Probiotic Fizzy Lemonade

I follow @theculturedclub on Instagram.  Not… by the way … ‘The Culture Club’.  Am I giving my age away by mentioning that band?? 🙂 🙂  I also have the book entitled ‘The Cultured Club’ ….subtitle ‘Fabulous Funky Fermentation Recipes’  by Derbhla Reynolds.  To make my first batch of probiotic fizzy lemonade I just followed Derbhla’s video instructions on Instagram.  There are a couple of video posts dated around end of March 2021 on how to make Lemonade from ‘Ginger Bug’.  There is also a recipe in the book but it is so much easier to follow a visual when you are starting something new.  The ginger bug is like a little production factory of beneficial yeasts and bacteria.  When the fermentation process is established it provides a starter culture added to other ingredients to make a fizzy probiotic drink.  The ginger bug liquid acts in a similar way to a ‘starter dough’ or ‘yeast’ that is added to a bread recipe.

I have to say I am in love with making my own summer fizzy drinks now.  I have tried lemon flavour on its own.  Love it!  I have tried orange flavour on its own.  I’m not so keen on this, it just doesn’t have the same kick [thirst quenching bite] that the lemon has.  However, my favourite combination so far is lemon and lime.  It is simply delicious.  I can hardly stop myself drinking the whole lot once I start.

There are two components to making your probiotic fizzy drink.  The first is making the ‘Ginger Bug’ and the second is making the fizzy drink, we’ll say lemonade, but you can experiment with any flavour you like.

Making the ‘Ginger Bug’

Please note that you only need to make this once after which you just keep it alive.  I’ll explain how further down.

You will need:

  • Organic root ginger and root turmeric  –  1 or 2 stems of each
  • Sugar
  • Filtered water
  • A big enough glass jar with a lid [that would hold approx. 1 litre]

Why organic?  I haven’t tried non-organic so I can’t say for sure, but many of the commenters on the related Instagram post said their attempts using supermarket root ginger and turmeric didn’t produce results and the advice was to use organic.  Perhaps the chemicals used in non-organic doesn’t allow for the same beneficial microflora to grown on the food and subsequently in your ‘ginger bug’ mix.  I bought mine at ‘The Green Door Pantry’ a farmers market in Dublin which sells fresh organic produce.

What to do:

Step 1:  Cut the root ginger and turmeric into small chunks and place them in the glass jar.  Make sure that the jar has been thoroughly cleaned and sterilized (especially if it is a food jar that is being re-used).  Next add the filtered water leaving a good inch or two of space at the top.  Add 1 tablespoon of sugar.  The sugar can be white or brown.  I tend to use brown because that is what I usually buy.  Stir it well.

Step 2:  For the first 24 hours leave the lid off the jar.  In order for the mixture to interact with the microorganisms in the atmosphere you will need to place it outdoors, if possible.  I covered mine with a Lidl mesh bag to keep out anything that wasn’t ‘micro’ e.g. flies etc.   [After this initial ‘lid off’ 24 hours, the lid will always be closed on the jar, except when you are feeding or burping the mixture].

Step 3:  Feeding the ‘ginger bug’ initially.  Add 1 tablespoon of sugar.  Empty a little of the liquid off and add a little bit of fresh water.   Repeat this for the next 3 days.  The fermentation process is underway.  On the 4th day your ginger bug should be ready for use to make lemonade.

Making the Lemonade

You will need:

  • A separate glass bottle [you can use an old wine bottle with a screw top]
  • Ginger bug starter liquid 
  • Sugar
  • Lemons / Limes  (I find the juice of 3 in total is enough to add to make a pint of liquid)
  • Filtered water

I use measuring spoons for the ginger bug liquid and sugar, but the amount of juice from the fruit doesn’t have to be exact.  You could add 100ml or more.  You can adjust this to suit your own taste.  Derbhla’s instructions says to add 200ml but it’s up to you!!

