pasteurised milks; now some of it seems alright, but there is a certain ‘je ne sais quoi’ vitality quotient missing from the delicious, pungent, potent cheeses I used to enjoy in France back in the sixties when I was still a young thing and took vitality (of all sorts) for granted.

And don’t get me started on bread, the main subject of this baker’s blog! Bread used to be a great (albeit always essentially very simple) thing, nourishing, tasty, aromatic, truly a luxury food enjoyed by peasant and Lord alike. But what passes for bread now in the supermarkets…. well it has a somewhat good light texture and there is an aroma and flavour there, but really it is both a pale imitation of the real thing in those terms, as well as being demonstrably bad for the health when eaten regularly because of the lack of proper pre-digestion from authentic fermentation using cultures which attach themselves naturally to the grain as opposed to single strain sugar-only trained laboratory grown derivatives. The production of gas is rapid and dependable, but the grain is not nearly as digestible. Nor as tasty or aromatic.

Anyway, enjoy the beer!

5 ways to detox Bt from Natural News

Again, I don’t entirely trust this author, however he is one of the main people regularly reporting on such issues, which I believe are important. The reason I don’t trust him is I believe he tends to exaggerate various legislative issues and also dangers out there and doesn’t have quite enough faith in nature (including ourselves); but that said, he is right to be waving red flags and if more people cared about such things, then probably he wouldn’t have to exaggerate (if indeed he is doing so) to make his valuable points.

Case in point: http://naturalsociety.com/5-steps-avoiding-detoxing-bt-toxin-found-gmo-crops/?utm_source=Natural+Society&utm_campaign=9457ed4ae0-Test9_28_2012&utm_medium=email

Excerpt: ““It will make agriculture more efficient,” they claim. “It won’t hurt anyone but the bugs,” they say. But despite all of their promises, Big Agriculture has a vested interest in “selling” us the benefits of their frankenfoods. After all, this is how they make their millions and billions. Regardless of what they tell us, however, the vast majority of people are waking up to the game and recognizing the current big agricultural system for what it is: a capitalistic machine devoid of moral concerns.

Just one example of their disregard for human health is in the use of Bacillus thuringiensis, also known as the Bt-toxin. This bacterial toxin has been used for decades as an insecticide, sprayed directly on crops to kill off problem bugs. The toxin works by literally exploding the stomachs of the bugs who ingest it. Nice, huh?

Well, Big Ag had the evil-genius idea of actually splicing the Bt gene with that of crops, creating corn, soybeans and cotton that already had the Bt built in. They said it would increase crop yields. They said it would decrease pesticide use. But, on both accounts, they were wrong. In addition to failing on both of these fronts, Bt crops have been found to cause both known and unknown damage to human health.

In example, some research has shown that Monsanto’s ‘biopesticide’ known as Bt is killing human kidney cells. Scientists found that the Bt pesticide, in addition to Monsanto’s best-selling herbicide Roundup, exhibit direct toxicity to human cells even in low doses.

While research is ongoing, there is growing evidence that Bt triggers an immune response in humans and animals. It elevates antibodies associated with allergies, infections, arthritis, inflammatory bowel disease, and cancer, just to name a few. Even more frightening, it can now be found in the majority of people on traditional Western diets—both in them and their unborn fetuses.

While it would be great if the industry would recognize these problems and stop using the Bt-crops, we know that won’t happen. Nor will our government step in and regulate it (they side with Big Ag on this one too). So, as with most things, it’s our responsibility to reduce our exposure and decrease the potential damage on our own bodies.

Straight to the Point – Avoiding and Detoxing

How can we detox the toxin? Simple – here are 7 steps to help you begin:

