To soak or not to soak?
Nope, this isn’t the definitive post (sorry to tease you!). I’m just inviting you into my document folders to introduce you to the tangled web of research and opinions I have collected so far.
Five experts from various fields have weighed in on the topic of soaking grains and phytates/phytic acid for me.
Meet the Experts
Sally Fallon Morrell
Sally is the founder and president of the Weston A. Price Foundation and author of Nourishing Traditions. She wrote the book on soaking grains. Literally. She believes the phytic acid and enzyme inhibitors in unsoaked whole grains are dangerous to consume. She advocates soaking grains as I’ve described previously, in a warm, slightly acidic medium, at or above room temperature for 12-24 hours.
Much of the information found on the Internet, especially the blogosphere, on soaking grains and phytic acid ultimately winds back to her work as the source. Some say the Nourishing Traditions viewpoint is based on bad science or outdated resources. Some of it is, justifiably, unsubstantiated, and certain recommendations (like how to soak dry beans) have been changed over the years after being found to be ineffective. My goal was to find information outside the realm of Weston A. Price, so that I could either substantiate or disprove the soaking grains theory.
Dr. Teri O’Brien
Dr. O’Brien is a Harvard alum biologist who has published research in the fields of Botany, Zoology, Cell Biology, Plant Physiology and Biochemistry, and Plant Anatomy, including four books and over 75 journal articles over the last 50 years in the field. He has done some of the research that Sally Fallon Morrell doesn’t quote.
He validates the fact that whole grains DO have phytic acid, which renders most of their minerals unavailable, but otherwise he disagrees with Fallon wholeheartedly and thinks soaking grains is a complete waste of time and quite ineffective.
Amanda has a Ph.D. in political science but turned her academic expertise to the issue of food science to get to the bottom of her post-partum depression after having her first child. She doesn’t claim to be an expert, but has compiled extensive research on phytic acid and how to reduce it in our diets.
She published a Phytic Acid White Paper with the results of her findings and is also the author of a full-length book, Rebuild from Depression. She soaks grains but prefers sourdough preparation, and her research showed that soaking grains is both necessary and valid. She and I are hypothesizing currently about the effectiveness of using a few spoonfuls of sourdough starter instead of whey when soaking oatmeal. Want to be a guinea pig?
Rebecca is a Julia Child award-winning author of The Splendid Grain and The New Whole Foods Encyclopedia. She has been writing about healing with a sustainable diet since 1970. When I stumbled across her website, I thought I had found a possible phytic acid resource outside the realm of the Weston A. Price Foundation (it seemed as though every other source I could find ultimately spun back to relying on Fallon Morrell’s work, and I wanted other support).
Unfortunately, when we spoke on the phone, Wood told me she had simply accepted the information in Nourishing Traditions. She did call my attention to germinated brown rice and is in active discussion with Eden Foods about the best way to prepare legumes (I’m poking my nose in that conversation, of course!), so I’m glad to be in contact with her, but she’s now looking to me for more balanced soaking research.
Dr. Stephan Guyenet
Dr. Guyenet holds a B.S. in biochemistry from and a Ph.D. in neurobiology and currently conducts research on body fat regulation. His academic mind, however, has been put to other good use in his spare time: He studies health and well-being through the science behind traditional food preparation. He blogs about his findings at Whole Health Source, which is where I discovered the method for soaking brown rice that I prefer.
He was kind enough to share his findings with me, including actual research about phytates, phytic acid and phytase, along with his interpretations of the evidence. He believes it’s important to consider how healthy traditional cultures treated their grains, but he’s not a parrot of Weston A. Price without reading the food science journals himself and applying science to history. I finally found my alternate source!
The First Debate: Soaking Grains
The text of email conversations between Sally Fallon and Dr. Teri O’Brien, plus some unique perspectives on when and why three of these experts would recommend white bread or white flour.
You can read Dr. Teri O’Brien’s article and my question that started the whole thing here. Dr. O’Brien is a grain scientist Ph.D. from Australia.
We proceeded to have an email conversation that really got me digging about the whole “soaking grains” and phytate/phytic acid issue. I suddenly mistrusted everything I was reading from the Weston A. Price Foundation and wanted to see the research for myself.