Ingredients:

  • 4 tablespoons of the ginger bug solution
  • 4 tablespoons of sugar
  • 100-200ml  of fresh squeezed lemon/lime (or other flavour)
  • Filtered water [Enough to fill the rest of the bottle to about 1 to 1½ inches below the neck]

What to do:

You can directly use the glass bottle to mix.  If so, you may need a plastic funnel otherwise it might get messy.  I use a separate plastic pouring jug to mix and then add the mixture to the bottle, before adding the water.

Scoop out 4 tablespoons of the ginger bug syrup from the jar (the ginger and turmeric solids remains in the jar).  Add 4 tablespoons of sugar.  Add your 100-200ml of freshly squeezed juice.  Mix.  (Add this mix to the bottle now if you are using the jug).  Now fill the bottle up to no more than 1 to 1½ inches from the neck with filtered water.  Put the cap on and give it a good shake up and down to mix it well.

Leave your lemonade to stand for 3 days at room temperature.  The warmer the temperature the quicker it will ferment.  More fermentation equals more fizz.   After 3 days have a little taste to sample it.  If it is fizzy enough for your liking you can now put it in the fridge to chill.  Once chilled it is ready to use and enjoy.  Otherwise, you can leave it to ferment for another couple of days and then refrigerate it.

‘Ginger bug’ maintenance

Okay …. don’t panic, it really is NO big deal.   Feeding and temperature are key factors in keeping your ‘ginger bug factory’ alive and ready for lemonade production.

Now that your ginger bug is established,  feeding it is just a simple matter of adding one spoon of sugar, emptying off a little of the liquid and replacing it with a little fresh filtered water.  That’s it!!

You will notice when you add the sugar the ginger bug fizzes up before your eyes.

If your ‘ginger bug’ is sitting with it’s lid on at room temperature 20°C, or warmer,  fermentation will happen.  If that is the case you may need to ‘pop’ or ‘burp’ it once a day.  My ‘ginger bug’ is in a flip top jar [photo above].  I just flip the lid open to release the gas.  It makes a sort of popping sound, similar to when you open a bottle of fizzy drink.  Close it again straight away.  Warning:  Due to carbonation, pressure can build up in the closed jar over a few days and result in an almighty pop when you open the lid or, worse case scenario if you have left it much longer, the jar may explode!!!  So, if in doubt place the jar in the fridge until you plan on using it again.  The cold temperature slows down the fermentation process completely.

For example…. if you only want to make one bottle of lemonade per week and you fear you might not remember to ‘burp’ the ginger bug, OR, if you are going away for a few days or weeks, the best thing to do is to simply place the jar of ‘ginger bug’ in the fridge.

To start up fermentation again, take the ginger bug out of the fridge the night before or early on the day you want to use it again, letting it reach room temperature for at least a few hours before using it.  When you have taken out your starter liquid to make the next bottle(s) of lemonade, remember to feed it again (one spoon of sugar, remove some liquid and top up with fresh water).

Why bother making your own?

For one thing it is just so delicious.  It is made with natural fresh healthy ingredients.  What about the sugar??  The sugar is NOT for you it is what feeds the friendly yeasts and bacteria.  They get the sugar and we get to enjoy the by-product – a probiotic drink!!  That means it is full of beneficial, gut friendly bacteria.  Without going into too much detail, it contains many and varied strains of friendly bacteria including lactobacillus which has many health benefits.

Comparing this drink to a shop bought fizzy lemonade which contains all sort of sugars and chemicals and which might at best be ‘thirst quenching’, but is definitely not health promoting.

More than 2000 years ago the father of modern medicine ‘Hippocrates’ suggested that all diseases begin in the gut.  We now know that 70-80% of our immune system lies directly behind the gut wall.  Increasing the amount of friendly microbes you consume in your diet is key to crowding out pathogens (harmful, disease producing microbes) and is one of the best ways to support your gut, brain and immune health.

It is now widely accepted that adequate beneficial bacteria act as immune modulators.  This means that they are instrumental in regulating how our immune system responds when it encounters harmful (pathogenic) bacteria, viruses, fungi and parasites (microbes).  A modulated immune system responds appropriately, neither over or under reacting to a threat.  This ‘appropriate’ balanced response is when the immune system is working at its best.

Not to mention that this is a really, really cheap and tasty way to enjoy homemade lemonade while at the same time benefiting from the probiotics it contains.

