Friday, March 30, 2012

Do NOT let your kids play in the sandboxes!

I've been reading the Stanley Medical Institute research on schizophrenia and toxoplasmosis. This is a well-written news article about the behavior of rats infected by toxoplasma. You may never have heard of "toxo" but recent findings show that it is not a mostly benign parasite as was believed.  And about a quarter of all human beings are infected! There are indications that toxo could be the cause (or at least a cause) of schizophrenia.  Combine this with the fact that toxo reproduces inside our beloved housecats, and that a significant percentage of schizophrenics were exposed to cats in childhood, and it gets pretty scary.  Exposure to cats is not even necessary: toxo oocytes (eggs) are everywhere, in the dirt, the air, even in meat, since the protozoa can infect any mammal (but freezing and cooking kills them).

Toxo oocytes are most abundant in places where cats defecate - like your neighborhood sandbox.

Toxoplasma affects behavior.  In rats, toxoplasmosis causes its hosts to crave the odor of cat urine, causing the rat's virtual suicide by becoming dinner for the feline, where the toxo can finally complete its life cycle.  The parasite acts by forming cysts in the brain, in particular the amygdala, center of fear-related behavior. Is this the reason for the paranoia component of schizophrenia?  Toxo also has the genes encoding two critical enzymes needed to make dopamine, which individuals with schizophrenia are thought to have in excess (Wikipedia has an article titled "Dopamine hypothesis of schizophrenia").  Toxoplasmosis is correlated with higher suicide rates, increased activity, loss of concentration, slower reaction time.  All of these traits help the cats catch infected rats, but what happens to the poor humans who get this infection?  "The effects of T. Gondi on rodents' brains are highly specific", says the research paper.  So, schizophrenia would be the effect of very specific chemical activity, meant for manipulation of rodent behavior, on the human brain. 

Some excerpts from the Stanley paper:

From the abstract:

"Toxoplasma gondii [is] a protozoan parasite that causes toxoplasmosis and is carried by cats and other felines. Until recently, toxoplasmosis was thought to be a problem only for pregnant women who, if they became infected with T. gondii during their pregnancy, risked having the organism cause damage to the growing fetus. This is why pregnant women are advised to not change the litter in the cat litter box. Infection with T. gondii in other adults and children was thought to be either asymptomatic or to cause an influenza-like or mononucleosis-like syndrome. It now seems possible that T. gondii may be associated with schizophrenia and perhaps other psychiatric syndromes."

From the main text: 

"Assuming that cats defecated in a completely random manner, the researchers calculated that each square foot of ground would be burdened with between 9 and 434 infected T. gondii oocysts each year. [...]  Cats, of course, do not defecate randomly but favor specific outdoor spots, meaning that such spots are inevitably burdened with a very large number of oocysts." 

"Children’s play areas and sandboxes are common places for cats to defecate because they can use the area’s loose soil or sand to bury their feces. [...]each sandbox would contain approximately 85 million viable oocysts at any given time."

"As the cat feces dry, the oocysts may become aerosolized. They can thus be inhaled by a person changing cat litter or just walking in an area where cats have defecated."

" Unwashed vegetables from gardens can also carry oocysts. Studies have also shown that cockroaches and flies can carry oocysts from cat feces to fruits and vegetables." 

"In countries like France, which has a high rate of T. gondii-infected individuals, the most important source of transmission is thought to be undercooked meat. [...] The seroprevalence of toxoplasmosis has decreased sharply in the United States and Europe in the past forty years  It has been speculated that this is because of the increased use of frozen meat, since freezing kills the tissue cysts."

"Humans may become infected with T. gondii at any time in life. In immunocompetent individuals, the infection is asymptomatic 90 percent of the time. In the other 10 percent, the "primary infections cause a mild, mononucleosis-like illness with low-grade fever, malaise, headache, and cervical lymphadenopathy."

"It is clearly established that congenital infections with T. gondii, especially early in pregnancy, can produce intracranial calcifications, mental retardation, deafness, seizures, and retinal damage."

" there is evidence that the effects of T. gondii on the brain are highly specific. For example, in experiments in which mice have been infected, the mice may have profound and widespread brain pathology and deficits in motor coordination and sensory deficits, but their cognitive skills remain relatively intact "

"In areas where felines are rare, the prevalence rates of both toxoplasmosis and schizophrenia appear to be low. "

"Antipsychotic medications have been shown to have antiprotozoal activity."