Dr. O’Brien Says:
The good doctor addresses this quote from Nourishing Traditions that I directed him to (any emphasis is mine):
Until this material passes the stomach, where it is exposed to strong acid (pH 1 hydrochloric acid) these Ca-Mg phytates are insoluble. Once through the stomach, the acidity will tend to release the phytic acid as free phytic acid, and the previously bound minerals. Phytic acid has 6 atoms of phosphorus on it and a useful precursor of a lot of lipids, but there is very little information on whether or not it can pass through intact cell walls in bran or not. And it may be that the phytic acid that turns up in digesta has come from damaged cells. There is a literature that suggests that as soon as the phytic acid reaches the small intestine where its acidity is neutralized, that it can now recombine with minerals and may make them indigestible again! If only things were simple! (Me: Phytic acid needs much stronger than a pH of 4, the recommended acidity for soaking, to release its minerals.)
Given that phytic acid is a precursor of certain lipids, it may be that it is capable of being absorbed in the gut somewhere, either with or without its load of minerals. As the free acid it would carry a very strong negative charge and would be difficult to absorb across the cell surfaces of the gut, but just how much it is rebound to minerals along the length of the gut, and would therefore find absorption easier, is not clear.
The presence and role of seed-based digestive inhibitors varies a lot with the type of grain, and mere soaking is unlikely to change that unless it is long continued. Fermenting the grain ( overnight soaking will get most grains beginning to germinate) starts up the processes whereby the embryo combines with the bran layer to release starch and protein digesting enzymes from both the embryo and the bran layer. These processes have been studied in great detail for wheat and barley. The embryo in all grasses so far studied absorbs the products of this breakdown of the starchy endosperm, as well as mobilizing its own reserves of high quality protein, but once again, the embryo cells are enclosed in a wall that is extremely resistant to digestion. If whole grain, cracked grain, or even pollard rich in embryos is added to the bread dough after soaking the contents of intact cells ( some can be broken by chewing) will not in general be attacked in the digestive track. However, any sugars (such as maltose) or amino acids (glutamic acid) that are still in the digesting soup of soaked endosperm have a good chance of being absorbed during eating as they will survive baking.
I know of no reason to suppose that the process of pre-digestion (partial) that accompanies prolonged soaking will “neutralize phytates and enzyme inhibitors “. What is important to understand is that prolonged soaking starts the grain germinating if it is intact or cracked, so we are now dealing with processes that accompany natural germination. 18 hours at 20C is sufficient to get soaked grain well on the way. (Me: This would mean flour wouldn’t be affected, as it could no longer germinate.)
Fermenting or soaking grains prior to cooking is indeed a well-recognized tribal behavior and strongly recommended by Bill Mollinson of Permaculture fame in his book on fermentation. When long continued, specialized bacteria often accompany the process and are capable of rendering a poor quality food material (eg., cabbage) into the highly nutritious sauerkraut, but a lot of the extra nutritive value comes from the addition of microbial protein that arises from the fermentation. (Me: soaking for only 12-24 hours doesn’t seem to fit the bill of actual fermentation.)
We could summarize it like this: prolonged soaking begins to transform a dormant seed into a growing one, and reserves that were perhaps very unavailable in the dry grain may be rendered a bit more available in a human digestive tract. After all, the grain’s embryo is starting to digest its reserves. But the devil is in the detail in this kind of discussion and unfortunately, the published literature on how the human digestive tract behaves, is not always helpful.”
Sally Fallon Morell Says:
When I asked Sally Fallon Morell, author of Nourishing Traditions, for her response to the direct challenge to her work, she replied:
For our take on grains see here.
There are many reasons to soak or sourdough grains–these processes not only neutralize phytic acid, but also enzyme inhibitors and lectins and seem to miraculously reduce the problems with gluten.”
In summary, Sally Fallon promotes that whole grains are dangerous unless properly soaked in an acidic medium or sourdoughed.
Dr. O’Brien Says:
Wherever phytates are present in wheat in dry grains, they are not there as free phytic acid, but as the CaMg double salt as highly crystalline “globoids”. To dissolve those by acids requires quite an effort and a fair dose of acid: to drive Ca and Mg from phosphate groups I would guess you would need a pH of at least 2.5, easily achieved in the stomach at pH 1, but for example, 1% vinegar is only pH 4.5. I do not believe the lysine figure: lysine occurs as part of a protein that is also rich in arginine, and these are not in the least bit soluble in acids such as to release their amino acids. There are large, highly insoluble reserves of niacin in wheat called “niacytin”: I don’t know how resistant they are to acid digestion, but they would release only niacin, just one of the B-vitamins, not ” B-vitamins”. I’ll check on aflatoxins, which of course are not common in cereals but are a real threat from badly stored peanuts. They are not destroyed by boiling so I’ll be amazed if they are by soaking, but let’s see the evidence.
