by Terri L. Saunders
Terri Saunders is
an herbalist, nutritionist, and Certified Natural Health
Professional in Charlottesville, Virginia, where she
does consultations in person or by phone, and classes on
She can be reached at Sunrise Herb
Shoppe at (434) 984-2665.
For more information on
consultations, products, and classes, check the website
Body Ecology Diet books,
kefir and fermented vegetable starters, and supplements
can be ordered from Sunrise Herb Shoppe.
Most of us are familiar with the concept of how important it is for
our planet to have a balanced ecosystem in order to perpetuate
itself, where each species contributes to the life of another in an
environment that supports healthy growth and vitality.
present time, it appears that Earth's ecosystem is at risk of
deteriorating at an alarming rate, unless we can change this course
Just like the planet that we live on, we too have an ecosystem
inside our bodies that supports our growth and vitality, and just
like the Earth's, our inner world is also at risk, as evidenced by
the tremendous increase in infectious disease, degenerative
conditions and autoimmune disorders.
...are affecting adults and children
What's even more significant is:
tremendous increase in cases of autism, afflicting over 1 million
American children in the past five years and more in England,
Australia and Canada that we know of
In California, one out of
every 125 children is born autistic
Vaccines have been largely
blamed for this increase
However, the problem begins even before
Why are these problems unique to modern society, and what did our
ancestors know that enabled them to live their lives free of these
ailments? The answer may lie in that inner world struggling to
survive inside of us.
Before birth, a baby grows in the sterile environment of its
mother's womb. Just before delivery, the mother's cervix dilates
about 2 cm, which allows bacteria from the birth canal to enter the
amniotic fluid in the womb. The baby drinks this fluid and is
inoculated with the bacteria. A healthy mother's birth canal is
filled with beneficial bacteria or microflora such as
These healthful bacteria are known as
probiotics and form the foundation for a healthy immune system.
Probiotic means "for life," in contrast to
antibiotic, which means
As the baby travels through the birth canal he picks
up more of the bacteria there until he exits into the outer world.
In truth, most mothers no longer have the beneficial microflora
living inside of them, so they cannot give it to their babies.
Approximately 85 percent of pregnant women now have pathogenic
bacteria inside their birth canal instead of the healthful bacteria
their baby needs for protection.
Once the baby is born, if he is nursed, the colostrum secreted by
his mother's breasts before her milk comes in further enhances his
immunity. The colostrum is teeming with immune-enhancing antibodies,
proteins, peptides and transfer factor that enter the baby's body
and are immediately absorbed through the baby's now-permeable
intestines to allow this event to occur.
For the first six hours the colostrum
that is produced contains no sugar, but then the baby's gut seals up
and the colostrum becomes sweet with sugar. The sugar feeds the
microflora and causes a bed of mucus to form on the lining of the
intestines, which allows the beneficial microflora to adhere to it.
As the baby continues to nurse he develops a fully functioning
ecosystem, which establishes a healthy immune system early in life.
This is the way nature vaccinates our children.
Currently, because of the presence of pathogenic bacteria in the
mother's birth canal which may or may not cause a problem, doctors
are recommending that mothers be hooked up to an antibiotic I.V.
drip as soon as they begin labor.
Since antibiotics do not
discriminate between harmful bacteria and beneficial bacteria, this
practice essentially destroys the baby's fragile ecosystem and young
In an ideal world, as the child grows he would be fed foods that are
rich in probiotics, which would continue to protect him from harmful
pathogens normally encountered in daily life. These foods are
largely missing from the modern American diet, which is unfortunate
since beneficial microflora make up 85 percent of our immune system.
In her groundbreaking book "The Body Ecology Diet," Donna Gates,
a pioneer in the field of nutrition and health, refers to these
microflora as alchemists and highly intelligent beings that
communicate at all times with our enteric nervous system, located in
the intestines and commonly referred to as the second brain.
In fact, she maintains that it is this
second brain that is ultimately controlling the primary brain in our
Recent scientific research has discovered that the same
receptor sites for
neuropeptides and other brain chemicals that
exist in our brain are also present in our gut. Of course, we all
can relate to that "gut feeling" we have when we are intuitively
guided to do something.
The brain in our head needs nutrients to function such as
high-quality proteins, glucose, and essential fats, which all come
from the intestines. Neurotransmitters such as serotonin, which help
us to relax, are created from these nutrients in the intestines and
transported up to the brain. The microflora play an essential role
in the production of these substances.
