bird flu and the civil war

So what does a modern problem like bird flu have to do with Civil War history? During the Civil War, prisoners of war in disease-ridden prisons like Andersonville experienced high death rates. In some prisons, the death rate from smallpox was 90%! But when “soured cabbage” was added to the prisoners’ diets, the death rate from smallpox plummeted to 5%! Now the bird flu connection: I ran across this article this weekend: “U.S. Sauerkraut Sales Soar on Reports it Could Cure Avian Flu.”

Why sauerkraut of all things?

“Your small intestine is home to 60% of your immune system … which largely depends on the more than 400 species of good bacteria which reside there. In the healthy intestine, good bacteria, bad bacteria [the kind that cause disease], and yeast create a kind of balance of power. When the good bacteria is free to do its healthy work – synthesize vitamins, break down toxins, digest fiber, transport nutrients, produce lactase and other enzymes to help digest milk sugars (some research even shows that a shortage of beneficial bacteria is linked to cirrhosis and diabetes) – their presence inhibits the bad bacteria and yeast from growing and spreading.”

Back to sauerkraut. Sauerkraut is a fermented food, and food ferments when bacteria gets into the food and starts to grow. The kind of bacteria that ferments cabbage is one of the good guys in our intestines. Sauerkraut is high in lactic acid, an organic acid that is the most powerful inhibitor of the bad bacteria.

But I notice there is no mention of raw sauerkraut in this article. Make sure the sauerkraut you add to your diet is RAW. Cooking sauerkraut kills the enzymes and microflora which is the source of the health benefit. You can get raw sauerkraut from organic supermarkets such as Wild Oats or Whole Foods. Or you can make your own; there is a recipe in The Fast Track One Day Detox Diet, where the above quote is from. I had to add raw sauerkraut to my diet following the one day juice fast, to boost my beneficial bacteria.

But once you restore the good bacteria to your system, don’t kill them off again. Stay off of antibiotics. This also means no non-organic meat and dairy products, because antibiotics are given to conventionally raised livestock, including dairy cows. When we eat meat and milk from them, we introduce those antibiotics back into our systems.

So the next time your children complain about learning history (which they shouldn’t be doing if you are teaching from Guerber’s histories and living books), you can tell them that you never know when a little knowledge of history will save your life some day.

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