Health Benefits of Fermented Foods – Karen Nel

Testimony from Karen Nel “How Banting and fermented foods saved my life.”

Freedom after a 50-year long walk of pain and suffering
This testimony, recently received from Karen Nel, one of RMR’s members and a client of Careen Visagie RD(SA), her wellness coach, relates a heart-wrenching story of a beautiful person who is only recently emerging from a lifetime of pain and suffering. The good news is that fermented foods and drinks (Kefir and Kombucha), combined with a nurturing journey to rid her body and mind of her deeply entrenched addiction to carbs, has now brought Karen to a better place, both in mind and in health.

Karen’s story starts 50 years ago with traumas that affected her relationship with her parents, in particular, her father. Growing up in Richards Bay, KwaZulu-Natal, Karen fell into the habit of overeating, especially comfort foods based on wheat and dairy products containing high sugars. “I loved bread, pasta, rusks, and most of all sweets and more sweets; take-away food became a new lifestyle.” Searching for her identity and a career to follow, she also found herself “living on the wrong side” of her introverted personality.

Moving to Pretoria, Karen eventually became a Pastel Technical Specialist. “I was not happy working with people, and wanted to explore the deeper things of a Windows computer. I was still looking to find myself somewhere.” Unfortunately for Karen, her health and food environment were also deteriorating, not always in ways she recognised. Living in an old house, she became desperately ill with allergies and pneumonia, eventually diagnosed as being the result of an allergic reaction to mould. Increased stress was also accompanied by increased medication, treating symptoms, but not curing underlying causes.

Worse was to come. After trying “at least nine different diets,” in 1995, Karen was diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder, resulting in yet more medication over the next seven years.  “By the time I stopped in January 2003, I was on 1250mg Camcolit (Lithium) and 500g Eglonyl a day, not a week, and I was ballooning extremely due to the cravings of food this medication gives you for wheat and more and more sugars.”

Around Christmas in 2002, Karen began to get severe headaches: “I was near a stroke with a blood pressure of 230/140, pulse rate of 180 strokes per minute with cholesterol on 12.” Her doctor put her on the O-type blood group eating plan for ten months (eliminating wheat, pork, and dairy), and her health began to improve. She lost 30kg, her depression, and Bipolar Disorder disappeared, and she reduced her medication to zero over three months. By a process of elimination, it was deduced that pork may have been the culprit by interrupting the action of serotonin in the brain.

Unfortunately for Karen, years of toxic medication had caused damage to her intestines. Further, Karen’s carbohydrate intake was not restricted in her diet, and this led to increasing obesity and gut health problems. Over the next twelve years, Karen was admitted to hospital for an emergency hysterectomy operation, two hernia operations, Candida and fungal infections, and finally, a severe case of Helicobacter Pylori (a bacterial infection, once thought to be a stomach ulcer caused by stress). Crazily, part of the detox regimen was to reintroduce wheat and dairy into her diet. In Karen’s words: “Every time I brought those back, havoc started and the acid and infections started all over again, and so I went to detox this thing at least six times in the next few years with the same medication that I got prescribed from my GPs, and with the same agony when bringing back the wheat and dairy.”

One day in 2015, Karen heard on the news that Prof Noakes was being summoned to a hearing “for something he said to someone on Twitter about high fat for children. I went on google and found out about Banting, and then my sister bought us the Red Real Meal Revolution book, and there I started getting answers.  These were the first baby steps on my road to healing.”

Two passages in the Real Meal Revolution caught Karen’s attention. On p. 38, Digestive Conditions, 1st Paragraph: “We have roughly 500 identified strains of bacteria in our digestive tracts, and more “bugs” than cells in our bodies – over three trillion in fact.  These are crucial to highly digestive function.  Without enough healthy bacteria in our digestive tracts, immunity and general health is severely impaired.  A high-carb diet together with stress, environmental pollutants, medications, antibiotics and infections can kill off significant colonies of bacteria, leaving the host vulnerable to yeasts and pathogens that feed on high-carbohydrate foods, and their by-products and waste cause untold misery to the host.”

And on p. 40, Food Allergies / Sensitivities, 1st Paragraph: “A food allergy would result in anaphylactic shock, and if not treated, death, whereas food sensitivity elicits symptoms of pain, inflammation, digestive discomfort, insomnia, rashes and chronic illnesses such as sinusitis, arthritis, headaches, and asthma.  These usually disappear when the offending food is eliminated.”

While Real Meal was pointing Karen in the right direction, she was not yet out of the woods. “Then my sister and I discovered the Pretoria Banting Market that was hosted and founded by Karin Loots.  The market runs every first Saturday at the Pretoria Botanical Gardens. I was following the Banting diet, but I was used to the Pyramid way of eating with six meals a day, and I really battled to fit the Banting in there.  I was lost and desperate. Ialso knew there was something missing. That’s when (April 2016) Karin took me to Careen Visagie’s stall where she sells home-brewed Kombucha & Milk Kefir. But more importantly, Careen is a Wellness Coach and Nutrition Consultant and yes, she really did an excellent job saving my life.”