I hope you will give it a go and enjoy the fruits of your labour.

Reference:

Instagram @theculturedclub

The Cultured Club’ ….subtitle ‘Fabulous Funky Fermentation Recipes’  by Derbhla Reynolds.

Immune Support – Vitamin C

The Role of Vitamin C in Immunity

Vitamin C contributes to immune defence by supporting various cellular functions of both the innate and adaptive immune system.  In times of high stress the adrenals glands are also under more pressure to produce the stress hormones to keep us going, but at a cost.  Vitamin C helps to heal any damage caused by excess stress.

But we can only get Vitamin C from our diet.  The body cannot make it. 

Vitamin C is also a water soluble vitamin so it doesn’t stay in the body for long.  This is good in one sense as there is no chance of toxicity.  On the other hand, this means we need to be sure of getting our daily dose.

Food is a great bio-available way to boost your vitamin C intake.  Make sure to get some into your diet to build a strong immune system.

Research into the use of high dose IV Vitamin C with Corona Virus patients in China showed promising results by reducing symptoms and speeding recovery.  You can read more about it at this website www.vitaminC4covid.com

Getting your daily Vitamin C

Although getting IV Vitamin C is not something we can generally avail of, we can take preventive measure by ensuring we have adequate Vitamin C in our diet for a start.  The photo above gives the best food sources.

After that, if you feel a cold or any infection coming on, you can easily boost your Vitamin C levels.  A good powdered form of Vitamin C is available from most health stores.  You could add 1 gram to a bottle of water and take a few mouthfuls every hour throughout the day.  You can also buy ‘slow release Vitamin C ‘ which will be released into the body over time.  This is the best way to take Vitamin C because the body will eliminate any Vitamin C it cannot use there and then.  Vitamin C is not stored in the body like the fat soluble vitamins A and D.

Another link

Alliance of Natural Health – Research :  Covid 19 and Vitamin C

♥ Anne

Acne and Diet

Acne is most common in teenagers and young adults but does affect many people to some degree or another, for their entire lives.  Acne Vulgaris is the medical term for this skin condition.  Sounds awful!  You didn’t need to know that, right? 🙂  But, acne means ‘eruption’ and ‘vulgaris’ means common.  These common skin eruptions can take a variety of forms and severity.  Mild acne consists of whiteheads and blackheads, moderate – pustules (pimples) and severe acne – cysts and nodules that may leave scaring.   Whatever the severity, most sufferers feel that this condition, which can affect the face, neck, chest, shoulders and back, puts them in the spotlight of attention, and not in a good way!  We know that beauty is not just skin deep but we also have a tendency to feel very conscious of skin blemishes when they show up. The psychological impact of the condition, especially with the more severe type, may cause anxiety or depression and this should be acknowledged and addressed as part of any treatment programme.  If you take the conventional medicine route with problematic acne, you may not find support for this idea that what you eat matters.  However, science is now showing us that certain foods are a factor in causing and perpetuating acne but there are also foods that can help fight it.

Anatomy of Acne

This is the simplified version just to give some background before we get to the nutrition.  There are a number of physical factors involved in the formation of acne which are, keratin (skin cells), the sebaceous glands (oil producing glands in the skin) that produces sebum, and the hair follicles (from the root up to the surface of the skin).

An overproduction of keratin (forming dead skin cells) and/or sebum (connected to androgen hormones) can clog up the hair follicle at its opening onto the skin.  This can produce mild acne.  If the follicles remain blocked this can lead to overproduction of bacteria deeper down that have nowhere to go and therefore increase in number.  This increase in bacteria is a red flag to the immune system which consequently produces pus (dead immune cells) and inflammation (sore, red inflamed skin – pimples) as a response.

From a functional and nutritional perspective therefore, we would be looking at the underlying systems involved in a) skin production, b) hormone balance, and c) the immune response.   So how come some people get away with eating rubbish and have no acne?  Well, there is of course a genetic element which makes one individual more susceptible to acne than another, but on the bright side we are now discovering our genes are not set in stone.  A new area of study called Epigenetics shows us that our genes can be influenced and modified with dietary and lifestyle changes.

