I used to be skeptical of this list…or at least I’d chuckle to myself that these habits were odd and probably not effective. However, as a mom who is engaged in my family’s health, and a woman who faced the threat of thyroid cancer and the diagnosis of an autoimmune disease, I chose to re-evaluate my own habits and consider the possibility that I could do a better job managing my health. Here are some seemingly “odd” habits that are actually good for you. I hope that you learn something new and might consider giving some of these a try. Let’s jump in!
Bone broth can easily be made by cooking the bones from a chicken or turkey. First, bake the “bird” in a crockpot or oven, depending on the size. (I put a frozen chicken in my crockpot and cook on low for 10 hours –no need to add water if it is frozen.) After pulling the cooked meat off of the bones, place them in a separate crockpot, fill the pot with water, add some vegetable scraps, pepper, a bay leaf, and cook on low for at least 24 hours. Then, pour it through a mesh strainer and store in the refrigerator for a week, or the freezer for a longer period of time.
You can use bone broth in soups, to make rice/quinoa/whole grain pasta, or you can just drink it plain. (I like to mix in a little chicken broth to enhance the taste and I recommend drinking it hot.)
The lengthy cooking process extracts essential nutrients from the bones, which results in a broth that is high in collagen, amino acids (the building blocks of protein), minerals and electrolytes.
These nutrients have a tremendous impact on strengthening bones, muscles, and joints as well as reducing inflammation and fighting osteoporosis.
Gut health is enhanced because the nutrients help to form a solid barrier in the intestines, aiding in repair, boosting digestion, and protecting against ulcers.
Other health benefits include: boosting the immune system, maintaining normal blood sugar and cholesterol levels, heart protection, boosting energy, protecting eye, brain, and kidney health, and enhancing mood and sleep.
Bone broth is an inexpensive, yet broadly effective way to stay healthy! It really isn’t that “freakish” or trendy, as bone broth has been around for over 2500 years.
The gut “microbiome,” AKA the unique bacterial environment in your body, is linked to many of the body’s systems and functions. Many professionals estimate that the gut: is home to two-thirds of the immune system, manufactures 80% of the feel-good neurotransmitter serotonin, and produces many other hormones (including thyroid and sex hormones). When the gut is out of balance (bad guys overpowering good guys), one will have problems with: digestion, frequent illnesses, autoimmune disease, weight gain, skin issues, brain functioning (neurological, cognition, mood), liver functioning, and hormone imbalances. And this is just what we know today. Research in this area is exploding and has only begun to scratch the surface.
While the use of probiotics has become a mainstream practice, there are some things you must know. These “good guys” are live bacteria and yeasts that protect the intestinal tract from dangerous organisms, toxins, and inflammation.
I am NOT referring to the commercial “probiotic yogurts” advertised on television that have little, if any, live cultures, and contain more sugar than anything beneficial. Instead, I am referring to supplements and fermented foods.
Supplements vary in their quality. If you choose to take them, make sure you are purchasing a reputable brand.
Probiotic capsules have 2 important pieces of information on the bottle:
1.) The number of live, active cultures guaranteed at the time of manufacture. This number ranges from thousands to billions, and will be lower by the time it reaches your home.
2.) The specific strains of beneficial bacteria included. As a rule, I buy capsules for my family from a reputable company that contain the largest variety of strains (5-6).
Major DOWNSIDES to probiotic supplements are: they may not be able to survive the harsh acidic environment in the stomach; they don’t have an immediate effect on repopulating the good guys; and they have limited strain variety and potency.
Fermented and cultured foods are an even more effective way to introduce probiotics. You can find them in the refrigerated section of health food stores – sauerkraut, kimchi, kefir (not the commercial kind with lots of sugar), kombucha tea, or you can make them yourself using a good culture starter kit. If you are interested in learning more about fermenting your own foods, Summer Bock is THE guru.
Fermented foods contain vastly more active cultures and varied strains than capsules AND their nature allows them to effectively navigate the digestive system. They contain protective mechanisms that help them survive the stomach environment, and have an immediate impact on the gut microbiome. They also contain prebiotics, which feed the good bacteria and keep them growing. A little bit goes a long way…gradually work up to just one forkful per meal or 4 ounces of kefir/day.
A quick word about kombucha tea: it contains yeasts, so if you struggle with candida overgrowth, this may not be a good option for you. Some people report gas/bloating/heartburn after drinking it, which can mean that their systems don’t tolerate it well. If this happens to you, either reduce the amount or frequency you drink (4 oz a few times a week is plenty), or switch to another fermented food.
My own experience with fermented foods has been gradual; it takes time to get accustomed to the sour taste. Honestly, my family refuses to try them, which is why I give them supplements. The good news is that you only need small quantities of fermented foods AND the taste helps to combat sugar cravings.
Whether you choose supplements of fermented foods, is it necessary to keep taking them? Can’t we just take them once and be done? Unfortunately, there are many things that we consume, both willingly and unwillingly, that kill off probiotics: sugar, processed foods, tap water, prescription antibiotics, NSAIDs and other medications. Even stress can impact your microbiome! Alas, we must keep adding in the good guys to try to stay balanced.
Like bone broth, fermented foods have been around for a very long time. We have we tried to bottle these benefits, with some success, but nothing can fully replace the “real food” option.
Stay tuned for more “odd” habits in this series and feel free to post a question or comment below!