As for “pathogens”: what pathogens? Stored grain contains some remnants of fungi that lived on the starch released when the out bran layers died as the grain ripened but these are not pathogenic to the plant or to us.
I wish to make it clear that soaking is not the same thing as fermenting in my mind. Prolonged soaking may lead to fermentation starting since cracked or whole grains are not sterile, and fermentation for protracted times (several days) has the capacity to transform poorly digestible material into something that may be better digestible by a human digestive tract, but no microscopy has been done to see what happens in practice. Without the facts, speculation is idle.”
The Soaking Grains Debate: Round Two
My second response:
It sounds like a complicated issue! Thanks for the detailed reply; looks like I should do more research before believing in “soaked grains.” One last question: is there any reason soaking the grains in an acidic medium (sometimes already in flour form) would be harmful to digestion?
Dr. O’Brien’s response, with my attempts at synthesis in italics:
At least this confirms that the pH of the acids recommended by Nourishing Traditions are the 4.5 pH that they say is required. After my research on phytase, the enzyme that dissolves phytates and releases phytic acid from the minerals our body needs, I found that its optimal pH for activity is, in fact, about 4.5. However, I wonder if adding just a Tablespoon of a pH 4.5 vinegar to a cup of water would dilute it too much. I need to buy some pH strips and test it! Anyone?
It will cause the insoluble forms of phytic acid that are there as CaMg double salts to dissolve slowly, but only where the soaking acids can enter the grains, i.e., where they are broken or cracked. Quite insoluble fatty layers prevent easy access of even water to dry grains over most of their surface, limiting uptake to special regions which eventually take up enough to allow germination.
Such mild acids as acetic acid (vinegar), lactic acid(yoghurt and perhaps whey), and citric acid (lemon) will only slowly penetrate the grains and of those, citric acid will be the most effective in dissolving the insoluble phytates, since in addition to its acidic properties, it is what chemists call a powerful chelating agent. It has the very well-developed character of grabbing on to minerals like Ca and Mg ( and Cu and Zn: see below) and pulling them off the phytic acid and putting them into solution as the Ca Mg chelate.
Cooks are familiar with this property of citric acid in at least two respects: when many fruits are cut and exposed to air, they will brown, a reaction that requires traces of Cu (copper). Lemon juice is added to fruit salad as it is being cut because the citric acid chelates the Cu and prevents the browning reaction. Cooks who are gardeners will know that we often use iron chelate (usually the citrate form) to feed citrus through its leaves to offset the fairly common yellowing that is due to iron deficiency. This a widespread way of feeding trace elements to horticultural species in plant production systems.
The mild acids will be hard pressed to actually dissolve the phytates. The grains must be cracked! i.e. soaking whole rice, barley, etc. is not going to be effective with the mild acidic environment. However – now that I understand that it’s phytase that does the dissolving, not the acidic environment itself, I wonder if Dr. O’Brien missed this entire point. The mild acid is only supposed to activate phytase to do the neutralizing. My new question becomes: Does phytase act on both whole and cracked grains?
I found these sources:
“pH was the most important factor in reducing the content of phytic acid during bread making as phytic acid in doughs with pH 4.3–4.6 was more effectively reduced than in doughs with higher pH.” (source: Phytase activity and degradation of phytic acid during rye bread making by Merete Møller Nielsen · Marianne Linde Damstrup · Agnete Dal Thomsen · Søren Kjærsg˚ rd Rasmussen · Åse Hansen Eur Food Res Technol 2007)
All phytase activities are pH dependent with the highest activities being observed at a slightly acidic pH ( 5.1). Germination activates phytases, increasing the availability of P to the developing embryo. Genetic present in the wheat grain. The reduction in phytates was signiﬁcantly higher when yeast was added to whole wheat bread dough, suggesting phytase activity in the yeast. However, the pH of bread dough (5.5–6.0) inhibited the activity of the phytases that are most active at a pH of 5.1. They reported that the lowering of dough alkalinity (lowering of pH) reduced the phytic acid levels of the bread by 83–96%. (source: Food Reviews International Phytic Acid by Lori Oatway a; Thava Vasanthan b; James H. Helm Field Crop Development Centre, Lacombe, Canada b Department of Agricultural Food and Nutritional Science, University of Alberta, Edmonton, Canada)
One study fed real people wheat buns with various forms of phytates. One method of phytate reduction was to soak in water at a pH of 5.3 to activate native phytase. This was not effective in reducing phytates. Another method used phytase present in the bran, but then washed the bran with water. Here iron absorption increased threefold. Sadly, it was still only 1/5 the amount of iron absorbed when eating white flour rolls with no phytates at all. It seems that the phytates removed by phytase were able to reattach to the minerals, at least iron, when not washed five times with water. (source: Phytates and the inhibitory effect of bran on iron absorption in man from the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition)
As to harming us from soaking, no reason that I can think of. The traces left behind from the organic soaking agents you mention will in most cases be absorbed and metabolized, and the acidity is way less than our stomachs produce.
