How many of you take great care of your skin, spend a bucket load of money and time on potions and lotions in the never ending search for the perfect complexion? Well, while it is great to keep your skin hydrated on the outside, its whats inside that really counts. After all you are what you eat..
So you might be sitting there and thinking, ‘I already have great diet, don’t eat processed foods and drink plenty of water, what more can I do’?
In two words, ‘Gut Health’.
Yes, you do need to eat lots of fresh fruits and veggies high in antioxidants to fight the free radicals which cause premature aging due to cellular damage. However, if your gut isn’t doing its job properly, all of those lovely berries, fruit, nuts, avo’s and leafy greens won’t be helping as much as they could be. Do you get what i’m putting down?
Many things contribute to bad gut health or ‘leaky gut’. What can cause leaky gut? In short, some of the things that destroy our gut flora are: poor diet, medications (antibiotics, NSAIDs, steroids, antacids, etc.), infections, stress, hormone imbalances, and neurological conditions (brain trauma, stroke and neurodegeneration). We also know that infants that aren’t breast-fed and are born to mothers with bad gut flora are more likely to develop unhealthy gut bacteria, and that these early differences in gut flora may predict overweight, diabetes, eczema/psoriasis, depression and other health problems in the future.
The way that I and others like to deal with this and restore our gut flora is to consume fermented foods, activate our nuts and grains before we eat them (more on that below) and eat a good fresh probiotic like coconut kefir. You can also make this yourself (recipe below) or purchase it at your local health food shop. Kombucha is also a fantastic live probiotic. I now think of it as my beer substitute! Of course avoiding processed foods, sugar and processed wheat is also highly recommended. Sugar causes your cells to age at an alarming rate.
Liver heath is also very crucial to the health of all your organs (your skin being the largest one) so obviously alcohol consumption will effect your skin quite dramatically. Taking a good supplement to support your liver health is a great idea if you regularly drink alcohol.
Similar to how grains and legumes contain phytic acid, nuts contain enzyme inhibitors. Enzyme inhibitors act by binding to enzymes and decrease and/or block their actions. The enzyme inhibitors are beneficial to nuts, as they prevent the nuts from prematurely sprouting, however they also act on our digestive enzymes, preventing their proper digestion and absorption.
Nuts and seeds also contain small amount of phytic acid, which our digestive system is also unable to break down. Eating large amounts of raw nuts could then lead to symptoms such as feeling ‘heavy’, feelings of uncomfortable fullness, even nausea. Not only this, but it puts a massive strain on our our digestive system, compromising already fragile digestive tracts.
How to activate your nuts…
- Dissolve salt in enough water to cover the amount of nuts/seeds you are activating.
- In a large bowl place your nut or seed of choice.
- Cover with the salt water solution.
- Soak for the required number of hours.
- Strain and rinse the nuts.
- Spread over a dehydrator rack, or baking tray.
- Dry in the dehydrator for around 12-24 hours.
- If drying in the oven, set the oven at the lowest temperature possible, preferably no more than 65C. Stir or turn them occasionally, for the required drying time.
- And the result? A crunchy, delicious, totally bio-available and stress-free, nut!
Most nuts you would add 1 tsp of Himalayan salt per cup of nuts and soak over night. Cashew only take about 4 or so hours so add them towards the end of your soaking time if you are soaking a variety of nuts like I do. If you are drying them separately, they can also be dried at a hotter temperature about 90C.
Activating and sprouting grains
This is a very basic guide to activating and sprouting grains. For a more thorough guide visit this page The Nourishing Home. The general rule is to add enough warm water to cover the grain, legumes or rice, and then add a small amount of an acid medium to every one cup of grain, legumes or rice. You can choose a dairy-based acid medium (such as whey), or a dairy-free option (such as lemon juice or apple cider vinegar). Then tightly cover and soak overnight (or up to 24-hours, beans take longer) Rinse then cook as usual.
RECIPE: COCONUT MILK KEFIR
There are three options for making coconut milk kefir. The first two contain minimal dairy. The third option is completely dairy-free. I use it instead of yogurt, sour cream and cream in smoothies, pasta etc.
OPTION 1: USE MILK KEFIR GRAINS
This option uses Milk Kefir Grains and Coconut Milk. You can use homemade coconut milk or a canned variety. If using store-bought coconut milk, remember to avoid brands with additives and sweeteners, as they can be hard on the kefir grains. Guar gum, which is a typical additive, does not seem to be problematic.
- To make coconut milk kefir, place the milk kefir grains in coconut milk.
- Stir with a non-metal spoon.
- Cover with coffee filter or cloth, secured by a rubber band.
- Culture at room temperature, 20-30C. In winter you can leave it in the oven with just the light on.
- After 12 hours, begin checking the coconut milk kefir every few hours, up to a maximum of 24 hours. Remove the milk kefir grains once the coconut kefir reaches the desired consistency.
Sometimes kefir grains will require an adjustment period, so the first batch of coconut milk kefir may not culture as desired. Use the coconut milk from this batch for cooking and place the milk kefir grains in fresh coconut milk. An adjustment period isn’t uncommon whenever kefir grains are switched from one type of milk to another (cow to goat, pasteurized to raw, dairy to coconut, etc.).
Milk kefir grains can be cultured in coconut milk regularly but should be revitalized in dairy milk for 24 hours once every few batches.
Note that dehydrated milk kefir grains should be rehydrated and fully activated in dairy milk before being used to culture coconut milk.
OPTION 2: USE KEFIR STARTER CULTURE
This option is not completely dairy-free, but contains very little dairy and is much simpler than using milk kefir grains. Use a Kefir Starter Culture in coconut milk. Simply follow the instructions for making kefir included with the kefir starter culture. I generally use this method and get my starter culture from Go vita.
OPTION 3: USE FINISHED WATER KEFIR
This option is completely dairy-free.
- Add ¼ cup water kefir (finished kefir, not the water kefir grains) to 2-4 cups coconut milk.
- Cover loosely and culture for 24 hours. In winter you can leave in the oven with just the light on.
How to maintain and restore a healthy gut
The most obvious first step in maintaining a healthy gut is to avoid all of the things I listed above that destroy gut flora and damage the intestinal barrier. But of course that’s not always possible, especially in the case of chronic stress and infections. Nor did we have any control over whether we were breast-fed or whether our mothers had healthy guts when they gave birth to us.
If you’ve been exposed to some of these factors, there are still steps you can take to restore your gut flora:
- Remove all food toxins from your diet
- Eat plenty of fermentable fibers (starches like sweet potato, yam, yucca, etc.)
- Eat fermented foods like kefir, yogurt, sauerkraut, kim chi, etc., and/or take a high-quality, multi-species probiotic
- Treat any intestinal pathogens (such as parasites) that may be present
- Take steps to manage your stress
It may seem over whelming to make so many changes to your diet if you eat like the average person, but trust me, your body (and your skin!) will be very happy and it will be the best you have felt and looked in years!