In studies of indigenous cultures, it has been repeatedly found that when refined carbohydrates, refined sugars, processed foods and junk foods are introduced into their diets, there is an increase of chronic diseases within twenty five years time. These would be un-natural weight gain, cancers, diabetes and heart disease where there had never been any before.
I recently had a coaching client who is Japanese. She came to me for support and guidance as well as learning to integrate some simple raw-living food recipes into her diet. She had grown up on rice, seaweed, daikon radish pickles and dishes made from a variety of unpasteurized misos. The Japanese love fermented things. Microbes equal flavors. Somehow they have known for thousands of years that good gut health equals a strong immune system. Up until recently there was almost no cancer, diabetes or heart disease in Japan. These diseases have come with modern food habits.
When my client moved to America as a young bride, she quickly adopted the ‘Standard American Diet’ with open arms. She admitted to being crazy for hot dogs, fries, pizza, fish sticks and her favorite, ‘Miracle Whip Mayonnaise’.
Unlike her relatives in Japan, she contracted Breast Cancer in her late 50’s. When she was in her darkest hour, feeling vulnerable and lost, something magic stepped in. Out of the blue, an on-call oncologist asked “Why don’t you return to your traditional diet, the one you were born into?”
Up until that point she had put all her trust in Western Medicine. The chance encounter was a light bulb moment. She would have to take authority and make change.
She went home and embarked on her journey. She traveled back in her memory, back to her mother’s traditional Japanese kitchen, where crocks of fermented pickles ‘grew’ under the kitchen counter in wooden boxes. She remembered that when her mother married, she was given by her mother the family ‘pickle culture’, also called a ‘starter’, to begin her new life and guard her new family’s health. Tradition asked that she keep the culture alive to pass on to her daughters.
Slowly my client gathered the recipes and the stories from so long ago, the ones she had taken for granted when she was young. With patience she taught herself how to prepare the foods her people had eaten for thousands of years. Today, fifteen years later, she is in perfect health. I feel so blessed to be a part of this woman’s process. This is one of the many joys of Holistic Health Coaching.
WHO INVENTED FERMENTED FOODS?
Not all of us have the same ancestral background to reach into. What if you have been living in a culture your whole life with mixed messages of information and misinformation?
My mom died from cancer at age 57. My dad had a five part heart bypass at 53. These dear ones had a slew of issues when it came to lifestyle habits. For me going back in time did not mean fermented crocks of vegetables under the counter top. It meant learning to make a strawberry jello mold with canned fruits.
For many of us finding our way in a complicated world will mean digging deeper. The knowledge of proper preparation to transform foods with fermentation has been part of female collective memory for over 10,000 years. We have been part of the magic and power of fermentation for as long as we have been human. Creating communities of healing microbes is our natural realm.
Women have always been kitchen healers, interconnected with the life forces of the world around us. We are keepers and providers of traditional knowledge. We are fascinated by the intimacy of learning from each other and passing on experiences from neighbor to neighbor, mother to daughter. When women created a batch of fermented food, they learned they could save the ‘starter’, also called ‘the mother’, and pass it on to their daughters.
Young women who left old Europe were entrusted with the family sourdough bread culture to start their new lives in the new land. It would be their job ‘to keep the bubbling culture alive’ until it reached it’s new home. Precious live cultures have traveled on boats across oceans, over mountains on horse and wagon, through deserts on camels, to the ends of the Earth. This valuable home brewed science has been protected and cherished. We women are the keepers of that life.
We do not make probiotics in the body. It must come from an outside source in the form of fermented foods. Probiotics sit at receptor sites in the colon and protect us from foreign invaders that do the body harm. You might say that through oral tradition we women have always known that fermentation increases the health value of our foods. We knew early on that beneficial bacteria, vitamins and enzymes present in foods make the nutrients more bio-available to the body.
Like my client, somewhere along the way, while we traversed modern living, we forgot how to stay well and heal our families and communities with natural foods. We forgot our power to heal. Together, we can learn again.
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