Last week Dr. O’Brien challenged Fallon Morrell’s statement that soaking would reduce aflatoxins and increase certain vitamins. He asked for documentation:
As for “pathogens”: what pathogens? Stored grain contains some remnants of fungi that lived on the starch released when the out bran layers died as the grain ripened but these are not pathogenic to the plant or to us.
Fallon Morrell sent the following in response:
Note: these deal with sourdough or long fermentation, not soaking…
She also mailed me some copies of graphs/charts from research – in French, no less (good grief!).
1. Effects of fermentation on usable lysine – raised considerably in wheat, rice, millet, corn and a really drastic effect on oats. The grains fermented 6 hours at 71-77 degrees F. However, I don’t know the method of fermentation used. (Source: Hamad and Fields 1979 Journal of Food Science 44,2 456-459)
2. The increase in Vitamins B1 and B2 with fermentation with Rhizopus oligosporus (according to Wikipedia: “is a fungus of the family Mucoraceae that is a widely used starter culture for the home production of tempeh”) of wheat. There is little increase of either for the 1st 16 hours, and then the graph begins to climb rapidly until 43 hours.
After 24 hours, the vitamins increased: B2 from about 0.5mg/g to 3 and B1 from about 50 mg/g to 150. B2 is at almost 10 by 43 hours and B1 is above 400 at that time. However, my thoughts on the issue are that I don’t have Rhizopus Oligosporus to ferment with, AND the recommended “soaking” time in Nourishing Traditions is only 12-24 hours. Usually 12 for wheat products. This study ferments for days. Is this even relevant? This is my frustration with the sources of Nourishing Traditions: they’re only vaguely related to the actual practices recommended, they’re piecemeal (graphs alone without the methods, which are in French and difficult to track down!), and I’m still not seeing soaking, only fermenting and sourdough. (Source: Wang and Hesseltine 1966 Wheat Tempeh, Cereal Chemistry 43, 5, 562-570)
3. Reduction in phytate by fermentation: with yeast after 8 hours phytate is reduced by slightly less than half, with sourdough it is reduced almost to nothing. Again, sourdough is already recognized as a healthy way to prepare whole grains. This has little to do with soaking.
I sent the links (but not the mailed graphs) to Dr O’Brien, who is getting tired of me:
However, two matters:
The ability of some selected strains of lactic acid bacteria isolated from traditional sourdough ferments to remove aflatoxin B1 (AFB1) was studied in the present investigation. Isolates were grown for 48 h in broth containing a known concentration of AFB1 at 30°C. The AFB1 in the medium was determined for each strain with high performance liquid chromatography and calculated with the initial and final concentration of AFB1 after fermentation. Results showed that Lactobacillus strains could remove more AFB1 than Pediococcus and Leuconostoc strains and the reduction of the initial amount of AFB1 ranged from 1.80 to 44.89% AFB1 for all strains studied. Five strains of Lactobacillus rhamnosus, one strain of a L. lactis and one strain of L. casei reduced AFB1 by more than 20%. L. rhamnosus strain Lb50 reduced AFB1 by 45%. These findings suggest that sourdough strains of lactic acid bacteria can be exploited as an approach of detoxification of aflatoxins from foods.
Aflatoxins are among the most dangerous carcinogens ever identified, and reductions of 1.8-45% mentioned in these studies, while interesting, are not going to improve your health much if you have them in the flour. But do you have them in the flour? You will have them in badly stored peanuts, and hence in peanut products like peanut butter made from them. But the tests above use 48 hours of broth incubation to get these reductions: what has that got to do with conditions in a sourdough fermentation, and what levels of aflatoxins are in wheat flour? And what about the other kinds of aflatoxins than B1?
Me: Another seemingly unrelated point, since aflatoxin reduction isn’t all that desirable.
You are right to make them release data on soaking as opposed to fermentations.
If you’ve stuck with this post this far, congratulations! You’re as crazy as I am. 😉 What I’m finding here is this:
- Fallon Morrell doesn’t have justifiable, research-based evidence for the practice of soaking in a slightly acidic medium for 12-24 hours at room temperature (or above) that she recommends in Nourishing Traditions.
