Tag Archives: gut flora

Allergies and Gut Flora

Gut Flora

I was reading Free the Animal and Richard had a post which had a section on how taking soil-based probiotics helped his allergies. I have been following his Resistant Starch series from the beginning and had just purchased some soil-based probiotics. I had my husband, who has horrible allergies, try taking one of them a day and a week later, he was off all allergy meds. He hasn’t taken an allergy pill for over 3 days now, and Spring is his worst season. I just wanted to get this out there for any of you who have allergies!

I am crazy busy at work (tons of overtime!) and my husband and I are starting a huge new project out of work, so I don’t have a lot of time to research this further, but go over and see what Richard has to say about it. Sorry I haven’t been around much, but hopefully soon I can start writing all of those posts that I have in my head! 🙂

 

Fat Burner

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I am absolutely addicted to the raw heavy cream that we get at this adorable little dairy in a town near us. It’s not even worth drinking coffee without it; I’m only drinking coffee right now to keep in practice for Friday, when I will be reunited with my cream. Not only does it taste so good, creamy, smooth, and sweet, but my brain really seems to need the fat.

Every once in a while, I’ll try life without cream, usually trying to skinny up for a meetup like Vegas and now Mardi Gras. The jury is out on whether or not reducing my calories by 350-400 per day and fat intake of 35-40 grams a day does any good at all in skinnying me up because frankly, I haven’t noticed any difference in the past few weeks of any sort of size change.

I have noticed a huge difference in my brain function. I noticed this the last time I tried it in late September, but the change wasn’t as noticeable for some reason, perhaps because I’ve been eating a lot of resistant starch in the form of cooked (in bone broth) and cooled parboiled white rice and properly soaked and fermented lentils cooked in broth with ham. These meals are higher carb and have a lot lower fat than I usually eat.

A few days after I quit the heavy cream, I got really manic. Really manic, like bouncing off the walls manic. Gibbering, mind and mouth going a million miles an hour manic. Then my moods started swinging: thrill, angst, doom, excitement, and the roller-coaster of emotions zooming up and down. Now, there aren’t so many emotions but I feel like I’m getting a migraine, and I haven’t had one of those in a long time.

I’ve been eating coconut oil to try to soothe my brain, and it sort of works, but it doesn’t work nearly as well as cream. I was going to use butter in my coffee, but the only butter I had around was salted. Luckily, Thursdays and Mondays are the days to go on a cream run, so I’ll have some for my coffee Friday. Whew!

Frankly, I’m done trying to get resistant starch. I haven’t noticed any differences there either. I’m not sure what to look for either, but I’m willing to bet that if I take Deep Strength’s advice and let my diet stabilize, I will be a lot better off. So, I’m done with resistant starch. It’s something that I will acknowledge and store in the back of my mind, but I’m going back to high saturated fat with meat, broth, whatever veggies that don’t hurt me, and the occasional carb or two.

My Boring but Hectic Life

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I’ve been really busy lately trying to get stuff done before winter hits. I’m also catching up on work since taking off for 10 days a couple of weeks ago. Plus, I think that I killed off some vital brain cells during Vegas, and I’m pretty sure they aren’t going to come back. My husband also keeps me very busy partying and visiting bars. Let’s see, I think I’ve listed all my excuses for not posting: busy, no brain, bars. Yep. That’s about it.

Dr. Illusion & Mistress are coming up for the big gun show this weekend and maybe other people, too, so that is also keeping me busy. The plan was to get some cheap rooms downtown and Scorched Earth the downtown area, but since the huge building boom and all the new bars and restaurants that opened, downtown is packed to the gills, and it is now expensive to get a room if there are any available.

I’m now rooting for everyone to stay at my teeny-tiny house (warning: construction zone, lol) and we can buy some air mattresses or something. We can dig a fire pit in our empty lot and scare the neighbors [Edit: husband says no firepit 😦 ]. We are just a mile from everything, and could easily take a taxi to destroy downtown. Just another option to renting two or three $150 a night rooms for a couple of nights. I’m a cheap date. I’m also fine with getting rooms if we actually can. We might camp out!

