Microbe-Boosting Day at Alaska VegFest 2016
What’s the best way to cap off a wonderful Alaskan summer? With Alaska VegFest!
I’ll admit it — when the Alaska Vegan Society decided to hold our first VegFest in Alaska 2 years ago, I was pretty nervous (I’m the president of AVS.)
With lots of planning, lots of help, and a good dose of beginner’s luck, our first VegFest was a great success! And with that one under our belts, we began planning the second one.
On Sept. 10, we held our 3rd annual VegFest and it looks like it has become a tradition! Each year we learn a little more, and experience is taking the place of beginner’s luck.
We had 3 wonderful speakers again this year, all talking about our theme of Building Healthy Communities Inside and Out By Eating Plants.
Actually, this word is starting to pop up in lots of places now, so you may have heard of it. If not, keep listening — you will!
Our microbiome is actually all the trillions of invisible microbes that live inside us and all over us. They include a huge variety of bacteria and yeasts. Now I know — that sounds yucky and dangerous! But it’s not. Not usually, anyway. We depend upon this invisible community to digest our food, train and strengthen our immune system, produce chemicals that protect us from toxins, and even help us feel happier! A healthy community of microbes also protects us from the microbes that can make us sick.
Dr. Robynne Chutkan, a gastroenterologist from Washington D.C. was the first of our speakers at VegFest, setting the stage by describing our microbiome, and explaining why it is so important. We can’t be healthy unless we have a healthy microbiome, and we need to learn how to take good care of these little critters inside us.
Dr. Chutkan was a great speaker, in spite of the fact that she wasn’t able to be with us in person because she was in a bike accident 2 days before she was scheduled to fly to Alaska! But she was able to speak to us on the phone from her home, and she emailed us her slides. So we felt like she was right there with us as we learned such things as: “We have 10 times more microbial cells in our body than human cells!” (That will get you thinking!)
Dr. Chutkan took questions from the audience until we ran out of time and had to go downstairs to our delicious vegan lunch. I saw lots of happy faces as everyone devoured their bowl of soup and lettuce wrap or portobello sandwich. Lunch was catered by Middle Way Cafe, so if you live near Anchorage, you can enjoy that lunch again anytime!
After lunch, we had 2 more speakers. Timaree Hagenburger, my registered dietitian friend from California, followed Dr. Chutkan’s lesson with practical information about how to feed this inner community. And guess what they like to eat — (I’ll give you 3 guesses.) Whole, unprocessed plant foods with lots of fiber. In other words, lots of vegetables, beans, fruits, and whole grains. If we don’t feed them this healthy food, they take their toys and go somewhere else, and the bad guys start taking over. That’s when we get sick. So by all means, feed your microbes what they need so they’ll stick around and take care of you!
Our last speaker of the day was Rae Sikora, who wove her magic by helping us Redefine Community. She showed some short videos that helped us recognize how whales and wolves are critically important in keeping our outer communities of plants and animals healthy and balanced. And when we eat plant-based foods, we avoid causing suffering to animals and damage to ecosystems caused by animal agriculture.
Sauerkraut is one of those important fermented foods that not only feed our microbiome, but also supply more healthy microbes. And Timaree made a nutrient rich Chai Chia Pudding with mangos and blueberries.
It brings me a lot of joy to connect with these wonderful speakers who bring their gifts with them to Alaska. And it also brings me great joy to work with our wonderful team of volunteers who make this day run so smoothly. But my greatest joy is being able to bring this powerful message to as many people as possible — even in Alaska!
There is so much we can do for ourselves and our world to make it healthier and happier. The more we learn, the more we can do. Learning about our microbiome is another big step toward understanding how and why a plant-based diet is the MOST EFFECTIVE way to eat for health.
If you missed VegFest, it’s not too late to learn more about our microbiome.I’m now including this information in my classes and in presentations to groups. And if you would like to learn how best to feed your microbiome, my nutrition & cooking classes will help you do just that — simply and deliciously!
I have a class starting Oct. 12 for people who are just getting started with a plant-based diet called The Yes to Life Solution to Get Slim & Healthy. I have an Advanced Class starting Oct. 11 for those who have taken a class from me or from Phil Eherenman and have a good foundation of plant-based nutrition. And I have my online class available for those who don’t live within driving distance of Anchorage.
I’m convinced that learning about the microbiome is going to change our approach to health as much as our discovery of antibiotics. So let’s get cooking! Our microbes are waiting for their dinner!