- Dr. O’Brien has completely missed the action of phytase on phytates, and I wish he hadn’t gotten so tired of my questions. I’d like to ask him more!
- There IS research in food science on these points. More on that next week!
Please remember that I’m only challenging the soaking practice to find the truth about how and why one might want to soak. In the meantime, I’m soaking grains fairly faithfully myself, and I’m collecting anecdotal evidence on its effectiveness, which I would put right up there with the “real” research.
Expert Takes on the Value of White Bread
I’ve always hated white bread. It’s too sticky and feels like it’s reverting to dough in my mouth.
Imagine my shock when not one, but THREE of the five “expert” panelists on this Soaking Grains Debate weighed in with an opinion in favor of white flour, in one way or another.
It made me want to go buy a loaf of Wonderbread. And then throw it at my computer screen. Or maybe feed it to the ducks.
Is there no sanity when it comes to grains?
Pardon my little rant.
The White Bread Manifesto
I asked Sally Fallon about the times when perhaps she didn’t plan ahead and soak, or when she was eating out and didn’t have a soaked option:
SF: If I have forgotten to soak my oats, I just don’t eat them–they give me a huge stomach ache if I don’t soak them. I have eggs and bacon instead. When traveling, I try to avoid grains, although if I feel I really need some butter, I will eat a small piece of white bread with a huge amount of butter on it. I do think unsoaked whole wheat is dangerous, especially if you eat a lot of it and if your diet is low in fat. Occasionally I make a pie and use unbleached white flour for that.
My husband’s response: I know what it feels like to need water, or to crave sugar, but what does it feel like to really need some butter? I know, my husband’s not an expert, but we had a good laugh trying to imagine the need for buh-dah!
I asked Dr. Teri O’Brien, the grains scientist from Australia, “What kind of bread do you eat and for what reasons?”
Later on after trying to point out the ridiculousness of Sally Fallon’s claims of soaking reducing aflatoxins – because aflatoxins are some of the most toxic substances known to man, and “reducing” them isn’t going to help much! – he said:
Dr. O’Brien is of the mindset that since most of the minerals in whole grains are bound up with the phytic acid and unusable by our bodies, one might as well just get rid of the bran, which is the part that causes the problems. He feels that the only value of whole grains, in light of the phytic acid issue, is fiber, and that there are many, better, less expensive ways to get one’s daily fiber intake.
Like a hearty salad…
The final panelist to weight in on the value of white bread (flour, actually) is Dr. Stephan Guyenet, who said “This O’Brien guy is posing as an expert but he is totally ignorant.” To which I responded in my head, “Gulp. Um. Uh.”
I did email Dr. Guyenet a response along with Dr. O’Brien’s impressive resume. His reply, in part, is dead on: “It gets under my skin when academics are unable to say ‘I don’t know’, and instead engage in speculation.” That’s where I get fed up with some of the information promulgated on soaking, because people are trying to be scientific without proper science, and I’d like to see them admit that they’re ultimately speculating.
Here is Dr. Guyenet’s virtual “thumbs up” for white flour:
That’s another way of saying to use whole wheat flour and white flour in your baked goods. Not that I swallow the advice of every person who comes along, but I am so encouraged by this point! There are many, many recipes that call for half and half whole and white flour, and I’m pleased to begin to think of those as less “compromise” foods and more “traditional” foods. The soaking – or sourdoughing for sure – of the whole grains is still an important step, I feel I must point out.
When I made sure to clarify that I was hearing this white flour recommendation correctly, Dr. Guyenet had yet another stellar response (and thanks for writing my post today, all of you!):
Africans grind grains and sieve them to remove bran. Indians, Japanese and Chinese pounded rice to remove part of the bran and germ before further processing (before the advent of mechanical rice milling in the 1800s). My guess based on what I’ve read is that they would have removed 50-80% of the bran. Thus, between a 1:1 and 1:3 ratio of whole wheat to white flour would be a good approximation.
However, I’m not a proponent of wheat in general. I prefer fermented savory “pancakes” and porridges made from fermented rice and lentils (dosa/uppatham) or buckwheat. Wheat is problematic for many people in my opinion. If you do choose to eat wheat, a sourdough made from a mixture of whole and unbleached white flour is the way to go.
There you have it, folks. Three experts on grains, soaking grains, and/or phytic acid and phytates who find some value in white flour. Just when I thought I had to eradicate it from my house…
Because I know you all count on me to bring some balance and humor to the whole situation, in case you think white bread is evil as many people do, here’s a thought from one of my favorite phytic acid obsessed cohorts, who will remain nameless, just to add to the mystery: “Is the Australian really recommending white bread? If so, I think you should just put he and Fallon in a ring and see who wins.”
