At the risk of over-sharing, I’m someone who struggles with chronic constipation related to irritable bowel syndrome. It seems to be a common ailment for women in their middle years. U.S. studies estimate about 75 per cent of sufferers in that country are women, and most are aged 30 to 50.
Yet I’ve never taken medication for it, preferring to go the natural route. Thus I’ve become a fan of probiotics, those micro-organisms touted to be miracles for digestion.
I’ve written about Snyder previously, being a fan of her green smoothie, and was therefore open to hearing about her sauerkraut solution.
I must admit I’ve never been drawn to the food: How good can something taste that translates as “sour cabbage”? But according to Snyder, raw sauerkraut, which she’s adapted in a version she calls Probiotic and Enzyme Salad, helps digestion and elimination, aids in detoxifying and losing weight, and with the reduction in toxins, even energizes and helps improve skin and hair. After reading that, I decided to give the lowly cabbage a try. So, a couple of weeks ago I made Snyder’s recipe, which I’ve adapted below:
Probiotic and enzyme salad (raw sauerkraut)
You’ll need four 24-ounce (710 ml) or three 32-ounce (946 ml) sterilized glass jars.
1 medium green cabbage, shredded
6 large whole outer cabbage leaves
4 cups (1000 ml) water
4 inches (2 cm) gingerroot, peeled and grated
1 tbsp (15 ml) unpasteurized miso paste
Place the shredded cabbage in a large mixing bowl (using a food processor for shredding is highly recommended). Use a blender to blend the liquid brine mixture until smooth, and pour over cabbage. Mix very well. Use a wooden spoon to pack the mixture tightly into the glass jars. Leave two inches (5 cm) at the top of the jars so the salad has room to expand. Fold the outer cabbage leaves into very tight rolls. Place a few rolls on top of the mixture in each jar to fill the two-inch space. Close tightly.
Leave jars for five days at room temperature. Then, remove the top cabbage leaves and discard. Put jars into the fridge (which slows down fermentation). Bubbling is a good sign that the probiotics are active. Once the seal has been broken on each jar the salad will keep in the fridge for up to a month.
If you don’t want to go the DIY route, you could also try raw sauerkraut from a health food store. (Snyder cautions against most supermarket brands as they’re high in sodium and the probiotics have been removed through pasteurization.)
While the sauerkraut isn’t difficult to make, I did find it a chore due to the chopping. Note to self: get a food processor…
At first I found the salad disappointingly bland. My initial thought was that Snyder’s recipe needed more moisture, gingerroot and wasabi paste. Then, in writing this, I realized the chef I need to criticize is me. Snyder’s recipe calls for miso paste, not wasabi paste (d’oh!). (I’ve listed the correct ingredients above.)
However, after a couple of weeks of storage in the fridge, the sauerkraut, even with its misfit ingredient, is moister and tangier. Raw cabbage apparently has probiotic properties on its own, so even without the miso, my “off” recipe should still have medicinal benefits.
As for any physical improvements, the jury is still out. Snyder recommends eating at least a half cup every day at dinner, and at lunch, too, if possible. I admit I’ve been doing only once a day and have skipped days as well.
In the first week I was frustrated to actually feel more bloated than usual. However, I went back to Snyder’s book and read that she claims the salad attacks toxic sludge and loosens hard fecal matter (how’s that for a visual…) As a result of this detoxification process, Snyder says it’s normal to temporarily feel more bloated.
I’m happy to report the bloating has improved. But my hair still isn’t Pantene-commercial material and my skin is about the same as it was before the cabbage cure.
Is sauerkraut a miracle health and beauty food? I don’t know about that, but I’m going to stick with it until my jars are done and eat them as Snyder prescribes.
And if the bloating and other joys of IBS continue to improve, I’m going to get chopping again…with all the right ingredients this time.