Fermented foods – our little digestive warriors

On my journey to live and eat organically, I have learnt so much about how a healthy gut and digestive system is the foundation for our physical, mental and emotional wellbeing. I would love to share my knowledge with Natural Health readers this month!

Organic living makes you very aware of the many ways to be healthier.  But I know that digestive health is the key when it comes to optimising your health, having a super strong immune system, reversing disease and feeling amazing.      

A healthy gut depends on the balance of good and bad bacteria that live in our gut.  This balance regulates a huge part of our overall health. And I have learnt that by far the best way to have the right bacterial balance, is to eat fermented foods!  Here’s why:

Fermented foods are packed with natural probiotics

Probiotics are good bacteria, the type we need plenty of.  These good bacteria are absolutely essential for our overall health but specifically for our digestion and our immunity.  So we take probiotics because they stimulate the growth of healthy flora/bacteria in our digestive systems.   

That is why there are so many probiotic supplements in health shops and pharmacies.  Although most of these can be effective none are as amazing as eating fermented foods.

Probiotic supplements usually show an active bacteria range on the label but we now know that a serving of homemade raw sauerkraut (one of the best fermented foods) has up to10 trillion good bacteria, which is 100 times more than the average probiotic supplement!   

Fermented foods are immunity warriors

Improved digestion hugely strengthens our immune system.  Our immunity affects how well we feel and also whether we can keep disease and nasty invaders away!  Regularly eating fermented foods provides us with “good bacteria warriors” in our gut that find and destroy nasty, unwanted, illness-causing microbes. Find and destroy!

Of course, raw, organic fermented foods are the ones to eat.  Think sauerkraut, kimchi, yoghurt, kefir, miso and apple cider vinegar.   

Fermented foods are full of live enzymes

Instead of taking a digestive enzyme supplement or probiotic (or in addition to), you should rather eat enzyme rich fermented foods as this is so much more effective in ensuring that your gut is healthy.  When we eat a fermented food, we immediately get a multitude of living enzymes into our body.  These act like little warriors that immediately get to work on breaking down carbs, proteins and fats that we have eaten.  The little fermented warriors can do this immediately because – remember - fermented food is pre-digested.  So eating these, eases the work your pancreas and other digestive organs  need to do thereby giving one immediate nutrients, without any hard digestive work!  

Fermented foods make nutrients available right away

Think of a fermented food as already being digested.  In other words, the food has already started to break down before we eat it, so it puts much less strain on your digestive system to unlock the nutrients we need from the food.   Nutrients are available right away without the hard work of digestion!  An example of this is what happens in the gut when we eat sauerkraut – one of the best fermented foods there is.  Because the sauerkraut is pre-digested, our digestive organs need to do very little work to give us a fast boost of life-giving nutrients like vitamins B1, B6, B9 and K, manganese, potassium, magnesium and iron, to name just a few. Clever!

Fermented foods are budget friendly and preserve well

Incorporating organic health into your diet can sometimes be expensive.  Not so with the fermented variety!  Items like sauerkraut, whey, kefir, yoghurt, fermented vegetables and many others can easily be made at home with a few ingredients.  And, because of the fermentation process, these foods generally last really long in the fridge.

So, I hope that you will consider including fermented food (organic of course) in your lifestyle right away!

 

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The amazing benefits of Epsom Salts

It’s easy to find, affordable, has many uses and is named from a saline spring at Epsom in Surrey, England.  It’s been used for centuries and was grandma’s favourite remedy. Now  it’s back in fashion as a cost-saving, green living wonder.  Yes, it’s Epsom Salts and it’s a household must-have!

Did you know that Epsom Salts is actually a mineral compound made up of Magnesium and Sulfate and is not really a salt at all?  We are told that both Magnesium and Sulfate can be readily absorbed into the skin so that the health benefits are available to the body almost immediately.

More than 300 enzymes in our bodies are regulated by Magnesium which we know helps to reduce inflammation and to alleviate hardening of the arteries.  Sulfates on the other hand help to flush out toxins from our bodies and to improve the speed at which we absorb nutrients.  And this from an inexpensive, off-the-shelf product that I believe is truly underrated!

Here are some of my favourite uses for magic Epsom Salts that I recommend you could try too:

 Foot soak

Tired and achy feet can be remedied by an indulgent Epsom Salts soak!  Add one half of a cup of this wonder product to a foot bath and soak for 30 minutes or as long as you are comfortable.  Add a few drops of organically produced essential oil to turn your foot soak session into a spa experience.  My favourite oils to add are citrus or lavender in summer and neroli or lavender in winter.  The heavenly smell of any of these oils soothe and delight me.  Complete the experience by sipping a cup of Organic Macha Green Tea with a squish of lemon or a mint leaf.  Aah…home comforts!