The Hormone Connection

Both male and female bodies make hormones called androgens.  Androgens are known to trigger increased production of both keratinocytes and oily sebum.  They increase during puberty and women’s bodies produce more of them during pregnancy as well as with oral contraceptive use.  Acne is one of the signs of increased androgen production in women with PCOS (poly cystic ovarian syndrome).  Acne often signals hormone imbalance.  There are a number of dietary and lifestyle factors that can throw male/female hormones off balance.  In a complicated series of processes hormones are made, used and eliminated by the body.  Hormones can be considered as ‘messengers’ delivering a message to a part of the body to initiate a response.   An overproduction of two hormones in particular can disrupt normal function, these are cortisol and insulin.  Long term unresolved stress, diet and other lifestyle habits may increase production of both cortisol and insulin.   These two are very much connected to our ‘survival’ response which trumps reproduction every time.

The immune factor

The immune response is also an automatic survival response.  An army of immune vigilante detect an overproduction of bacteria in the skin and the immune system sets to work.   The skin becomes inflamed, swollen and painful.   The white pus from the pimple is a collection of dead immune cells.  This is the body’s way of expelling the infection.  This buildup of bacteria is also why a doctor will often prescribe antibiotics.  It makes sense except it doesn’t resolve the problem long term.  While antibiotics kill pathogenic bacteria they also kill your friendly bacteria which ironically work closely with your immune system to keep you well.  Taking antibiotics may only make matters worse in the long run.

On the Surface

It might seem logical then that ‘unblocking the pores’ would solve the problem entirely but acne is not just a skin deep condition.  That said, exfoliating the surface skin is an important step in removing the keratin layer of dead skin cells.  There are natural ways to achieve this without going to a lot of expense.  For example, mix some baking soda and little water to make a paste.  Add 1-2 drops of pure essential oil of Lavender.  Start with 1 drop.  Rub it into the skin and leave it for 5 to 10 minutes.  Wash it off with lukewarm water.  You can access lots of homemade natural exfoliates for acne prone skin online.   Baking soda has a low pH to sooth inflamed skin.  The Lavender also has a soothing, anti-bacterial, anti-microbial and anti-inflammatory effect.   Apply a little Aloe vera gel after exfoliating as a soothing and natural toner.  A little coconut oil will help moisturize and heal the skin.

Below the surface

You might by now accept that a diet high in sugar, processed foods and factory farmed animal products can fuel heart disease, type 2 diabetes, obesity and cancer but you could easily add acne and immune and hormone imbalances, to this list.

Treating only the surface will not be enough to banish acne.  Researcher have found certain foods specifically, dairy [milk, cheese, milk chocolate], white refined carbohydrates, sugary products and fast food contribute to acne.   Dairy promotes the production of insulin-like growth factor (IGF-1) which may contribute to increased production of keratinocytes, and foods with a high glycaemic load increase the production of insulin, which can stimulate androgens, known to cause an increase in sebum production.

Remove, Reduce or Replace

Dairy:  Where possible remove or reduce especially milk and milk products.  Replace with plant milks and yogurts.  You can get cheese made from nuts, for example, almond, cashews, coconut, soy, hemp and peas.  Or choose different options, like nut butter, hummus or guacamole instead of cheese.

High GL food:   Remove or reduce high glycaemic load foods.  These include white refined products like bread, pasta, rice, cakes, sodas and fruit juices.  Replace with low glycaemic load foods.  A link to a pdf list of common foods is provided below.  Examples of low GL grains are quinoa, millet, barley, oats and buckwheat (which is not wheat by the way)

Fast food:   The problem is you’re never sure what’s in there.  Convenience food is made to taste great with chemicals, highly processed oils, salt, sugar and cheap ingredients.   Increase home cooked meals in place of convenience foods.

Stress:  Stress can come from worrying, rushing around, anxiety, not getting enough sleep, over exercising and large gaps between meals or skipping meals.  Whatever the source, your body responds to stress with increased production of cortisol.  Remember it knocks reproductive hormones off-kilter.  Do a mindfulness or relaxation practice daily.   Make sleep a priority.  Eat regularly.

