By Dr. Mercola | mercola
Caroline Barringer is a Nutritional Therapy Practitioner (NTP), and an expert in the preparation of the foods prescribed in Dr. Natasha Campbell-McBride’s Gut and Psychology Syndrome (GAPS) Nutritional Program.
I first met Caroline at the November 2011 Weston Price Wise Traditions event, where I had the opportunity to enjoy some amazing fermented vegetables that her company had prepared.
I immediately started incorporating them into my own diet, and after about six weeks, I was pleasantly surprised to discover that this minor change had dramatically decreased plaque formation on my teeth, which has been a chronic problem for me.
Caroline has been involved with nutrition for about 20 years, and is now one of Dr. McBride’s chief training partners, helping people understand the food preparation process, which relies heavily on fermented and traditionally-prepared whole foods.
Caroline’s journey began when her health suffered a blow.
“First and foremost, I’m a professional singer and voice-over artist. In my younger years, when I first moved to New York (I’m originally from Florida), I had a rigorous performance schedule, and this schedule really took a toll on my health,” she says.
“I noticed severe energy issues and chronic fatigue, acne, and a lot of reflux, a lot of digestive issues. So, I was searching for food to be my medicine.
I was a vegetarian for a while, so I first started out with Ann Wigmore’s Living Foods Lifestyle. And of course, she’s mostly vegan, but she’s into the whole enzyme-rich foods, the probiotic-rich foods. And that was really pivotal for me, even though I was still a vegetarian and I did not realize the importance of animal fats and animal products in my diet. It was the beginning of the journey to health for me.”
The Phenomenal Health Benefits of Fermented Vegetables
Cultured or fermented foods have a very long history in virtually all native diets, and have always been highly prized for their health benefits.
The culturing process produces beneficial microbes that are extremely important for human health as they help balance your intestinal flora, thereby boosting overall immunity. Moreover, your gut literally serves as your second brain, and even produces more of the neurotransmitter serotonin—known to have a beneficial influence on your mood—than your brain does, so maintaining a healthy gut will benefit your mind as well as your body.
Fermented foods are also some of the best chelators and detox agents available, meaning they can help rid your body of a wide variety of toxins, including heavy metals. This is part of what makes Dr. McBride’s GAPS Nutritional Protocol so effective. It effectively restores your own detoxification system, and the fermented/cultured foods are instrumental in this self-healing process. And you don’t need to consume large amounts either.
Caroline recommends eating about a quarter to half a cup (2 to 4 oz) of fermented vegetables or other cultured food, such as raw yoghurt, with one to three meals per day. Bear in mind that since cultured foods are very efficient detoxifiers, you may experience detox symptoms, or a “healing crisis,” if you introduce too many at once. Caroline recommends beginning with very small servings and working your way up to the quarter- to half cup serving size. This way your intestinal microbiota has the chance to adjust.
“If they introduce too much, too fast, they will experience some die-off symptoms that can be uncomfortable and confusing. This is where we lose people. The innate intelligence of their bodies tells them to eat more cultured foods because they’re in such a state of dysbiosis. So, they go to town and eat a whole jar of veggies. Then they go into a healing crisis and they are afraid to try cultured foods again,” Caroline warns.
“… Start slow, and that way you won’t have a headache or you won’t have that outbreak… you will start to see yourself eliminating more naturally, and the proper stool will form, the shape will change, and it will be all be beneficial to you. Let your innate intelligence guide you, and if you see something or feel something that’s not so right, don’t dismiss the cultured foods and say, “Oh, that was bad for me, it caused a reaction.” That’s not what your body’s telling you. Your body’s telling you, “Slow down.”
There are Many Varieties of Cultured Foods
Ideally, you’ll want to include a variety of cultured foods and beverages in your diet, as each food will inoculate your gut with a variety of different microorganisms. Fermented foods you can easily make at home include:
- Cultured vegetables (including pureed baby foods)
- Condiments, such as salsa and mayonnaise
- Cultured dairy, such as yoghurt, kefir, and sour cream
- Fish, such as mackerel and Swedish gravlax
In this interview, Caroline discusses the process of fermenting your own vegetables in some detail, so for more information, please listen to the interview in its entirety, or read through the transcript. According to her, most people are very intimidated, if not downright frightened that the culturing process might lead to some horrific pathogenic infection…
While understandable, this fear is undeserved. Caroline addresses this and other concerns in her article “Taking the Mystery out of Culturing Your Own Superfoods.” Clearly, educating yourself about the process will help alleviate concerns about eating fermented foods, which are very much “alive.”
“If they could only grasp the important concept that it’s NOT the microbe; rather, it is the terrain (immune system) we should be worried about!” she says.
How to Culture Your Own Vegetables
While you can do wild fermentation, which is allowing whatever is on the vegetable or fruit that you’re culturing to just naturally take hold and culture the food, this method is very time consuming. Inoculating the food using a so-called starter culture speeds up the fermentation process.
Although you can use a crock pot, Caroline recommends culturing your veggies directly in the glass Mason jars, which eliminates the need for a crock pot and eliminates a transfer step in the process. This also allows you to make smaller batches, and it eliminates the presence of wild yeasts which can occur when using a crock. These yeasts tend to give the food a cheesy sort of flavor, which many find unpalatable.
Here’s a quick summary of Caroline’s recipe for how to make your own fermented veggies:
1. Shred and cut your chosen veggies
2. Juice some celery. This is used as the brine, as it contains natural sodium and keeps the vegetables anaerobic. This eliminates the need for sea salt, which prevents growth of pathogenic bacteria
3. Pack the veggies and celery juice along with the inoculants (starter culture, such as kefir grains, whey, or commercial starter powder like our Complete Probiotics, all of which can be used for vegetables) into a 32 ounce wide-mouthed canning jar. A kraut pounder tool can be helpful to pack the jar and eliminate any air pockets. We hope to have our new starter culture which is optimized with strains of bacteria that will make high doses of vitamin K2 sometime in early 2013 assuming our testing goes well.
4. Top with a cabbage leaf, tucking it down the sides. Make sure the veggies are completely covered with celery juice and that the juice is all the way to the top of the jar to eliminate trapped air
5. Seal the jar store in a warm, slightly moist place for 24 to 96 hours, depending on the food being cultured. Ideal temperature range is 68-75 degrees Fahrenheit; 85 degrees max. Remember, heat kills the microbes!
6. When done, store in the refrigerator to slow down the fermentation process