Why am I sharing these personal stories of soaking grains? There’s really no body of research on human subjects about the effects of soaked grains vs. unsoaked whole grains on the digestive system. Much of what we know, we learn from traditional cultures and personal observation. There is a place for personal observation, I believe, next to scientific research, especially when it comes to food. If it makes someone feel better, that’s a piece of evidence that I want to know about.
For some, ridding themselves of grains altogether is the answer. Here’s Chandelle of Real Food 365:
As a vegetarian, whole grains formed the basis of my diet. I ate them with every single meal and sometimes as snacks. I almost never ate white flour or any other refined grains – maybe a few times a year. I didn’t know anything about sprouting, souring, or soaking, so all of my whole grains were untreated.
Over time, I developed an intolerance to wheat. Then that intolerance extended to all gluten-containing grains. And then I found that it was difficult to digest GF grains like brown rice or amaranth. I wouldn’t have an allergic reaction in the same way I did with wheat, but I would have digestion problems.
While this was happening, I developed a visceral aversion to brown rice. The sight of it, the smell of it, would make me nauseous. This, after eating it every day for almost a decade! I took it as a message from my body that this food was not good for me.
At the same time, I would occasionally crave white rice. I hated white rice as a child and brown rice became a favorite food when I started to cook for myself. I hated white bread and any of those flavorless, empty grains. And of course, for someone with blood sugar problems, refined grains are off-limits – they have the same action as sugar. So I’d beat myself up for having such a stupid craving pop up out of nowhere. But I decided to experiment with small amounts of it, always with good-quality protein and plenty of fat. I found it so soothing and comforting for my digestive system. So I just went with it, even though I “knew” that I wasn’t “supposed to” eat it.
For weeks, I ate white rice whenever I craved it, always with protein and fat, and it wouldn’t be very much, just a half-cup or so. I didn’t experience problems with my blood sugar from this small amount and combination. At the same time, I largely avoided any other grains. I did experience healing during this time, even with a “bad” food.
I still occasionally eat white rice, but I rarely have brown rice anymore as I continue to have a disgusted reaction to it. I try very hard to stay away from gluten. Occasionally, I will eat sprouted grain bread, but it’s rare. I cook on the fly and can’t handle much advance planning, so we just don’t eat many grains in our family. Instead, we have a lot more veggies, more fruit, more nuts and seeds, more eggs, more yogurt, more raw goat cheese. More nutrient density. More satisfaction. I can’t say I miss grains.”
This next story is from Amy, a KS reader:
Seven Years Ago: Family Health Situation
At 35, my husband had borderline high blood pressure and high cholesterol. Where he had broken his neck and jaw were more often than not sore and his jaw was always popping out of place.
I, at 28 years old, had just had my cervix frozen and scraped due to the beginnings of cervical cancer. I could not get my period without intense PMS and then would have it for ten to fourteen days. It could come every two weeks to every two months. I was never regular. Afterwards, I would be so exhausted from the heavy bleeding. I would get canker sores every PMS cycle like clockwork.
Leading up to all of this, I had had mono twice prior to marriage. The second time that I had a relapse ended me in the hospital.
I took fertility drugs to get pregnant. I had one miscarriage at sixteen weeks. I was not able to miscarry on my own. If I stood for very long my feet would fall asleep. I always had bruises on somewhere on me. My eyesight was continually getting worse every year plus so many other little things.
Elizabeth, our oldest daughter who was 7 years old then, was born with a bicuspid aortic value. When we took her to the pediatric heart doctors, they would tell us her value was narrowing and not widening as it should. Her EKG tests were never normal. They talked to us about eventually replacing her heart valve. They said we would really have to watch her from ten on up due to hormones and rapid growth during puberty. Her teeth were coming in sticking out in the wrong direction.
Our daughter, Laura, who was five, had one baby tooth that came in completely sideways. We started taking her to the orthodontist at about 7 years. He wanted to wait a few years until all her baby teeth came in before pulling teeth and putting braces on.
She definitely had some kind of compulsive disorder. She at such a young age of five was obsessed with not touching certain things. I thought it was one of the strangest things I had ever seen.
Katherine, who was two, never cried at birth. All her other vitals were good but she just stared and never cried. By the time she was two years old, her nose constantly ran with clear snot. She was always very thirsty. She never could get enough water. The doctor told us we needed to have her tested for allergies and diabetes. I kept putting it off (I know, mad mom!). She was only two at the time and I prayed she would out grow it. She showed some mild autistic symptoms.