It’s weird, adjusting to the changing seasons. I haven’t figured out how to ferment in the cold, and I’m reluctant to heat the house up to summer temperatures. I thought about building a box that I could heat and ferment in, but that sounds like a pain and where would I put it? Maybe I could empty out a cabinet or something. I’m probably going to give up on it until next summer when the temp is hot again. By then I should have a special fermenting station on my back porch, which we are in the process of enclosing.

Instead, I’ve been slow cooking large chunks of meat and making tons of bone broth. We just finished up a huge rack of pork ribs, and then the bones went into the crockpot with a splash of vinegar to make some bone broth. I haven’t dragged another chunk of meat out of the deep freeze yet, but maybe I will tonight. Maybe I’ll grab a nice roast to cook in Guinness with onions and carrots. I’ve been skipping breakfast and lunch and living off of raw heavy cream in my coffee for breakfast, broth for lunch and a normal dinner.

Oh, and I also have been buying a bunch of books, and I may do some reviews soon. So far I have the Mindful Attraction Plan and Enjoy the Decline, but I have a bunch of others bookmarked to buy.

Fungus Among Us

fungus among us

So, I’m off on another gut flora biofilm tangent. After writing my post on rice beer, I was wondering exactly what the beneficial mold did for a person’s health & Then I started wondering if mold or fungi was every bit as important to gut health as bacteria. I was reading Dr. Art Ayers’ new post & he mentioned in passing:

I have previously discussed the gut flora (bacteria and fungi) as the source of most vitamins. […] The human gut actively communicates with the biofilms of bacteria and fungi that form a lining for the healthy gut.  The aggressive cells of the immune system that attack invading pathogens, develop in response to chemical signals from filamentous gut bacteria, and the suppressive cells of the other half of the immune system, which prevents attack on innocuous food antigens (to avoid allergies) or the human body itself (autoimmunity), develop in response to Clostridium ssp.  Thus, the immune system can be highly compromised, if the gut flora bacteria are damaged, e.g. by antibiotics.

Which was a big Whoa! Back up! I searched all mentions of fungi on his blog, and frankly there are a bunch. I’m still trying to get through it all. There is very little other information online about the beneficial molds & fungi & how they interact with the biofilms that line your gut.

Specifically, I want to know how to decrease the pathogenic biofilms & increase the beneficial ones, but even Dr Ayers says:

Oh, it is so embarrassing. I don’t know how to control gut flora/biofilms with diet. Clearly communication between gut and flora are important and this is all perturbed by food. Prebiotics/probiotics can alter gut flora, e.g. the monoculture (Bifidobacteria) of exclusively breastfed babies. Reciprocal fecal transplants can make obese lose weight and lean gain. Transplants of whole guts survive if maintained by retaining the gut contents.

The immune system is developed and maintained by secondary school in the gut. The gut holds reserve bacteria in the appendix to reseed the gut after diarrhea sheds biofilms and all.

Unfortunately we don’t know the requisite bacteria stored in a healthy appendix. Otherwise, at any time we could reset the gut by pushing the diarrhea button and return to health.

I think that pre and probiotics are a hedge to shift the meaningful biofilms toward health. I don’t understand the whole gut community and it may include unsavory characters such as H. pylori and parasitic worms. Some of these characters, such as Hp and Klebsiella may cause ulcers or cancer when the body gets out of whack. So we may have to make some unnatural adjustments. Little is known.

So there’s that. I’m still sorting through information & trying to get it to meld in my mind, but the problem is that there is so little information on the subject of beneficial molds, look at the tiny amount of info wikipedia has.

I guess what I’m trying to figure out is: will eating blue cheese, drinking rice beer & etc. help populate my gut with beneficial fungi? When I was taking ginger, turmeric & digestive enzymes to disrupt the pathogenic biofilms, was I also disrupting the beneficial ones? Should I try disrupting ALL biofilms while eating a ton of fermented foods?

