Q & A: February 27, 2011

Every Sunday, I answer your questions. I’ll answer as many questions as I can each week.

"Yes! Even Goggle Hasn't All The Answers"

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I am on vacation today so I’m only answering a couple questions this week. Look for more next week.

Question: Is Goji Powder Safe?

is it goji powder safe?

— Timothy


For those who don’t know what goji powder is, it’s made from dehydrated goji berries.

Goji berries, also known as wolfberries, are a nutrient-rich berry typically imported from China.

There’s a lot of hype about goji berries these days, and as a result, goji juice and goji powder is very expensive.

I found this article on the Chet Day website, which questions how good it is for you.

The article also states:

“Every indication is that goji is safe to drink in moderation. However, there is one exception to that rule. Like some other natural products, it may have anti-coagulant activity. While this is generally desirable, it could lead to a dangerous situation for anyone who is taking the prescription medication Warfarin (coumadin). One should therefore be careful about taking the two together, as this could lead to dangerous episodes of bleeding (Lam 2001).”

It also should be noted that the goji berry is in the nightshade family. See: Nightshade Vegetables may Cause Adverse Reactions in Some People. If you are sensitive to nightshade vegetables, you should avoid goji berries.

There are also some issues with pesticide usage. According to the Wikipedia page:

Organochlorine pesticides are conventionally used in commercial wolfberry cultivation to mitigate destruction of the delicate berries by insects. Since the early 21st century, high levels of insecticide residues (including fenvalerate, cypermethrin, and acetamiprid) and fungicide residues (such as triadimenol and isoprothiolane), have been detected by the United States Food and Drug Administration in some imported wolfberries and wolfberry products of Chinese origin, leading to the seizure of these products.
China’s Green Food Standard, administered by the Chinese Ministry of Agriculture’s China Green Food Development Center, does permit some amount of pesticide and herbicide use. Agriculture in the Tibetan plateau (where many “Himalayan” or “Tibetan”-branded berries originate) conventionally uses fertilizers and pesticides, making organic claims for berries originating here dubious.

If you’re going to consume goji berries or goji powder, you would want to find out for sure if they are organic. I personally avoid any kind of berries unless they are organic.

Question: GERD and Lacto-fermented Food?

Can you help me discern if there is an antagonistic relationship between folks who have GERD and lacto-fermented food?

— Robert


Hi, Robert,

GERD stands for gastroesophageal reflux disease. It is a condition in which the stomach contents (food or liquid) leak backwards from the stomach into the esophagus (the tube from the mouth to the stomach). This action can irritate the esophagus, causing heartburn and other symptoms.

In this article on the WAPF website, Dr. Thomas Cowan recommends a low-carb diet for GERD patients.

He quotes a study in which patients were able to stop all medications when they switched to a very low-carb diet:

Much to their amazement they report that in spite of continuing to smoke, drink coffee, and other GERD-unfriendly habits, in each case the symptoms of GERD were completely eliminated within one week of adopting a very low-carbohydrate diet (about 20 grams per day.) The patients were able to stop all antacids and prescription stomach medicines and this improvement continued even after they liberalized their carbohydrate intake to a more tolerable 70 gram per day.

My father-in-law has suffered from GERD for decades. I had sent him that article from Dr. Cowan years ago, but he is not the type to do low-carb. He’s in his late-70s and, while he eats a pretty balanced diet, there’s no way he’d ever give up his daily cereal and oatmeal cookies.

Interestingly, last year my mother-in-law decided to start making her own kefir (I gave her the kefir grains) and she began making him daily kefir smoothies. (This was after they had an amazing reaction to eating coconut oil — my mother-in-law wanted to do the kefir smoothies just to get more coconut oil into their diets.)

Within a month of drinking the daily kefir smoothies, my father-in-law was off all of his prescription and over-the-counter medications for GERD. The only thing they had changed in their diet was adding the kefir (the smoothies had added coconut oil, honey and fruit).

This makes me wonder if maybe a low-carb diet helps people with GERD because it possibly reduces or inhibits the growth of pathogenic bacteria in the gut. Kefir, a naturally lacto-fermented beverage, is full of probiotics, which would also reduce the growth of the pathogenic bacteria.

So, after that long answer, the short answer is, no I don’t think there would be any antagonistic reaction. With one caveat: when you have gut dysbiosis (an imbalance of gut flora,) if you introduce probiotics too quickly, you can experience a negative reaction. This is also called the Jarisch-Herxheimer Reaction or “die off”.

Herxheimer, German dermatologist, receives credit for identifying the reaction created when too many bad bacteria die at once. The toxins released create an immune system reaction because the body can’t release all of the toxins. Some of the systems are gas, bloating and headaches, but allergic reactions also occur. These may be uncomfortable, but they indicate that the probiotics are doing their job. Another term for this reaction is “die-off.”(Source)

I suggest going very slow when you begin to introduce fermented foods or probiotics into your diet. If you do take too much and experience a negative reaction, I would probably suggest drinking freshly squeezed vegetable juice and taking hot epsom salt baths to help the body in its efforts to detoxify.

Got a Comment?

I don’t claim to have all the answers. And I love hearing from you guys! If you have feedback on any of the above questions and answers, please share your thoughts n the comments below.

Got a Question?

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