They help to break down our food so we
can digest it and actually produce all of the B vitamins, vitamin K,
and short-chain fatty acids that are essential for immune and
nervous-system function. They assist in alkalizing our blood by
pulling out minerals from the food that nourishes our cells, and
create an environment where harmful bacteria, viruses, yeasts and
parasites cannot thrive. They eat excess sugars from our diet so
they cannot harm us, and effectively eliminate sugar cravings.
If we are deficient in a particular
mineral such as calcium, the microflora can change other minerals
such as silica into the calcium that we need. They can even
transform harmful substances such as the toxic byproducts of
undigested proteins, chemicals and heavy metals into substances that
are useful to the body, hence their reputation as alchemists.
Without this healthy ecosystem in place we become malnourished,
toxic, emotionally stressed and sick.
Donna Gates feels that autism
is essentially a "gut-brain" disorder and that the only way to heal
these children is to re-establish a healthy inner ecosystem. Her
BEDROK diet, the Body Ecology Diet for Recovering Our Kids, has a
protocol for healing autism that is very successful. As adults, we
can also restore our inner world and heal disease, slow down aging,
and become healthier and happier fully functioning human beings.
In order to do this we need only to look at the way our ancestors
ate and prepared their foods. Traditional cultures from around the
world all incorporated probiotic-rich foods into their diets. Before
modern technology gave us refrigeration and even in underdeveloped
countries today, the only way to preserve food was to ferment it.
it turns out, these cultured or fermented foods contained the
life-giving microflora that nourished and protected them through the
Nutritionist Sally Fallon reveals in her fascinating book,
"Nourishing Traditions," the incredible health benefits of ancient
foods and inspires us to return to this way of eating to recover our
health. In days of old, crops were grown in the spring, harvested in
the summer and fall, and then preserved through the process of
lacto-fermentation to continue to provide food throughout the
This was possible because of
lactobacilli bacteria, which is naturally present on the surface of
all living things, especially on the leaves and roots of plants and
in raw, unpasteurized dairy products. Under certain conditions,
lactobacilli will convert the starches and sugars in vegetables,
fruits and dairy products into lactic acid, which is a natural
preservative that inhibits the growth of putrefying bacteria. The
lactobacilli also produce enzymes that enhance digestibility and
increase vitamin and mineral levels in the food.
Natural antibiotic and anti-carcinogenic
substances are also produced. In addition, lactic acid promotes the
growth of healthy intestinal flora and alchemically creates hydrogen
peroxide that oxygenates the blood.
The traditional process of fermentation begins with first washing
and cutting up vegetables or fruits and mixing them with herbs and
spices. They are then pounded briefly to release juices, mixed with
a solution of salt water and then put into airtight containers where
they remain at room temperature for several days. After that, they
are stored in a cool, dark place where they will keep for several
Now, culture starters are available
containing healthy microflora and beneficial yeasts that provide a
nutrient-rich base for fermentation without the need for salt. Today
fermented foods can be purchased in stores, but many of them have
added vinegar or have been pasteurized, which destroys the
Historically, the American Indians
pounded vegetables and put them in vessels below the ground, where
they were stored for months or even years.
In Europe, sauerkraut is perhaps the most popular fermented food. It
is made from cabbage, which is known for its anti-cancer properties
and high levels of vitamin C and major minerals. The ancient Romans
valued sauerkraut for its medicinal properties. In 18th century
England, Captain Cook stored 60 barrels of sauerkraut on his ship
before embarking on a 27-month voyage.
During that entire time not one sailor
came down with scurvy, a debilitating condition caused by vitamin C
deficiency, which was common on the high seas. Cucumbers, beets and
turnips were also typically fermented in Europe. In Russia and
Poland, green tomatoes, peppers and lettuces were favorite cultured
foods. Ketchup, chocolate, coffee and tea were also originally
Oriental people prepared and ate cultured foods with every meal. The
Korean food kimchi is a fermented blend of cabbage, carrots,
green onions, ginger, garlic and hot peppers. The Japanese eat
fermented umeboshi plums, miso, soy sauce, nato,
and tamari. The Chinese government distributes cabbage to the
population each fall to ferment and store through the cold winter
The Indonesians eat tempeh, which
is fermented soy. It is important to note that the only soy foods
that the body can actually digest and tolerate are fermented.
Unfermented soy products such as soy milk and tofu are actually
harmful to health.