My Anna was six months old and had already been on antibiotics due to ear infections. She was born after my cervical cancer. My birth canal was so messed up, that I was getting a lot of infections and had some sort of strep. So I was given a mega antibiotic via IV during her birth. It really did something to her guts having all those antibiotics.
All the girls would get some small red spots all over their bodies after bathing. They were constantly getting the flu, ear infections, strep throat, or some other virus. I was always tired.
Is Everybody Sick?
After writing this all down, it sounds like my children, husband, and I were walking health disasters. I did not see it like that. I saw us as a normal family with normal health problems. Everyone I knew that had children were always dealing with one sickness or another. However, I was getting tired of it. In the mean time, I was researching some other things on the internet and kept coming across organic food articles.
I, at first, did not glance at them. I had no desire. I had no need in my mind to explore them any further. I kept thinking of organic as something weird. It was what I thought of as tofu and yoga (two things that I could do without). Nevertheless, the more I researched the more articles I came across on organic foods. I finally started reading them. What amazed me is that it is just normal food that had not been sprayed with chemicals, has no preservatives, artificial colorings, or flavorings! I was surprised to read that it was that simple. It was what Kurt called “old-fashioned” food that your grandparents grew up on.
In the meantime, we had met a family that we hit it off with. They invited us to their home. Come to find out, they were organic farmers. How ironic! We realized that they were pretty normal. Kurt was so impressed with his fields and yields and such. We decided to research organic foods a little more.
Big Changes Come Quickly
It was at this time that I stumbled upon the Weston A. Price Foundation. This foundation changed our life for ever and for the better! I really do not know where we would be with out it. After studying all of their information and many other ideas in this arena and then praying about it, we started eating organically and the way the Weston A. Price Foundation promotes because it made so much sense to us. We realized we needed to feed our children and ourselves more nutritious food.
It was difficult at first. I changed everything overnight. I would not recommend that to anyone. I would recommend one or two things at a time. We eliminated white sugar, flour, and processed foods from our cupboards. We had no more pop, candy, potato chips, or anything of that sort, only nutritious and chemical free food for us. We all take a teaspoon of cod liver oil every night before bed.
I started making things from scratch using all organic foods. I joined an organic coop where I could get anything and everything I needed. I started shopping at the organic store nearby. I joined the local Weston Price Group where they have a meeting every other month to teach us on to cook and eat properly.
That was something I needed. I grew up not knowing how to cook from scratch. I knew how to make Betty Crocker potatoes from a box and I knew how to open cans. For me to cook like I do now was foreign before. It was a struggle the first few years but it is normal now.
Today: Family Nutrition Situation
This is what a today looks like for us. We drink our own raw milk from our own cow. If we have no raw milk, we do not drink milk at all. We raise our own grass-fed beef. Our cattle are all raised on grass and hay bales. We supplement with sea salt and kelp for their minerals. Our beef is very good and very tender.
We grow our own eggs and chickens as well. They are outside most of the time and have access to all the bugs and grass they want! We supplement them with organic grain that my husband grinds himself and kelp, sea salt, and oyster shell. The rest of my groceries come from the coop and organic store.
My children love eating pizza, lasagna, tacos, steak, mashed potatoes, and all the other things I grew up loving to eat. We just use organic and whole foods. We eat a ton of veggies with a lot of butter, nuts here and there, and meat daily. We have fruit here and there. We do not eat a lot of grains. If we eat any kind of seed (grain), it is soaked or fermented.
We have eggs and toast every morning for breakfast along with a glass of Kombucha. I do supplement my children, husband, and myself with cod liver oil, raw whole food B complex vitamins (the vitamin we all are low in), and probiotics every couple of days. We do not drink pop and we have very limited sweets. The Easter Bunny does bring the best organic chocolate around. But that is a once a year thing.
I also got rid of all household/personal items that contain harmful chemicals. Only natural/toxin free products in this house are used.
People tend to think that organic food tastes different then conventional foods. We have found that to be untrue. In our opinion, they usually taste better. I actually enjoy cooking for others now. I love how they rave about how good the food is. I just smile!
People worry about the price difference. We have no doctor bills and we have no medicines to buy. That is a huge savings that can be applied to the food. Actually, since I make most meals from scratch with no processed food and no longer eat out, the grocery bill/eating out bills are not much different then in our previous life. We also prayed about and then let our health insurance go.