Nutrients that help flight acne

Now to the good news!  Increasing your intake of plant foods especially vegetables with some fruit, that are rich in antioxidants and critical nutrients, can do a lot to fight acne.  And, whilst restoring beautiful clear skin you’ll have the added benefit of restoring health to every cell in your body.  Here are some specific nutrients and foods that have been widely researched and shown to help clear up acne.

Zinc – top food sources pumpkin seeds, cashew nuts, chickpeas, beef, lamb, wholegrains, beans and spinach.  Best supplemental forms zinc acetate, gluconate or sulfate.

Turmeric – add it to soups, curry dishes, golden tea, smoothies or stir-fries.  The supplemental form is called curcumin and is now widely available.  It has excellent anti-inflammatory properties.

Probiotics – Gut health has become increasingly associated with the health of the skin and immune system.  Taking a probiotic helps to increase your army of friendly bacteria to win the fight against infection.   An imbalance in microflora with more pathogens (bad bacteria) resident than good ones, can be a contributing factor to acne.  Probiotics can be found in supplement form or in fermented foods such as sauerkraut, kimchi, miso, live natural yogurt and kombucha.  Consider taking a course of probiotics especially if you have taken antibiotics to treat acne.

Green tea – The polyphenols in green tea have been shown to reduce sebum production and skin inflammation, even when applied topically to the skin.  Drink it daily for a few weeks to see the effects.

Omega 3s – These fatty acids have an anti-inflammatory effect on the body.  Freshly milled flaxseed or chia seeds are a good plant source.  Oily fish such as wild salmon, mackerel and sardines are also a good source.  It can be taken in supplement form.

Vitamin A, D & E:  These are the fat soluble vitamins that are found to be low in individuals who have acne.  Vitamin A is present in orange, red and yellow foods in particular, for example, carrots, sweet potatoes, pumpkin apricots but also in dark green leafy vegetables.  Vitamin E is abundant in peanuts, fresh seeds like sunflower, broccoli and hazelnuts.  Adequate Vitamin D levels are not so easily achieved through food sources or sun exposure.  This is one you could consider  supplementing for sure.  If you do, choose Vitamin D3.

These nutrients have one thing in common – they have anti-inflammatory properties and the root cause of acne is inflammation by various means.

Finally, avoid using chemical products on the skin as these may irritate and inflame the skin further.  Treat the skin gently and with natural products.

I hope you find this helpful.  If you want to read more about treating acne in a natural way I have provided a link to Dr. Axe’s  website below.

© Limelight Nutrition 2019

Further information:
  • Dr. Axe link to – Home Remedies for Acne
  • Glycaemic Load of Common Foods – link to PDF list  Here
  • Photos Source:  Google Images

Adrenal Fatigue… real or fake?

This week is International Stress Awareness Week. The World Health Organization is calling ‘stress’ the health epidemic of the 21st Century.   And yet, the medical profession is slow to recognize or treat ‘adrenal fatigue’ or ‘burn out’ as a real condition.

Introduction 

Persistent fatigue and tiredness are some of the most common symptoms that drive people to seek the help of a doctor.  Often the doctor finds it hard to come up with a diagnosis.  She may take your medical history, carry out a physical exam and do some blood tests.  Often this yields no explanation.    To complicate things further for the doctor, fatigue may be linked to thyroid dysfunction, anaemia, fibromyalgia, M.E. and various other conditions.  If he is testing solely for adrenal dysfunction, he’ll be looking for the extremely low ‘hypo’ or extremely high ‘hyper’ production of cortisol, for a diagnosis of Addison’s disease or Cushing’s Syndome, but anywhere outside of these ranges will not deliver a diagnosis.  Neither do the Endocrinology Society and other medical specialties recognize this condition.  Your doctor is in a bit of a dilemma.  At best, he may not think you are neurotic and may accept that your symptoms are real.   At worse, the doctor thinks you are depressed or neurotic and if so you may walk away with a prescription for anti-depressants.  This now becomes your dilemma because with no diagnosis there is no treatment.  But what if you do have adrenal fatigue, you are not depressed and there is another way?  We place so much of our trust and hope in our doctors, often they are in a position to help us and just as often they are not.  But here’s the good news, that doctor may not yet be aware that in other streams of medical practice namely ‘functional and complimentary medicine’, adrenal dysfunction is recognized and it can be tested and treated as a real condition.