Or, as Dr Ayers says, should I quit eating a diverse diet in favor of a constant diet:

The hundred of different species of bacteria in the gut change in proportions to adapt to different foods in each meal.  If the diet is fairly constant, then the diversity of the population gradually increases, just as the diversity of species in a tropical rain forest is greater than in a temperate forest.  This also explains why gut flora diversity is far less in the USA than in other parts of the world.  Americans are encouraged to eat diverse diets in the search for vitamins and superfoods.  Each dramatic change in diet makes it hard for the gut flora to adapt and the remaining bacteria are those that are generalists.  It might also be expected that early sailors who changed their diets dramatically when they went to sea, ended up with a highly compromised ship-board gut flora (and fauna.)

Anyway, this is what I’m doing instead of entertaining you (or working, lol). I do plan on ordering some kefir grains & a kumbucha mother & I plan on starting a batch of homemade sauerkraut to get some extra bacteria in my system.

The question is, will this help or hurt? If a diverse diet is harmful to gut flora, does that mean that eating a diverse diet of fermented foods is harmful too?

A Better Rice Beer Recipe

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[An updated recipe is located here – it is much simpler!]

I’ve been playing with my rice beer* recipe & think I’ve gotten it to down to the basics. I started with this recipe, and it was great except that it was a lot of work, a lot of hours & took a long time to ferment. There isn’t enough time from when I get home from work until I go to bed to work the recipe. If you use glutinous (sweet) rice & steam it for a couple of hours, it is so incredibly sticky that it’s hard to separate & mix with the yeast ball. It takes 14 days to ferment, and a double batch only makes about 4 pints, so even if you stagger 2 double batches, say 1 each week, you still only have 4 pints a week for a ton of work. Not acceptable!

So, I went back & searched other recipes. Most of them said to cook the rice normally (on the stove or in a rice cooker), but I didn’t really see glutinous rice cooking “normally” because it kind of instantly explodes into this large sticky ball of rice in the pan instead of nice plump separate grains of rice like you would see with Walmart rice. Plus, Ben’s recipe says the rice needs to be a little bit underdone with a nutty center.

I mixed 6 cups of glutinous rice with 4 cups of jasmine rice (the glutinous rice made a too-sweet end-product), rinsed until clear, & soaked for an hour in spring water. After draining, I took what most of the recipes said & cooked 1 part rice in 1.5 parts spring water until it turns into a huge, thick, sticky ball of the driest rice you can get (still not dry though) before the whole mess burns. It takes about 3.5 seconds after dumping the rice into the boiling water (okay, maybe a couple of minutes). This takes a large stock pot.

While you let the half-cooked rice cool, take your fermenting container (I use this one), fill it with water & add a cap or two of bleach. You should be able to just barely smell the bleach. Toss a tea towel & a spatula of some sort in the jar, invert the lid of the jar & fill that with bleach water too. Let those soak for 30 minutes or so to sterilize. Dump the water, wring out the tea towel & dry the jar.

Take 2 cookie sheets & put them on a large clean surface that moist heat won’t hurt (not grandmother’s heirloom dining table). Cover both cookie sheets with one new, clean trash bag. When the rice is cool enough to handle, spread the rice in the farthest cookie sheet to let it cool further. After a couple of minutes, grab the trash bag & flip the rice into the near cookie sheet & fill the farthest one again with hotter rice to cool.

Crush two yeast balls in a mortar & pestle. Take small bits of the nearest, coolest rice & when it feels warm but not hot to your (clean!) fingers & drop it into the sterilized jar bit by bit. It should be about 110F to not kill the yeast. Keep one hand clean & let the other one get covered with rice.

Sprinkle a spoonful of yeast on the first layer of rice & then repeat until all rice & yeast is layered in the jar. Cover with the damp, sterilized tea towel & place lid on top. Put in a large soft-sided cooler (or wrap in towels, etc) & let sit overnight. In the morning it should be pretty juicy. Stir with clean spatula. Each morning & evening give it a good stir; it should be bubbling merrily.

