Middleway Medicine Blog

Health benefits of fermented Tea

 

by Ann Zimmerman, LAc.

Fermented Foods and drinks are rich sources of probiotics…beneficial bacteria for humans.Our digestive tract’s ecological community contains more than 1,000 types of bacteria. Fermented foods help with nutrient and vitamin absorption, the breakdown of proteins, boosting immunity, detoxification, alkalizing our PH, and restoring balance to our homeostasis.

Consuming fermented foods is somewhat like consuming predigested food, our bodies do less work for more nutritional gain.  Familiar food ferments include; cheeses, yogurt, pickles, miso, tempeh, kimchi, and sauerkraut. In addition to fermented foods, we also have the medicinal category of fermented beverages: kombucha, vinegars(shrubs), wine, beer, cider, Jun, and many more.

Lets focus on the ever popular Kombucha(commonly fermented black tea and white sugar) and Jun(fermented green tea and raw honey). The perfect cold drink for a hot summer day in the Rogue Valley. Many people decide to try these fermented gems because they seek to alleviate various ailments.  However the way these drinks are able to help with ailments is not by curing diseases, but rather, by optimizing the bodies ability to run it’s immune system and physiological functions more efficiently.  Stress specifically is one of the most detrimental factors to our health and fermented teas can help us mitigate the effects of stress on our bodies.

These ferments are considered adaptogens. Adaptogens normalize the bodies ability to deal with stress. They are a good source of anti-oxidants, helping us to eliminate the free radicals generated by stress, while providing protection for our liver by reducing cravings for sugar and alcohol.  Kombucha and Jun support healthy digestion by increasing the acidity in the gut. Gut acidity eases digestion and absorption of nutrients, thus reducing symptoms of bloating and irritable bowel.

These ferments also contain bio-available  B and C vitamins…meaning the vitamins are in a form the the body can easily recognize and absorb(in contrast to many vitamin pills).The B vitamins help to stabilize the mood and improve concentration, while the C vitamin suppresses cortisol(stress hormone)levels, reducing the risk for hypertension and depression.

Kombucha is extremely popular,with good reason, for being such a healthy and tasty beverage. Finding locally made ferments is not hard in the Rogue Valley or you can try your hand at the “wall of Kombucha” in the grab and go sections of most groceries. For those of you who would like to try your hand at home-brew…..I can personally speak to the rewards of caring for these cultures and enjoying the benefits of home-brew. Whatever you relationship is with ferments, I encourage you to keep experimenting with adding a consistent variety of fermented goodies to your wellness plan.

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Cooling Foods for Summer

by Clark Zimmerman, LAc.

One of the best parts of summer is the food.  Backyard barbecues, abundant fruit, a summer garden and the ice cream truck all hold a special place in our lives.  There are more options as the garden, growers market and grocery store all overflow with a large variety of colors and flavors.  We all realize that food can bring us joy and improved health, but an often overlooked aspect of food is its effects on our body’s temperature.  In Chinese medicine as well as Ayurvedic medicine, a lot of emphasis is placed on the effect a particular food has on the overall temperature of the body and thus on our health and comfort level.  

We all know that when we are feeling hot, the last thing we want is to eat something that is hot.  Hot stew and summer heat do not go well together.  This is one of the reasons that we tend to crave salads or ice cream in the summer, and hot soups and stews in the winter.  Too much heat in the body can cause a variety of symptoms including headaches, fever, red eyes, flushed skin, rashes, constipation, acid reflux, burning bowel movements or urination and insomnia.  Since food is something we put into our body every day, it is often the most effective medicine. It is also typically the cheapest way to improve our health, and since we don’t need a prescription or an appointment to go to the market, it is also the easiest way to stay healthy.  So what are the healthiest food choices to beat the summer heat.  Here is a list of 10 great foods for the summer.

1) Leafy greens/ Lettuce:  Greens have a high percentage of water, which helps cool  you off by keeping you hydrated.  

2) Raw foods:  Raw foods take a bit more energy to digest, so they take some of the stomachs fire and put it to good use.

3) Berries:  Berries are alkaline and cooling.  You can also freeze berries and eat them as an extra cooling snack.

4) Melons:  Watermelon is especially cooling.  Ever try watermelon juice. Yum!

5) Cucumber:  Good in salads.

6) Avocado:  Cooling and full of healthy fats.

7) Coconut.  Coconut water is one of our family favorites.  They also make delicious coconut ice cream that is dairy free.

8) Bean sprouts.  Especially mung beans.  They are detoxifying, as well as cooling.

9) Yogurt:  If dairy doesn’t sit well, you can try a delicious coconut yogurt.

10) Herbal teas:  Such as mint, chrysanthemum or red peony.

Enjoy the heat.

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Supplements: What are your really getting?

By Clark Zimmerman, LAc.

Years ago my wife and I took a month long trip to Tibet to trek through a remote section of the Himalaya’s.  We signed with a local budget travel group that promised to arrange our food, travel, lodging and gear for the two week trip.  We were careful to ask all the right questions in an attempt to make sure we were safe and comfortable in one of the most isolated and inhospitable parts of the planet.  Once on our trip we discovered that the “North Face” cold weather gear we were provided was counterfeit and of very poor quality when we spent our first night camping out on the Tibetan plateau.  After two weeks of frozen toes, we learned the hard way that you can’t always trust the label, or the budget option.

I was reminded of this experience the other day when I read a disturbing story about herbal supplements.  A recent study found that many herbal supplements that are available at large budget chain stores, such as Walmart, GNC or Walgreens, contain little to none of the herbs that are listed on their labels.  Many of the supplements that were tested were actually other plants or fillers that are at best ineffective, and at worst problematic.  The herbal supplement industry has become a sort of “wild-west” where few things are regulated in a way that is supportive to either the patient or practice of herbalism itself.  

This practice of misleading consumers has created an unfortunate reality in our country.  Not only is it potentially harmful to the consumer, but it is also creating a confusing situation concerning herbal medicine itself.  I have personally worked with patients over the years that tell me that they have tried certain herbs and that the herbs didn’t help them.  When I ask the patient about what they have tried, many times they mention a low quality, cheap brand.  Rather than thinking that the supplement itself is not good quality, the patient assumes that the herbs themselves are ineffective.  With many of these patients, if they are given the proper formula, with high quality herbs, they respond in a favorable way.  This is misleading many people to assume that herbal medicine itself doesn’t work, when it is actually the system of labeling and regulating itself that is to blame.  

Mislabeling herbs is only part of the problem.  Some herbal supplements are given irresponsibly, without a proper assessment of the patient’s medical situation or needs.  This was the case several years ago with the herb ephedra.  Ephedra has been used medically for asthma for thousands of years, but when big business found that it could be used to help people lose weight and “build stamina” is was marketed as a weight loss or exercise aid.  Unfortunately, it was given at doses that were too high, and to people with health conditions that made it unsafe, so dozens of people became ill or even died from improper use of this wonderful plant.  The FDA then made it illegal to import and sell ephedra.  This was good for the general public in that it avoided more problems for the unsuspecting person, but it was terrible for legitimate herbalists and their suffering patients.

So given the seeming enormity of the problem, what is to be done?  We must explore regulating the supplement industry in a way that makes reliable, safe, controllable herbs and vitamins available to the public, but does so in a way that doesn’t price small producers and companies out of the market.  This is a work in progress, and there is a lot of discussion about the best ways to do this.  Until this happens it is very important to work with trained and certified professional herbalists who can guide patients in a safe and effective manner.  It is also important to purchase products from a company or practitioner that is reputable.  In this case the old adage that “you get what you pay for” is proving to be more and more true.

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