 Bath soak

It is said that Epsom Salts (particularly the Magnesium) can be absorbed through the skin to relieve muscle tension, pain and inflammation in the joints and even alleviate tension headaches and abdominal cramps.  Add up to a cup of Salts to your bath and relax for a while.  Here too, a few drops of organic essential oil added to your bath, a candle (please try my new organic Amka or Usiku candles and let me know what you think…) can turn a pain-relieving bath soak into a home spa experience.   

 Body exfoliator

Rub a handful of Epsom Salts over your skin while it is damp, to remove dead cells and leave your skin smooth, soft and healthier.  Take this idea a step further by making your own scented body scrub.  To 1 cup of Epsom Salts add one half a cup of neutral oil (almond, Jojoba) and 5 – 10 drops of essential oil of your choice.  A lavender body exfoliator?  Fabulous!  Remember to use organic only….

Hand wash

Mix equal parts of Epsom Salts and organic olive oil to create a moisturising hand cleanser that is also environmentally friendly. Store this next to all the sinks around your home and use it regularly to keep hands soft and clean. 

 Spread the cheer to your houseplants

Epsom Salts is a popular supplement in organic gardening for those who, like me, are interested in “green” living. It’s affordable, gentle and environmentally friendly and does not build up in the soil.

Start by adding two tablespoons of Epsom Salts to one gallon of water and substitute this solution for normal watering once a month.  This is especially useful to apartment dwellers with no garden space as it will help them receive a bounty of blooms within a confined space. It’s also a wonderful way to nurture veggies grown on a balcony but, more about this another time….

 

 

 

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Soothing Spring Allergies - The Natural Way

For many of us the advent of Spring is coupled with allergies, wheezing, sniffing and itching that is triggered by high pollen counts, new plant growth and many other seasonal factors.  Such allergies are caused when the immune system over-reacts to these typically harmless triggers.   

As an organic lifestyle advocate, I always favour first using natural remedies to treat these nasties, although one should be mindful that serious allergic reactions like asthma, require medical intervention.

I have used the following natural remedies with great success, for many years.

Feed your body with lovely organic food

Although there is growing evidence that an organic, balanced diet can cure maladies, the primary benefit of this way of eating is that it helps to keep the immune system in top shape.  And, the stronger your immune system, the less likely you are to be affected by seasonal allergic reactions.  If you’re expecting allergies in April and May when the first Spring blossoms appear, start eating wisely and organically right now so that your immunity is gradually boosted in time for the pollen onslaught!

The term “organic food” is now widely used so it is good to remember that it means produce that is free of antibiotics and artificial growth hormones, that has been cultivated without pesticides and synthetic fertilisers, that has not been irradiated and that does not contain bio-engineered ingredients.  Check before you buy!

Make quercetin your friend

Pack your diet with this natural bioflavonoid and potent antioxidant that acts almost like an antihistamine – a real allergy fighter!  I have always understood that you should start increasing quercetin in your diet four to six weeks before allergy season.  How do you do this?  Increase your intake of organically grown onions, garlic, apples, red grapes and tomatoes, to name just a few of nature’s wonders.  Add berries which, like the skin of red grapes contains the famed resveratrol, and you are sure to get an additional immune boost.  If you prefer to take a quercetin supplement, remember to check with your health practitioner first, as you should do with the use of all herbal and natural supplements.

Steaming with eucalyptus oil

I fondly remember my father using steam to easy his Spring allergic symptoms!  The pine-like aroma of eucalyptus oil can enhance a steam inhalation session by some measure.  The rising eucalyptus vapour provides a soothing, menthol-like sensation that is sure to make breathing feel a little easier for wheezing allergy sufferers.  I put a few drops in a bowl of steaming water and drape a towel over my head, while inhaling deeply for five to eight minutes.  Or, I put a few drops of eucalyptus oil on the shower floor and enjoy breathing in the warm, steamy vapours.  This clears nasal passages and provides great relief.  But, remember this oil should never be taken per mouth and that pregnant women should always check with their health professional before using oils and herbs.

The “old fashioned” neti pot is back in fashion

This is an age-old way of flushing a saline solution through the nasal cavity to rinse away allergens and clear sinuses, giving allergy sufferers great symptomatic relief.  It may not be very elegant, but it really works!  Fill your neti pot with a sterile saline solution by dissolving one teaspoon of Himalayan or sea salt in a quart of warm water that has been previously boiled or is distilled. Tilt your head so that you can pour the mixture through one nostril and let it drain out of the other.  Easy and inexpensive!

