Wednesday, November 7, 2012

The Brain of the Gut

What do I mean by ‘The Brain of the Gut’?   

Our brain/spinal/nervous systems and our digestive systems started out as the same embryonic tissue.  

This rod of tissue at some point divided in two.  One half developed into the brain, spine and nervous system.  The other half become a hollow tube and became our digestive system.  

There are more nerves surrounding the stomach than any other organ in the body.  Often we teach ourselves to ignore our 'gut' reactions.  Even a dog knows not to eat while fatigued, upset or under stress.  Humans will even go so far as to condition themselves to eat specifically when they are upset.  Many people can't discern when they are hungry or differentiate between hunger and thirst.

It takes the first 8 years of our life to create an engine of digestion.  Some people do not achieve this development for many reasons.  Unrelenting stress, socially, nutritionally, or ecologically can have a detrimental effect on the growth and strength of our digestion system for the rest of our lives unless effort and attention is taken to heal this system.  

Elaine Gottscall's work as been helpful for many to reclaim digestive balance.  Fermented foods such as yogurt, keifer, sauerkraut and sourdough can educate our digestive tract to handle dairy foods, vegetables and grains.

Digestive Enzyme supplementation can really make an improvement if one often feels comatose, bloated or gassy after eating.  Often it is not only a matter of what one eats but whether there are enough plant enzymes to ‘catalyze the fire’, turning food into energy on a cellular level.  For some people, there is a need to ‘prime the pump’ and get the digestive secretions going.  Digestive tonics such as Agrimony Combo, Cheladonium Plex or bitters like artichoke or dandelion can really aid in creating a more efficient digestion and assimilation of nutrients.
Food supplements are just that; they expand the body’s ‘nutritional pool’.  Supplements will not make up for habitual ongoing poor food choices. When I recommend nutritional supplements I want to find the big performers first. What nutrition specifically increases a person’s energy and vitality by 20% or more?  The form and source of these supplements may be a big concern for those who have a suffering/struggling  digestive engine.

Working through digestive issues requires patience and care. The digestive system is such a sensitive system which we impact with every aspect of our lives.  I recommend Specialized Kinesiology food testing, as much to see what foods do work well in the system.  Sensitive testing methods will help people to make personalized choices. It gives us a chance to know what foods to avoid as well. For example some people have trouble digesting gluten or the starch/protein combinations that are present in most grains and beans.

Amaranth, teff and quinoa have been used by many people as staples to replace other grains in the diet.  These are all gluten free and easy to digest.   Generally, rice is another good choice. 

I have never cooked with teff, but  Phoo-d knows how.  Miss Phoo-d has been an adventurous and committed Foodite blogger.  I have enjoyed following her for the last year or so.  She has made some extreme adjustments to her diet for health reasons  and (lucky us!) shares her food knowledge and experiences with us.

 How to work with Quinoa

Find (1Cup) of the largest, whitest Quinoa you can find (organic Bolivian)
Quinoa has a resin on the outside which will be bitter is you don’t rinse like mad

Put the one cup of grain in a large measuring cup add cool water.
Whisk vigorously and drain carefully
Repeat this rinse at least 5 times and cover with clean water to the 4 cup mark
Soak for at least 2 to 8 hours on counter. If you are not ready to cook it right away you can put grain and water and all in the fridge.  What you are looking for is that the quinoa grain will almost triple in size
Before cooking drain carefully and rinse and whisk the Quinoa another 5 times.

Transfer to a good rice pot and add (1 cup) of water
Bring to a full boil and stir well. 
Put lid on and turn heat to lowest setting
Time for 15 minutes then take pot off heat and let rest for another 5 minutes.  You want an el dente grain. Don’t overcook!
Take off the lid right away and fluff with a fork.
For a side grain, serve as is.  As a salad grain, let it cool.

Quinoa Tabouli
Soak ¼ Cup Sunflower seeds and ¼ Cup pumpkin seeds in filtered water for 1 hour (I use a mason jar)
Mix basic white wine vinaigrette, in a medium salad bowl,
½ Cup light tasting oil, I like Koroneiki Olive Oil
¼ Cup white wine vinegar
Herbamere/Sea Salt

1 Cup cherry tomatoes halved
1 Cup Cucumber diced
½ Cup Green onions chopped
1 Cup Red pepper diced
1 Cup Parsley chopped
Rinse and strain the seeds and add to vegetables
Mix well to coat with dressing.
Add quinoa and toss gently to mix

Quinoa has a very delicate flavor and can be overpowered by strong herbs or strong flavoured oils, so keep flavours light 
Cover and marinate in fridge for 1 hour or so. 

Food and health are so profoundly connected.  Our food styles are very unique and personal to us.  Diet choices are always evolving as we evolve.  I think that awareness (intuition and knowledge) is the key. 

Enjoy the bounty and keep well_

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