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Interesting Information: Just Say “NO” to Hand-wash Chemicals

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Interesting Information:  November 11, 2012

Just Say “NO” to Hand-Wash Chemicals

I was looking for a fermented beet recipe in Sandor Ellix Katz’s WILD FERMENTATION when I realized I had marked a passage about using antibacterial soaps, most of which contain Triclosan or Triclocarban.  Katz’s book is all about using organisms of fermentation to create living foods.  As such, he argues that these organisms “play a role in protecting us, as organisms among organisms, from disease” (8).

Triclosan has been classified as a pesticide by the EPA since 1969, though it is more often used in products that promote the “body hygiene,” with which we are obsessed.  Here’s the EPA site since googling reveals that there are a number of internet sites trying to deny this classification of triclosan:  http://www.epa.gov/oppsrrd1/REDs/factsheets/triclosan_fs.htm.   One does not really want to think that one is putting a pesticide on one’s skin or in one’s mouth (toothpaste).

The Natural Resources Defense council’s page on the dangers of triclosan is a good place to start understanding how dangerous it is.  Triclosan may cause antibiotic resistance in humans and definitely encourages the growth of “superbugs” and disrupts hormones, particularly in the brain and the reproductive systems:  http://www.nrdc.org/living/chemicalindex/triclosan.asp?gclid=CPyh97ewx7MCFcxAMgod0n4AQg.

I was fairly astonished at the extensive use of triclosan in all kinds of products.  Dr. Ben Kim has assembled an astonishing list of these products: http://drbenkim.com/articles/triclosan-products.htm.  One might expect triclosan in soap, but it’s also in toothpaste and all kinds of cosmetics–and that’s just the beginning.  Do take a look at Kim’s list–it’s in first-aid products, clothing, toys, kitchen equipment…

If the terms “antibacterial” or “antimicrobial” appear on a label, start looking deeper for Triclosan on the main ingredient label.

And, if you’re somewhere where you’ve used a toilet that has one of those hand-wash dispensers that substitute for soap and water–you might want to forgo using it.  What may or may not be on your hands is far less dangerous than the chemical you’re about to use.  Maybe carry “wipes” that are less dangerous?

As I said, Americans are obsessed with germs and body hygiene–which dates back to the divergence between germ-theory proponents and immune-system proponents AND to the market’s ability to make products that seem to quiet our fears about germs and pathogens–a fear the market exploits.  I explored this history in Mainely Tipping Points 8 Essay, with regard to the safety of real milk versus the dead commercial milk, which is on this blog.  (You can get to the essays by clicking on the right sidebar or by searching from the search bottom on the right sidebar ).  And, that’s where Katz and his WILD FERMENTATION come back into play.  It’s worth reading Katz’s take on this whole subject, from which I quote below.  (Note:   Katz cites all his quotes in the text.)

Our culture is terrified of germs and obsessed with hygiene.  The more we glean about disease-causing viruses, bacteria, and other microorganisms, the more we fear exposure to all forms of microscopic life.  Every new sensationalized killer microbe gives us more reason to defend ourselves with vigilance  Nothing illustrates this more vividly than the sudden appearance, everywhere in the United States, of antibacterial soap.  Twenty years ago, mass marketing of antibacterial soap was but a glimmer in some pharmaceutical executive’s eye.  It has quickly become the standard hand-washing hygiene product.  Are fewer people getting sick as a result?  “There’s no evidence that they do any good and there’s reason to suspect that they could contribute to a problem by helping to create antibiotic-resistant bacteria,” says Dr. Myron Genel, chair of the American Medical Association’s Council on Scientific Affairs.  Antibacterial soap is just another exploitative and potentially dangerous product being sold by preying on people’s fears.

The antibacterial compounds in these soaps, most commonly triclosan, kill the more susceptible bacteria but not the heartier ones.  “These resistant microbes may include bacteria…that were unable to gain a foothold previously and are now able to thrive thanks to the destruction of competing microbes,” says Dr. Stuart Levy, director of the Tufts University Center for Adaptation Genetics and Drug Resistance.  Your skin, your orifices, and the surfaces of your home are all covered with microorganisms that help protect you (and themselves) from potentially harmful organisms that you both encounter.  Constantly assaulting the bacteria on, in, and around you with antibacterial compounds weakens one line of defense your body uses against disease organisms.

Microorganisms not only protect us by competing with potentially dangerous organisms, they teach the immune system how to function.  “The immune system organizes itself through experience, just like the brain,” says Dr. Irun R. Cohen of the Weizmann Institute of Science in Israel.  A growing number of researchers are finding evidence to support what is known as “the hygiene hypothesis,” which attributes the dramatic rise in the prevalence of asthma and other allergies to lack of exposure to diverse microorganisms found in soil and untreated water.  “The cleaner we live…the more likely we’ll get asthma and allergies,” states Dr. David Rosenstreich, director of Allergy and Immunology at the Albert Einstein School of Medicine in New York (9).

So, just say “no” to Triclosan as an ingredient in hygiene products and all the other products in which it is found.

