Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Swine Flu Part 4: Building Immunity With Fermented Vegetables

Here is the final part in our 4-part series on Swine (and other) flu and Chinese Medicine.

In Part 1, we discussed flu prevention.
Part 2, we discussed what to do to recover from the flu quickly.
Part 3 was Chinese Herbal Medicine and Remedies
And now we have Part 4: Building Immunity with Fermented Vegetables.

Our body's immunity is enhanced by having the proper intestinal flora. Often, if we have taken antibiotics or have otherwise compromised our bowel health (balance), yeast has overgrown and we suffer symptoms such as poor immunity.

We have many dietary tools at our disposal to help remedy the problem:

  • drastically reduce our sugar intake; sugar causes yeast to flourish and impedes our immunity more,
  • take probiotics to restore the “good bacteria” in our intestine,
  • eat cultured or fermented products, which are filled with live cultures which are beneficial to our intestinal flora and our health.

Some products which contain live cultures include

  • unpasteurized miso (and when you make miso soup, do not boil the miso or the live cultures will be killed, see part 2 for a miso soup recipe)
  • raw sauerkraut (often called cultured vegetables)
  • raw pickles
  • raw kim chi
  • yogurt
  • kefir
  • kombu
  • rejuvelac (a fermented beverage made by soaking sprouted wheatberries in water overnight.)

These live foods restore balance to our bodies and greatly enhance our immunity.

Many of these foods are eaten in the East, and are a staple in Macrobiotic cooking – a healing style of diet which has its roots in Japan. Kim chi is a hugely popular spicy Korean style of fermented vegetable, and pickles are very common in the East and West, though many of the ones you buy in the store are made with cooked cucumbers and then pasteurized, so there is actually no live culture in them.

Real pickles
are simple to make. I prefer using the pickling cucumbers and cutting them into fourths lengthwise.

I put them in a canning jar and fill the jar with filtered water. I also add two peeled and crushed garlic cloves and about a Tbsp of dill seeds. I've also read that adding a grape leaf (if you have one on hand, which we do have growing in our garden) will keep the pickles crispier. Finally, I add a couple Tablespoons of sea salt, and check it for taste.

I usually cover with the regular canning top, but the next day I will open the jar and taste one of the cucumbers to test for saltiness: usually I add more salt at this point. I taste them every day and in only a day or two more you have delicious live dill pickles, better than you will find at any store!

Coming up I will share a step by step pictorial of how to make cultured vegetables and kim chi: equally as simple, healthy and delicious as the pickles were to make. I'll also post a book review of my favorite book on the subject: Wild Fermentation by Sandor Ellix Katz, which we now carry at the Birch Center, along with canning jars (and sometimes we even have extra SCOBYs for making kombucha!)

Thank you for tuning in to our series on Traditional Chinese Medicine and the Swine Flu. I hope you feel more empowered to take control of your health this season, and know the healthier you are the less you have to fear about what goes around.

If there is any topic you'd like to see us cover on the blog, please comment below or send us and email to Also, if you'd like to make an appointment for a health consultation or an acupuncture treatment, please call us at (412) 381-0116. We look forward to hearing from you.

Melissa and David Sokulski
Licensed Acupuncturists
The Birch Center for Health
(412) 381-0116

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