THE SPIRIT OF GOODNESS:
Good Soil, Good Gut, Good Health
“Hold on to what is good, even if it’s a handful of earth.”
~ Hopi Prayer
As the spring equinox re-enters our world with hope and renewal of life, many of us are thinking of gardening. While choosing the area of predilection to grow our food with as much sunlight as possible, the quality of the soil is surely as critical to consider. Rich soil will provide for healthy and tasty food, and will help also to ward off disease and pest problems. Furthermore, it will offer real medicine! Have you ever thought of the relationship between our healthy intestinal microbiota (formerly called gut flora), and the health of a fertile soil? Are you aware of the most recent remarkable scientific and technological progresses concerning the human genome and microbiome (gut microbial genome)? In the last decade, scientists are finally starting to understand not only about the interdependence of our human cells within our organism, but within the super-organism that is our environment. Our health and future depends on the recognition of this intimate age-old evolving relationship, and in understanding and heeding the language of nature.
The Immune System, The Brain And The Gut
It is Hippocrates, 2,500 hundred years ago who said: ‘’All diseases start in the gut’’. Today, numerous scientists in microbiology, gastroenterology, or psychoneuroimmunology (the study of mind-body interaction), reaffirm that the gut’s microbial activities are strongly linked to the whole body – physically, mentally and emotionally. The immune system, the brain and the gut are tightly intertwined. What is being discovered about the inner space of our body is that there are trillions of bacteria in our gut and that those cells can be regarded as a whole organ unto itself, in constant communication with various organs and organ systems, including the central nervous system. In fact, the abdominal brain receives and generates information through a complex web of some 100 million neurons embedded in the walls of the digestive tract. Called the “second brain”, the gut has a mind of its own! For example, about 90 percent of the fibers in the primary visceral nerve, the vagus, carry information between the gut and the brain. The emerging field of neurogastroenterology is beginning to uncover just how much the two brains communicate and how this secondary brain might influence our whole health. Indeed, both the central nervous system and the enteric (gut related) nervous system originated from identical tissues during fetal development. The vagus nerve is the primary route used by the gut bacteria to transmit information to the brain. Have you ever heard it said that we are more microbes than human? Well, so far, inside the intestines, millions of bacterial genes have been catalogued, making the communal gut microbial genome much larger than the human genome, which consists merely of twenty thousand genes.
Nearly every substance that helps run and control the brain has been found in the gut. Just like the brain, the enteric nervous system uses at least 30 neurotransmitters. For example, 95% of the body’s serotonin, the “feel good” hormone, is found in the gut. This second brain of ours is truly an amazing sensory apparatus which responds to our emotional state. And thanks to our ‘’gut feelings’, we have the ability to understand the world and ourselves. In Tao and Chinese culture, tan tien defines the abdomen as the seat of feelings and awareness, and the source of chi or energy. In Japanese culture, it also reflects one’s state of mind and character. All over the world, and in ancient traditions, the belly has been acknowledged for its wisdom and power as our natural and spiritual center.
Essential Functions of Gut Flora
Recently, about 20,000 single functions linked to the intestinal microbes have been identified and among those, 6,000 are known to be essential functions for human beings. Just to name a few:
- barrier effects in protecting from invaders, allergens or overgrowth of different species of yeast, fungi and microbes ,which otherwise can turn benign residents into superbugs,
- efficient harvesting, extracting, using, and storing of nutritional energy.
- maintaining the immune system. By the way, 70% of our immune cells are known to be located in the gut,
- providing enzymes to metabolize certain carbohydrates and other substances that the gut cells can’t break down,
- producing amino-acids, vitamins such as vit B and vit K, minerals such as calcium, magnesium and iron,
- production of hormones for absorption and storage of fats,
- facilitating chelation and excretion, degradation of foreign toxic compounds,
- metabolizing dietary carcinogens,
- promoting the growth and development of the intestine’s nervous system,
Building Immunity From The Start
Unlike human genes, the gut bacterial flora may not be inherited genetically as it is sterile at birth, but depends strongly of the maternal microbiome as the child transits through the birth canal, to be breastfed. This way, key beneficial bacteria start colonizing the digestive tract, in providing shelter against disease, helping in extracting nutrients, building healthy intestinal mucosa, enhancing and preserving the child’s immunity and determining lifelong gut flora makeup. According to the “ Hygiene hypothesis,” an exposure to fewer microbes and less complex microbial communities at an early age, may lead to a weakened system because of inappropriate immune activation.
Therefore our immune functions depend heavily on the diverse microbial flora, linked to a sustaining environment. A diminished exposure to healthy microorganisms caused by our western diets, lifestyles and impoverished soils, may have perhaps diminished certain infectious diseases, but at what cost? When the delicate balance between the host and microbiome is perturbed, dysbiosis occurs, and many diseases may result. Among them, allergic disorders, inflammatory bowel disease, diabetes, obesity, heart disease, metabolic syndrome, stress, anxiety, mental and auto-immune disorders and cancer.
The loss of food diversity, the presence of genetically modified organisms, the use of agricultural chemicals and pesticides, conventionally-raised livestock fed with antibiotics and genetically engineered grains, chlorinated and fluorinated water, processed and sweetened foods, antibacterial soaps, and the overuse of antibiotics without the understanding of its implications and the importance to reseeding with healthy micro-organisms, are some of the challenges with which we are faced. However, they can be turned into opportunities for accelerated learning growth as individuals, communities and as a society, to bring insights and solutions, and to create alternatives that will implement change for the best interest of every one.