And think about all the germ-theory hype a bit more…

Work to build up your immune system…

Turkey Tracks: Gundru

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Turkey Tracks:  October 13, 2011

Gundru

Gundru, also known as kyurtse, is a traditional fermenting method from Tibet for greens.  The result is a strong, sharp, clean-tasting pickle that can be used on kale, radish greens, mustard green, collards, or any type of hardy green in the Brassica family–not on lettuce.  I first used it for kale, and I really love it.  Like sauerkraut, Gundru will be something I’ll be keeping in my kitchen most of the time and especially during the fall/winter/early spring seasons.

Here’s Gundru in a jar that I’ve fermented, opened, and eaten some of the contents.  After this step, I put the jar into the refrigerator as I don’t have enough liquid covering the kale.

Here’s a picture of Gundru cut up and ready to be put on a plate as a condiment:

Gundru is dead easy to make.

It takes A LOT of greens to stuff a quart Mason jar–Katz says the greens from about 8 plants, and I think that’s true.

Maybe let the greens wilt in the sun a little.  Wash them off.  For kale or collards, I’m going to try stemming them next time–my first attempt was with kale, and I do think the stem is very fibrous…   But, it also has a lot of juice.

Pound the wilted greens on a cutting board with a rolling pin or a mallet to crush them and release the juices.  (Something heavy to crush, but not, I would think, anything metal like a hammar.)  Stuff them into the quart jar–using pressure to force more and more greens into the jar.  Make sure you have liquid covering the leaves.  Put on the lid, put the jar in a plate, and let it ferment for 2-3 weeks.  You can leave it longer if you like.  The jar may overflow in the first fermenting action–thus the plate.  Next time I’m pouring my overflow back into the jar.

You can also dry Gundru after it’s ready.  I think I’d use my dehydrator.  But, you can dry the leaves outside too.  They must be really dry or they’ll mold.  Crumble them into soups/stews.

Written by louisaenright

October 13, 2011 at 1:08 pm

Mainely Tipping Points 33: GO WILD!

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Mainely Tipping Points 33

GO WILD!

 

Sandor Ellix Katz’s WILD FERMENTATION: THE FLAVOR, NUTRITION, AND CRAFT OF LIVE-CULTURE FOODS arrived last week.  I found myself dropping all other activities and reading it straight through. 

By noon the next day I had a ball of cloth-wrapped cheese hanging from a kitchen knob, dripping away the last of its whey. 

In two days’ time I had a quart mason jar filled with fermenting kale leaves, or Gundru, a Tibetan ferment.  (You can’t imagine how many kale leaves it takes to fill a quart jar once you’ve wilted them in the sun and pounded them so that they release their juices—the leaves of about eight kale plants.)  And now I’m eyeing the crocks over my stove, bought for decorative purposes mostly, and wondering what from the fall harvest I can ferment next. 

Katz, who is a charming writer, would say “lots of things.”  And, indeed, Katz discusses how to ferment vegetables, fruits, beans, dairy, grains and breads, beverages, wines, beers, and vinegars.  “Fermentation,” writes Katz, gives us many of our most basic staples, such as bread and cheese, and our most pleasurable treats, including chocolate, coffee, wine, and beer” (2).

Microscopic bacteria and fungi, or microflora, are, writes Katz, agents of transformation; they feast upon decaying matter and shift dynamic life forces from one creation to the next (2).  That’s why “fermented foods and drinks are quite literally alive with flavor and nutrition.  Their flavors tend to be strong and pronounced,” like “stinky aged cheeses, tangy sauerkraut, rich earthy miso [made traditionally, which can take several years], smooth sublime wines.  Human have always appreciated the distinctive flavors resulting from the transformative power of microscopic bacteria and fungi” (5).     

But, why should we home cooks ferment anything?  First, fermented foods we make for ourselves are guaranteed to be very rich in enzymes. 

You might recall me writing in earlier Tipping Points essays about Edward Howell’s theory on enzymes.  Howell, who died in 2000 at the age of 102, spent his life studying the role of enzymes in health and disease.  He posited that if one does not eat enzyme-rich foods, the body has both to use existing stored enzymes and to work harder to digest foods, all of which takes a toll.  Ron Schmid, in THE UNTOLD STORY OF MILK, notes Howell’s assessment that humans have lower levels of starch-digesting enzymes in their blood than other creatures and higher levels in their urine, which means their resident enzymes are being used up faster.  And, as Schmid notes, based on various studies, it’s clear that diets deficient in enzymes result in shortened life spans (101-105).  Certainly this assessment is a piece of the growing body of information pointing toward the health problems associated with starchy carbohydrate-heavy diets. 

Second, fermentation removes toxins from foods.  All grains, nuts, seeds, and tubers contain inhibitors (phytic acids) which block human absorption of nutrients.  These inhibitors are inactivated by traditional food preparation methods that involve soaking in acids, like whey or lemon juice, which begins a fermentation process, or by sprouting (101-105).  Few, if any, commercial foods have been properly prepared so as to inactivate nutrient inhibitors while, at the same time, preserving nutrients.  Thus, unless you are properly preparing these foods, your body isn’t getting all of the nutrients in these foods and is, to add insult to injury, struggling to digest them. 