There are many more natural remedies to fight Spring allergens, but I hope that the ones I have explained are helpful.

Remember to feed your body with lovely organic foods, manage your stress levels, exercise and live positively! 

 

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For The Love Of (Organic) Coffee

At times, drinking coffee can get a bad rap particularly if too many cups a day are consumed. 

But Jo Woods loves nothing better than to start her day with a cup of rich, aromatic coffee - provided that it's organic, of course!

Jo is famous for her support of all things organically grown and produced, it is also the reason she founded her organic fragrance and beauty range.

Organically grown coffee is free of pesticides and chemical residues, prompting coffee lovers like Jo to say it has a fuller, richer flavour than conventionally grown coffee.

"The antioxidants found in organic coffee beans are a healthy bonus" says Jo.  "But, even a health-boosting cup of organic coffee can be made unhealthy by adding bad ingredients" she says. 

So here are Jo's top tips to enhance your cup of coffee whilst making it even more nutritious:

  • Use paper coffee filters as these capture any potential impurities .
  • Why not add one or two teaspoons of organic, unsweetened cocoa powder to make your cuppa even more delicious? Cocoa in coffee helps to satisfy chocolate cravings, advances antioxidants already present in coffee and reduces the risk of heart disease.
  • Spice up your cup of steaming coffee with cinnamon. Over and above tasting fantastic, cinnamon lowers cholesterol and helps regulate blood sugar levels for people with diabetes. Yum! 
  • If you need a sweet taste, use only aspartame-free, natural sweeteners. Sugar, whether white or brown and artificial sweeteners should never make contact with coffee! Stevia is a better option. Jo loves to add a teaspoon of Yucon syrup.
  • Cut out dairy milk and cream as well as artificial coffee creamers which use artificial colours as well as added sugar and sodium - really bad for you!
  • Another no-no are the syrups which are loaded with sugar. Avoid!
  • Coconut oil gets a yes - add a generous teaspoon full for a brain and heart function boost.
  • Try butter coffee which contains small amounts of health boosting MCT. Not too much though, the calorie count is quite high.

Jo's absolute favourite cup of coffee is an organic espresso to which she adds a half-teaspoon of Maca powder which is known to balance hormones and provide an energy boost.

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Top 5 Organic Christmas Gifts

Of course it goes without saying that our absolute fave organic christmas gifts are Amka or Usiku Eau de Toilette, but if you're looking for something else to add to your organic requests for Santa, look no further...

1. Booja Booja Chocolate 

boojabooja chocolates

The guys and gals over at Booja Booja make some seriously delicious chocolate treats; we're huge fans of their Fin De Champagne truffles, in particular. 

It took some serious mental strength to avoid eating all of these delicious morsels before we'd taken the photos (they didn't last long after the final shot was taken, that's for sure.) 

Available at Planet Organic, amongst other stockists. 

http://www.boojabooja.com/

2. Hurraw Lip Balm

For a lip smackingly good moisturising treat, we love Hurraw Lip Balm as a stocking filler Christmas gift. 

Available at Planet Organic, they come in a bunch of different types: Almond, Earl Grey, and Coconut to name but a few. Pucker up! 

http://www.planetorganic.com

3. FAIR Wines and Spirits

FAIR goji

 

As it's the festive season, it would be wrong to not indulge in a little tipple... right?! Check out the guys over at Fair Liqueur; they do their absolute best to ensure only the finest and responsibly sourced ingredients are used. 

We particularly love their Goji Liqueur, rich in antioxidants, and using Goji Berries sourced from organic farms in Uzbekistan. 

http://www.fairspirits.com

4. Organic Hamper Company

Can't make your mind up enough to decide on one gift? Fear not, at the Organic Hamper Company you can get yourself a whole selection. 

We're particularly keen on the All I Want For Christmas hamper, which includes chocolates, tea, coffee, chutneys and jams amongst other organic nibbles. 

http://organichampercompany.com/

5. Chocolate Naive

We know we've already covered the topic of chocolate in this blog post, but you can never have enough. Never, ever. So... Please be introduced to Chocolate Naive, who make beautiful, organic chocolate treats, saying "Just as they were hundreds of years ago, cacao beans are slowly rolled and conched to release their extraordinary bouquet of fruits, nuts and flowers in a delicately finished chocolate bar". 

We're particular fans of Honey, and also the Gourmet Collection; fill your stockings with them, people! 

http://chocolatenaive.com/

 

 

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