Fermenting Barrels with Hatcho Miso

The human body is a fertile ecosystem for all sorts of bacteria – some considered friendly and others potentially deadly.  Your body has an estimate 100 trillion cells, but the bacteria in your body outnumber that by at least 10 times!  Bacteria are quite small, but nevertheless the total weight of the bacteria in your body adds up to somewhere between 2 and 9 pounds, depending on which expert you ask.  Obviously, with this many guests living in your body, you want them to be the friendly type of guests, the ones that pitch in, help with the work of digestion, synthesize vital nutrients,  clean up after themselves and don’t dump toxins all over the place.

Probiotics, simply, are foods or supplements that are loaded with beneficial bacteria, helping to establish a healthy population of the good kind of house guests.  Probiotics should be considered vital to a healthy diet as well as frontline defenses against radioactive exposure.  Some of the general health effects of probiotic consumption include:

Probiotics are also Excellent Radioprotectors

Radiation destroys the mucous membranes of the gastrointestinal tract, causing inflammation.  The result is often diarrhea, a common symptom of radiation sickness as well as a side effect of radiation therapy undergone in the treatment of cancer.  If diarrhea persists, it may result in serious dehydration and fatigue.  Doctors have clearly demonstrated that probiotic supplements can prevent or decrease the occurrence of diarrhea during the course of radiation therapy.  Naturally, probiotics may prevent or decrease diarrhea due to radiation sickness as well.

Studies on mice suggest that probiotics do have a radioprotective effect on the intestines.

Irradiation of the intestines may result in weakened digestion and absorption of nutrients.  Beneficial intestinal flora assist with both of these functions.  As well, lactobacillus even synthesize some nutrients from their component parts.  For example, sulfurophane is a potent anti-cancer nutrient found in high concentrations in broccoli sprouts and lower concentrations in mature cruciferous vegetables.  Lactobacillus have been shown to synthesize sulfurophane from the mature cruciferous vegetables, meaning that we are not limited to only sprouts or supplements to provide this powerful anti-mutagenic substance.

Miso

One of the most often mentioned radioprotective foods is miso.  Miso developed its reputation as a radioprotective food thanks to Dr. Shinichiro Akizuki, director of Saint Francis Hospital in Nagasaki during the second World War.   Despite spending years treating patients a few miles from ground zero, neither he nor his staff suffered from the usual effects of radiation illness.  In addition, his patients had a remarkable rate of recovery compared with similar hospitals.  Dr. Akizuki insisted that all of his staff and patients eat miso soup daily and he attributed their resilience to the miso.

In addition to live bacterial cultures, miso contains sea salt, which contains trace elements such as iodine and selenium that have radioprotective benefits.  Miso soup is typically made with seaweeds, such as kombu (kelp) and wakame, which also have strong radioprotective qualities.

All live miso appears to have radioprotective effects, however, the degree of radioprotection is dependent on how long the miso is aged.  Studies done at the Research Institute for Radiation Biology and Medicine inHiroshima University showed that the more a miso has aged, the greater the radioprotective effect.

Here is a readable summary of studies on the radioprotective and cancer-fighting qualities of miso.

Genistein 

Some of miso’s radioprotective effects appear to be derived from genistein, a soy isoflavone that is found in very high concentrations in fermented soybean products, including miso and shoyu (soy sauce).   Genistein has radioprotective effects against full-body gamma radiation.  Further, genistein has a wide range of anti-tumor benefits.  It blocks angiogenesis and is also known to reactivate a number of anti-cancer genes that have been deactivated as a result of toxic conditions.

Sauerkraut 

Sauerkraut is familiar to many westerners, however most of us are familiar with pasteurized, non-living forms of sauerkraut, which are little more than cabbage soaked in vinegar.  These are not pro-biotics at all.  You probably have to go to a health food store to find real sauerkraut.  In the United States, there is a brand called Bubbies that is pretty good.  Even in a health food store, you will find sauerkraut that has been pasteurized, and is, therefore dead.  Unless it says something about live bacterial cultures on the label, it is almost surely not a live food.

In addition to vitamins A and D and sulphur compounds found in any cabbage, sauerkraut contains chemicals called isothiocyanates, which have cancer-preventing properties.  Sauerkraut juice is an effective preventative and treatment for food poisoning.  Mike Adams writes more about sauerkraut here.

Kimchi

I must admit I am a bit of a kimchi addict.  I get excited whenever I go to Los Angeles to visit my family, because there are so many korean restaurants.  I can eat kimchi everyday!  Apparently there have been other kimchi fanatics like me through the ages as the first written records of kimchi are over 3,000 years old and people are still raving about it.  Health magazine listed kimchi as one of the world’s healthiest foods.

People with seafood allergies need to be careful about kimchee, as some versions contain fermented anchovies or other seafood ingredients.  There are vegan versions of kimchee available, and this is what we eat at home due to my wife’s allergy.

Non-Dairy Yogurt and Kefir

Until recently, I would be recommending whole-milk live yogurts and kefir.  Unfortunately, at least for the time being, the risk of contaminated milk is too high, even in the United States.  I fear that milk produced in the Kanto and Tohoku areas of Japan will not be safe for many decades.

Fortunately, there are wonderfully healthy and delicious non-dair alternatives to yogurt made from coconuts or other raw nuts.  There are plenty of youtube videos demonstrating how to make these.  Many non-dairy probiotics are now available in health food stores as well.

There are lots of other fermented, live foods.  This is just a quick post I hope to update and expand later.

All the best,

Jonathan

UPDATE 5/12/2012:

I wanted to add this quote from Dr. Mercola that confirms my general bias against high-priced supplements bought in supermarkets.  It’s not that I won’t pay for high-quality supplements, but in many cases there is a much cheaper (and more effective) alternative available fresh from the garden or farmers’ market.

Fermented foods not only give you a wider variety of beneficial bacteria, they also give you far more of them, so it’s a much more cost effective alternative. Here’s a case in point: It’s unusual to find a probiotic supplement containing more than 10 billion colony-forming units. But when my team actually tested fermented vegetables produced by probiotic starter cultures, they had 10 trillion colony-forming units of bacteria. Literally, one serving of vegetables was equal to an entire bottle of a high potency probiotic! So clearly, you’re far better off using fermented foods.

That quote comes from an informative article on auto-immunity and probiotics.

Along with this video which explains the basics of fermenting organic vegetables:

Fermented foods not only give you a wider variety of beneficial bacteria, they also give you far more of them, so it’s a much more cost effective alternative. Here’s a case in point: It’s unusual to find a probiotic supplement containing more than 10 billion colony-forming units. But when my team actually tested fermented vegetables produced by probiotic starter cultures, they had 10 trillioncolony-forming units of bacteria. Literally, one serving of vegetables was equal to an entire bottle of a high potency probiotic! So clearly, you’re far better off using fermented foods.miso
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