The yeast balls contain a medicinal mold, Aspergillus Oryza, that breaks the starch down to sugar & then the yeast ferments the resulting sugar. There is a third process that the rice mixture goes through to make the whole mess sweet, but that process escapes me at the moment. I found it somewhere in my research, but don’t have time to look for it – I’ll try to add it back in later if I stumble across it.

I keep the fermenting rice in my kitchen, which stays about 80F – the fermenting rice is exothermic, so I keep it insulated to speed up the process. After about 4 or 5 days the rice should be pretty liquid & it should smell sweet like really ripe alcoholic fruit. In bleach water, sterilize some cheesecloth or a floursack cloth, some bottles in which to bottle your beer (I use Grolsch bottles) a 1 cup measuring scoop & a large funnel.

Put the funnel in your first bottle, drape the cloth over it & scoop a cup or so of the rice mixture in the cloth. Squeeze the heck out of the rice until you get all the liquid out. You can use the rice in recipes, but I just squeeze it until it forms a hard rice turd & I throw it away. Sorry, waste-not-want-not people! Fill your bottles (it usually fills 7 bottles), put in a teaspoon of sugar, cap the bottles & put in a warm dark place to ferment for a couple of days.

Chill the bottles in your fridge. Watch out because they might be pretty explosive when you open them. The resulting rice beer is very fizzy, pretty yummy & chock full of not only beneficial bacteria, but also a medicinal mold. Mmmmm, bacteria & mold – just what the doctor ordered, lol.

*Also called rice wine, makgeolli, etc.

[Update: This stuff is kind of dangerously strong – as much as 22% alcohol (more when you bottle it with a half teaspoon sugar?), which is 44 proof, so if you drink a pint of it, it could be the equivalent of drinking almost 8 shots of 90 proof alcohol – So BE CAREFUL, lol!]

[Note: I have found small spots of mold when I’ve not stirred for a couple of days, but I just scrape those off & ignore. I figure that mold is a part of the process, so it might be the yeast ball mold. Heck, I don’t know! It hasn’t killed me yet!]

Conversational Sluts & Gut Flora

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Sunshinemary had an interesting post a few weeks ago about the human microbiome and how trading it during sex affects us:

When a woman comes together with her husband, she’s receiving more than just semen. She’s also being “seeded” by receiving a big dose of his microbiome inside her, a microbiome which literally affects who she is and how she thinks and feels. In a very real sense, we become part of the men we have sexual relations with.

She goes on further on the subject:

I am only wondering aloud here, but does it not seem that it would be stressful to a woman’s body and mind to receive the microbiomes of numerous men? Wouldn’t her body be able to adapt and function better if she only received that from one man? And doesn’t it make sense that she would bond deeply with that one man, given that part of him is now physically a part of her, affecting the very way she perceives the world?

This has been fermenting (hah!) in the back of my mind for the past week or so & then I realized why I hung onto it. My husband & I are bar gut-flora sluts. When we go to a bar, we will sit next to anyone & talk to them & just by the act of conversation, we share gut flora with them.

I have been working hard on colonizing my body with beneficial bacteria & I always thought of talking to people as me sharing my hard work (good gut flora) with them & increasing their health, but I never thought of them sharing their bad flora with me. And I certainly never thought that sharing a lot of strangers’ flora might be messing me up internally.

Just a few generations ago, there were close extended families that everyone spent a lot of time with & they would share their gut flora. People may not have had a lot of contact with complete strangers. When I was a kid being raised in the Catholic tradition, we lived in our Parish, went to school in the Parish school, went to Mass in the Church next to the school, played with all of the other neighborhood Parish kids after school & Mass. I bet if we had all been tested, they would have found that the Parish had a specific gut flora.

Which brings me to the subject of going to a wide variety of small bars & conversing with a lot of different people, a lot of which are complete strangers. I never thought of this as damaging my health. I never considered that this might be seeding me with detrimental microbiome. And the stupid thing about it is that most of these people are downright tedious, anyway. So it is damaging to my body & mind.