Careen’s process for helping Karen overcome her metabolic disease was a long and gradual journey, aimed mostly at tackling the burden on Karen’s liver, but also on restoring her gut health. “Careen started me with the Kombucha (100ml a day) and Moringa Greens to support the detox and cleansing of my liver; and Chicken Bone Broth for extra nourishment and to soothe my stomach and bowels, and she helped me to slow down with how I proceeded with the diet.  I was still very used to the diet for the Helicobacter Pylori.  She said I had to keep the fat lower at the start because it was making me nauseous, and then she helped me to gradually remove the basmati rice and rolled oats but still having small amounts of butternut, pumpkin, and sweet potato, and some pawpaw and apple.  I was able to gradually reduce the carb intake, and increase the fat intake with only olive oil, ghee and animal fat.  I could not handle the dairy fat, avocado, and coconut. She allowed me very little brown sugar instead of Xylitol, as I could not tolerate the Xylitol at that stage, the brown sugar did not give any reaction.  She tried to bring in the Milk Kefir, and I could not handle the taste and mix it with double cream yogurt, but soon I got sick again from dairy allergies, so we stopped the Milk Kefir all together but increased the Kombucha.

“A month later I tried the Milk Kefir alone, without any dairy at all, just a little added cinnamon to make it taste better, and it worked.  After two months of detoxing, my liver was cleared and became normal and believe it or not, my gall-bladder was cleared and is working properly, and I believe both are healed, no need for another operation.  All my organs are in good working condition now, thanks to the excellent qualities of the Kombucha and Milk Kefir and avoiding the bad carbs. The best news Careen ever gave me was that I don’t have to eat any grain carbs again for my gut.  Partly because it makes me sick, but she also explained:
The healthy bacteria from the Kombucha and Milk Kefir, and good real food, especially a good vegetable intake, are sufficient to keep my gut healthy.

“Careen also helped me tremendously with the other issues in my life like my ‘personality’ crisis.  As an NBI practitioner, she used my original brain profile to help me understand my thinking preferences and how there is no right or wrong when it comes to the brain profile.  She helped me understand that I have skills where my thinking preferences are low. This holistic approach helped me to get healed.”

Changes that Occurred after 5 Months on this Program

  • I have lost in general approximately 70% of the symptoms of acid, bloatedness.
  • I have lost 100% of the constipation problem and do not have IBS anymore.
  • I have started losing weight – something that was difficult before.
  • My skin’s irritation was healed 80%, I no longer have to use gloves when working with chemicals like Handy Andy, it does not affect me any more besides the normal dry out problem.
  • I can have small quantities of Full Cream Milk every day in my tea.
  • I can leave the brown sugar now and use some Xylitol.
  • I can eat Cauliflower, Broccoli, Cabbage, Onions without a bloating problem and the Cauliflower and Broccoli gives me the same fullness of what a carb like rice can give you. Eg. I will eat Cauli-mash instead of Potato mash, and my body will think you give it a carb.
  • My emotional state is more stable and can start seeing the reason for my being on earth.

Karen’s diet, based on fermented foods

My daily intake for the Milk Kefir is minimum 400ml a day (250ml first thing in the morning, and more around 14:00), and I take between 500ml and 1 litre of Kombucha a day (250ml first thing after the Milk Kefir in the morning, and the rest after each meal, snack or if I have had milk and caffeine). Careen has guided me with three meals a day and allows me one snack a day. I am working towards two meals a day with no snacking, but am still battling to achieve this goal.

A Word from Careen Visagie RD (SA), Wellness Coach & Nutrition Consultant

“I had the pleasure of supporting Karen on her journey.  Her story is one through which I gained much more insight into the possible role of fermented drinks, and it is yet another affirmation of the positive impact, a combination of a sufficient intake of healthy fats and a reduced intake of carbohydrates from mostly vegetables, with a small amount of protein, can make to the health and well-being of an individual. I am confident that the nutrition prescription I gave her, helped her to optimise her nutrition intake and improved her health. Karen’s courage and determination to find answers and solutions to her specific challenges is an inspiration to me, and I hope it could give inspiration and hope to others who might find themselves I similar situations.”

Karen’s closing thought

“I would like to leave this thought to anyone who reads this article.  I had to realise that my body and soul were not a Pastel data program that someone messed up and that I could just quickly do Data-fixing on in a few minutes and ‘finish en klaar.’  Nothing could fix my body in a few minutes that I messed up over years.   It was a long road I needed to walk to get freedom and healing from my own sin.  Madiba said the truest words ever – ‘it is a long, long road to freedom …’ I found hope, so can you.”

From the valuable feedback we have received from successful Banters such as Karen, over the past three years since The Real Meal Revolution was first published, we have created a phased approach to Banting, which places special emphasis on healing the gut, called Banting 2.0.

To take back control of your health, just like Karen did, we recommend our Online Program as the best place to start, which is based around Banting 2.0.