Kefir, which means "feel good" in English, is a fermented dairy
product originally from the region of Turkey where it is believed
Noah's Ark was discovered. It is said that kefir was a gift from the
gods, and that the gods told the Turkish people to never reveal the
secret of how it was prepared. However, legend has it that the
Russians heard of the healing, rejuvenative properties of kefir and
tricked the Turks into giving them the recipe. Even today, Russian
schoolchildren receive a glass of kefir daily, compliments of the
Kefir can be easily made by adding a starter culture of beneficial microflora to milk. Raw organic milk from grass-fed cows or goats is
best, since pasteurization kills the beneficial enzymes normally
present in milk. Cultured or soured milk products are common
throughout the world, including Scandinavia, the Middle East and
Crème fraiche, a soured milk
product, is used in France in many recipes. Cultured butter and
fermented cheeses are also common throughout Europe. Yogurt is a
cultured milk product that has some helpful microflora, but
have the potent probiotic properties or beneficial yeasts inherent
Any food can be cultured. During the fermentation process, even
high-glycemic foods such as fruits, carrots, beets and sweet
potatoes are beneficial as the microflora eat the sugars in these
foods, rendering them harmless to the body.
Fermented dairy products provide numerous benefits. During
fermentation the casein, or milk protein, is broken down, making it
more digestible. Vital enzymes that are destroyed during
pasteurization may be restored, including lactase, which enables us
to digest the milk sugar lactose.
Donna Gates believes that no one
is actually lactose-intolerant. She feels that it is the lack of a
healthy inner ecosystem that prevents us from being able to digest
She herself was unable to digest milk
for 25 years until she discovered how to balance her ecosystem. She
now has raw and cultured dairy products on a regular basis. She
believes raw butter to be an important food for the recovery of
autistic children because of its content of high-quality essential
fats, conjugated linoleic acid (CLA) and butyric acid.
Her Body Ecology Diet, which
incorporates food combining, the blood-type diet, and aspects of
Chinese medicine, is also excellent for anyone who would like to
recover from chronic candidiasis, digestive problems, cancer,
fibromyalgia, multiple sclerosis, arthritis, osteoporosis,
depression, or for anyone who would like to reach the peak of
Donna has recently introduced a new cultured food into her diet:
kefir made from the juice of young green coconuts. This delicious
drink nourishes the body, cleanses the liver and enhances digestion.
While most fermented foods can be quite tart and tangy, coconut
kefir has a sweet aftertaste. A scrumptious fermented pudding can
also be made from the pureed coconut meat.
Rich in anti-microbial and
anti-parasitic lauric acid and balanced amounts of calcium,
magnesium, sodium, potassium and vitamin C, these foods are a tonic
for exhausted adrenal glands and emotionally stressed systems.
I personally had a profound experience just five days after
beginning the Body Ecology Diet, which included drinking coconut
kefir twice daily and eating cultured vegetables with every meal.
Having a history of dental problems, I have always had a build-up of
tartar behind my lower front teeth, regardless of regular
On the fifth day of being on this diet, the
tartar buildup easily came right off my teeth when I brushed them in
I was astounded!
The only thing I can surmise is that my
body chemistry had changed to a more alkaline pH, which facilitated
the disintegration of the tartar. Others have reported numerous
benefits from eating this way, including,
healthy weight loss
elimination of joint pain
more beautiful glowing skin
a general feeling of well-being
In time, many people find that they
no longer need their antidepressants.
Eating cultured foods on a regular basis is the most effective way
to heal a
leaky gut, a condition that exists because of a weakened
and often inflamed permeable intestinal membrane, which allows
undigested food particles to enter the blood stream.
disease, colitis, irritable bowel syndrome, chronic allergies and
immune system disorders are all ultimately caused by this problem.
In fact, most of the population has this condition because of diet
Many people believe that taking probiotic supplements such as
acidophilus capsules is sufficient for populating the intestines
with beneficial microflora. However, without the foundation
established by dietary sources of probiotics, the microflora in the
supplements cannot properly colonize the intestines.
By including fermented foods in our diet, we can reestablish a
healthy inner ecosystem, which protects us from harmful pathogens
and environmental toxins. We can then eat foods such as raw eggs and
raw meats (as our ancestors did) without fear of getting salmonella,
E. coli or parasites. Even if we did pick up these things we might
have some slight discomfort, but we wouldn't become seriously ill as
we do now.
The ancients knew the powerful magic that nature gave them to stay
strong and healthy.
We, too, can carry on the traditions
that enabled many generations to survive through the ages and ensure
a healthy future for our children and the planet that we live on.