  • Buy organic, GMO-free foods. Simple.
  • Consume probiotics and fermented foods – By ensuring your gut bacteria is in good health, your body is better able to combat invaders like the toxic pesticide chemicals.
  • Consume fiber-rich foods – The more fiber you eat, the faster things move through your body. And good sources of natural fiber (i.e. organic fruits and vegetables) don’t only take the food waste with them. Fiber helps clean the toxins from your body as well. This is lesser known among the health benefits of fiber.
  • Sweat – Through sweating, waste is removed through pores on the skin. Aim to sweat at least fifteen minutes every day. You may even consider brushing your skin from head to toe with a boar bristle brush to remove dead skin cells that clog the pores.
  • Filter your water – By using high quality water filtration system, such as a reverse osmosis unit, pesticides and other contaminates can be removed from your everyday drinking supply.
Note: at French Road Bakery, although I do not filter my rural well water (it passed tests with flying colours), I do ‘restructure’ it with double vortex treatment in custom-made copper pipiing, which is the most advanced non-mechanical/natural treatment of water there is – it hexagonises the chrystals whilst exposing bacteria to sudden chill which kills most pathogenic varieties (if there are any significant levels which there are not).
Also, aside from personally eating fermented vegetables every day and fermenting things like oatmeal, ginger, garlic, rice and suchlike before cooking, all my breads are naturally/organically fermented for my customers. Now the probiotic elements are no longer alive once the bread is baked, so that is a possible negative. But much of their chemical constituents, including proteins and minerals, is available for nutrition.
Further, especially the dark, or ‘whole grain’ loaves, are rich in fibre which is beneficial on many levels. I believe it is like some of the ingredients in soil which balance it so that it is not too dense and sticky. The fibre represents a sort of space principle in digesting matter giving the tiny villi a better chance of absorbing things rather than getting gummed up with too much fine-particulate foods from over-processing (white flour and many other things).
Indeed, I suspect that many of the gluten-related problems people experience these days are not because of the gluten per se, but rather diets over many years consisting of too many over-processed foods, not to mention chemicals and hormones etc. therein including antibiotic use, which over time ruins the digestive system. So gluten problems are partly caused also by badly made bread (using commercial yeast for only a few hours to get a rise, but that leaves the grain/bread still improperly pre-digested by fermentation), but also improperly made and prepared food in general, namely unfermented grains of all sorts, and large quantities of mass-produced, industrial and quite ‘dead’ over-processed (harder to digest because no real fibre or life force/minerals/nutrients) imitation food. You eat that stuff for 20 years or so and its no wonder you can’t enjoy a simple slice of sourdough bread. Similarly young people who have allergies, eating problems etc. did not start off right in their early years (mainly drinking formula, then dead baby food, then processed foods and by age 6 they are finished!).
And so it goes….

All disease begins in the gut – of interest to sourdoughers!


from this page: http://articles.mercola.com/sites/articles/archive/2012/05/12/dr-campbell-mcbride-on-gaps.aspx?e_cid=20120512_DNL_artNew_1 which has transcript of the above interview.

Related: http://www.gaps.me/?page_id=20


“All diseases begin in the gut! The Father of modern medicine, Hippocrates, made this statement more than two thousand years ago. The more we learn with our modern scientific tools, the more we realise just how correct Hippocrates was: all diseases do begin in the gut! Science has discovered, that about 90% of all cells and all genetic material of the human body belongs to the gut flora – a mixture of various microbes, which live inside our digestive tract. So, in reality your body is just a shell, a 10%, providing a habitat for this mass of micro-creatures living inside you; and their role in your health and physiology is monumental. Our modern world poses many dangers for human gut flora, and once it is damaged, the health of the whole body enters a downward slide towards disease. “

Cesium in Californian produce – which they sell us here in Cape Breton


OK, it’s not super-high levels. Also, I’m not sure if our levels on the East Coast have been rising (though I doubt it). But if you want to be more secure that way and don’t trust our supermarkets to be testing on our behalf, then BUY LOCAL PRODUCE this summer and learn how to culture/pickle the vegetables.

I’ll make a few posts with photos at some point on how to do this but it’s VERY easy:

1. Chop vegetables up and soak in covered / sealed jar filled with brine which is water with sea salt in it, to taste or about 1-2 tsp per jar (depending on size of jar). Wait a few days at room temperature (around 20C/70F) until it is bubbling nicely or, if under pressure, hisses at you when you open it up, AND it tastes sour, then pour off the water (use in soups, as salad dressing, as ‘starter’ for next batches), and keep in fridge. Congratulations: your veggies will now last 3-6 months AND the vitamin content is from 20-50 times greater AND you have Mother Nature’s probiotics to help keep your digestive system clean, healthy and balanced.

So buy plenty of local produce this summer and learn how to preserve it.

Fungal infections as possible cause of intestinal issues with gluten, casein etc.

From Sodium Bicarbonate by Mark Sircus, OMD:  “According to The Home Medical Encyclopedia, in 1963 about one-half of all Americans suffered from an “unrecognized” systemic fungal condition. Far more Americans suffer from fungal infections today as antibiotics, hormone replacement therapies, and birth control pills continue to be consumed like candy. Thus more and more children are becoming infected with candidal meningitis or viral meningitis which means their systems are suffering under the weight of these poisons – these mycotoxins. While the gluten-free, casein free diet is a step in the right direction, it’s not enough. It is time we start focusing on conquering the systemic viral and fungal infections with the same substances that can destroy these same infections in the case of cancer.
‘In my practice I’ve noticed that clients who have chronic sub-clinical  viral,  bacterial or yeast/fungal infections accumulate and retain heavy metals in their bodies.  It’s interesting to note that these chronic  infections bind to toxic metals so  effectively that no chelating agent is able to remove them. ‘Dr. Ted Edwards
Dr. Edwards goes on to indicate that most patients who are experiencing the ravages of fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue, multiple chemical sensitivities, diabetes, lupus and other autoimmune diseases are found to have both dysbiosis and leaky gut. What happens is the combination of yeast-bacteria, yeast-virus, Candida infestation and heavy metal toxicity alter the stomach and intestinal track to such a degree that it can no longer function properly. It becomes highly reactive to gluten in grains or corn as well as to caseins found in dairy products.
The bulk of the pancreas consists of cells whose job is to produce fluid that contains enzymes and sodium bicarbonate. The enzymes digest food; the sodium bicarbonate neutralizes hydrochloric acid from the stomach to protect the delicate intestinal lining from damage. Without the sodium bicarbonate in pancreas fluid to neutralize stomach acid the intestine can be severely damaged by the highly caustic fluid that arrives from the stomach. Pancreatic enzyme insufficiency leads to bad digestion of food and subsequent malnutrition, accompanied by signs of intestinal irritation and we can start to imagine how useful bicarbonate is for children with autism.

