My hometown is waking up…to the microbiome

This post is dedicated to the new fermenters along the lakeshore of beautiful West Michigan. Great job to the students from my White Lake Area Community Education classes, Nourishing the Lakeshore, Fermenting the Lakeshore held at Unity of Muskegon and health conscious shoppers at Sweetwater Local Organic Foods Market.

cindy feister peer

What is the microbiome? Very simply, it refers to the fact that 99% of the DNA in our bodies is not our own; it belongs to micro-organisms. And if you’re eating nutrient dense foods, little to no sugar and fermented foods everyday, you’ll have “good” microbes that will treat you, their host, to health and wellness. Fast foods, lots of sugar and processed carbs feed pathogenic “bad” microbes and WILL lead to illness as well as extra pounds.

A little history…In the 1990’s, the Human Genome Project, the biggest project ever undertaken in biology, focused on decoding human genetic information (Holt, 2008). There was hope to find the genetic cause and cure for every disease that affects humanity. What was discovered by 2003 was that every animal species shares the majority of genes, but that the expression of the genes can come in a multitude of ways depending on something called the epigenome. The epigenome in influenced by what we are exposed to in our lifestyle. While the genome can be likened to the hardware in a computer, the epigenome is similar to the software, which tells the hardware what to do. But there turned out to be another missing link.

Ultimately, by 2008, the Human Microbiome Project began where we realized that part of the reason a stalk of corn has more genes (32,000) than a human (25-30,000) is the fact that we are hosts to an estimated 100 trillion bacteria. These bacteria work in concert with our genes to run our bodies.

NPR has an animated yet thorough introduction to this new knowledge. It is about 5 minutes long and I strongly encourage you watch it:

This research is in its very early stages. Yet if we look at the research of civilizations that did not live like we do, traditional peoples (like those found by Dr. Weston A Price), we see EVERY one of these healthy groups ate fermented foods. And they ate no processed foods whatsoever. When we learn to ferment and return to traditional eating, we, too, can experience the radiant health that is our birthright.

Today, our microbiomes are compromised all sorts of ways. Besides the losses during infancy addressed in the video above, our balance of good to “pathogenic” bacteria shifts with antibiotic use, toxins in our air, water and food, long term use of prescriptions and birth control pills as well as radiation. Without these beneficial “little critters” as I like to call them, we can’t digest and absorb nutrients to build healthy cells and this leads to nutritional deficiencies.

When we have an abundance of bad bacteria from eating processed food and drinking sodas, the “food” we eat gets broken down into toxic compounds which get absorbed into the bloodstream. From there they go to wherever we have a vulnerable area like our joints (i.e. arthritis), brain (i.e. fog, ADHD), skin (i.e. eczema, rash, acne) and our vital organs like our heart. These same bad little guys can damage the lining of our intestine and cause it to become inflamed and permeable (leaky gut), which leads to food intolerances and allergies. When this happens, we no longer are getting nutrients to build us up but instead get toxins that make us sick. And because 85% of our immune system is in our gut microbiome, if we don’t have good gut flora, our immune system goes haywire. No wonder so many people are unwell and overweight.

When people return to traditional ways, including fermenting, eating organic produce, consuming grass fed and wild animals and cutting out processed “foods”, their microbiomes can heal and do the work necessary to help return to wellness. For many, supplementing with probiotics is a sensible choice while they transition to more traditional ways. If this is something you choose to do, please make sure the product you use has integrity.

Lexi Larabee Photography

Lexi Larabee Photography

Wishing you real food for real health so you can be real happy.




My hometown is waking up…are You?

Muskegon pic little louRegaining Our Health part 1

This journey helping others regain wellness is an exciting one. From the “Natural Mommy”s building their childrens’ innate immune systems, to the monthly Nourishing the Lakeshore (Century Club) and Let’s Talk Wellness meetings (Unity of Muskegon) to the clients eager to reduce their medications due to side effects, to those who just want to eat better shopping at Sweetwater, we are waking up. People in and around Muskegon are learning that what they put in their mouth and on their body affects how they feel. And then there are the fermenting classes and Fermenting the Lakeshore group, but we’ll talk about that next time.

New people approach me every week asking what they can do. Everyone knows someone, often themselves, with aches and pains or a diagnosis of an auto immune disorder. So many have GERD or other digestive problems, achy joints (aka digestive problems), hair loss, mood issues and weight gain (especially around the middle). How about you?

The imperative here is self-EDUCATION.

The answer to these issues is complicated and yet very simple. Healing boils down to reducing our toxic exposure and increasing our intake of nutrients to build strong bodies/immune systems. However, with so much profit driven mis-information out there, figuring out what to do is confusing.