My husband & I were talking last night about how annoying a lot of the people are that we see on a regular basis & Sunshinemary’s post came to mind. I told him about it & suddenly it all made sense – we need to only converse with the people we like & respect. Only share gut flora or microbiomes with people in which we want to invest. We need to quit being conversational sluts.

A Rice Beer Recipe

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[An updated recipe is located here – it is much simpler!]

I just finished making the simplest booze to make ever & it is chock full of good bacteria. Rice beer has 3 ingredients: rice, yeast & water. The yeast is specific though; it is Shanghai Dried Yeast Balls (Jiuqu). The other yeasts you will find at your local Asian market might be wheat based & might contain a lot of the Candida strain & you don’t want that if you are already having problems with Candida.

I used Ben the Urban Farmer’s recipe, which calls for “a few weeks”, but a lot of the other recipes say it is finished in 4 days. Also, while looking around for recipes, I learned that there is a huge renaissance in Asia with the traditional Korean Makgeolli (rice beer, but it uses Nuruk yeast, which is wheat based). The rice beer made with Jiuqu is called Lao Zao or Lao Zhao; it is described as a sweet beer, but the recipe I used wasn’t all that sweet – maybe the few weeks fermentation broke down most of the sugars.

Here’s what I did:

Rinse 5 cups of rice until clear & soak for an hour. Rinse again & steam in a bamboo steamer over a large pot of water for 2 hours. I line the steamer with a thin tea towel (floursack cloth) soaked in hot water & wrung out. When finished, put in large container or crock. I ferment everything in my large crockpot crock.

Crush one yeast ball until fine & mix well into cooled but still warm rice. Make a depression in the middle & cover with a tea towel (or paper towel) for two days, stirring each day. You can add water if liquid isn’t forming in center hole, but don’t add much. Cover & let ferment for another couple of days (or weeks in my case).

When done to taste, spoon some into some cheesecloth or floursack cloth & squeeze the liquid into a mason jar & guzzle. Will make about a quart. It is ready to drink as soon as bottled & you will want to drink it soon while it is fresh. Sometimes sugar is added right before bottling to make it fizzier & more alcoholic, but I’m going for purity.

If you like, you can make Drunken Chicken or other recipes with your beer. The rice is just as yummy as the beer if you like a nice boozy rice pudding.

The most interesting thing about Ben’s post was:

The chinese yeast balls above contain koji (or at least some similar mould that produces these enzymes) as well as yeast, so adding these to cooked rice allows:

The koji to break the starches down into sugars; and
The yeast to simultaneously ferment these sugars into alcohol.

[…] So the fact that these yeast balls contain koji and yeast theoretically means that we could ferment anything with starch in it. Rice, barley, wheat, corn, potato, sweet potato, squash, beetroot, peas, pumpkin, banana flowers – pretty much any plant you can think of.

His website is really great if you are fascinated with fermentation like I am – next I’m going to try his recipe for Kombucha & maybe try to make my own apple cider vinegar, hopefully by first making my own hard cider.

[Note: I made soooo many mistakes on the second go-round. You need to use glutinous rice (does not contain gluten) or sweet rice as it is called by the guy at the Asian market. I used normal rice & it worked but it tastes “green” – I bottled it with 1t.  sugar & I will report back in a couple of days on the taste now.

I was trying it too dry, so adding a 1/4 cup water each day really helped & the process did take 2 weeks – maybe with the sweet rice it will only take 4 days – I’ll let you know. The end product before squeezing the beer out will resemble a thick, soupy oatmeal. It actually produces a lot of its own liquid. The squeezing process (through flour sack cloth in my case) is not unlike milking a cow: kind of gross yet satisfying. Not sure what to do with the rice left over by the process.]

[UPDATE: I played with the recipe some more & think I have it down pat, so I posted it in A Better Rice Beer Recipe.]