Celebrating Vegetables

Today we had the chance to film Dr. Kent Thornburg of the Moore Institute for Nutrition and Wellness at Oregon Health and Science University giving a talk at the 10th annual Portland Vegfest. We were so excited to find a whole festival celebrating vegetables. There are various speakers giving talks to health professionals and the general public, informational booths and cooking demonstrations.


Dr. Thornburg presented his talk about epigenetics and the impacts of maternal health on the lifelong health of the individual. Did you know that birth weight is one of the most important predictors of future heart disease and diabetes risk? This and so much more will be explored further in our upcoming documentary.

In the meantime if you are in the Portland area this weekend the veggie celebration continues September 27-28. All are welcome! The festival states that it supports Portland’s vegan, vegetarian and veg-curious community, and honestly I think we should all be a little more veg-curious. Hope to see you there!



Our Fermentation Experiment

Thus far our film journey has led us to many different food movements. One of these is the bubbling interest in lacto-fermentation (pun intended). We have some experience as we are both avid home yogurters, but we thought it would be fun to try fermenting in one of its other forms. While fermenting beer would be fun, we decided fermented vegetables were probably a little more appropriate to our mission. When I saw all of our mason jars laid out and ready for the veggies I was a little intimidated with thoughts of  the thorough sanitizing and precision required in canning. But, this was so easy! The whole point of fermentation is allowing the bacteria to grow so being ultra sanitary is not required. We scoured blogs for the best recipe and ended up taking advice from several. Some of those that we consulted were Daily Bites and Economies of Kale.

Fermentation1 Fermentation2

The basic process entails choosing some fresh organic vegetables, cleaning some mason jars and lids and getting a hold of some sea salt. After rinsing and chopping the vegetables we then scooped 1 tablespoon of sea salt into each jar and mixed it with ½ cup of filtered water. Next, we loaded up the jars with the vegetables and then filled them with more water to completely cover the vegetables. You can also at this point add other flavorings such as fresh herbs and garlic. Finally we took a cabbage leaf and completely tucked it around the top of the vegetables as a type of lid. This cabbage topper should also be submerged by water. Some of the blogs we found talked about using a weight to keep the vegetables submerged, but using a cabbage leaf seemed the most simple to us. The jars will now sit for 5-7 days with both their cabbage and tin lids screwed on tightly in a dark and dry place.

Fermentation3 Fermentation4

The idea behind fermentation is that there are bacteria that occur naturally on the surface of the vegetables. By letting them sit in this salty brine for several days we allow the “good” bacteria to proliferate and also limit the growth of the organisms that would be less desirable to eat. This is also why it is vital that all vegetable matter is fully submersed in the brine. As the bacteria proliferate and digest some of the vegetable matter they produce gases. Thus, we hope to see some bubbling in our jars and will need to “burp” the jars once daily by briefly opening the lid to let the gas out. Some recipes we found suggest supplementing the naturally occurring bacteria by adding yogurt whey or kefir grains to the brine but we decided to keep it as simple as possible for our maiden voyage into the world of vegetable fermentation. If all goes well it will be fun to experiment with different cultures and flavor additions in the future.


So why ferment your foods? Lacto-fermentation, while newly reinvigorated, is something that has taken place in many cultures for a long time, for example in the form of kombucha, kimchi or sauerkraut. There are many benefits to eating fermented foods and they are something that we don’t eat much of in our modern, germaphobic culture. Not only do fermented foods provide lots of probiotics to keep our microbiome healthy (see my previous post for more on the importance of this) but they also help to break down and make the foods we are eating more easily digestible and the nutrients more readily available.

Stay tuned for how our experiment turns out!

What is the Microbiome?

I have really been enjoying listening to the Evolution of Medicine Summit that I posted about last week, and hope you have been too! One theme that seemed to be repeated throughout every talk that I listened to was this of the microbiome. This is a relatively new term used to describe the complex community of microorganisms that live in and on us. Until recently “germ” or “bacteria” were always something to kill, but we are only now starting to realize the symbiotic and critical relationship that we actually have with all these microorganisms. In fact our own cells are outnumbered 10:1 by microorganisms in our own bodies. We really are just a vessel for this micro-ecology.


Scientists are finding that changes and disruptions to this microbiome are related to many aspects of our health from diabetes, obesity, and autoimmune disease to anxiety. Much of our modern lifestyle is affecting this ecology including the way we are born, antibiotics we take to treat illness and feed our livestock and the way we are feeding ourselves. For example, studies have found that being born by Cesarean section, which 1/3 of Americans are, profoundly affects the types of bacteria that we are colonized with since we are not exposed to those in our mother’s birth canal. This difference in colonization is proving to have vast influences on our lifelong health. Some of the good news is that we can alter this microbiome also for the better just by changing what we eat. One recent study found that after only one day of a different diet the microbiome of the research subjects had changed. I love when I find great examples of food as medicine! I am sure we will be seeing much more on this research to come. Some predict that really understanding this microbiome in all its diversity and genetic makeup is the next frontier for human exploration.

To see more on the human microbiome watch this short animated movie from NPR. I think it does a great job of explaining the basic concepts. If you want even more I recommend the book Missing Microbes by Martin Blaser and also check out the human microbiome project.

Meet the Makers of Food As Medicine

This week we wanted to give you a little more of our story and some of our motivation in pursuing this project. After reading our stories we are hoping also to inspire others who have been using food to heal illness to come forward and share their stories with us.

While working on the last documentary project, Time As Money: A Documentary Film About Time Banking, Director, Lenore Eklund, began experiencing symptoms of Crohn’s Disease, an autoimmune disease she was diagnosed with in 2000. Lenore had felt empowered being prescription-free since 2005, but was now facing uncontrolled symptoms and a 6-month waiting period to have a colonoscopy; She was feeling desperate and helpless.

On a chance Internet search, Lenore’s husband came across a video of a man pleading for all Crohn’s suffers to try the Specific Carbohydrate Diet, a diet that eliminates grains, soy, potatoes, corn, and sugar. Lenore began a new way of eating resulting in no more symptoms and nothing to report on the colonoscopy results that happened 6 months later.


I also was feeling frustrated with a lack of empowerment to control my health as I struggled with Ulcerative Colitis. Similar to Crohn’s, Ulcerative Colitis is an autoimmune disorder mainly affecting the large intestine. Facing the decision about whether to step up to stronger medications I decided to look for alternatives. After coming across the book “Breaking the Vicious Cycle,” which introduces the Specific Carbohydrate Diet I committed myself to a food-based approach. Now 6 months in I find my symptoms much improved, and while not completely healed yet, I am hopeful and grateful to have control of my health back.


This approach is not without its pain, suffering and frustrations. The decision to make radical diet changes takes a lot of support. We were elated when we discovered a local support group for those addressing their Crohn’s and Colitis through the Specific Carbohydrate Diet. It was here that we met. How great to have a friend who not only understands my disease but also the intricacies of my diet restrictions, for example why I can eat honey but not table sugar!

The diet has been a journey of health independence and support. Many people are turning to food to heal various illnesses and disease ranging from diabetes to colitis and insomnia. Making the decision to heal using food can be a challenge, including loss of convenience, lifestyle change, and deviation from conventional medicine. As we’ve started to become immersed in this project we have been excited by the network of health professionals, business owners and patients who are advocating for nutrition-based approaches to health.

If you are beginning to heal through food, live in the Portland, Oregon area, and would like to be an inspiration to others through your experience, please contact us at: thisasthat@gmail.com