Let’s look at our food. Our supply has gone toxic – from GMO seeds (i.e. corn, soy, sugar beets, canola, zucchini) to pesticides used on those seeds, to the harmful processing of our milk and animal products, to the over-hybridized wheat which is making everyone gluten sensitive. And don’t even get me started on excitotoxins like MSG, aspartame, and splenda that give people the impression diet sodas help them lose weight (when the reverse is true).

Personal care products
are filled with carcinogens and toxins. We can’t quantify yet how much they contribute to obesity and illness. Then add chemical cleaning products and air fresheners and our personal toxic load goes over the edge into illness.
Fire at Pere Marquette

What’s the answer? Clean up – your personal care regimen,  your cleaning supply closet(vinegar is great), and any other product you use at home, work or in your car.

Another step, of course, is getting safe, clean, nutrient dense foods to build your body. Yes, you are what you eat, and this is serious. Your source for dietary information must be objective and without a motive for profit (the USDA has a goal to sell agricultural goods – remember this). I have helpful articles and recipes on my site that I use to educate people back to the radiant health that is their birthright. If you haven’t already, I encourage you to work your way through the articles on my START HERE page with links to other researched pages I trust.

We will talk soon about the gut microbiome – part 2 of Regaining Our Health

Wishing you real food for real health so you can be real happy.




Chemical Calories for Your Skin??

What's in your face cream?


Did I get your attention? Good – because what you put on your body deserves as much attention as what you put in your mouth. The Food and Drug Administration monitors what we ingest through our mouth, but they haven’t yet accepted the fact that our skin soaks in chemicals and toxins, too.

While we don’t know for sure, many have suggested that through our skin, the body’s largest organ, we soak in calories from the products we use on our face and body. A recent study by researchers from the Children’s Environmental Health Center at New York’s Mount Sinai Medical Center identified an association between exposure to phthalates (found in personal care products, among other things) and obesity in young children – including increased body mass index (BMI) and waist circumference.

It is impossible to totally avoid the synthetic chemicals we breathe and those we come in contact with in public. But we can minimize our toxic load by paying close attention when selecting products for our faces, hair and bodies, as well as our homes and yards.

Most people want to trust that if a product is on the market it must be safe. Along the same line of thinking is the idea that our skin is a barrier that can protect us from harmful substances. Neither of these assumptions is correct. Unsafe compounds are being used and they are soaking in. And the efficacy of a product does not have to be proven so advertising can claim just about anything with regard to how it will make your skin and hair feel and look.

The regulatory authority’s stance in this country is that chemicals are safe until proven harmful. Eighty-nine percent of all ingredients in cosmetics have not been evaluated for safety by any publicly accountable institution. Sounds like we’ve been relegated to guinea pig status to me. By themselves, many of the compounds in personal care products have been identified as irritants, toxins, mutagens (damage DNA), terratogens (birth defects) and potential carcinogens (I think you know what that means) . We may be told the amounts are so small there’s no way they can harm us, but how many products are we using? What is the effect of mixtures of different compounds in the same products – or mixed with ingredients from other products? No one knows.

We have all the environmental toxins we’re dealing with, then we use small amounts of several personal care products, with unknown long-term effects and unknown synergistic effects. Scary.

What can we do? Read labels on everything that touches your skin and hair. Buy only products that are natural (vs. synthetic) and organic. Every dollar is a vote in a sense. Can you pronounce every ingredient? Is it a chemical name (dimethicone, sodium laureth sulfate, PEG-50 Almond Glyceride) or is it something you understand (like organic aloe vera and organic shea butter)? Is the word “fragrance” on the label? What exactly is in that?

Does the product have colorings? Are you aware of how many food colorings were once listed as safe but then removed from that list after they were found to cause cancer, behavior problems and other issues? At least 18. This is after we were eating them for years.

Parabens have for decades been used as an acceptable and safe preservative. Why then are many products coming out touting the fact they are “paraben-free”? Did you know methyl paraben is a xenoestrogen and has been found in 90% of breast cancer tumors tested?

There are products with integrity out there. The coconut oil I encourage people to consume everyday is a wonderful, pure, low cost moisturizer for skin and hair. Yes, it’s a bit greasy and can get on your clothes. During the summer, though, it’s great for bare legs and arms. I don’t recommend it for your face at all if you’re prone to oily skin. I choose to use Brittanie’s Thyme for my face, which is made in lovely Cedar Springs, Michigan. Their products are certified to food standards, so they can be eaten (and are safe).

Other organic brands are coming onto the market all the time (some wonderful, some deceptive). You can find recipes online to make your own. Do your homework, get used to reading labels, maybe switch one product a month. Please be aware. We’ve got to watch out for ourselves – and each other.

Until next time…wishing you Real Food (even for your skin) for Real Health so you can be Real Happy.