Today: Family Health Situation
What is our health like today? It is amazing. Anna has never been to the doctor for any illness since she was six months old. She is seven years old now. Though she seems to be gluten intolerant and allergic to processed dairy, food colorings, preservatives, and almost all chemicals, she has no problem with raw dairy and can now occasionally have grain products if properly prepared. We did use the GAPS diet with her and that really got her moving quickly in the right direction.
Katherine, within three months of changing our diet, no longer had any symptoms of allergies or diabetes; no more running nose or goop in her eyes. She has never been to the doctor either in seven years for any illness except for this past Easter when she was hospitalized for E-coli poisoning. That is a lesson to me in staying away from feedlot cattle. She recovered more quickly then most children do and I contribute that to our diet. She has no signs of autism for many years.
Laura’s teeth have all straightened out. The orthodontist could not figure out why her jaw had widened and her teeth straightened out without braces. She has not been to the doctor in seven years for any illness. Within a few months of our diet change, she no longer had her compulsive habits.
Elizabeth’s heart value has widened and has kept pace with her growth. Her EKGS are normal now even through puberty. There is barely a trace of her heart murmur. The pediatric heart doctor told us these things do not happen. She was really impressed and wanted to look into our diet. Her teeth are beautiful!
I have my period down to less than seven days and it is regular. My PMS is basically gone. I have not had a canker sore in seven years except when my family was poisoned by aerial spraying this past summer. No cancer cells to be found on me either. I feel better then I ever have.
My husband at 42 has never taken any medication and his blood pressure for his DOT physical was 120/84. The doctor told him he was in excellent shape and whatever he was doing to keep it up. He no longer has pains in the bones he has previously broken. His jaw has not popped out of place once in seven years.
Oh, none of my girls have ever had a cavity in their life and Kurt and I have not had one in our adult/married life.
We will once in a blue moon get a sniffle or stuffed nose but it usually lasts no more then a day. In short, it has been nothing but miraculous! We were blessed to have stumbled upon this path. It has been amazing journey for us. We have learned so much. We have enjoyed watching others who are doing the same things benefit as we have. It still amazes me that restoring our health was as simple as getting the most nourishing foods into us and avoiding as many toxins as possible.
That is our story. It has been one grand adventure. Praise the Lord for He is good!
Here’s Kami from Birth with Confidence:
He did just get into some soaked muffins the other day and I am happy to say I didn’t notice any after “effects” in his diaper…. Also, since my son has been gluten free, my husband and I have also eaten mainly gluten free too. That is mostly because with our small family of 4, only 3 people eating (1 breastfeeding), it’s too much to prepare two different meals. We splurged and bought a loaf of whole grain artisan bread and I hadn’t had bread in such a long time, that I over ate…I ate about 5-6 big pieces throughout the day.
That night…I noticed! My bowels definitely were affected. I never noticed any digestion problems before with gluten but after not having it, then kind of overloading on it, my body definitely noticed. So interesting! But, when I soak or sprout, I do not have that effect. Pretty neat!
Here’s another note from Cara of Health, Home, & Happiness:
For our family, I was making whole wheat bread for a few months before finding the Nourishing Traditions method of soaking in an acid medium. The bread was often dry and/or brick-like. And it “went through” way too fast. Hubby and I don’t get GI troubles from store bought white, but if we eat wheat bread that’s unsoaked, it also “goes through too quick”. I usually soak in yogurt, but I’ve done as suggested with ACV when I didn’t have yogurt or was being completely dairy free for a while, and both work for us.
Here is Cara’s soaked wheat bread recipe if you’re interested.
Sarah from the Healthy Home Economist took her whole family off grains for three days and noticed:
- The kids were noticeably more cooperative with each other.
- Their appetites were ravenous.
- Little things didn’t seem to bother the kids as much.
Read the whole story here.
Wardeh at GNOWFGLINS simply changed the way she prepared grains to include traditional preparations like soaking and sprouting, along with fermented foods and healthy fats. Their results:
- Two family members who were gluten-sensitive can now eat gluten grains, as long as they’re sprouted, fermented, or soaked.
- One family member who was allergic to eggs can now eat pastured eggs on a daily basis.
- One family member who was lactose-intolerance can now eat all our raw goat milk foods.
- One family member who is iron and calcium deficient may be deficient no longer.
The story really is incredible! Read the rest here.
Here’s one more note from Leslie, a reader:
**Catch up on all the soaking grains research so far and my recipes for sourdough preparation and soaked grains, all in one convenient spot.**
Disclosure: I am an affiliate for Amanda Rose’s work, which means I’ll get a commission if you buy her book or paper using the links in this post, but that relationship in no way impacts my decision to include her in my panel of “experts.” See my full disclosure statement here.