Fermented ketchup. Caveat on sauerkraut.

I'm finally getting around to making fermented ketchup, using this recipe:

Didn't have homemade tomato paste but used my crockpot to boil down 2 bottles of strained tomatoes.  Took a few hours and needed frequent stirring.  But I was in the kichen all day anyway.  Here I am at 11 p.m. finally putting the ingredients together.  Also don't have any whey right now, so I'm using skj (sauerkraut juice) for my starter.  I'm typing while the sea salt dissolves and I'll give it another stir and taste before spooning into the mason jar for fermentation.

Next time I make sauerkraut I'm going to try this recipe:
This page has information you should know about sauerkraut.  It may affect your thyroid, so eat it in moderation. 

UPDATE: Trying to find out more about the goitrogen content of sauerkraut has been quite confusing.  Some sources say lacto-fermentation causes the cabbage to have MORE  goitrogens, others say it suppresses goitrogens.  I'd be grateful for some authoritative info on this.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Homemade Laundry Detergent, First Steps in Juicing

Today I made a batch of laundry soap.  There are many recipes on the web; I used #9 from the site  My first try, a couple of weeks ago, was a fraction of #10 and I found that it required a lot more stirring than expected.  I had chosen that one because it does not involve grating bar soap, but in comparison a little grating would probably take less time!  So #9 looked good to me today.  Until  started grating.  After about 5 minutes DD wisely suggested I try the food processor.  We have a small one that really whizzes stuff up.  It can grind coffee beans and flax seed.  Worked like a charm, the hardest thing to making laundry detergent is now cutting the bar soap into pieces small enough for the Moulinette.  Out of 1 large bar of Marseille soap and a few ends from the bathrooms I obtained 3 cups of grated soap, so I pro-rated the other ingredients: 4 1/2 cups Borax, 3 cups Baking Soda, 3 cups Washing Soda.  Mix well.  I had to run the Borax through a sieve, but the rest was straightforward.  What's great is that I'll only need 1/8 cup per load, so I should get 108 loads from this.

Today I also made fresh apple juice with my juicer.  Our Samson 6-in-1 became part of our household last week.  It juices fruits, vegetables and leaves, including wheatgrass but also makes nut butters, grinds meat, grinds spices, and more.  The apple juice was wonderful, very sweet.  It's not the fastest juicer and everything has to be cut small (apples in 8 wedges) but cleanup is not a problem.  For my first try at juicing, I mixed carrots, coconut, kale, cilantro and beets.   The result was not very popular, I ended up having to drink it all myself.  But the pulp made a very nice spice bread.


About 2 cups pulp from carrots, coconut, beets, greens, etc.
2 bananas
4 eggs
1 cup melted coconut oil
2 cups almond flour
1/2 cup coconut flour
1 Tbs baking soda
1 Tbs honey
1/2 tsp salt
1 Tbs cinnamon
1 tsp allspice
1 tsp nutmeg

Preheat oven to 350F. Grease muffin or loaf pans with coconut oil.

Mash the bananas.  Beat in the eggs, pulp and coconut oil with a wire whisk.  Mix all the other ingredients together separately (or on top of the wet ingredients mixture).  Pour into greased pans.  Bake for 45 minutes.

Saturday, March 10, 2012

A little Kombucha

It's not as hard as I thought!  The actual work is as simple as brewing tea!  It takes only a few minutes, and a few minutes more 15 minutes later, then a couple of minutes an hour later, a few weeks later etc.  And the ingredients are all inexpensive, whereas store-bought Kombucha... not on my budget!

As a GAPSter, I couldn't believe I was buying sugar again!  The sugar is all transformed by fermentation, and although a little remains, Kombucha is allowed in the Full GAPS diet. 

I read several detailed instructions on various websites and came up with this simplified method.  You don't have to make a gallon at a time, just use your largest glass container.  Mine holds 7 cups max, so I make 6 cups to leave some room at the top of the jar. I make three bottles at a time (saved from store-bought Kombucha) but soon I'll divide my SCOBY and not have to wait so long between batches.  SCOBY stands for Symbiotic Culture Of Bacteria and Yeasts.  The Wikipedia article on Kombucha is quite interesting if you want to know more.

So, first and foremost, you have to get a SCOBY, which you can do in several ways: ordering one and growing one from store-bought Kombucha are two.  The way I got mine, I posted on wapf-(mycity) that I was looking for one, and got the added benefit of meeting a nice neighbor.