Fermentation can remove toxins as powerful as cyanide from cassava, an enormous tuber used in tropical regions of the Americas and, now, in Africa and Asia.  Other toxins fermentation can eliminate or reduce include nitrites, prussic acid, oxalic acid, nitrosamines, and glucosides (7). 

Third, fermentation preserves food because it produces “alcohol, lactic acid, and acetic acid, all `bio-preservatives’ that retain nutrients and prevent spoilage.”  Hence, highly perishable foods, like vegetables, fruits, milk, fish, and meat, can be stored after harvest for consumption in leaner seasons.  Or, as Captain James Cook discovered during his eighteenth century explorations, preserved fermented sauerkraut prevented scurvy during long ocean voyages (5).      

“Microscopic bacteria and fungi,” writes Katz, “…are in every breath we take and every bite we eat.”  These microflora are “in a symbiotic relationship” with humans.  They “digest food into nutrients our bodies can absorb, protect us from potentially dangerous organisms, and teach our immune systems how to function” (2).  Most importantly, writes Katz, “we need to promote diversity among microbial cultures” in our bodies because “biodiversity is increasingly recognized as critical to the survival of larger-scale ecosystems” (11).        

Not all fermented foods are alive when you eat them.  Bread, for instance, must be cooked.  But, the most nutritious fermented foods, such as yogurt, are consumed alive (7).  Or, such as sauerkraut, which I make by the half-gallon and keep in our refrigerator as a ready “asset” to compliment a meal.  I used red cabbage for my current batch, and it is the loveliest deep ruby color.   

 Live yogurt and sauerkraut couldn’t be easier to make, and I have time-tested recipes for both in the recipe section of this blog.  I have not yet tried Katz’s recipe, but it has some really exciting suggested additions.  Plus, Katz’s sauerkraut lives in a crock in a cool place and does not require refrigeration.   

 Fourth and finally, fermenting is a political act, an act that stands in stark opposition to what Sally Fallon Morell of the Weston A. Price Foundation, who wrote the introduction to WILD FERMENTATION, describes as “the centralization and industrialization of our food supply.”  Real culture, writes Fallon, “begins at the farm, not in the opera house, and binds a people to a land and its artisans.”  Many commentators, notes Fallon, have said that America lacks culture.  But, “how can we be cultured when we eat only food that has been canned, pasteurized, and embalmed?” (xii).  Food artisans ferment food, and they are increasingly being regulated out of existence by the government in the name of “food safety”—which is nothing more than industry’s power in a so-called “free market” to eliminate all its competitors.    

Katz writes the following:  “Thinking about mass food production makes me sad and angry.  Chemical mono-crop agriculture.  Genetic engineering of the most basic food crops.  Ugly, inhumane factory animal breeding.  Ultra-processed foods full of preservative chemicals, industrial byproducts, and packaging.  Food production is just one realm among many in which ever more concentrated corporate units extract profits from the Earth and the mass of humanity” (163). 

 Katz encourages us to “draw inspiration from the action of bacteria and yeast, and make your life a transformative process.”  Wild fermentation, he writes “is the opposite of homogenization and uniformity, a small antidote you can undertake in your home, using the extremely localized populations of microbial cultures present there to produce your own unique fermented foods” (21).  

Take back your power, Katz urges, to “use your fermented goodies to nourish your family and friends and allies.  The life-affirming power of these basic foods contrasts sharply with the lifeless, industrially processed foods that fill supermarket shelves” (166).  Remember that “wild fermentation is a way of incorporating the wild into your body,” so that you become “one with the natural world” once more (12).       

Don’t wait, like I did, to get a copy of Katz’s WILD FERMENTATION.

GO WILD now!  

Books, Documentaries, Reviews: My Read Pile September 2011

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Books, Documentaries, Reviews:  September 2011

My Read Pile–September 2011

Just finished Sandor Ellix Katz’s WILD FERMENTATION.  LOVED IT!  I can’t think why I have not gotten it sooner.  I’ll be writing the next Mainely Tipping Points on it.  I sat down and read it straight through, and in hours had a cheese ball dripping whey and had a quart jar of kale fermenting.

THE CASE AGAINST FLUORIDE has been written by 3 MAJOR scientists who know what they’re talking about.  The EPA recently lowered the amount of fluoride allowed in municipal water systems.  And, most people get way too much fluoride already in tooth paste–especially children who SWALLOW it.  (Try telling a two-year old not to swallow tasty toothpaste!)  So, more on fluoride later, but meanwhile know that it is very dangerous, that it’s a waste product of industry, and that you should filter it out of your water.  Better still, read about it and try to get it out of your local system.  The time is right!

TOOTH PASTE RECIPE

By the way, the best recipe for toothpaste is just to mix baking soda with good sea salt–equal proportions.  But it in a jar and dip your wet toothbrush into it.  If you want some flavor, get some essential oil of peppermint and use one drop on the wet toothbrush.  Or, some essential lime oil, sweet orange, or one of the oils that are ok to put into your mouth if you rinse them out.  Peppermint essential oil has some nice anti-fungal properties, among other good effects.