Spores are tiny single cells that are produced by fungi that have hyphae. Spores are tiny single cells that are usually very resistant to environmental changes. They can remain dormant for long periods of time until the conditions are right for them to develop into mature individuals. Fungi are heterotrophs, meaning that they secrete digestive enzymes and absorb the resulting soluble nutrients from whatever they are growing on. For this reason they are great decomposers in the ecosystem, but they can also cause problems when they begin to absorb nutrients from a living organism.
Fungus is a parasite and very often dictates eating behaviors in the host. Typically, we see people who have a fungal condition with certain cravings not knowing a host of fungal invaders are dictating their behavior; not knowing that their arthritis, their cancer, their diabetes or other diseases are related to fungus. These people tend to crave pasta, bread, potatoes and sugar, which is one clue a physician can use to accurately diagnose the condition.
83% of 25 people tested with a dark field microscope had various stages of systemic yeast infections in their blood. This means that the fungus is flowing everywhere throughout the body. This causes joint pain, stomach upset, allergies, reflux, and many other disorders that are misdiagnosed by conventional medicine. Dr. Marijah McCain identified the primary cause of death in cancer patients to be NOT the cancer itself, but fungal overgrowth. The doctor also saw fungi in other diseases such as: Fibromyalgia, Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, Lupus, Gulf War Syndrome.
“The Feds closed my clinic 2 years ago… They said the procedure I was doing was categorized as “high complexity” and required unrealistic laboratory requirements for me to practice (One drop of blood on a microscope slide!) When I spoke to the idiot at CLIA in Dallas he said quote “We are going to get rid of all of you.” Nice… I will tell you in the short time I was using my scope I saved over 25 lives from sure death and also saw systemic yeast in everyone’s blood. They don’t want you to know that this fungus is what is really killing you, not the cancer!!! The chemo therapies contribute to this fungal overgrowth and it is deadly when not treated. It is clearly present in all Fibromyalgia, CFS, Lupus, GWS and a host of other problems they have conveniently mis-titled. I know it, because I not only saw this with my own eyes, in every case, but I treated it successfully and got results! People didn’t die!!! They got better, even when they had been given a cancer death sentence!””

Later on,  a throwaway remark about sourdough bread, which at least is favourable: “When it comes to modern western diets heavy with meat, dairy and quick rising bread even with normal hydrochloric levels people have a difficult time breaking down all the proteins into amino acids and that is why so many people have difficulties in their intestines to the point of leaking gut syndrome. Sourdough bread is important for this very reason. When bread is digested overnight by natural yeast the proteins get predigested before they ever enter our mouths. This is a central issue with gluten intolerance.”

(Agreed. I have many customers who report that they have no problems eating my bread but that usually they cannot digest ‘normal’ bread properly. I try to tell them that my bread is actually ‘normal’ in the sense that it’s made the way bread has been made since we crawled out of the slime and muck following the Great Flood but anyway…)

My personal feeling is that the use of positive fungi and bacteria, for example in properly fermented grains (breads and probiotic grain drinks like kvass), cheeses and other things like kombucha, sauerkraut and so on can help provide the body with the means to maintain an overall healthy terrain. It is in an unhealthy terrain that diseases flourish, and I suspect the same sort of things are needed in a healthy one as in an unhealthy one, it is just a question of which ones and the right sort of balance. In other words, a healthy terrain contains various yeasts, fungi, bacteria and all the rest of it, it is not free of those things. That is the fallacy behind too much of modern medicine, or at least the popular understanding of it which can be boiled down to something like: ‘get rid of all germs and there will be no disease; if a disease arises, identify the pathogen and get rid of it somehow, either with a toxin or by cutting it out.’

This is a very primitive, and fundamentally anti-life approach.

Not very healthy in other words!!

PS. From a cancer site linked in this book: http://www.healingcancernaturally.com/causes7.html