Continue reading “Adrenal Fatigue… real or fake?”

Spice Aid Cabinet

Mankind has sought out plants with medicinal properties since time immemorial.  Even today when there have been great developments in the field of chemistry, pharmaceuticals and medicine, these medicinal plants have lost none of their importance.  Botanical drugs are at the birth place of the current pharmaceutical industry, for example, the ancient Egyptians used the bark of the Willow tree for the relief of aches and pains.  The willow tree yields ‘salicylic acid’ which is the active pain-relieving and anti-inflammatory component that is used to make the aspirin of today.  Probably because big pharma don’t really want you to know that some of your inexpensive household herbs and spices could be the answer to your aches, pains and other health conditions, this information has become generally suppressed and instead we are encouraged by media advertising to believe that pharmaceutical drugs are the only solution.  The general public has consequently lost trust in natural remedies while big pharma secretly know their benefits.  Plant based medical practices like traditional Chinese herbal medicine, Ayurvedic and Naturopathic medicine, for example, are often viewed as a last resort when conventional medicine offers us no solution.  Ideally the reverse would be the case, where natural remedies are used first and pharmaceutical drugs, with their known side-effects, are a last resort.  In this blog I am sharing my knowledge of some of the spices that are ‘hot’ in the world of nutrition.  You may already have them in your spice cabinet.  They offer a relatively inexpensive way of stacking some health benefits in your favour with little effort!   Mother Nature’s flavour favours. Many spices have health benefits, too many to cover here, so I have narrowed them down to some of the most popular and widely used today in the prevention and treatment of the chronic diseases.  I have checked each spice for known interactions {A-Z Guide to Drug-Herb-Vitamin Interactions}. There are none for those mentioned and so they are completely safe to use.  So, what are these little pots of magic dust??  Read on to find out!

Continue reading “Spice Aid Cabinet”

The Sunshine Vitamin D

As part of my Nutritional Therapy course I had to complete a scientific review of current research on the impact a single nutrient might have on a specific disease.   I chose Vitamin D and Osteoporosis [OP].  I wanted to answer the question ‘does current research show that adequate levels of Vitamin D have a positive impact on OP’?   Turns out that it does!   Not surprising I hear you say!  Most of us already know from TV commercials that Vitamin D is necessary for healthy bones and to absorb calcium.  But how much is adequate?   I discovered there are many and widely differing opinions on this and just when I thought I had this bit figured out, I learned that no vitamin works in isolation in the body anyway.   Plus, there are so many factors other than nutrients involved in disease progression.   I found out Vitamin D is not even a vitamin really!   It was designated a ‘vitamin’ based on its role as a dietary factor that aided in the cure of rickets.  It is now understood to be more ‘hormone like’ in its action.   Did you know, it is difficult to get adequate Vitamin D through diet alone?  Vitamin D is not even required in the diet if there is sufficient sunlight to allow its production from pro-Vitamin D molecules in the skin.  It is made in the body with its own Vitamin D receptors [VDRs].  For this reason it could be classified as a hormone rather than a vitamin (a vital amine).  Vitamin D deficiency is a worldwide epidemic across all ages, genders and geographic locations with multiple implications on human health, due to its role in various bodily systems.   Even if you can avail of adequate year round sun-exposure on bare skin, the time of day, the colour of your skin and your age will also influence how much Vitamin D your body can produce.   A Nutritional Therapist seldom recommends a single vitamin but Vitamin D could be the exception to that rule, though it requires magnesium to be absorbed property and works in synergy with Vitamin K2.  Deficiency of Vitamin D has an impact on so many body systems yet symptoms of deficiency are not very obvious.  The only way to really know if you are deficient is to take a 25(OH)D blood test.   Are you getting enough of the ‘Sunshine’ Vitamin?  Let me help you figure it out!

Continue reading “The Sunshine Vitamin D”