As such, it is important to maintain a wholesome diversified diet with increased fruits and vegetables, and unpasteurized naturally fermented food. It is essential to preserve our original seeds that have been cherished and transmitted from so many different lineages and traditions all over the world, as they adapted to climate changes and different landscapes. We may also engage in ecological farming methods which preserve top soil, such as permaculture, bio-dynamics and others. These offer solutions which nurture these precious internal and external ecosystems upon which we depend.
Maintaining The Natural Balance
To conclude, the relationship between our diet, the gut microbiota and the fertile soil in which our food grows, is not a one-way road. Not only does the composition of our microbial flora influence our digestive processes, but the quality of its flora reflects the quality of the food we eat. Therefore the intact microbial diversity of the soil, our health and microbiome are also mutually intertwined. It is becoming clear that we depend upon a well balanced microbial ecosystem. After millions of years of co-existence, animals, plants, fungus and microbes have adapted and have found mutualistic ways of functioning. Are we ready to understand and to learn from the language of nature?
“Every particular in nature, a leaf, a drop, a crystal, a moment of time
is related to the whole, and partakes of the perfection of the whole.’’
~ Ralph Waldo Emerson
RECIPE OF THE MONTH
How do we make sure to nurture our macrobiota? By welcoming a wide variety of fermented food in our diet, by eating some just about every day, by learning about their benefits and how to prepare them. If bought, by choosing organic or friendly unpasteurized fermented products which have been grown and prepared locally. Avoid pasteurized food which destroys the beneficial microflora and damages the food’s nutrients.
For suggestions: pickles, sauerkraut, kim chi, kvass, kumbucha, yogurt or kefir. Kumbucha can be used instead of vinegar in the salad dressing, as well as miso, and all fermented food.
I recommend eating organic miso soup at least three times a week. Miso has been called the healthiest food on the planet, and dates back from approximately 2,5000 years. Among its numerous benefits, it has a very alkalizing effect on the body and strengthens the cardiovascular and immune system It is a complete protein, aids digestion, contains the precious vit B12, lots of nutrients including tryptophan. Its high antioxidant activity gives it anti-aging properties and it offers protection from cancer and radiation.
TRUE MISO SOUP
- 5-inch strip kelp (sea vegetable), or 2 teaspoons dried kelp
- 1 large onion if desired
- 4 cups purified water
- 2 to 8 tablespoons miso
True miso soup starts with kelp. Put water, onions and kelp in a saucepan and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for 10-20 minutes, until tender. Remove 1.5 cups of broth from the saucepan and place in a bowl.
Allow the broth in the bowl to cool down and add the miso, mixing it into the broth. It is best to let it cool down to a temperature of 105 degrees or lower so the live beneficial microflora and enzymes in the miso remain intact.
Turn off heat, allowing the remaining water in the saucepan to also cool to 105 degrees or below. When it has cooled down, add the miso broth to the soup in the saucepan. Add chopped parsley, green onions, ginger or watercress to garnish.
Just before serving, sprinkle some dried wakame seaweed into serving bowls and then pour the soup over it; the seaweed absorbs the liquid almost immediately and expands.
Serve 4 bowls.
MISO SESAME SAUCE
This sauce is a good way to acquire a taste for miso and offers an alternative to the soup. Quick and easy to make, it is delicious over steamed vegetables served on a bed of quinoa or rice. Here, it is served over cauliflower, kale, roasted garlic and wild mushrooms. Any combination will do. While the vegetables are being cooked, prepare the sauce. Place all ingredients (except sesame seeds) in a blender and mix together thoroughly until smooth and creamy.
Miso Sesame Sauce
- 2 small garlic cloves, minced
- 1/2 to 1 tablespoon of fresh ginger (the equivalent or more)
- 1 to 2 tablespoons light miso (depending of your taste for it)
- 1/3 cup of tahini ( sesame butter)
- 1 tablespoon of fresh lemon juice
- 1/2 tablespoon of tamari
- 1/2 teaspoon of Dijon mustard
- 1/2 cup of warm water
- Black pepper
- 1/2 teaspoon of kelp powder to add to the sauce
To sprinkle on the top:
- 2 tbsp dulse flakes.
- 1 tablespoon of roasted black or white sesame seeds.
INSPIRATION OF THE MONTH
To continue to be inspired on The Spirit of Goodness, enjoy an other short film by award winning cinematographer Louie Schwartzberg
Fantastic Fungi: The Spirit of Good
“We need a paradigm shift into our consciousness.”
~ Paul Stamets, mycologist
With the rebirth and regeneration of the season, this time in the Spirit of Goodness, I want to thank each one and ever one of you for reading this long newsletter, for your interest and support. This information is quite vital and I found myself wanting to share as much as possible, so that we can unable each other to make informed choices for ourselves, our families and loved ones. As I am presently working on my new website, which I hope will be launched in May, the April Newsletter will probably be much shorter and more gentle to read.
Again, I find myself of service in this big picture of life, where to understand our own health, it is often valuable to understand our place in our surroundings, living consciously, with an awareness of our own nature and of the world around, how it affects us and how we, in turn, affect nature and the world.
I am grateful for the opportunity to serve as a guide and facilitator toward empowerment, helping you in developing the necessary tools and confidence to take your health into your own hands.
I want to express my gratitude also for the possibility to share, for each one of you in my life, and for the precious and endless teachings that I receive from each and every one.
We are truly interconnected!
In Health, Love and Joy,
“Science suggests that the next stage of human evolution will be marked by awareness that
we are all interdependent cells within the super-organism called humanity.”
~ Bruce Lipton, cellular biologist