DO keep your SCOBY, or mother, in a jar with some of the last batch's brew.  Close tight so it doesn't dry out between uses.

DO use plain, real tea.  It can be white, green. or black, decaf or caffeinated, but it can't be "herbal", and it shouldn't be flavored: the SCOBY might not like some flavorings.  Flavors can be added after brewing.

DO use the best water available - filtered or spring.  Chlorine is not good for the SCOBY.

DON'T boil all your water.  Sterilization is not important, and boiling drives all the oxygen out of the water, which is necessary for the fermentation. Plus, boiling only half the water means faster heating up, and faster cooling down.

DO rinse your container with vinegar, as well as your hands if you handle the SCOBY.


6 cups water
3 tea bags
1/3 cup sugar
optional :1/4 to 1 cup of flavoring: ginger, cranberry juice (Just Cranberry), other 100% juices or freshly pressed juice, lemon, lime, etc.

Preparation time: about 5 minutes, + 3 minutes, a half-hour later + 10 minutes, 2 weeks later

1. Bring 3 cups of water to a boil.  Turn off the heat and drop in the tea bags.  Cover.  Infuse for 15 minutes.

2. Stir the sugar into the still hot tea until dissolved.  Pour the tea into your large glass container.  Add the remaining 3 cups of water and allow the brew to cool completely to room temperature.

3. Add the SCOBY and the liquid it was kept in. Close the container using a clean cloth and a rubber band.

4. Put the container in a cupboard to ferment.  Don't put it in the same cupboard as other ferments such as sauerkraut, because the yeasts in the SCOBY may contaminate them.  Brew for 14 to 21 days.

5. When it is ready there will be a wonderful aroma like apples when you open the cupboard door.  When you uncover the container, you'll see the mother will have grown a "baby" - a new layer of the "mushroom".  Pour the Kombucha into bottles with tight-fitting tops, but keep enough brew to cover your SCOBY.  You can add the optional flavoring into these bottles, not the main brew containing the SCOBY.  For example, put a die-sized piece of fresh ginger in the bottle, or a couple of teaspoons of freshly squeezed lime juice.  Or both.  Close tightly, and leave the bottles in the cupboard to ferment for 5 to 10 more days (depending on the temperature inside the cupboard). During this time the Kombucha will get fizzy.   

6.  Start your next batch of Kombucha immediately, or keep the mother in enough brew to cover, in a closed container in the cupboard.  You can separate the layers and make two batches now, or just use the larger mother just like before.

7.  After the 5 to 10 days, store the bottles in the fridge. Serve cold.


Ok, bad one, sorry, couldn't resist.  And I am aware the first syllable in Worcestershire isn't even pronounced "worse."  My DH bought some Lea & Perrins Worcestershire even though sugar is listed as an ingredient, so what else can a faithful wife do but create a GAPS-legal taste-alike?  The thing is, it really is better for your health, so there's more to the name than a bad play on words!

I can't really give you exact amounts because the process involved pouring a bit more vinegar, a bit more honey, tasting, adding more of this or that, and tasting, tasting, tasting.  Using the genuine L&P as my guide of course.  But I can give you (while recording for myself) the list of ingredients, with my educated guess at how much actually went in:


Vinegar (ordinary, not Balsamic which is not GAPS) about 1/4 cup
Coconut Aminos similar quantity
Honey maybe 1 teaspoon
5 cloves garlic. crushed in a garlic press
5 pieces of fresh onion cur into garlic-clove-size pieces and crushed in the garlic press
quite a few drops of Hot Scotch Bonnet sauce
1/4 tsp ground cloves
1/4 tsp allspice
1/4 tsp mustard
1 capsule fermented cod liver oil, contents thereof
1/2 tsp Marmite*

* I'm pretty sure you can omit the Marmite!..  it just sits there on my shelf so I thought this could be a way to use it.   I'm not actually certain it's GAPS-legal.

1.  Mix all ingredients in a small bowl until the honey and the Marmite are dissolved  The FCLO is my substitute for anchovies, one of the L&P ingredients.

2.  Filter out the garlic and onion pulp using a permanent coffee filter.

3.  Taste and add more honey, salt, etc. as desired.  

(4.  Pour the L&P down the drain and refill the bottle with Bettercestershire.)

(5.  Don't tell anyone you did this.)

UPDATE: After going a couple of weeks with this horrid secret between DH and me, I 'fessed up and made him take the taste test.  He was really surprised at how close the Faux stuff  tasted.